Behind the wheel
At the recent Ferrari Owners Club meeting at Yas Marina Circuit, Dragon Racing was on hand to show off its collection of 458 Challenge cars. Happily, Rob Barff, director of racing and tuition at Dragon Racing, offered to give Virtuozity a ride-along in a pedal-to-the-metal session around the circuit. The idea was to show us how the race-prepared Ferrari handled the bends, as well as demonstrate the excitement that comes from giving such a machine the full beans.
The acceleration is brutal. The car weighs just over 1,200 kilograms, meaning that the full force of that 562 bhp V8 can be felt propelling you towards the horizon. The three-second 0-100 kph time feels much faster, perhaps because of the lack of sound insulation, which makes the roar of that V8 that much louder. However, any number of road cars will provide you with brutal acceleration. What’s impossible to prepare yourself for is the way with which the 458 Challenge handles the corners.
In most sporty, rear-wheel-drive cars, you can attack a corner as quickly as you want, but eventually the limits of grip will be reached, and you’ll get understeer. To cure this, you can dab the throttle and you’ll get some slip at the rear. What’s important to note here, though, is that none of this affects you as a driver that much—if you understand what you have to do, this process is a doddle.
In the 458 Challenge, however, there seems to be no limit whatsoever to the grip. The aero package installed on the car means that, the faster you go, the more grip there is. This means that you can tackle extremely tight corners at incredible speeds—which is excellent from a lap-time perspective. However, it’s also brutal on your sense. G-force goes up to extremely strenuous levels, making the simple act of holding up your head a huge challenge. Your stomach is left behind at the turn in while the car speeds off through the exit of the curve, and your brain is left to play catch-up. It takes incredible amounts of concentration to adjust your body to these feelings, let alone control a 562-horsepower vehicle at the same time.
It might sound brutal—and it is—but nothing beats the rush of adrenaline that comes with this experience. And being the one behind the wheel, with training on how to go even faster, would make the whole passage that much sweeter.