A number of years ago a motoring journalist friend of mine commented “Ferrari will never release figures about how many people crash their cars”. In the same way that I never understood how people crashed on motorways (i.e. whilst driving in a straight line), I couldn’t quite fathom why they could crash Ferrari’s. And then i bought a BMW Z4M Coupe (not a Ferrari). Even at low speed, this was a car that required attention from the driver. The rack was too quick, and running 19″ CSL wheels, it preferred the curvature of the earth to my steering input. And it was stiff, and fast, and made my palms sweaty. Now I understood why people crashed Ferraris. I was never quite sure whether a sudden change of direction at speed would result in an unannounced view of a hedge. It was the same when i had my first Porsche 964. Why was the front-end so light at speed, and yet so bitey in the corners? However, what these cars also had in common was how they felt to drive after I’d done a bit of racing.
For those of you that haven’t heard about it, there is an arrive-and-drive kart series called Club 100. 2-Stroke, direct-drive karts, where the qualifying gap between pole and last is less than a second around Buckmore Park. Damon Hills son cut his teeth there, and they’ve also produced a handful of Le Mans drivers too. These things are understeery when the tyres are cold, and give very little warning of an impending spin when the tyres are warm. Oh, and in the wet, you race on slicks! After two hours racing, you can get into anything and it will feel pedestrian on the drive home.
So what does this tell us? It tells us that anyone thinking of buying a 400bhp+ rear-wheel-drive sports car should get some track time in anything they can get hold of. Blasting down the road into Genoa, I’m always amazed at locals in Punto’s passing road trippers in 911s, and thats not just because they know the road, its because they’re operating close to the limits of their car. And the limits of an Audi A3 are a lot easier (and safer) to find than they are in a Ferrari 430….even if it is your daily drive.