Ford released performance figures for the Ford GT today, including a top speed of 216 miles per hour. But more impressive, the Blue Oval's 647-horsepower supercar bests the benchmarks from McLaren and Ferrari on a track. 3.1 seconds better than a Ferrari 458 Speciale, to be precise, at Calabogie Motorsports Park in Ontario, Canada.
Wait, what? Calabogie? Yes. It's a 20-turn, 3.1-mile road course one hour west of Ottawa. We spoke with Ford Executive Vice President Raj Nair and Ford Performance Director Dave Pericak for explanation on this and other Ford GT trivia. As for the track, Nair explained that Calabogie is close to the Multimatic facility in Toronto where the GT is assembled. "It gave us a lot of opportunity to do a lot of back and forth [to the factory] without a lot of travel time...and that was the best place to get an apples-to-apples comparison," he said.
The numbers, for the sake of posterity, we obtained with the same driver using fresh tires and a full tank of gas on all three cars in identical conditions, according to Ford. The resulting laps times were Ford GT, 2:09.8; McLaren 675LT, 2:10.8; Ferrari 458 Speciale, 2:12.9. Sure, but who besides Ford uses Calabogie as a benchmark? Nair continued, "we've run the car and the competitive vehicles at other tracks, not necessarily in the final configuration and not necessarily with apples-to-apples numbers with fresh tires and the same driver."
Asked whether the Ford GT would produce similar results on benchmark tracks such as the Nurburgring Nordschleife, Virginia International Raceway, or Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Nair responded with certainty: "Absolutely."
Another notable point of the press release is Ford's claim that the GT has a dry weight of 3,054 pounds. Dry weight is the alternative fact of the automotive world, in that it has no bearing on reality. Technically it refers to a car's curb weight with no fluids whatsoever, which is almost impossible to prove and can differ greatly from the rolling curb weight. When pressed, Nair said the "race car dry" (filled with all fluids and ready to drive but without fuel) weight of the GT is 3,173 pounds. This figure is used to eliminate different fuel tank capacities when comparing weights.
Ferrari and McLaren list non-dry curb weights of 3,075 and 2,927 pounds, respectively. The latter is listed as DIN, or German standard weight, which includes 90 percent of the fuel. US-spec cars are often heavier due to crash regulation necessities like side-impact airbags. Nair isn't out to refute other carmaker claims but noted that Ford's measurements of the McLaren came out to 2,985 pounds without fuel.
"They are lighter than us, we admit that," says Nair. He goes on to explain that the Ford GT's carbon-fiber monocoque and aluminum components saved a lot of weight, "but we also went through a conscious decision of adding the active aero and adding the active suspension." Nair continued, "The simulation said it was worth adding the active dynamics, both the aero and suspension, because it would improve the lap time more than the weight penalty."
The active aerodynamics Nair mentions includes a movable rear spoiler that adjusts for downforce and can act as an air brake, as shown in this video. The suspension has yet to fully explained, although Road & Track offers some insight. The basics: inboard torsion bar springs instead of traditional coils and multi-stage DSSV shocks. Yes, those are the same shocks found up and down the Le Mans pit lane, on the 2014 Chevy Camaro Z/28 and 2017 Colorado ZR2, and even on the rare Aston Martin One-77. What's new is that the Ford GT's shocks have three modes: normal, track, and comfort. Comfort mode is activated from normal mode, while track mode is tied to a 2-inch lower ride and stiffer spring rate. The spring rate is changed by locking out one of the torsion bars, and as Pericak explains "you don't want to just change your spring rate and not change your dampers, so we switch the dampers and now they're fully tuned for the setup."
Neither Ford man would elaborate on how the DSSV dampers achieve the three modes. DSSV shocks use a spool valve to control fluid flow (one of the many patents offers a detailed explanation), and it's not clear how that design can be adapted to include discrete driver-selectable adjustment. Nair noted that Multimatic is in the process of applying for several patents pertaining to the GT's suspension design.
So we'll have to wait for further details on how the Ford GT's trick suspension works. For the lucky few selected to order a Ford GT, though, the wait is almost over. Seven vehicles have left the plant following the first off the line last month, so it's only a matter of time until we see a customer car putting those track claims to the test.