I had the right car last week, Ferrari’s new 711bhp 488 Pista, the ‘hot’ version of the already smoking hot 488GTB and, as ever at Fiorano, it came with an additional challenge just to spice things up. You get four laps, that’s it. Given the Pista’s claimed lap time, that equates to barely five minutes of track time, five minutes in which to get your head around the quickest non-limited production Ferrari road car ever to lap this track.
So there’s no dialling yourself in, no giving yourself a couple of gentle sighting laps in ‘Sport’ mode just to get a feel for it. You can’t even really use ‘Race’ mode because that will still inhibit the car’s actions; in this game you are required not only to tell your readers how the car behaves up to and beyond the limit, but you need to provide the evidence too. In short you need to be sideways in a mid-engined car with over 700bhp in less time than it should take to brush your teeth at exactly the point a photographer hits the shutter button. It may be the first time you’ve ever sat in it.
I was lucky, insofar as I’d actually done my road section first so had an hour or so at the wheel before reaching Fiorano, but the car is so insanely fast and has such astonishing grip I couldn’t use half of its performance on the road; in short I had no better idea of how it would behave when driven on its doorhandles than someone who’d not driven it at all.
It’s always a slightly sobering moment, heading out onto the track for the very first time under those conditions. Being a test track Fiorano is safer than some, but it was built in 1972 when people took a different view of such matters and in Maranello where space is at a premium, so it’s not exactly blessed with Tilke-standard run-off areas at every turn. Foolproof it ain’t.