Saturday, 26 October 2013

Chris Harris Is Allowed To Drive Ferraris Again. This Is A Good Thing

Just a heads-up: this isn't the video. You can find that further down.
About two years ago, Chris Harris wrote a post on Jalopnik which was all about "how Ferrari spins". He pointed out that unlike even its fierce rivals, Ferrari makes sure that their cars get a golden review by the motoring press, not just by being really good at making supercars and sports GTs, but by... "optimising" the press cars for whatever test it was about to undergo. This included tuning engines, fitting stickier tyres (one test of an F430 Scuderia saw the car go on a rolling road, during which the tyres stuck themselves to the rollers!) and finding out which track was to be used so they could meticulously set the car up for it in advance. This has caused me to take reviews of Ferraris with a pinch of salt ever since, including this one I'm posting now. I believe most of it, but there are one or two points where the superlatives seem... empty somehow.

But what is "[drift] Monkey" Harris doing in a Ferrari press car on film? Well, it seems that time heals all wounds. Mind you, it might have helped him get off Ferrari's shitlist when he borrowed the 458 Spider press car off Jeremy Clarkson for this million-view drift fest... the chance to drive an F40 and an F50 back to back and was turned into a 6-year-old by the experience (no bad thing)...

...and then collaborated with a musical friend on this very '80s tribute to a (1992) 512 Testarossa, which he owns and openly loves...

...oh yeah, and before he got the 512TR, he had a 599 GTB Fiorano for just under a year, and generally spoke highly of it. This is reassuring as Ferrari can't tweak customer cars in advance, something pointed out in that Jalopnik post.

But enough posting of other videos now. Whether these videos helped or not, Harris and Ferrari are nevertheless on speaking terms now, and that has lead to him being at the beautiful Anglesey Circuit in northernmost Wales standing in front of the mind-blowing F12berlinetta provided by Ferrari, and four sets of spare wheels and tyres. If you've watched the videos above, you know what's about to happen to them:

23/10/13, 13:48, 325388 views (when posted)

Clicked play yet? I'll wait.

OK, was that awesome or was that awesome? The dual-view full lap of fully sideways Fezza action was quite something to behold, if you ask me. I've also come to like the sound of that engine - which I used to think sounded a bit synthetic - much more, and in the year or so since it appeared, the looks have grown on me too. At the end of the day, a V12 Ferrari should be challenging in some way. In fact, no product from a company as... Italian as Ferrari should bend over for its laziest customers, and some of the things mentioned in this video reassure me that this is indeed a proper V12 Ferrari. Stuff like the interior layout and the very quick steering mean that it's the who has to adapt to the car. It forces you to engage with it. That's not to say the car refuses to adapt to you - there are multiple driver aid modes on the 'Manettino' switch and magnetorheological dampers to deal with bumpy roads - but instead of politely asking "What would you like me to do for you?" it's more like "Here I am, this is what I am, this is what I do, what are you going to do about it?"

A V12 Ferrari should be like that. It's a little bit fussy and demanding. You have to take time to acclimatise to the interior button layout that looks like they sneezed onto a picture of a steering wheel to decide where they all go, and then adapt the way you steer to match the very quick steering rack. It's the same sort of thing as an old 250GT Lusso requiring you to wait for a minute or so  the carburettors to prime after you've turned on the ignition before you can actually start the engine. This kind of mentality defines Ferrari, and admittedly it's also what's led to the whole How Ferrari Spins issue, because their Enzo-like ways can make them hard to like sometimes, whether it's the road cars and their contrived reviews or the race team and their rule-bending and/or hypocritical moaning about other teams' rule-bending. But it seems like when you get the opportunity to see past that and just drive their cars, none of that clouds your mind and you just revel in the fact that you're driving a Ferrari, something every single car enthusiast wants to do, or has wanted to do at some point in their lives. That's because there's nothing quite like a Ferrari.

I hope you enjoyed these videos.