Alex Palou holds on to win Detroit Grand Prix

Ford GT destroys Lightning Lap record

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

In its racing debut at France’s legendary 24 Hours of LeMans endurance race in 2016, the Ford GT race car scored first place.

Now it’s the production car’s turn for glory.

In its first go at Car and Driver magazine’s hallowed Lightning Lap competition at America’s Virginia International Raceway, the street-legal Ford GT has broken the lap record. The GT’s breathtaking 2-minute and 43-second lap beat by a one-tenth second the record by the $875,175 Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid supercar that has stood for four years.

Since 2006, Car and Driver has taken the world’s fastest production cars to the 4.1-mile track for a head-to-head, single-lap competition to determine performance bragging rights.

“The GT at VIR is, in one word, fastest. As in, fastest-lap-we’ve-ever-recorded fastest,” wrote Car and Driver staffer and hot shoe K.C. Colwell on the feat. The GT’s lap included “163.6 mph down the front straight (second-highest all-time speed to the 170.6-mph Porsche 918 Spyder); barreling into the Climbing Esses at 148.0 mph (a new record); and a neck workout at 1.17 g’s in Turn 1.”

The 887-horsepower Porsche’s record has been under assault in recent years from other Detroit makers, with the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 posting a 2.44.6 second lap in 2015 and a Dodge Viper ACR hammering out a 2.44.2 in 2016.

The Chevy and Dodge efforts were notable given that their under-$150,000 price tags are a fraction of the Porsche’s sticker, but it took the $494,750 ($525,750 as tested) GT to get the job done.

“This record is another great way to showcase the GT’s role to help us pioneer new technologies, push out engineering skills, and create novel processes with the goal of improving all our vehicles in the future,” said GT Chief Engineer Jamal Hameedi of the lap record set by Ford’s 647-horsepower halo car.

After the GT race car’s auspicious debut at LeMans in 2016 — 50 years after Ford first won the race in a GT40 in 1966 — the production GT began customer deliveries last year. Don’t expect Ford’s Detroit competition to let the record stand. Chevy introduced an even more powerful, 755-horsepower Corvette ZR1 this winter — a beast that will surely take aim at the GT’s mark.

With its record lap the GT took back a Lightning Lap crown worn by the last production GT made back in 2006.

Car and Driver holds its Lightning Lap late in the year over a three-day period, but in 2017 the rare Ford GT was unavailable for testing. The magazine scheduled a separate test for the GT — but as a result only had one day with the car. No matter. It still set the record.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne.