9ff 9f-V400 Porsche 996 Top Speed Run

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9ff 9f-V400 Porsche 996 Top Speed Run

Story and photos by Ian Kuah

9ff 9f-V400

9ff 9f-V400

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When a Porsche 911-based 9ff 9F-V400 blasted through the traps at Nardo carrying an average speed of 241.1 mph (388 km/h). As the timing officials announced the big numbers

Top Speed Terror

9ff's 9f-V400 aims for 400 km/h. That's 248 mph to you and me.

Story and photos by Ian Kuah

Jet-powered landspeed-record cars have broken the sound barrier more than once. Before the chicanes went in at Le Mans, sports prototypes were hitting 250 mph on the Mulsanne Straight. But for street-legal sports cars, two and a half times the “ton” is still a pipe dream. Or is it?

In March of 1998, McLaren's mighty F1 came relatively close, clocking in at 240.14 mph (or 384.2 km/h) at VW's Ehra Leissen test track. This was a record for a street-legal production car, a record that stood until December 12, 2004 — when a Porsche 911-based 9ff 9F-V400 blasted through the traps at Nardo carrying an average speed of 241.1 mph (388 km/h). As the timing officials announced the big numbers, a cheer went up from all present. Many champagne corks were popped in the 9ff crew's hotel that evening as the enormity of what the team had achieved sank in.

This new street-car record is even more significant because the McLaren's 240.14-mph top speed was achieved on Ehra Leissen's straight. Take tire scrub along with the more complex aerodynamics of Nardo's banking into account and you have a significant difference. In fact, when McLaren's F1 originally ran for top-end honors at Nardo's bankings in 1993, it only achieved 231.9 mph (371 km/h). On that basis, there is every reason to conjecture that 9ff's car might just be a true 250-mph (400 km/h) contender on a flat road in still air.

Back in mid-October, Excellence was the first to drive the 911 that would shatter the McLaren's long-held record. And, on the autobahn near Dortmund, it was clear that the 9f-V400 is a very different car than the company's previous offerings. Having driven the 9f-T6 that won the German tuner top-speed shootout record at Nardo earlier in the year with a trap speed of 232.7 mph (Excellence September, 2004), I am well placed to make a comparison to Jan Fatthauer's new V-max machine.

“What you have to remember is that this car is set up to go very fast in a straight line,” explained Fatthauer. “We are talking about a very different set of parameters from a car designed to hold onto the tight, twisty turns of a race track, so the suspension and aerodynamic setup is quite different.”

That said, there's is no getting away from the completely different feel of the engine in this silver bullet. While both 911s will behave fairly well around town, their power and torque delivery characteristics on the open road mark them as two entirely different beasts. The 740-bhp T6 produces its power more like a traditional Turbo; you feel it filling its lungs and then breathing out hard as it exhales, propelling the car forward with a powerful lunge that continues gear after gear. The wind's resistance seems futile when compared to the high-speed acceleration in other fast cars.

The 9ff top-gun engines rev smoothly enough, but — despite the titanium rods and precision internal balancing work — there is still a hint of graininess at high revs. That is a characteristic of the late-generation 3.6-liter flat six, with its heavy crank and big pistons. The similarities end here, though.

9ff claims 840 bhp at 7200 rpm for the V400, and the 3.8-liter engine that makes it possible is another animal. Rather than building its power quickly after boost comes on like the T6, the V400's power seems to literally explode once you pass 2000 rpm. It feels like the air-fuel mixture is being burned more rapidly.

It also feels like a stage in its power transfer to the road wheels has been sidestepped! Power delivery is neither violent nor sudden, just a whole lot more eager. This is not a car that wants to go slowly. It can, thanks to the advanced electronic engine management system and programming that ensures perfect behavior at both ends of the performance spectrum. That said, you can't really use full power in first and second gears from a standing start. Any attempt will simply smoke the rear tires. It's better to take it easy in the first two gears, then unleash the full might of this motor from third gear on. Never mind that the odd supercar may just pip you to 60 mph, because you'll soon catch it, pass it, and leave it in your dust after that.

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