We cannot display this galleryStraights comprehensively dealt with, we head off to find some curves. After winding through the centre of the Arabian Peninsula and finding the new Sharjah to Fujairah highway newly installed with a phalanx of speed cameras, we cruise down the coastal road on the UAE’s east, to the town of Kalba. From there, it’s a right turn, away from the sea and back into the mountains and the empty, soaring and diving stretch of tarmac back to Dubai. I’m still in the GT-R, and I’m immediately on it. The confidence and composure of the car is still incredible through these ever-changing bends tightening and widening as they climb, and I lean on every tyre. The steering felt initially light when switching from the GT, but now it feels hugely communicative as I dig the fronts into the tarmac and feel them bite. The lighter wheels make the GT-R feel a fraction more alive than I remember; that reduced unsprung weight means they hold on superbly as the suspension soaks up any imperfection, and a flex of the throttle rockets the Nissan skywards. Within four corners, I can no longer see the Ford in my mirrors. And anyway, I’m too busy marvelling at the Nissan’s ability to send the odometer spinning no matter how tight the roads. When the grip does run out it’s beautifully progressive – a hint of understeer wiped out by a slight lift on the throttle and progressed into oversteer with a subsequent push of power. There’s no fear of the car snapping; it loves being picked up by the scruff of the neck and hurled towards the next challenge.
Riding high on adrenalin I swap over once more, back in the GT. And once again I’m nervous. There’s no electronic trickery in the Ford, sending torque to appropriate wheels as in the Nissan. There’s only a set of big, fat tyres, a huge amount of horsepower and the spectre of a massive bill if the snap-prone supercar decides to slap me for being too lairy. Consequently, I’m overly cautious from the off, although as time goes on I get sufficiently used to the situation to start leaning on the fronts a bit more without worrying that the admittedly very impressive grip from the rears is about to abruptly end. With rock faces and concrete barriers either side of me however, there’s a limit to how far I’m willing to push it.
That said, I’m not sure the ownership and insurance issues change things too much. The GT is not built to instil immediate confidence in an average drive, especially one as average as me. I wonder if I’ve been spoiled over recent years by the various gadgets and gizmos that help with stability, but regardless, I think that time is the only way to get to grips with the Ford. There’s plenty of information coming through the steering wheel and the seat of my pants, but it’ll take practice and familiarity to learn how best to process it all and turn it into pace. I’d love a couple of days on a race track with big, wide run off areas.
For now though, I’m content to almost nurse the big red Blue Oval between cliffs and then feel the rush of that supercharged power when the road opens up. It’s intoxicating, intimidating and a challenge. And isn’t that truly the marks of a supercar?
By pretty much any yardstick, the GT-R eats the GT for breakfast when it comes to performance. Only in a straight line, from a rolling start, does it look like succeeding in keeping the Japanese technology box at bay. And I love the Track Pack edition of the Nissan – it’s taken the best bits of the GT-R and made them better, producing an even more focused, razor-sharp weapon that impresses and thrills in equal measure.
But despite its rise in price, it’s not a supercar. It doesn’t have the visual presence or the quirks to be counted in that company, despite its excellence. The Ford demonstrates just what a supercar should be; horribly impractical, fantastic to look at and faintly terrifying to drive until you’re used to it. Or at least, until you have the money to pay for any repairs.
|Ford GT (c. 2005)|
|Engine:||V8 / 5409cc / supercharged|
|Power:||650bhp (estimated) @ 6500rpm|
|Torque:||550lb ft (estimated) @ 3750rpm|
|Transmission:||Six-speed manual / rear-wheel drive / LSD|
|Front suspension:||Double wishbone / dampers / coil springs / anti-roll bar|
|Rear suspension:||Double wishbone / dampers / coil springs / anti-roll bar|
|Brakes:||Cross-drilled and vented discs with four-piston callipers / ABS|
|Wheels:||18 x 9 front, 19 x 11.5 rear|
|Tyres:||265/40 ZR18 front / 345/35 ZR19 rear / Bridgestone Potenzas|
|Top speed:||335kph (estimated)|
|Basic price:||$200,000 (today)|
|Nissan GT-R Track Pack|
|Engine:||V6 / 3799cc / twin-turbo|
|Power:||542bhp @ 6400rpm|
|Torque:||463lb ft @ 3200-5800rpm|
|Transmission:||Six-speed dual clutch / all-wheel drive / rear limited-slip differential / VSC|
|Front suspension:||Double wishbone / coil springs / adjustable dampers / anti-roll bar|
|Rear suspension:||Multi-link / coil springs / adjustable dampers / anti-roll bar|
|Brakes:||Cross drilled and ventilated discs / 390mm (front) / 381mm (rear)|
|Wheels:||20 x 9.5 front, 20 x 10.5 rear|
|Tyres:||255/40/20 front / 285/35/20 rear / Dunlop SP Maxx GT600|