So you’ve driven the Ferrari 430 Scuderia. Remind me, what is it?
The Scuderia is essentially a pared back and re-focused Ferrari F430. Scuderia means team in Italian and, for Italian car fans, the name is synonymous with Scuderia Ferrari, the racing division set up by Enzo Ferrari in 1929. In using the Scuderia name, then, Ferrari is stressing just how much F1 know-how it’s putting into this car. Power goes up by 20bhp to 503bhp, the 0-60mph dash dips below 3.6 seconds and there’s 100kg less bulk to haul about thanks to race-bred kit like a Lexan – instead of glass – rear window, a minimalist cabin and lightweight front and rear bumpers. There are also different race seats, an even quicker gear shift and special settings on the Manettino – a small dial on the steering wheel that controls various parameters for the engine, gear shift, electronic differential and traction and stability control. For all this you’ll pay £172,500 – £28,000 more than the regular F430 when equipped with the sequential gearbox and carbon brakes. It had better be good, then…
What’s it like to drive?
Incredible. Sure, the Scuderia is optimised for the track, but there’s really no reason why – if you can fit all you need inside it – you couldn’t use it every day. It inevitably draws comparison with the Porsche 911 GT3 RS and Lamborghini Superleggera which are both built to a similar ethos, but the Scuderia manages to combine the best of both. So you get visual drama and an engine and transmission set-up to rival the Lamborghini in a package that’s as wieldy and practical as the 911. The GT3 RS beats it for rear visibility (blame the Ferrari’s mid-engine layout) and steering feel, but that’s it.
GT3 RS? Don’t you mean Porsche GT2?
You’ve got a point, the GT2 is closer in terms of power and price, but Ferrari has gone to great lengths to make the Scuderia exploitable for all levels of driver, whereas the GT2 is for the highly advanced or the very brave only. So stepping from a Scuderia into a GT3 RS takes less mental recalibration than stepping into a GT2. The FXX programme has played its part in creating this level of accessibility, Ferrari taking input from 29 super-rich clients who enjoy cars but aren’t professional racing drivers. After all, it’s all very well having Michael Schumacher develop a car, but how many people can actually drive like Schuey? That’s why it’s now possible to disengage the traction control without removing the stability control safety net. In practice this works well, allowing an averagely skilled driver to get a sense of the car moving around at the limit without risking a nightmarish £172,500 insurance claim, while the traction control itself is just like Kimi’s: keep your foot in and the computer will maintain the revs at the maximum possible before wheelspin creeps in. It’s like someone pressing gently against you, rather than the frustrating feeling of limbo that most over-zealous systems give when the digi-nannies cut the power completely.
Where are the carpets?
Gone, and all in the name of weight saving. Despite the racer feel, the Scuderia is still a nice place to be and ergonomically excellent. The bucket seats are body-hugging (if lacking slightly in lower back support), the seating position good and both headroom and visibility around the A-pillars is far superior to the Gallardo’s. The Alcantara dash, the ‘technical’ fabric on the seats and the carbon panels are all beautifully finished too. Step up the pace and noise levels do increase in the cabin, but what else did you expect in Maranello’s latest? You’re looking for the wrong car if you find a gnarly V8 irritating and it never booms or drones. In fact, Ferrari has spent a huge amount of time tweaking the intake manifold and exhaust just so the engine sounds nice. At low revs there’s something of a thick, ticky diesel sound to the combustion process, but at 3500rpm the exhaust valves open up to provide a spine-tingling baritone soundtrack.
Give me the important stuff: steering, suspension and brakes…
The Scuderia rides incredibly well. Yes it’s firm even in the soft setting, but there’s a degree of suppleness in its damping that stops bumpy roads becoming tiresome while keeping body roll to an absolute minimum. The body control is also excellent. For the first time on a Ferrari you can now keep the suspension setting in soft (the best option for road driving, the harder settings actually slowing you down at high speeds on bumpier surfaces) while turning the Manettino to its more aggressive settings – meaning you can exploit the harder-edged engine and transmission modes while travelling quickly down a bumpy road.
And the steering and brakes?
The steering is very light and very, very responsive to small inputs but it doesn’t have the fine detailing from the straight ahead that characterises Porsche’s road racers. It’s good, but a bit more communication from tyres to helm wouldn’t go amiss. Carbon brakes are standard here (take note Porsche and Lamborghini) as is the tightest alloy wheel/brake calliper clearance we’ve ever seen. The brakes have a small bit of lifeless travel to prevent any snatchiness before firm, deep reserves of stopping power step in to save the day. We didn’t notice any fade during either our fairly committed road driving (and they worked well from cold too), nor our strictly regulated two-laps-then-in-to-cool-down at Ferrari’s Fiorano test track.
So how did it perform on track?
The Scuderia is a revelation on track. It will record a Fiorano lap time of around 1min 25sec in the right hands – making it faster than the £420,000 Enzo. It’s worth soaking in the import of that achievement; it’s quite a reflection on the rate of technological progress in the past five years. For us, the most impressive trick is the automated manual gear shift – at 60 milliseconds a shift, the so-called F1 Superfast2 matches F1 cars of just a few years ago and feels noticeably faster than other similar systems we’ve driven. Make that faster and smoother, too. Perhaps it’s just the lack of any real pause, but the violent explosions we’ve experienced in other paddleshifters (notably Superleggera and M5), are replaced here by the relentless pull of acceleration. The Scuderia feels incredibly stable at the limit, the rear weight bias (43 percent front/57 percent rear) acting as a very mild and very predictable pendulum through fast sweepers. It’s also possible to use the mass under braking to help eliminate any understeer when you turn in.
Does the huge engine out back make the rear end wayward on the road?
Actually no. If anything you’ll typically feel the front slip first in an attempt to quell your over-enthusiasm. In fact, we’d prefer it if there were a little more bite to that engine-free front end, something Lamborghini got around using four-wheel drive. Still, get the front end tucked in, stand on the gas and you’ll feel the bias clearly shift to the rear wheels – unlike the 911 which can snap into oversteer at this point. From here it’s down to you: ease off and stop the drama, or keep your foot down and feel the pendulous engine rapidly come into play as the clever electronic diff does its stuff.
The Ferrari Scuderia is quite simply the best road-legal, track-friendly supercar on sale today. It manages to entertain both the track-day novice and the experienced old hand with a new level of well thought-out, brilliantly engineered adjustability. But what impresses us most is the Scuderia’s versatility. It’s quicker round the Fiorano test track than the Enzo, yet costs half as much, is twice as exploitable and actually makes sense as a daily proposition – so long as there are just two of you and some very small cases. Yes, we’d like better rear visibility, more talkative steering and some extra bite in that front end, but overall it’s hard to be anything but blown away by the package as a whole. The first cars arrive in the UK in spring 2008. Ferrari currently has 300 expressions of interest but only plans to bring around 100 cars here a year. Overall, Ferrari won’t commit to naming production numbers, but is aiming to sell more than the 1350 units racked up in two years by the Scuderia’s predecessor, the 360 Challenge Stradale. Best get your name on the list quick, then.