There are many, many intimidating numbers associated with this car: 2600 lbs, 800 hp, 664 "torques", 0-62 in 3.2 seconds, 2 turbos, $400,000 base price, 360kph/223mph top speed.
Yet, as I was making my way between the black and the orange ones, past the white "hybrid" twin fuel model with the WWII fighter ace hash marks next to the names of the world's top contenders, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Koenigsegg, Pagani, it was another set of numbers that got to me.
They were right there, on the nasty looking green and silver car, right behind to the driver's door I was about to get in:
Top Gear 1:17.1 Record Holder
EVO 1:19.4 Record Holder
Nordschleife 7:11.57 Record Holder
Holy crap, this was going to be the tracktard equivalent of going to bed with Megan Fox!... READ ON
The Circuit Paul Ricard is as impressive a facility as you are likely to ever see, it's hosts 300 events per year it has an immaculate surface, manicured plantings and all the high tech conveniences you would imagine its High Tech Test Track monicker implies.
I was there for my first European track day. I had been looking forward to it having watched with envy the freewheeling videos from some of our worldwide track day community. This particular one was extremely well run and organized by Challenges-events.com. As with many events in non lawsuit-challenged parts of the world, at the usual briefing the essential rule it all boiled down to was very simple: if you act like an ass we'll send you home. There was no waiver, there were no passing zones, no two spins and you're out, no passing signals... you get the picture. The closest I've come in the US is with the always great Group52 days at the Glen. Our Italian tracktard friend Zampa was right, having none of these artificial systems actually forces people to be more aware on track and the whole day there was not one single incident, people simply moved out of the way when appropriate. Beautiful.
It helps that at Paul Ricard there is only one place where you might possibly have a spin that might result in contact with a wall and that was by itself something really special. A track day with the less potential for damage than an autocross.
That of course makes it the ideal place to test the fastest (ok Ultima GTR fans... we know, we know) road legal car of the moment. Yes, because in today's world the Top Gear Power Board, the EVO test track and the Nürburgring are the triple crown and the Gumpert Apollo is the current champ.
So back to Megan Fox... I was to have 30 minutes with her... turned out to be more like 18 minutes because of a balky gearbox that needed some attention by the full pit crew, but hey...it was still Megan Fox I'm not complaining.
I really don't need to go into any technical descriptions of the car, that's all over the internet. You've seen the Top Gear video and no, it does not in any way look like a "boil on a baboon's butt". You've seen Tiff Needell drive it and yes, its a tricky car but perhaps it's better sorted now than when he drove it. You've seen the Nürburgring record lap and yes, it is scary fast like that.
I was taken out for a couple of laps by one of the Gumpert drivers first. At that point I had just one 30 minute session on the track so I was glad to get a couple of extra laps before we switched places. The car, I was told, was detuned for the day to "around 670hp" and was wearing thread-less Michelin Sport Cups.
Imagine an Exige but with a much tighter driving position, the seats are essentially the carbon fiber tub with padding with the detachable steering wheel and the pedals adjustable for rake. This is NOT an everyday supercar, even with the optional height adjustment for speed bumps. It does however have built in airjacks!
So you drop in and find a very close racing position steering wheel and a sequential shifter which needs a decisive pull and a clutch to operate. Once you are strapped in, unless you in fact are a baboon, someone has to close the gullwing doors for you. If you close the doors first, you'll never get your harness on...like I said, this is not an everyday supercar.
So how was it? It was amazing even driven at 8/10ths and with the traction control dialed way up. The acceleration was brutal in any gear at any speed, there is some turbo lag but it was not that much worse than CG's GT2 for example. Grip was, as shown by the Traqmate I had installed, a sustained 1.2 to 1.4G without trying. Coming out of tight corners, the car overpowered the 345/35/19 rear Sport Cups with ease and the TC made the car buck violently even with prudent throttle application.
I was expecting massive understeer in slow corners but the car had just a little bit of skating on one turn, that's it. That was impressive. The chassis is extremely balanced under braking and quite easy to catch when the rear steps out.
The shifter would take some getting used to, it has to be shoved and it was hard to heel toe, not sure if it was pedal placement or just getting used to a new rhythm that's needed, in any case I had no time to worry about that. In the in car video you will see me having trouble at the beginning trying to find second gear.
As it turns out the session was like going to bed with Megan Fox but with her mother present. Just as I was starting to get some confidence, pushing a little and sliding just a tad, mom scolded me and told me to slow down... I guess it's understandable and the all too short session still unforgettable. Even though my lap times were relatively slow, I got a little satisfaction turning a lap faster than the demo-mom did when I was in the passenger seat (I know, I know...but let me live a little).
Does the Gumpert make sense? I guess it depends. You want to win the Track Day World Championship and save a lot of money in the process? the Gumpert is half the price of the other hypercars and faster. It is probably the most hardcore hypercar save for the FXX and that's not road legal... But then again even at that "bargain" price, if you are that hardcore why are you not racing? Why ask why, just drive it if you ever get the chance!
If you have any specific questions I have not addressed post in the comments, Here is the onboard video and you can download the Traqmate file HERE.