Ford GT Mk II has so much downforce it can drive upside-down

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Just 45 units will be built. Fear not GT collectors, that production run comes out of the model range's total planned production run of 1,350 cars.

By Chris Paukert, Roadshow

*OK, at least theoretically. But seeing as how this Goodwood debutante costs $1.2 million, we might not want to test that...

By any objective measure, todays Ford GT street car is unusually close in design to the GT race car that the Blue Oval competes with at racetracks around the globe. Of course, that doesn't mean that the two can't get even closer. Enter the Ford GT Mk II. Believe it or not, in many ways, this $1.2 million, track-only model is actually more potent than the company's own factory race cars. 

Unveiled at the UK's Goodwood Festival of Speed on Thursday, just 45 of these GT Mk II models will be produced. Ford officials tell Roadshow that these examples are earmarked to come out of the GT's original planned allocation of 1,350 cars so as not to harm the resale or collector value of existing cars with a larger total production figure.

Like the GT street car, each Ford GT Mk II is powered by a version of the automaker's volume 3.5-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine, a powerplant whose basic architecture it shares with the Blue Oval's chief breadwinner, the F-150 pickup. However, that V6 is tuned here to deliver a nice, round 700 horsepower -- 53 hp more than the road car and a whopping 200 ponies more than the race car. 

That's because racing-series sanctioning bodies tend to force certain design compromises in the name of parity and closer, more entertaining racing. But what if such restrictions weren't a factor? About a year and a half ago, Ford and the folks at Canada's Multimatic, which helped develop and assemble the GT, began to ask themselves just that. 

"When you remove all of the constraints and the only laws you have to meet are the laws of physics... that's the ultimate engineer's dream," said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's chief product development and purchasing officer, at a closed-door June media preview. 

Ford admits the Mk II wasn't always in the company's plans since the GT's inception, but with enthusiasts behind the project like these, this car was arguably inevitable.

Power play

In order to extract that much additional power out of the engine and set up the car for track duty, the GT's engine receives a roof-mounted air intake which supplies cold air to auxiliary coolers for the engine, clutch and transmission. There's also a nifty new charge air cooler with water sprayer used to keep engine temps in check during particularly hard running.

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It's all business in here, complete with custom Sparco seats with the shoulder "ears" cut off so that two can fit side-by-side in the GT's cozy cabin.

Ford is not yet quoting final torque figures, as the engine is still undergoing final calibration work. Whatever that final figure ends up being, it will be funneled to the Mk II's rear wheels via a version of the street car's seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox from Getrag, instead of the race car's sequential Ricardo unit.

Air apparent

Racetrack supremacy is not all about power, of course -- it's about grip, and the GT Mk II has massive amounts of the stuff. That's partially due to this car's substantially more aggressive aerodynamics package, and also owing to its Michelin Pilot Sport GT race tires -- existing track-day rubber that Michelin had previously shelved and Ford recommissioned. They've been "Unretired -- un-re-tired," quipped Multimatic president and chief operating officer Larry Holt.

All of the car's new aero addenda, including a massive fixed, top-hung dual-element rear wing and a front splitter with fender vents and dive planes, is enough for an over-400% increase in downforce compared to the street car. That's an astounding figure, especially when you consider that the standard GT already appears like one big wing.

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Meet the Ford GT Mk II.

The net result is not only the GT Mk II's ability to pull in excess of 2Gs of lateral grip on the skidpad, Holt maintains this car could theoretically drive upside-down if it were going fast enough: At 150 mph, Holt says the car generates 1,800 to 1,900 pounds of downforce, which is more than the car weighs.

Whether you're driving right-side up or not, all that downforce is understandably going to keep a lid on the Mk II's top speed -- Ford hasn't said anything other than it expects the car to tap out somewhere under 200 mph. (If you're focusing on that number and having trouble reconciling why it's substantially slower than the street car's 216-mph V-max, well, you probably aren't this car's target customer -- and it's not because you don't have the money.) 

Friendly, approachable

Above all, Ford says it has sought to maintain the street GT's friendly driving character. The GT's bold, low-slung shape may suggest that it's difficult to drive, but according to Holt, "a GT at [the] limit is an easy car to drive, [it's] benign... what we've tried to do is hang on to that." The factory race car is a comparatively more difficult steer, but since the Mk II's intended buyer is primarily wealthy amateur racers and not full-time pros, a different character -- one more like the street car -- was called for.

Holt admits there will still need to be some driver education about the importance of getting the car's slick tires up to proper operating temperature and he says the Mk II's "carbon brakes are an education." Factory race cars run steel brakes on 18-inch wheels owing to series regulations, while the street car runs 20s and carbon-ceramic brakes. The Mk II will run on unique 19s.

Nevertheless, the Mk II's approachable, friendly driving demeanor didn't happen by accident, it's been baked in from the beginning. Ford Performance DNA "is to reward the expert and flatter the novice," said Thai-Tang.

So, who's buying?

Holt says Ford and Multimatic basically already know each of the 45 parties who will end up buying these cars, even though the Blue Oval hasn't offered to sell any yet. Unlike the street-legal Ford GT, Ford and Multimatic officials tell Roadshow that no formal restrictions about who can buy the GT Mk II are planned. 

There won't be a lottery among potential buyers, stipulations about existing Ford vehicle ownership, nor any written contracts that prohibit quick resales for profit like the original production GT. Holt estimates that there are already about 30 people seriously interested in buying the car, and that's before Ford and Multimatic have even officially confirmed the car's focus or specs.

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Did we mention it's $1.2 million before options?

If the idea of marketing a $1.2-million dollar car that isn't street legal and also isn't easily enterable into any particular racing series sounds like a recipe for financial ruin, you haven't been paying attention to the world of hypercars lately. A global pool of ultra-wealthy driving enthusiasts have created a surprisingly large and evergreen market for seven-figure track-day toys --  some of these folks own their own race teams, while others have their own race tracks.

Unsurprisingly, then, European luxury manufacturers like Aston Martin, Ferrari, Porsche and McLaren have already been regularly mining this audience. Perhaps not coincidentally, these are the very same brands that Ford's GT racing program finds itself alongside in the pits on the weekends.

When I asked Thai-Tang if the Mk II program will pay for itself, he cracked a smile and said simply, "we don't do things to lose money." 

Why no street?

If you've got fantasies about flouting your local laws and driving the Ford GT Mk II on the street, it's worth noting that this racecar rides even closer to the pavement than the already ultra-low-slung GT street car, and unlike the latter's trick adjustable ride height, the Mk II sits at a fixed ride height that probably wouldn't be compatible with many driveways and poorly maintained surfaces. 

Removing active ride height components have yielded a 200-plus-pound weight savings versus the road car, and special five-way DSSV shocks similar to the race car have been fitted, which might make for a too-firm ride on the streets, even with their adjustability.

You'd have to make a number of additional sacrifices, too, including limboing in and out of the Mk II's full, FIA-approved roll cage, which includes hefty side- and A-pillar bars. (The regular street GT features an integrated partial upper roll cage.) Once you origami yourself inside, a pair of custom Sparco seats are fitted with six-point harnesses, the side windows are fixed, and there's no climate controls to be found in the simplified lightweight dashboard. A race air-conditioning system is optional, along with fire suppression.

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There's also a whole bunch of reasons why the GT Mk II isn't street legal, and it isn't just because this car lacks a place to hang a license plate. The model lacks airbags, won't be crash tested in accordance with federal requirements, and there are other non-trivial homologation matters, including the car's incompatibility with production noise and emissions regulations.

Get in line

So, how can you buy one? We'd recommend calling up Larry Holt, or better yet, bumping into him at the spectacularly named Calabogie Motorsports Park. Up near Ottawa, it's Multimatic's "home" track where this car was developed.

But you'd better be quick. This year, Holt says his company will only build five to seven Ford GT Mk IIs. After that, about 15 lucky buyers will trailer one home per year.


Made with in NYC

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Unplugged Magazine: Ford GT Mk II has so much downforce it can drive upside-down
Ford GT Mk II has so much downforce it can drive upside-down
Unplugged Magazine
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