GRR

Thank Frankel it's Friday: I'd wear a tutu just to drive a Ferrari at Fiorano

07th June 2018
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

There are lots of rules you must obey before Ferrari will let you drive a car around its fabled Fiorano test track. Your upper and lower limbs must be covered – so shorts and a t-shirt are out – and if you’re doing more than slow speed photography, a helmet must now adorn your bonce

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You have to sign all sorts of paperwork absolving Ferrari of all responsibility should you somehow damage yourself out there and if while you’re there some unimaginably wealthy owner just happens to turn with a priceless old racing Ferrari to do some shakedown laps, you must absolutely, positively not record the event for posterity, no matter how gorgeous it might look or how wonderful its engine might sound. If you are caught doing this, the best you can hope for is to be told in no uncertain terms to delete the file. I have some experience in this area.

Actually I think it’s fair enough. I’m not a paying member of the public attending a public event: when you visit Fiorano you do so as a guest of Ferrari onto its private facility and if you don’t like the house rules you don’t have to go. And if Ferrari introduced a new rule only permitting access to those in full ballet attire I’d probably turn up in a tutu.

For this is Fiorano, the place where Gilles Villeneuve used to come and skid about in flat 12 F1 Ferraris. It’s where Michael Schumacher pounded around for season after season as he helped turn the Scuderia from a bunch of also-rans into an unstoppable winning machine. In the right car it’s also bloody good fun.

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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.

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But, as it turns out, the Pista is, or as close as you could expect a 711bhp supercar to be. This is a car that will hit 124mph from rest in 7.6 seconds, which was a pretty decent 0-60mph time when I got into this game yet, if anything, its brakes are even more impressive. Within a lap you’ve twigged that it will oversteer pretty much everywhere but instead of regarding it as a condition to be cancelled the moment it appears, you soon learn to go along with it, applying enough corrective lock just to keep the front wheels pointing in the required direction.

And when the time comes to do the big skid beloved of picture editors up and down the country, you just turn in a little too fast on a trailing throttle, wait until the car has rotated the requisite amount, then pile back on the gas and come blasting sideways out of the corner. It looks and feels utterly heroic; it is, in fact, really rather easy.

So part of me marvels at how Ferrari lets you deploy such immense power with such apparent ease while another part laments slightly the fact that the Pista – just like rivals such as the Porsche 911 GT2 RS, Lamborghini Huracan Performante and McLaren 720S – are now far too quick to be enjoyed to the full on the public roads for which they were designed. But you can’t blame manufacturers for providing what the customer asks for, which in the case of the modern supercar is more of everything regardless of whether it can be used or not. I’m just feel blessed that, every so often, I get to go to place like Fiorano and find out what they’re really like.

  • Andrew Frankel

  • Fiorano

  • Ferrari

  • 488

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