October 22, 2007
Maranello, Italy – Ferrari 430 Scuderia. Rain. These are two entities I dearly hoped would not be sharing space in this story. But alas, Mother Nature has her own schedule, and she apparently holds little respect for Ferrari, the company’s 60th anniversary, and specifically, the international media launch of the 430 Scuderia – the latest supercar to spring from the gates of Ferrari ground zero.
A supercar? You bet. The 2008 430 Scuderia, which bristles with technology from Ferrari’s F1 program, will out accelerate the V12 Enzo to 100 km/h (under 3.6 seconds) and match the Enzo’s 1 minute 25 second lap time of Ferrari’s famed Fiorano test track. It has a top speed of 320 km/h.
So with heavy clouds overhead and large raindrops splattering the steeply raked windshield, I pulled the Avio-Met blue 430 Scuderia away from the Ferrari compound and headed for the hills – certainly not the best conditions in which to be testing Ferrari’s newest ground-based missile.
And yet, while negotiating the narrow, sinuous, and yes, quite damp roads through the northern Italian countryside, the 430 Scuderia was anything but intimidating. In fact, this pumped-up and pared-down F430 is so user-friendly, it was asking for a bit of tail-out fun and an occasional burst of insane acceleration whenever the road opened up.
With the Scuderia (say scood-a- reeah), Ferrari has taken the mid-engine 4.3-litre V8-powered F430 Coupe to another plateau of performance – and most importantly, has made that plateau available to the average (albeit wealthy) driver. And you may well ask: isn’t the standard F430 enough to satisfy just about any imaginable automotive fantasy?
It is… until you drive this car.
The 430 Scuderia was unveiled in September at the Frankfurt Auto Show by none other than Michael Schumacher, who played a big part in its development. In the world of performance cars, weight is the enemy, and Ferrari has pared 100 kg from the F430 via titanium springs, lightened suspension components, more composite body parts, carbon-ceramic brakes, plastic Lexan rear window, carbon fibre-shelled racing seats and the nixing of leather, audio, carpets and some sound insulation. It tips the scales at a svelte 1250 kg.
But the Scuderia is much more than just a decontented F430. Extensive wind tunnel tuning has resulted in more (and better distributed) down force with less aerodynamic drag. The car sits 15 mm closer to the ground and wears bespoke Pirelli PZero Corsa rubber (235/35 front, 285/35 rear) on 19-inch light alloys. The tires were designed to provide exceptional dry and wet weather performance, and on this day, I say grazie. Grip in the wet was impressive.
Two steering column-mounted paddle shifters operate this latest version of Ferrari’s semi-auto sequential six-speed, dubbed F1 Superfast 2. This is no idle boast. Sixty milliseconds is all it takes for the system to reduce torque, open the clutch, blip the throttle (on downshifts), engage the next gear, close the clutch and ramp up the torque. The Enzo’s and F430′s trannys takes a relatively glacial 150 milliseconds. In the F1 cars, Ferrari has got this feat down to 30-40 milliseconds. While chasing the rare sunny breaks that teased from above, flying up and down through the gearbox was pure joy. Shifts are instant and near seamless.
The sport seats (equipped with optional four-point racing harness in this car) provided incredible support yet coddled my backside. Completing the racy ambience is the bare aluminum floor, carbon-fibre door panels and the black Alcantara-covered dash. This tester also sported the optional carbon-fibre steering wheel with a row of LEDs that light up as the revs increase – just like in the Enzo.
The 430 Scuderia is uncannily balanced and precise, Brakes, steering and throttle are super responsive, but not in an edgy way. The car brings an unparalleled clarity to the driving experience that can only be described as motoring in high-definition – with kick-ass V8 surround-sound to boot.
Ah yes. Just behind you sits a 4308-cc hunk of V8 sculpture whose voice alone will bring you to your knees. By tweaking the intake and exhaust systems, and increasing the compression ratio, Ferrari has liberated an extra 20 prancing horses over the base car (510 hp at 8500 r.p.m.) and fattened up the mid-range torque curve (347 lb.-ft. at 5250 r.p.m.).
The engineers are particularly proud of the "composition of frequencies" they’ve arrived at to give the Scuderia its unique voice. I’d call it a cross between Enrico Carruso and Eddie Van Halen… on acid.
To get all this power to the ground in the most effective manner, the rear-wheel-drive 430 Scuderia gets an F1-derived electronic rear differential that can apportion torque from side to side as conditions dictate. It works alongside very advanced traction control and stability control systems, giving the Scuderia astounding track ability. Ferrari says it will explode out of a bend 40% quicker than a base 430.
On advice from Herr Schumacher, the adaptive damper system now works independently of the traction control (unlike in the base car). He found a softer damper setting was better suited for rough tracks like the Nurburgring.
A small rotary dial on the steering wheel, known as the manettino, calls up five dynamic presets: Wet, Sport, Race, CT (traction control off but stability control on) and finally, for the talented, brave or just foolish, CST, that shuts down all the electronic traction aids and safety nets. So who the heck would do that? Dario Benuzzi for one.
Benuzzi has been a Ferrari test driver for 36 years, and he so looks the part it’s almost humorous – suave, silver haired with rugged matinee idol looks. He doesn’t speak English – at least he didn’t to me.
I rode shotgun with him for a few hot laps of the 2.9-km Fiorano track. At the conclusion of the first lap, he casually twisted the little red dial to the "you’re on your own, pal" setting and proceeded to negotiate the track at a blistering pace with nothing but the four Pirellis and his skill keeping us mortal. Just like the finest musicians, the best drivers make it look so easy.
We pulled into the pit and then it was my turn. I’m guessing Dario was a bit faster than me (cough), but with the manettino on Race, I felt like a hero out there. Once again, the car is so balanced and has so much grip it immediately inspires confidence. The engineers actually encouraged us to matt the throttle just past the apexes (against every self-preservation instinct), so we could feel all that F1 electro-trickery do its stuff.
Deliveries begin spring of 2008 but no Canadian prices have been announced. The regular F430 Coupe with F1 transmission starts at $274,258, so expect a price north of $300,000.
Before you slash open the mattress and skip down to the nearest Ferrari store, take note. Attilio Ruffo, Ferrari’s North American VP of Marketing and Communications says only three hundred 2008 430 Scuderias have been slated for North America, and once the "preferred" customers have been taken care of, there will be few, if any Scud-missiles available for you and me.