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This is the first in a short series of articles where I have tried to capture what it is like to drive a few of the supercars I have owned over the years along with a write up on a drive or two.
Ferrari F40 Driving Experience
For a car that was launched over 25 years ago, the Ferrari F40 can still easily keep pace with just about anything coming out of Maranello or Stuttgart today. There is nothing about it that feels dated, just wonderfully raw and focused.
Open the fly weight door, drop down into the red racing bucket, push the clutch in, turn the ignition key, press the started button, and the engine immediately bursts into life. For the first several minutes, it revs to 2000 rpms until the cats heat up and then drops to just under a thousand. Wait for the water and oil temp gauges to start swinging north, and then you can gently head towards the open road. Give it 10 miles to heat up properly and the fun begins. Drop a gear, gently give it some gas, wait for the revs to build to just over 3000 rpm, check that the road is straight, and then push the far-right pedal towards the floor. First comes the strong shove back and down into the seat……..and then all hell breaks loose. It feels like the nose lifts slightly as the rear tire bite down, the screaming of the turbos increases, and with little additional warning you are launched brutally forward down the tarmac. At 6800-7k rpm shift quickly up, if space permits do it again, and then normally it is hard on the brakes before turning in for the corner. After many years, that experience is just as special today as it was the first time. The steering and the way in which the nose goes exactly where you point it are best in class. Despite the width, get it moving and the F40 shrinks around you. It is car that wants and deserves to be driven “enthusiastically”.
In terms of the F40 experience, probably my youngest son’s 1st reaction captures it best. The first time I took him out in the F40 he was 7 years old. When I lite up the turbos for the first time on an empty stretch of highway, he just started laughing and telling me to …do it again, and again, and then one more time.
Saturday Morning Drive
It was early on a Saturday morning when a friend, with his Ferrari 550 Maranello, and I, with the Ferrari F40, rendezvoused for a drive up outside of Lisbon. After a brief greeting, off we trundled down the coastal road. I spent the first 10 minutes just trying to get some heat in the tires. It’s key to do before we hit the valley cut through. With a bit of heat, the F40 handles extremely well. Without it, it just feels off and the rest of the drive is a mess. With a bit of work, heat was built up and grip was great when we reached the valley cut through. I love this curvy piece of tarmac. In the F40, it is all 2nd and 3rd gear territory, with short bursts of acceleration in the straights, before braking going into the next hairpin. Other than two longer straights towards the end, careful throttle management is critical as you need to constantly add and subtract speed while rolling the car through the corners. The 550 stayed in my rear-view mirror at a safe distance for the run, always closing a bit as we entered a corner, and then disappearing for a second when the turbos spooled up on exit.
After the valley it was off down the highway to stretch the legs before heading up into my favorite mountain road. Getting on the highway, we rolled down the long ramp and then with nothing but empty tarmac in front, started squeezing the accelerator with earnest. Quickly it was up through 3rd, 4th, and then time to back off and shift down into 5th. As I was moving right and dropping into 5th while enjoying the cacophony of sounds as the wastegate cleared, a silver 550 streaked by. As we needed to get off at the next exit and not two down as per our normal route, 5th became 4th, the right foot was extended, and the horizon suddenly became closer. Shortly thereafter the Ferrari 550 was back where it belonged, admiring the F40s rear wing and following me down the off ramp.
Going up into the mountains, we switched positions and it was the 550’s turn to lead. Following the 12-cylinder GT required careful alert driving as the road winds alongside a rather dramatic cliff for most of its length. The 550 has excellent brakes and the F40 has great acceleration. Going into a corner, the 550 is able to brake later and get on the power earlier in the exit. The F40 can close the gap quickly as soon as the road opens up, but you need to be scrubbing off speed well before the 550 heading into a corner. Make a mistake in the 550 and the electronic driver aid systems will likely save you. Do the same in the all analogue F40 and you are likely to find luck in short supply.
After the invigorating run up towards the clouds, we turned around and headed back down toward the coast. All in all, a great way to start a day.