MAY ON CARS

Driven - - CONTENTS - Re­port by JAMES MAY | Im­ages © FER­RARI Text © SUN­DAY TIMES, LON­DON / NEWS SYN­DI­CA­TION

Fer­rari 488 Pista

THIS MAY BE A MEA­SURE OF HOW OVERINDULGED I’VE BE­COME, BUT OF ALL THE WORLD’S CIR­CUITS, THE ONE I kNOW BEST — THE ONLY ONE I CAN RE­MEM­BER WITH ANY CER­TAINTY — IS FER­RARI’S pRI­VATE TEST TRACk AT FIORANO. I EVEN kNOW THE NAMES OF SOME OF THE pEO­pLE WORk­ING THERE.

So there I was, hav­ing just cleared the blind crest of the bridge and com­mit­ted my­self to the right-han­der that leads to the down­hill ap­proach to the slow dou­ble-left bit (see what I mean?), in the fastest pro­duc­tion Fer­rari to have been timed around this track, the 530 kW 488 Pista. As the cor­ner opened up, I steeled my­self and gave it what some of my pro­fes­sional ri­vals call “full tap”.

Well, I per­formed a gor­geous and per­fectly con­trolled tail flick fol­lowed by a smooth tran­si­tion to the full-bore run down to the left and left again. This sort of thing could do enor­mous dam­age to my Cap­tain Slow rep­u­ta­tion, but in my de­fence it was the car what done it. I sim­ply smashed the pedal, and Fer­rari’s boffins per­formed the stunt on my be­half through the good of­fices of elec­tronic driver aids and chas­sis dy­nam­ics. It was bloody good, though. I hope peo­ple were watch­ing.

Fer­rari is still the pre­mier pur­veyor of ex­quis­ite driv­ing art­works. No other car maker can ca­jole en­gi­neer­ing and aes­thet­ics into quite the same happy con­flu­ence — it does my head in.

In the 488 Pista (mean­ing “track”), shape, sound, smell and colour are per­fectly ar­ranged to pro­duce such a fizz that I be­lieve it could move some­thing in the bow­els of Christ. There are some who dis­miss the whole “Fer­rari ef­fect” as an elab­o­rate and cyn­i­cal mar­ket­ing op­er­a­tion de­signed to sell baseball caps. They are sim­ply not my friends. I can be at a din­ner party and al­low my mind to sneak away and think about be­ing in a Fer­rari while my face and mouth main­tain an ap­par­ent in­ter­est in Brexit. It’s that bad.

But I see two prob­lems with the Pista. The first is per­sonal, as I own this car’s pre­de­ces­sor, the 458 Spe­ciale. The sec­ond is the ap­pear­ance of the A110, a pock­et­size sports car made by Alpine, the Re­nault skunkworks. More on this— the great­est thing to come out of France since the Mouli cheese grater — later.

When the Pista was an­nounced a few months ago, I re­ceived a call from my au­to­mo­tive drug dealer to say I could have one, but I’d have to make my mind up by Mon­day. It was Fri­day evening.

I strug­gled with this one for the whole week­end. It didn’t help that con­tin­ued en­thu­si­asm for the Spe­ciale, the last of the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V8 Fez­zas, is such that I could sell it at a healthy profit, buy the Pista (pounds 252,765) and still have enough change for a new suit and a slap-up fish sup­per.

The Pista would al­most cer­tainly be bet­ter than my car, be­cause the lat­est spe­cial edi­tion of a mid-en­gined V8 Fer­rari has al­ways been su­pe­rior to the pre­vi­ous one, all

“THE PISTA WOULD GIVE ME AN EX­TRA 85 KW, EVEN MORE SO­PHIS­TI­CATED AERO­DY­NAM­ICS AND YET MORE SUB­TLE ELEC­TRONIC IN­TER­VEN­TION WHEN YOU’RE TAUNT­ING THE REAPER WITH A POINTY STICK.”

the way back to the 360 Chal­lenge Stradale. The Pista would give me an ex­tra 85 kW, even more so­phis­ti­cated aero­dy­nam­ics and yet more sub­tle elec­tronic in­ter­ven­tion when you’re taunt­ing the Reaper with a pointy stick. It might even look bet­ter. I just couldn’t de­cide.

In the end I de­cided to stick with what I had. For a start, a part of me I de­spise be­lieves my car — one of the last built of the last of the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated blah, blah, blah — is a shrewd in­vest­ment.

More­over, my or­ange (with gold wheels) Spe­ciale is very much mine, per­son­ally spec­i­fied in the last yawn­ing mo­ments of pro­duc­tion at a time when my pro­fes­sional life was in some tur­moil and in ac­cor­dance with the mantra once re­layed to me by Chris Evans:“Al­ways buy the Fer­rari you can’t re­ally af­ford.” It some­how can’t be­long to any­one else. So that’s that, then.

But, damnit, the Pista is bet­ter. This was im­pressed upon me re­lent­lessly dur­ing my Fiorano visit, which I thought was a bit in­sen­si­tive. It be­gan dur­ing the oblig­a­tory pre-drive tech­ni­cal pre­sen­ta­tion. Ev­ery­thing is lighter and more re­spon­sive, and the mo­tor sport tech­nol­ogy trans­fer (largely from the 488 Chal­lenge rac­ing car) is the most in­ten­sive on any road-go­ing Fer­rari to date.

There were at­tempts to be groovy, such as a graph to il­lus­trate the “lon­gi­tu­di­nal fun to drive in­dex” and even the brief ap­pear­ance of the cap­tion “Fun 2 drive”, which al­most

made me bite the rub­ber off my Fer­rari pen­cil. Fer­rari is not groovy. Rather, it is de­voted to mak­ing the next V8 spe­cial edi­tion faster and more con­trol­lable around Fiorano than the last one; oth­er­wise it isn’t a Fer­rari.

Back to Fiorano, then. The Pista is breath­tak­ing: blis­ter­ingly fast yet sur­pris­ingly be­nign, thanks to all that stuff in the graphs. For my hot laps, I ped­alled it far more ag­gres­sively than I would dare in an orig­i­nal 360 Chal­lenge Stradale with al­most 223 kW less. The Pista’s 530 kW may sound ab­surd for a 1,385 kg car, but as Fer­rari’s chief test driver once fa­mously said, as long as you’re in con­trol, the power is never enough.

Now I must in­tro­duce that Alpine A110, which I was driv­ing a few weeks ago. Where Fer­rari has ap­plied its con­sid­er­able in­tel­li­gence to re­fin­ing the su­per­car idea — power, tur­bocharg­ing, use of light­weight ma­te­ri­als, con­trol of slip an­gles, speed of gearchanges and so on — Alpine has ap­plied it to sports car ba­sics. The A110 makes do with a 186 kW four-pot unit, but it weighs not much more than a ton and is prop­erly tiny. It is, most sig­nif­i­cantly, much nar­rower than the Pista.

This isn’t re­ally about down­siz­ing, sav­ing fuel or re­duc­ing emis­sions. The ruth­less par­ing trans­lates as gen­uine mid-en­gined magic and tremen­dous feel in a real world of un­known bends and cars com­ing the other way. The ex­pe­ri­ence suf­fused me with su­per­car doubt. Just what, in re­al­ity, is the 488 Pista for?

I’ve oft ar­gued that driv­ing some­thing like a Fer­rari is an act of civic gen­eros­ity, like buy­ing a Matisse and hang­ing it on the out­side of your house so oth­ers can en­joy it. But I now won­der if own­ing a 488 Pista is like buy­ing a Matisse and hang­ing it on your wall back to front, so you merely know the pic­ture is there. Its abil­i­ties are that un­fath­omable.

I’m con­flicted here. Fer­rari says 60% of Pista own­ers will go on track days, but I find that hard to be­lieve. Aside from one or two other peo­ple who earn a liv­ing talk­ing cob­blers about cars, I don’t know any­one who goes on track days. I cer­tainly don’t take my Fer­rari on track days. How could I en­joy it, wait­ing to be shunted up the chuff by an am­bi­tious and fear­less youth in a cut’n’shut Subaru?

At the same time, I don’t buy that tired old ar­gu­ment that su­per­cars are “un­us­able” in the real world. Of course you can’t hope to ex­ploit the dark cor­ners of their ca­pa­bil­i­ties, but that is also true of hot hatches.

The beauty of a track-bred Fer­rari is that its abil­ity to do all the Fiorano stuff makes it feel ex­otic in nor­mal use. It lends an in­cred­i­ble clar­ity to its op­er­a­tion. It also makes it cred­i­ble, like a watch that can be used at a depth of 200 m-plus, even though you’re not go­ing there.

The fact is that, after fool­ing my­self at the track, I took the Pista for a lengthy drive around the back roads of Emilia-Ro­magna, and it was ut­terly de­light­ful. There are few ac­tiv­i­ties to match the ex­cite­ment of pi­lot­ing a spe­cial-edi­tion Fer­rari with a ra­bid en­gine snarling away right be­hind your head. It makes me sick with a sort of ma­chine para­philia.

FER­RARI 488 PISTA

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.