In the September 2010 issue of CAR Magazine, out on 18 August, Chris Chilton gets the full tech lowdown on McLaren's forthcoming MP4-12C supercar. It promises to be a brilliant car, but, just like in Formula 1, Ferrari reckons it can do it better. To assess just how good the McLaren needs to be to beat its key rival, I recently drove a 458 Italia from Ferrari's headquarters in Maranello, Italy, back to the UK. You'd do the trip comfortably in two days, but we had the luxury of four, which gave us the chance to take the long way home. You'll see the full story in the new issue, but so many pictures ended up on the cutting room floor, so it seemed a shame not to share them here…
By Ben Barry
The first day saw us dispatch the boring autostrada bits quickly in order to get here…
…the breathtaking hills around Mégeve, France, near the Swiss border
Not long out of Troyes, heading towards Paris. Just flat, open countryside here, but a chance to ponder the Ferrari's real-world abilities
It's quiet in the hills above Mégeve. Even so, this was a poor choice of toilet stop
It looked good on the sat-nav, but this was actually single-track covered in loose chippings. Cue 1mph snooze-fest to protect paintwork. Curses!
Ah, that's better. The idea of flinging the 458 sideways feels scary at first, but it's so beautifully balanced that you quickly gain confidence
Met a UK couple running a beautiful B&B just out of Mégeve (no, not the log cabin). Yours for €25 per night. Great roads, amazing scenery, plus skiing in winter and mountain biking in summer. I'm so moving house!
French filling station owner had a picture of a customer filling an Enzo here. Didn't snap us… so we came back later in the day. Still no joy
We were doing this every 300 miles or so. Pricey business, supercar ownership
Flat-plane crank, 9000rpm redline, long tunnel. Bwwaaaaaaaa…
…and still the artic catches us
Pulling back on both paddles selects neutral. Prod on throttle unleashes big angry noise. Owner swears dog wasn't deaf prior to this shot. Claim ongoing
Ah, picturesque Troyes, France. We met up with other Ferrari-driving journos at key spots, and here someone else picked up a puncture. Unusual alloy colour led Ferrari to dispatch four new rims and tyres from Paris at 7pm, technicians changed the lot in an underground car park in the dead of night, and clumsy journalist was on his way the next morning like it was all just a bad dream
Selected 'Fast Car' on my iPod, put it on repeat and blasted it through 458 stereo. Don't think Tracy Chapman was thinking about blasting through Europe in a Ferrari when she penned the tune, however
Let's just ignore the journalistic clutter here and focus on the seats. These are the optional seats. If you were in a showroom you'd spec them because they look and feel much cooler than the standard chairs. But they don't half make you ache after a couple of hours
4.5-litre V8 enjoys a break in Troyes, France…
…and here we see it getting some fresh air in nearby Charmont-sous-Barbuise
Somewhere near the Swiss border. Scenery box ticked, good driving road yet to be discovered
Near Mont Blanc, good roads box now fully ticked
Three exhausts, just for good measure
It's a perplexing design, the 458 Italia. Keeps changing depending on your angle of view. Utterly absorbing, mostly
Wheels by OZ, brakes by Brembo. Slightly softer suspension means the front doesn't skip and trigger ABS under heavy braking into hairpins like the Scuderia once did
Snapper Jamie Lipman hiding in the bushes. Is that what it's like to be a spy photographer?
We couldn't find a Lambo for a head-to-head, so this would have to suffice
Time to hoof it...
Dropped in on the old Reims race track in northern France. Amazing place. Another 458, plus a California and a 599 made the trip too. Journo who punctured his tyre got in our car by mistake and tried to drive away
That badge, says it all really. The MP4-12C is going to have to be epic to out-punch Ferrari's finest. See the tech comparison test in the new September 2010 issue of CAR Magazine, out 18 August.