Be­hind the wheel

Virtuozity - - Handmade -

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.

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