Many have tried and many have failed, many have come and many have gone; as far as industries go, few are as competitive or cut-throat as the world of cars, particularly high-end sports cars and supercars.
Beyond the obvious big players including Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche, there are a handful of smaller and even more exclusive firms that offer alternatives, namely the likes of Pagani and Koenigsegg. However, such companies only appeal to the ultra-rich leaving few options for no-holds-barred driving enthusiasts who can’t afford to pay the equivalent of a house on a weekend toy. This is where Donkervoort steps in.
Founded in 1978 in the Netherlands, Donkervoort is an expert in producing lightweight sports cars that can outperform the established marques for a fraction of the price. The outgoing model of the range is the D8 GTO and while attending this week’s Top Marques Monaco event, we had the unforgettable experience of riding shotgun in a stunning silver example on the famed F1 circuit with the son of company founder Joop Donkervoort, behind the wheel.
Lifting up the tiny featherweight carbon fiber door offers a hint of just how dedicated the firm is to saving weight. After all, the D8 GTO only weighs some 700 kg (1,543 lbs). Stepping over the door sill and into the mixed carbon fiber and steel tubular chassis is far from convenient but once nestled into the floor-mounted leather seat and strapped into the five-point racing harness, the car is quite comfortable despite its minimalistic design.
Immediately on startup, one could easily confuse the sports car as to having a V8, but it doesn’t. Instead, the GTO makes use of an Audi-sourced 2.5-liter turbo five-pot, uprated to now deliver 380 hp. On paper, not jaw-dropping. But when combined with barely any mass, rear-wheel drive, no ABS or even power steering, the Dutch beast is undeniably driver-focused.
Leaving the sea-side Garibaldi Forum with dozens of carspottters in tow, a quick stab of the throttle rocketed the GTO forward before a swift u-turn brought us in the direction of the incredible Monte Carlo tunnel, as if something out of a dream.
As we approached the tunnel, the crowd of ‘carparrazzi’ thickened with dozens of camera flashes giving us a hint of what it’s like to be rich and famous. Of course, rather than looking at who was inside the GTO, all focus was on the car, it’s stripped-back and menacing fascia rivaling that of a tiger pursuing its prey.
Before we knew it, the rear wheels began to spin and the tail kicked out as we plowed towards the entrance of the tunnel, just like the world’s best racing drivers have done throughout the decades. During the Top Marques event, local police are on high alert, doing their best to ensure that no millionaire boy racers cause trouble in their supercars. This combined with preparations for next month’s Grand Prix restricted us from fully experiencing just what the car is capable of.
Nevertheless, passing through the circuit’s famed swimming pool section, even at relatively slow speeds, was quite surreal as were the short bursts of acceleration along the start/finish straight. A final turn back through the tunnel again showcased the GTO’s offerings.
Summing up the car based on such a short passenger experience is difficult, but there were some key takeaways. As you’d imagine, the experience is dominated by the engine, which delivers a cacophony only enhanced by the side-exiting exhaust pipes. Given how driver-focused the car is, one may expect the ride to suffer but instead, it is quite compliant, even when cresting speedbumps at moderate speeds.
Admittedly, the smooth Monte Carlo roads aren’t the best proving ground for ride comfort. However, at no stage were we left yearning for anything more other than more sound and more speed, something the D8 GTO offers plenty of.
In an ever-changing industry where technology and creature comforts are arguably becoming overused, vehicles likes those offered by Donkervoort give us hope that simple yet thrilling driving machines will exist for decades to come.
Photos Carscoops.com/Brad Anderson