It isn’t often that you get to drive a 1,000-hp car, let alone one with over 1,100 hp. So when I was offered two cars of just over this power level in one day, I thought all my Christmases had arrived at once. You can imagine my dilemma as 9ff boss Jan Fatthauer offered me the keys to the first production 9ff GT9-R, rated at 1,120 hp, along with a 997 Turbo, whose similar engine was tuned to 1,150 hp. The million-dollar question was which key to snatch first.
In the end, I plumbed for the GT9-R, as I was curious to find out how far the GT9 had evolved from the metallic blue prototype I drove at the Ascari Race Resort in Spain in April 2008. My adventure with that car will be etched into my memory forever as it accelerated even harder than the mighty Bugatti Veyron, a car that had left me reeling with the pace that belied its 4,200-pound heft.
The other enduring impression I had of my first drive in the GT9 was that of a recalcitrant beast. After I had squeezed between the side protection crossbars of its full rollcage and its low roofline, I found that the driver’s seat was locked in position for the lanky Fatthauer. Even with seat padding installed, I was not in my optimum driving position. This was not the greatest introduction to driving a 1,000-hp car.
The GT9’s straight-line performance however was beyond stupendous. Relatively light at 2,900 pounds, and endowed with what is best described as an intergalactic warp engine, the GT9 turned the familiar flat-out kink on the back straight at Ascari into a real corner that required firm, confident braking on the approach. Its sheer speed compressed this straight, where I can normally settle in and relax for a few seconds in a GT3 RS or Ferrari Scuderia, into a brief pause for breath.
Just a week after I drove it in Spain, the GT9 ran to 254 mph at the Papenburg high-speed test track in Germany, on a mere 987 hp. Fatthauer explained that continuous development for the production GT9-R now enabled him to extract a sensational 1,120 hp from this engine, with no ill effect on reliability. In bald terms, that is around 14 percent more power. How fast did you say you wanted to go?
While you can calculate the development cost of such a car in man-hour terms, it is always hard to quantify the wealth of experience contributed by its designers and the skilled engineers and craftsmen who put the car together.
The exact antithesis of the dreamers and wannabes that populate the specialist car industry, Jan Fatthauer was Deputy Head of Development at Brabus for many years. He then held the same post at Ruf for two years before heading back to his native Northern Germany to set up 9ff in 2001. These prior experiences made him well aware of the design, development and manufacturing costs of specialist vehicles, and how to control them. So when I asked him the pointed question of how many GT9s he needed to sell to cover his development costs, I was not surprise when he replied, without hesitation, "Two." I then asked him how many he had sold so far. "Six," he said, breaking into a smile. "I originally planned to build up to 20 GT9 and 5 GT9-R models. However, in the meantime, I have found a niche market for a GT9 Clubsport track day model, and I will make as many of these as demand dictates." At $565,000 (395,000), the GT9 Clubsport is the least expensive model, with the GT9 and GT9-R costing $701,000 and $987,000 (490,000 / 690,000) respectively.
Including the black-and-gold GT9-R I was about to drive, there were four GT9s present in the workshop during my visit. Two more GT9-Rs were in various states of build as was the first GT9 Clubsport, a version for track day enthusiasts rather than the stratospheric top-speed runs that made the original GT9 a household word with V-max junkies.
The most visually distinctive and best looking of the GT9 trio in my books, the Clubsport has much larger wheel arches to cover 11x18 and 13.5x19 BBS centerlock wheels, shod with 295/30ZR18 and 345/30ZR19 Michelin Cup tires. This wide arch look gives the Clubsport a more purposeful appearance, reminiscent of the 911 2.8 RSR.
Resplendent in the famous light blue and orange Gulf colors, this first production Clubsport is destined to share garage space with the similarly painted 9ff GT3 Biturbo that its owner took delivery of last year.
By now, Fatthauer had wheeled the black GT9-R outside, and I had the chance to examine the car in detail. Where the blue prototype lacked a rear panel at the time I drove it, the production car looked really up and together, with a flawless finish to its panels and paintwork.
The first time you open one of the carbon-fiber doors, you think it is going to come off in your hand it is so light. The integrated rollcage of the production GT9 does not use the stout crossbars anymore, so getting in and out of its nicely trimmed interior is a much more normal experience. I asked about side crash protection, and Fatthauer explained that because the GT9 prototype used the center section of a GT3, it had to have those massive crossbars just like a Carrera Cup car. This was because once the rear of the bodyshell had been removed, the remaining floorpan was too weak to resist a substantial side impact.