Drag coefficient due to all of the needed downforce is a fairly production-supercar normal 0.396. With the roof panels off and tucked away under the hood, wind buffeting is actually very acceptable at higher speeds. What is noticeable is the healthy wind noise coming off of the A-pillars and side-view mirrors. The electro-hydraulic rear spoiler raises 6.3 in. in 5 sec. once you exceed 75 mph and will drop back down under normal use once you're averaging below 50 mph. If the system sensors determine that you're in race mode and the large exhaust silencer located directly beneath the spoiler is glowing-hot and expanding, the wing will stay up at all speeds until things cool down. The added stability created by this spoiler is impressive-30% more impressive, according to Porsche engineers.
Back at base camp, the roof panels went on and there was a true speedometer hooked up in the passenger foot well to prepare for the speed runs on Runway #1. With 1.8 miles of the 2-mile concrete slab at our disposal, off I went for four attempts. All 604 horses come your way at a whopping 8000 rpm and almost all of the 435 lb-ft of torque is available between 4500 and 8000 rpm. Top speed on the Carrera GT is listed as 205 mph. The fastest I managed was 202 mph and I craved the added mile of Runway #2, but it was off limits. Walter Rhrl walked up to me and said we really needed that greater length to reach 205 mph. That I shouldn't feel bad. I told him I was actually surprised how easily the final 30 mph came given the distance limitation. Braking from the 15-in. ceramic composite discs was equally quick and just as grindy and fade-free as the Brembos on the Enzo.
Then we went to a shorter third runway for slaloming between several cones set about 100 ft apart. Entering the slalom and holding 75 mph with the Bosch traction control on, the adhesion, lack of roll and that perfect steering made it all incredibly do-able. And, as with the power-assisted steering, the traction control strikes an excellent (read: non-intrusive) balance between helping you and letting you have a good time. Porsche has unofficially seen a lateral acceleration figure of 1.2 gs and I don't doubt it. Again, Rhrl: "Back when we started testing in April 2002 on the Nrburgring, at over 250 km/h (155 mph) the car was extremely nervous during steering input. Working with Michelin and adjusting the suspension setup has solved all of that." He eventually managed the 14.17-mile lap in close to 7 min. and 30 sec.
As if to demonstrate these all-important points, Rhrl takes me for a furiously fun ride around several of the abandoned hangars and utility roads that used to be thoroughfares for transporting nuclear missiles between silos. This projectile in his hands is a phenomenon. First, with traction control on, he takes everything at the absolute limit to show how accomplished this Bosch system really is. Then, with traction control off, we do the circuit again and the tire smoke and sound are right out of Starsky and Hutch, but the metered controllability of the Carrera GT-particularly when driven by its ace pilot-is inspiring. As we slide to a stop, I ask him immediately: "Which way do you prefer?" He grins back at me, "For the absolute best timing, probably the first way. For the best time, definitely the second."
For one day, remotest eastern Germany was the spiciest and most hopping place in the world. The new Leipzig factory-also in the former East Germany-is building all Carrera GTs. For now, the promise is two cars completed per day through November 2004. After that, the average will bump up to 2.7 per. Why? Carbon-fiber components supplier ATR finishes its 399-unit Ferrari Enzo contract at that point and will then be able to dedicate all its efforts to the Carrera GT. There are no factory racing plans for the car and no formal customer programs for privateers. Over 1,000 of the 1,500 planned Carrera GTs have been spoken for with half of that total coming to North America. Placing your order now will ensure mid-2005 delivery.
Find the money.