| First Drive | Fiorano, Italy | Ferrari 430 Scuderia |
A sharp crack fills the garage as Marc Gene, Ferrari's Formula 1 test driver fires up a menacing-looking black 430 Scuderia. As he pulls out onto Ferrari's Fiorano circuit the engineers start rushing about looking confused. The telemetry fitted to Ferrari's new lighter, faster, more focused F430 isn't working. But I don't need to see a line on a graph to understand the 430 Scuderia is fast. It sounds fast; it looks fast; it is fast. Quite ludicrously so. It's Enzo fast around here, Ferrari's V12 hyper-car bettered around Fiorano by the V8 Scuderia's 1 minute 25 second lap time.
That'll inevitably be toppled in the future; after all it was only five years ago that the Enzo was the Fiorano king. But for now it's hugely significant. It'd be wrong to simply call the Scuderia a lighter F430, as there are a number of very significant changes over the standard car. It's more aerodynamically efficient, the engine's more powerful (to the tune of 20bhp), the interior is stripped and weight has been pared back by adding materials like carbon-fibre and titanium and binning superfluous items like carpets and soundproofing. However, the most significant addition to the Scuderia is the combination of F1-Trac from the 599
to a development of the standard 430's E-Diff. Technically it's a quite inexplicably complex morphing of electronics and mechanical systems derived from Formula One, and on the road it feels as if there's some sort of higher force acting on the car. Hardly surprising then to hear then that Schumacher was heavily involved in its development.
There's a V8 with 503bhp behind my shoulder that's able to fire the Scuderia to 62mph from standstill in less than 3.6 seconds. More torque is offered too (346lb.ft at 5,250rpm), the power and torque increases a result of some clever tweaking to the exhaust, intake manifold and internals. Yet no matter how hard I try I cannot get the rear tyres to relinquish their grip. As Gene himself said after the telemetry eventually fired up and he drove his demo laps: "It's a car I can drive like an F1 car, just push the accelerator to the floor and the traction control sorts it out." He's not wrong, Ferrari having seemingly defied physics with the Scuderia. I've honestly never driven anything that feels so planted, regardless of the speed or the severity of the road.
It is arcade game intense, a surreal demonstration of F1 technology applied to a road car. And for all its focus and ability, it is still a road car, albeit an insanely quick one. It's not all grip and go though, as the Scuderia is willing to play when you want it to. The new 'racing' version of the Manettino is central to this ability. It not only allows you to dial in just how much control you want to give the numerous electronic stability and traction systems, but unlike the standard F430 and F599 GTB Fiorano it's possible to work the digital nannies independently of the suspension. It's this that allows it to demonstrate such amazing poise on less than racetrack smooth roads.
In fact, the compromises on the road are surprisingly few. The Scuderia's ride is remarkably supple when the suspension is in its softest mode. It gives it the ability to shrug off bumps that would have a Porsche 911 GT3 RS or Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera - the Scuderia's closest rivals - hopping and skipping all over the place. It's the suspension's sensational ability to maintain control seemingly regardless of how nasty the surface is, as much as the engine and aerodynamic changes, which makes the Scuderia such a remarkable point-to-point machine.
Ferrari recommends driving the Scuderia on the road with the Manettino set to Sport. It's one notch up on the steering wheel control knob from the setting for slippery roads. It proves utterly mesmerising, allowing the driver to push hard with absolute impunity with the electronics keeping everything in check. There's a touch of understeer, and the steering, light and accurate as it is, could be a touch more feelsome, but these are small complaints. Three more settings are offered above Sport, and each offers more and more control. And that's too tempting not to try them. Race is next. It raises the bar a bit, allowing a little slip from the rear and adding to the thrill, but there's still more to come. A sequence of tight yet sighted hairpin bends and a big brave pill sees the Race setting abandoned for CT off. That's traction off, with the stability system still on.
CT off might as well be labelled 'Hero', as on the right road it makes the driver feel like one. Bends are exited with a handful of corrective lock, the angle of slip chosen via the accelerator. It should be tricky, frightening even, but the Scuderia is remarkably friendly when the rear slides into its graceful oversteering arc. Even on the bucking, poorly cambered roads winding up through the hills near Modena it's never untidy, the tail easing back into line easily and smoothly as lock is wound off. Even so, I'm not prepared to push my luck and go for the final balls-out no electronics CST off setting on the road. That's best left for the track, and tyre-melting showboating.
Keep the accelerator pedal buried to the floor exiting corners and the 430 Scuderia utterly demolishes the straights in between. It all flashes by in a cacophony of glorious mechanical noise and quite ludicrous speed, the six-speed paddle-shift slamming the next gear through almost before you've pulled on the shifter.
The F1-Superfast 2 gearbox is the most obviously F1-derived aspect of the Scuderia. Its 60 millisecond shift time is only 20 milliseconds short of an F1 car and makes every other paddle shift system I've driven feel glacial in comparison. Using it is utterly intoxicating, each gear bringing the promise of even greater acceleration and more of the fantastic metallic, mechanical symphony from the V8, with its gasping intake and howling exhaust accompaniment. Downshifts are smoother, and rewarded with a flare of revs from the engine as it matches the engine speed with the selected gear.
It takes a while for my brain to compute the ferocious pace the Scuderia is capable of, making me thankful of its huge carbon ceramic Brembo brakes. They remove speed so effectively that they allow braking later than ever, an astonishing 1.6G of braking force possible. On road tyres that's quite extraordinary. Which pretty much sums up the Scuderia. Extraordinary. A touch more powerful, 100kg lighter, the Scuderia is a pure shot of Ferrari F1 adrenaline that's so astonishingly able it's difficult to comprehend. At £172,500 it's not cheap, but never has less meant so much more.