Dal­lara Stradale Buy this, win track­days

…then just pop £166k to the folks at Dal­lara (yes, that one), and they’ll fur­nish you with the out­stand­ingly fast and pure Stradale. And you’ll have no ex­cuses… By Ge­org Kacher

CAR (UK) - - Contents -

DAL­LARA BUILDS RACE cars for a liv­ing. So it won’t come as much of a sur­prise to learn that the mar­que’s first road car feels like one. Across the startfin­ish line, flat-out in third gear, the two-seater is present but for a mo­ment and then gone, trail­ing a bel­low­ing bur­ble se­quen­tially in­ter­rupted by two more up­shifts (a man­ual ’box is stan­dard, the se­quen­tial op­tional). Push­ing the Stradale to the limit is an ex­pe­ri­ence that rav­ages ev­ery sense – even with the op­tional wind­screen in place, your hel­met still sticks out into the storm like a throb­bing car­bon­fi­bre light­house, the car declar­ing war on your neck and shoul­ders with the forces it can sum­mon.

We’re at the Nardo han­dling track, for­mer F1 man Marco Api­cella next to me. Into turn one, 160mph in fifth. ‘Tur­rrn in, but don’t lift. Now!’ yells Api­cella. Keep­ing the pedal planted goes against your ev­ery grain, but all the car does is change di­rec­tion and stay firmly, spook­ily, put.

‘Thrrree, two, one. Now!’ We’re danc­ing the line be­tween brak­ing late and brak­ing too late. I’m cer­tain dis­as­ter will strike but no – the bald­ing man with the bull’s neck crouched low in the pas­sen­ger seat is al­ready talk­ing me through turns two and three in his cool, crack­ling voice. ‘Br­rravis­simo! Next time you go a lit­tle fasta.’

So the Dal­lara doesn’t play by con­ven­tional rules, but then nei­ther is it a con­ven­tional car. By hop­ping in you leave be­hind drop-top sports car con­ven­tions; heated seats, air scarves, wind de­flec­tors. Al­though a com­fort pack, com­plete with gull­wing T-top glass canopy, sin­gle-arm wiper and air-con is avail­able for a hefty £28,000, most own­ers will opt for the go-faster op­tions; race roll hoops, the per­for­mance kit that re­moves the cat­a­lyst for an­other 15bhp, the race ex­haust and the low­ered sus­pen­sion.

Like a hard­core com­pe­ti­tion car, the Dal­lara sets out to erase the chip in your head and re-write it. It does so by cor­ner­ing sub­stan­tially faster, brak­ing quan­tifi­ably later and plot­ting its course with more tenac­ity than al­most all pre­vi­ous four-wheeled flings. But you have to build up to it. Be­cause it takes time to grasp the fact that, at the

end of the long straight, when the car is trav­el­ling at 80% of its top speed, it’s gen­er­at­ing 400kg of down­force. This mas­sive ground ef­fect gives awe­some lat­eral grip and di­rec­tional sta­bil­ity.

Api­cella is chortling as I mas­sage my aching neck and shoul­ders. ‘The Dal­lara can pull in ex­cess of 2g,’ he smiles. ‘That’s not quite fighter pilot stuff, but it vir­tu­ally eclipses ev­ery other street-le­gal su­per­car. Now you know why pros spend so much time in the gym...’

For decades, Dal­lara has been pro­cess­ing car­bon­fi­bre like other makes have shaped steel or alu­minium. Thanks to this track-tested light­weight con­struc­tion tech­nique, the data sheet lists a dry weight of 855 ki­los.

The low-tech en­gine marks a stark con­trast to the high-tech com­pos­ite chas­sis. After talk­ing to nu­mer­ous po­ten­tial sup­pli­ers, the Ital­ians opted for the sin­gle-turbo 400bhp 2.3-litre Ford Ecoboost four-cylin­der, known as the Cleve­land en­gine be­cause that’s where Ford builds it. De­liv­er­ing peak power at 6200rpm, the mid-mounted 16-valver fuses shirt-sleeved run­ning char­ac­ter­is­tics with coarse work­ing noises.

Throt­tle re­sponse is brisk but not Fer­rari-in­stant; turbo lag can be an is­sue when low revs meet a tall gear, and it’s not the keen­est to rev. The wrong mo­tor for such an un­com­pro­mis­ing driv­ing ma­chine? Not re­ally, be­cause of the torque: 369lb ft from 3000rpm to 5000rpm, thereby defin­ing a broad sweet spot which, in turn, de­fines the un­ex­pect­edly re­laxed per­son­al­ity of the Stradale.

The Dal­lara is, in other words, not only an ob­ject les­son in feath­er­weight en­gi­neer­ing and aero­dy­namic ex­cel­lence, it also musters enough punch to fly high with­out fran­ti­cally flap­ping its wings all the time. On the open road in par­tic­u­lar, the two-seater is thus as com­pelling a GT as it is a black­top-peel­ing crack­er­jack.

On most sec­tions of the track, la macchina arra­bi­ata begs to fol­low a dif­fer­ent line and use a dif­fer­ent gear than the best of the rest. With that mighty torque, there’s no need to ever shift down into sec­ond. The Stradale cre­ates mas­sive for­ward mo­tion ef­fort­lessly, seam­lessly, re­lent­lessly.

After the torque (and the speed and down­force…), the sec­ond thing that hits you is the steer­ing. The Dal­lara does with­out power as­sis­tance or any kind of trick­ery. In­stead its steer­ing is pre­cise, quick and com­mu­nica­tive, re­lay­ing ex­actly the right amount of feed­back, self-cen­ter­ing mo­ment and ef­fort. It be­friends the driver, is a won­der­fully hap­tic in­ter­face, and puts con­trol and con­fi­dence into your palms. If you must ask the ques­tion then the an­swer is yes: this steer­ing beats any­thing and ev­ery­thing that is out there, and it doesn’t em­ploy torque vec­tor­ing or rear-wheel steer­ing to do so. It also fits with Dal­lara’s re­duc­tive ap­proach, which waives car­bon-ce­ramic brakes, ac­tive anti-roll bars and dy­namic driv­e­train mounts. Also con­spic­u­ous by their ab­sence are nav, mu­sic, any type of driver as­sis­tance sys­tem and, sadly, adap­tive LED head­lights. Says Api­cella, grin­ning broadly: ‘You don’t drive this car much at night. Think of the in­sects...’

Dal­lara plans to build 650 ve­hi­cles over five years. With close to 100 units al­ready spo­ken for, the wait­ing list cur­rently stretches into 2020. The naked barchetta re­tails at £166,000. So it’s this or 570S McLaren? ‘No – you own our car in ad­di­tion to a Fer­rari, a Pa­gani or a Lam­borgh­ini,’ says Gi­ampaolo Dal­lara. ‘Be­cause our car is quite dif­fer­ent. We build an ana­logue, no-frills street-le­gal racer.’ In­deed he does.

It’s just a wheel. But it’s bolted to the best steer­ing on sale to­day, ac­cord­ing to Ge­org

Screen is from the op­tions list, which can tailor your Stradale for road or track

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