ODE TO THE V12

ThePeak drives two V12-pow­ered Fer­raris to dis­cover why the Pranc­ing Horse has tena­ciously stuck with this mag­i­cal en­gine through­out its 70-year his­tory.

The Peak (Singapore) - - Contents - TEXT LOW KA WEI

ThePeak drives two V12pow­ered Fer­raris to dis­cover why it has stuck with its en­gine for 70 years.

The dig­i­tal speedome­ter is flirt­ing dan­ger­ously with 250kmh, and the colos­sal roar of the V12 en­gine is ric­o­chet­ing through the tight cabin like an AK-47 on rapid-fire in a bank vault. On my fourth lap, I am shov­ing the Fer­rari 812 Su­per­fast wide into Sepang’s in­fa­mous num­ber nine left­hander turn and, for a split sec­ond, I fear I’ve over­cooked it.

But the un­stop­pable car­bon ce­ramic brakes hero­ically slough off sur­plus speed and Fer­rari’s party piece, the bril­liant “vir­tual short wheel­base 2.0” rear-wheel steer­ing sys­tem, piv­ots the car firmly into the apex. No fuss, no drama – with a solid prod of the go-faster pedal, and it is off we go again.

Sweat is pool­ing un­der my hel­met above my brows. My knuck­les, fin­gers clenched on the steer­ing wheel, have turned white. Not that I have the time to no­tice. There is some­thing elec­tric about be­ing at the busi­ness end of a V12, a sweet en­gine con­fig­u­ra­tion that is in­her­ently bal­anced, de­liv­ers but­ter-smooth power non­pareil and – the best part – can be revved till king­dom come.

This po­tent combo is some­thing no other ar­range­ment of cylin­ders can match. And that sig­na­ture sound! – a snarling, sonorous sym­phony that only an or­ches­tra of a dozen in­stru­ments can muster, tuned by the mae­stros at Maranello in a way that, even to the un­trained ear, a Fer­rari en­gine sounds like a Fer­rari en­gine. Which is why, de­spite its great com­plex­ity – which comes at a great cost – the V12 re­mains the show­case en­gine for Fer­rari.

The tra­di­tion started when Enzo Fer­rari built the first ve­hi­cle that bore his name, the Fer­rari 125 S, in 1947. A race­car con­struc­tor through and through, Enzo Fer­rari favoured the free- and high-revving man­ner of the V12 mo­tor, due to its ca­pac­ity be­ing spread over smaller cylin­ders, al­low­ing each to be lighter. Such en­gines are also nat­u­rally bal­anced, so the crank­shaft can be made with min­i­mal coun­ter­weight, re­duc­ing ro­ta­tional in­er­tia.

The “Colombo 125”, named af­ter en­gi­neer Gioacchino Colombo with whom Enzo Fer­rari worked closely in the early years of the com­pany, mea­sured a pe­tite 1.5 litres, but had an ad­vanced sin­gle over­head camshaft de­sign with two val­ues per cylin­der. It pro­duced 118bhp, an in­cred­i­ble amount of grunt at the time, which pro­pelled the 125 S to the podium, win­ning the car six of its 14 races in its de­but year alone. (Fun fact: the 125 S would have qual­i­fied for a Cat A COE to­day.)

Tech­ni­cal specs con­sid­ered, the V12 en­gines in to­day’s Fer­raris have come a long way.

The one in the 812 Su­per­fast, which was an­nounced at this year’s Geneva Mo­tor Show – mak­ing this The Peak cor­re­spon­dent among the first Sin­ga­pore­ans to drive one – pro­duces 789bhp at an as­ton­ish­ingly high 8,500 rpm. The lively 6.5-litre unit is the most pow­er­ful nat­u­rally as­pi­rated pro­duc­tion car en­gine ever made.

Apart from the track, the V12 is suited for a wide range of uses, like the 6.3-litre lump in the Fer­rari GTC4Lusso. I took the lux­ury two-door, four-seat grand tourer for a quick spin around the CBD and on the high­way, and found its road man­ners re­mark­able: pa­tient in heavy traf­fic, but ea­ger to un­leash the full 681bhp once the hori­zon opened up. That the V12 re­lies not on force in­duc­tion also leads to per­fect lin­ear­ity in power de­liv­ery, that es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent in cre­at­ing the il­lu­sion that car and driver are one.

The V12 is a rar­ity in the motoring world and the on­go­ing on­slaught on car­bon emis­sions (all things be­ing equal, larger en­gines pro­duce more) is only go­ing to di­min­ish its num­bers fur­ther. This is in spite of logic: V12-pow­ered cars are sold in such tiny num­bers that they con­trib­ute a neg­li­gi­ble amount to global emis­sions. So for those who can af­ford a V12-power Fer­rari, it is a cel­e­bra­tion of tech­ni­cal achieve­ment and of Fer­rari’s tenac­ity in per­sist­ing to do great things in the face of bu­reau­cratic pres­sure. Ital Auto, 30 Leng Kee Road. www.sin­ga­pore. fer­raride­al­ers. com

THE NUM­BERS 812 Su­per­fast EN­GINE: 6.5-litre, V12 POWER: 789bhp at 8,500 rpm TORQUE: 718Nm at 7,000 rpm 0- 100 KMH: 2.9 sec TOP SPEED: In ex­cess of 340kmh

01 STYLE ICON The 812 Su­per­fast fea­tures a high tail de­sign that harks back to the 365 GTB4 of 1969. 02 POWER MONGER The spe­cific out­put of 121.5bhp per litre is the high­est for any front-en­gined pro­duc­tion car.

POCKET ROCKET Fer­rari’s V12 legacy started with its very first model, the light­weight 125 S racer.

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