Calabogie, ON – 65,000 people all around the world applied to buy an all-new 2017 Ford GT valued at USD$450,000. That's a statement that needs no more context to realize the popularity of the GT's third rendition.
Of those 65,000 candidates, only 1,000 lucky people were chosen with 250 units to be delivered per year for four years. One of the first Canadians to take delivery of this new supercar is Richard L'Abbe, co-founder and former president and CEO of Med-Eng systems and a partner in Calabogie Motorsports Park.
Ford Canada wouldn't release the number of Canadians fortunate enough to be chosen but L'Abbe was certainly happy to be one. The smile and overall excitement emanating from him was intoxicating.
“Typically, I don't get emotional and I've never been a supercar guy, but this one is totally different,” explains L'Abbe, a racing enthusiast who owns a number of race cars. “It's built right here in Canada by Multimatic Inc., it was first tested at this track at Calabogie, and it showcases the same innovation and creativity I strive for in business.”
Just like the show car
L'Abbe chose the blue exterior to replicate the same one he saw when it was first revealed at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. A few months later, he would attend the Shanghai Auto Show and see it in person. While scoping out the vehicle, a chance encounter with Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, global product development, and chief technical officer, sealed his drive and passion for one of the world's most desirable cars. He was ready to apply.
As fate would have it, perhaps aided by the karma from that random encounter with Nair, L'Abbe would be one of the chosen few.
He plans to put his Ford GT on display at the black tie re-opening of the Canada Science and Technology Museum on November 17 where it will sit side-by-side with the Ford Model C, the first Ford vehicle built in Canada, 113 years ago.
For L'Abbe it's all about this artistic wonder and performance specimen being seen by as many people as possible. That reason alone is why a host of journalists were gathered at Calabogie Motorsports Park for its very own reveal alongside an original 1967 GT40 in Gulf livery.
To top it off, L'Abbe took everyone on a ride-along to feel the power and precision of this mid-engine, two-seater sports car that tops out at 346 km/h.
This latest version of the GT is a modern interpretation of the original GT40 in its styling, but its makeup is full of advanced technologies and lightweight materials including a carbon fibre tub and aluminum frame. Like the original, it was built not as a road car with racing tendencies, but as a race car – that won at Le Mans in 2016, 50 years after its memorable 1966 victory – adapted for regular roads.
On the track
It wouldn't be just regular roads drove on but the Calabogie track. L'Abbe didn't go full out, but it was fast enough to feel the quick power produced from the GT’s twin-turbo, 647-hp 3.5-litre EcoBoost V-6 engine. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission complements the engine providing seamless transitions, allowing the driver to stay focused on the curvy track ahead.
The most surprising part of the ride-along was how smooth and planted the GT was. Even though it was loud and fast, it seemed effortless, which was mind-boggling. And this was in track mode – one of five modes available – where the rear wing deploys and ride height is dropped by 50 mm in a matter of a second.
This ride experience, put an exclamation mark on the Ford GT project. It not only looks the part with angle cuts, gullwing doors, and a combination of a dual exhaust and circular taillights that spark your imagination of fire blasting from them; it backs it up with track-honed aerodynamics and performance that leaves one utterly speechless.
Ford plans on using the GT as a testbed for ideas with a trickle-down effect to some of its more mainstream production vehicles. After experiencing it on track, I’m confident there will be many others besides L'Abbe smiling from ear-to-ear, even if a small percentage of its capability finds its way into regular Ford vehicles.