would lose my lunch all over the panoramic windshield.
Hyperventilating, I was able to collect myself as we made it through the final corners with their drastic changes in elevation. Exiting the Galgenkopf with a full head of steam, I watched the speedometer touch 160 m.p.h. before Hahne started to slow down to enter the pits. On public days, it's not possible to take a timed lap of the entire circuit. Still, he was confident the Ford GT, in its current state of tune and chassis setup, would have no problem getting under the eight-minute benchmark and could probably even approach the magic time of 7:40.
After regaining my composure, I set out on my first of two laps with Hahne in the passenger seat. Aware of my inexperience with both the car and the course, he was very helpful in getting me on the right line while I navigated the track. He said my progress was quick and that I had negotiated the difficult Kallenhard to Exmühle section quite well, especially since bikes were sharing the road with me.
I knew going in, based on my PlayStation GT4 experience, that this was one of the most technical sections of the course. It included two elements that concerned me: It was both downhill and off-camber. Knowing the car had been damaged twice previously, and with 2,000 miles to go on our six-day trip, I was content to find the best line and--with the exception of the Breidscheid corner--was quite pleased with how I negotiated the section.
By the time I reached the heavily cambered banking of the Karussell, I felt much more comfortable and confident, giving the car more power in third gear, but knowing full well that an early exit from the corner would spell trouble. Hahne's advice gave me the confidence to harness much more of the Ford GT's potential than I would have otherwise. By the time I reached the pits, I knew I had accomplished one of my life's goals: successfully negotiating what most experts believe to be one of the world's most demanding tracks, in a very powerful car, without bending either me or the car. I was exhilarated...and also drenched, having sweated off at least five pounds during my three laps circulating the Nordschleife in the GT.
With hundreds of miles of unrestricted Autobahn on tap for Thursday, we had high hopes of opening up both the Ford GT and the Dodge Viper. Instead, we had to contend with extensive construction along with daytime traffic congestion en route. While we were able to log in several 160 m.p.h. sprints southbound on the A61 (leading into a photo opportunity at the Hockenheimring), the traffic was just too dense to safely attempt anything faster. As pressure mounts from Germany's powerful Green movement, the days of cruising unrestricted sections of the Autobahn may be numbered.
On the A8 west of Stuttgart, we did catch a clear section of Autobahn, where I was able to nudge the Ford GT up over the 180 m.p.h. threshold --within 20 m.p.h. of its claimed top speed. In fifth gear, acceleration from 150 to 170 m.p.h. was turbine-like, the supercharged V8 delivering power in a linear, almost effortless, fashion, the lack of any drama utterly unexpected. Given enough clear road in front of me, I was confident 200 m.p.h.
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