► Take a tour of Ferrari’s figure-of-8 test base
► All Ferrari road and race car developed here
► Enzo Ferrari’s old office still in the grounds
CAR recently paid a visit to Ferrari’s Fiorano test track, a scientific playground based in Fiorano Modenese, Italy, where the handling of each and every car to wear the prancing horse emblem is honed. It’s a place overflowing with history, and you can read more about Fiorano in our feature here, but here are a few highlights from La Pista di Fiorano:
It looks a bit like a Scalextric set
Fiorano’s test track, a figure-of-eight circuit squeezed into two overlapping fields bought by Enzo Ferrari in the ’60s, was built in 1972. It’s virtually next door to the Ferrari factory in Maranello, so the testers and F1 team can almost wheel their cars directly from the workshop to the track.
There are two possible layouts for the approach to the first corner, each designed to upset a car’s balance under braking in different ways. Other corners are to test the flexibility of engines in the exits, the effect of centrifugal forces on their fuelling and lubrication systems, and how the brakes withstand track use. There are some big stops at Fiorano – enough to make even a 488 GTB’s giant brakes groan and flicker its hazard lights when slowing for the hairpins.
It’s still busy, despite the F1 testing ban
Formula 1 testing may be tightly restricted nowadays, but there’s still a huge amount of experimentation and testing of Ferrari’s other racing cars, FXX track cars, driver training programmes, and extensive road car development work.
Former racing driver (and now mechanical engineer) Raffaele di Simone (above) plays a big part in making modern Ferraris drive the way they do. Of all the cars he’s worked on – including the 458 Speciale, the car we’ve described as ‘Peak Ferrari’ – he actually cites the California as the most rewarding project he’s worked on.
The Speciale, he says, was a more straightforward project because it’s a more one-dimensional car (albeit a great one). The California, on the other hand, was new territory for Ferrari in so many ways – first complicated folding hardtop, a new market segment, new customers with different ways of using the car, a different set of rivals to compete against. His own cars, incidentally are a classic Fiat 500 and Fiat 124 Spider – but he likes to take the bus as often as possible: ‘I live my life so fast, I like to slow down when I can.’
It’s possible to wet the whole track
Since 2001, a sprinkler system can wet the track in a few minutes, and recover most of the water back into the system as it drains off the track.
There’s an enormous circular steering pad too, and a couple of helipads, little and large. When we visited the track we were told we might have to curtail our driving momentarily if new boss Sergio Marchionne decided to pay an impromptu visit…
Enzo Ferrari’s old home stands in the circuit's grounds
Il Commendatore’s old quarters, a whitewash-walled former farm house, sit within the track’s confines, not far from the modern-day pitlane.
Spookily, his old office has been preserved more or less as he left it, right down to the black and white TV he used to watch F1 Grands Prix on when he was no longer able to attend the races in person.
Today, certain valued clients are invited to stay in the house overnight when visiting Ferrari, although well-heeled members of the public can do the same for a few thousand Euros. Sacrilege, eh – there’s nothing at modern-day Ferrari that can’t be turned into merchandise, even Old Man Ferrari’s own pad.
Schuey has his own square
Many of the streets around Ferrari’s base are named after the F1 team’s former drivers (is there a more evocative street name than Via Gilles Villeneuve, Fiorano Modenese?), but five-time drivers champion for the team Michael Schumacher gets an entire piazza.
It’s the space in front of Enzo Ferrari’s former quarters (see above), flanked by the red-doored, rustic-bricked farm building used as garages in the ’60s, and a former barn opposite that’s today used as a briefing room for clients. Back in his days testing for Ferrari, Schumacher used to base himself in Ferrari’s former house, converting the top floor into a gym and reputedly playing football with the mechanics outside in the evenings.
Even Ferrari gets in trouble for being noisy
Not even Ferrari in its own back yard is immune to the creeping threat of noise complaints. You’d think that around its home, where on the face of it the cult of Ferrari seems almost a religion, the company would be immune – but that’s not the case. When we drive the circuit in 488s, we’re required to lift from the throttle after the last corner to keep the company out of hot water with the local residents and authorities.
Times change, but Fiorano’s still special, as are the products developed there, and the passion of the engineers and drivers that shape them. Here’s to the next 40 years.
A postcard from Fiorano - a full guided tour of Ferrari's fabled test centre
To see how Fiorano’s driven properly, watch Sebastien Vettel’s first laps of the circuit in a Formula 1 Ferrari in the video below: