Fer­rari 488 Pista

Most pow­er­ful V8 in Fer­rari his­tory and we get an ex­clu­sive drive in it

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The last time I stood in front of il Com­menda­tore’s (Enzo Fer­rari) house was back in 2011. I wasn’t as ex­cited then as I am to­day. Be­cause be­hind me is a cam­ou­flaged car that only a hand­ful of peo­ple out­side the com­pany (and in the world) have driven. And if be­hind me is Enzo Fer­rari’s old house, then around me is the Fio­rano track on which I am about to drive a pro­to­type, the track ver­sion of the 488 GTB.

Yes, the car was un­veiled at the Geneva Mo­tor Show ear­lier and yes there is lit­tle to dif­fer­en­ti­ate the Pista from the GTB, but Raf­faele de Si­mone, Fer­rari’s chief de­vel­op­ment driver tells me that while the GTB is a doc­tor’s knife, the 488 Pista is a brain sur­geon’s scalpel, and for some­one who wields one, the dif­fer­ence is easy to tell.

If tracks were surg­eries then Fio­rano would be a com­pli­cated brain surgery and I am happy to be armed with a neu­ro­sur­geon’s scalpel.

Be­ing one of the jury mem­bers of the In­ter­na­tional En­gine of the Year, I’ve been in­vited to get a taste of a fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of the en­gine that was crowned the In­ter­na­tional En­gine of the Year two times in a row. Af­ter sit­ting through a pre­sen­ta­tion on the changes to the en­gine, we are all set to try it out.

Raf­faele makes it seem so easy as he builds up speed out of the pits and gives run­ning com­men­tary on each of the turns, how to tackle each corner, where to brake early and where to leave the turn in till the very last mo­ment. His car glides from one corner to the other as the speed builds up, and he is now push­ing the nee­dle against the rev lim­iter and the au­ral sym­phony cas­cades into a crescendo, shift­ing to a high pitch just be­fore the shift.

Be­fore I have a chance to re­alise it, I am be­ing belted into the four-point har­ness, the hel­met strap is checked and the light turns green. I take a lap to build up mo­men­tum and slowly start push­ing the car. Ac­cel­er­a­tion is bru­tal, and brak­ing is even worse as I am try­ing to catch-up with my in­nards ev­ery time I brake hard. The 720bhp I can fathom, but the jump in torque with ev­ery gear en­sures that the mo­men­tum is stronger with ev­ery shift rather than hav­ing to build up again. And did any­one tell me that this is a tur­bocharged en­gine? Power de­liv­ery is seam­less and turbo lag seems non-ex­is­tent as I start push­ing the car.

Slowly I start com­ing into my own and fol­low­ing a rhythm, get­ting the brak­ing right and not slow­ing down too dra­mat­i­cally be­fore each corner, wait­ing for the right point to turn in and lay­ing down the power just be­yond the apex as the car straight­ens out. It is as easy to drive as a go kart, but as the speed builds up, so does the in­ten­sity of all the ac­tions. The nudges on the huge pad­dleshifters come quicker, the brak-

WHILE THE

GTB IS A DOC­TOR’S KNIFE, THE

488 PISTA IS A BRAIN SUR­GEON’S SCALPEL, FOR

SOME­ONE WHO WIELDS

ONE, THE DIF­FER­ENCE IS EASY TO

TELL

ing gets even more bru­tal and the turn ins more ag­gres­sive. I re­alise that the laps are run­ning out and I turn the red manet­tino one notch to the right. That’s the mo­ment I have been wait­ing for, build­ing up to­wards. And all hell breaks loose. Maybe it’s just the sound, but it isn’t. If the car was sharp, it is now the scalpel. If the ac­cel­er­a­tion and brak­ing were bru­tal, they are now like a bat­ter­ing ram, and I re­alise why rac­ers need strong necks as my head starts bob­bing around in­side the hel­met, the neck not hav­ing the strength to hold it steady. I had set up the dis­plays to show me the Gs I

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