Ferrari’s street car with a racing heart arrives

Ferrari’s street car with a racing heart arrives


FINDING yourself on the underside of a car might be unsettling for most people unless they’re a mechanic. But if that car’s the all-new Ferrari 488 Pista and it’s being deliberately lowered from a height with an ultra high-tech hoist, then suddenly everything’s OK.

Thurday's spectacle in the new state-of-the-art Ferrari North Shore Service Centre in Sydney was part of the Australasian premiere of Ferrari’s latest V8-engined special series, this one boasting a significant lift in sporty dynamics, performance and a carry-over from the brand’s long racing heritage.

‘For anyone who dreams of Ferrari, performance is number one, and the 488 Pista is directly derived from Formula 1.’ Herbert Appleroth

It was very literally a bottom-up reveal designed to showcase the 488 Pista’s design, aerodynamics and advanced technology. Having its previous three iterations assembled nearby - the 360 Challenge Stradale, 430 Scuderia and 458 Speciale - made comparing and contrasting a snap.

Being a big fan of the 488 GTB on which the 488 Pista is based, I was more interested in getting a sense of what a race-inspired makeover looked and felt like. Driving it was impossibile, as the Italians would say, given it was the only car in the country and yet to be registered. But you can tell a lot about a Ferrari just by looking at it.

More than 200 VIP Ferrari enthusiasts got their first glimpse of the car in its convertible version - the Special Series Ferrari 488 Pista Spider - the night before in Ferrari’s new $10 million Gold Coast showroom.

The new showroom is, in itself, a big deal for Ferrari which has rapidly expanded its dealership network to nine in Australia, the Gold Coast being the first outside a capital city. But Queensland also dominates in terms of Ferrari client orders per capita of national population. Gold Coast postcodes, particularly, host some of the highest rates of Ferrari ownership in the country, Ferrari says.

But back in Sydney for the 488 Pista, Ferrari gave a fairly extensive rundown of what the car would be capable of if pushed to the max by even inexpert drivers. Meanwhile, the CEO of Ferrari Australasia, Herbert Appleroth, said the car had all the features Ferrari fans had come to expect from the brand.

“For anyone who dreams of Ferrari, performance is number one,” Appleroth says, “and this car is directly derived from Formula 1.” Style is also important. “And this is the most curvaceous, aerodynamic V8 we’ve ever produced. It’s a combination of everything,” he says.

Displaying a two-tone livery strip running over the top from bonnet to rear, the 488 Pista is lighter and more powerful than the 488 GTB. While its design and technology draws heavily from the 488 Challenge, it was built mainly for road use. So Maranello engineers were tasked with delivering driving pleasure and accessible performance to drivers of all types.

Under the bonnet is the most powerful V8 in Ferrari history. As if that wasn’t enough, it gets even more power compliments of a simple repositioning of air intakes from the side to the rear to deliver air more efficiently and in greater volume to the engine. No doubt that helps it manage the 0-100kmh dash in 2.85 seconds to a top speed of more than 340km/h.

‘You should more confidently be able to handle oversteer and deal with rapid direction changes - a particularly handy feature in Melbourne’s aggressive traffic.’

A “dynamic enhancer” will enable less-expert drivers to more easily reach and control “performance-to-the-limit” levels. If that sounds frightening to you, then don’t go there. If you do, you should more confidently be able to handle oversteer and deal with rapid direction changes - a particularly handy feature in Melbourne’s aggressive traffic. It sounds like a stability control system but Ferrari insists the enhancer is a maximum-performance-focused system. Regardless, it will help bring out the true driver in you.

Another race-ready feature - this one a first for a Ferrari road car - is a lateral dynamics control system which uses software to adjust the brake pressure on the callipers when the car is going through, and exiting, corners. It apparently makes controlling the car’s lateral movements more intuitive, controllable and predictable, especially at speed.

Given the car's race DNA, don’t expect much in the cockpit. All superfluous elements have been eliminated, including the glovebox - there are pockets on the back bench and some space in the doors. The typical Ferrari sophistication is in place, though, in the contrasting hand-stitching, aluminium tread plates and triangle heel rests.

The workshop of Ferrari’s new 2400sqm North Shore Service Centre was a fitting backdrop for yesterday’s launch. The $10 million investment is evidence also of Ferrari’s efforts to improve its customers' experience as well as a uniquely Australian push to attract more women into its cars.

I’m not sure the 488 Pista is going to be the model to get them over the line at $645,000. However, ladies who are interested will be able to see it in action next week when it makes its Australian public debut at the Adelaide Motorsport Festival.