Last December, I had the pleasure to be invited, with 23 other motor journalists from Hong Kong, to the Zhuhai International Circuit for a day of exhilarating fun with a special pre-Christmas treat.
If you are a motor journalist, track day is always an exciting experience! In fact, track day is not for the faint hearted as you got to really push your own limits.
Ferrari Hong Kong was kind enough to arrange our different Ferrari models for us to try in Zhuhai: the 812 Superfast, 488GTB, GTC4 Lusso and the Portofino. Sounds like Christmas came early this year, right?
The Zhuhai race track might not be a particularly glamorous one but it’s good enough to get the best of the experience - plus, a Ferrari is always a Ferrari, no matter where you drive it. After a welcome speech from our Italian Instructor Marco Didaio from Maranello and a quick briefing session on how to drive fast on a race track (read: how not to crash) by Ferrari Asia’s instructors, we were all eager to get our hands on the cars.
My first ride was the Ferrari Portofino powered by a V8 twin-turbo, 0-100 in just 3.5 seconds, with top speed at 320 km/h and the first to be fitted with EPS (Electronic Power Steering). This aggressively-styled car, is equipped with a two-box fastback configuration, unprecedented in a coupe-convertible with a retractable hard top, which adds extra style and sleekness to its silhouette, giving it a sportier character without compromising its elegance or understated front-to-rear balance.
My Chinese track instructor hurriedly ushered me to get into the car and set off for a track familiarisation lap driven by him, which felt like it literally lasted two seconds, especially when he was talking to me In Mandarin. By the time my brain had processed the translation, the lap had already finished. Before I knew it, it was my turn to get behind the wheels.
One thing I noticed about all the modern sports car is that they are simply too easy to drive. We were asked to put on the Sports Mode which literally means “Beast Mode On.” In the end, it probably took me longer to set up all my on-board cameras than having enough quality time on the race track itself. Nevertheless, the experience was priceless.
The Portofino is an exceptionally thrilling ride due to its super slick exterior design with the aero-dynamic look from its front end to the back. Although the track was set to prevent the drivers from over pushing the cars too fast, it was good enough for me to reach 214 km/h down the straight.The Portofino also handles superbly on all corners and I felt in total control at all times without feeling any over or under steer. One thing I would have really liked to try is to test it out with the roof down and see if my hair will still be in place!
My next ride was the Burgundy Red GTC4Lusso, which was created to be a major evolution of the sporting Grand Tourer concept by integrating rear-wheel steering with four-wheel drive for the first time. The GTC4Lusso’s V12 engine delivers a 690 cv with 0-100 km/h in only 3.4 sec and top speed at 335 km/h. This city slicker can seat up to four including the driver. After my first glimpse inside the car I thought that it was definitely a little bit more spacious than I expected. But then again, if you are buying a Ferrari, why would you care about the passengers?
Coupled with the latest evolution of the Slip Side Control (4.0) system, the new model now incorporates the electronic differential (E-Diff) and the SCM-E dampers. All these sophisticated vehicle dynamics enable the driver to effortlessly handle the GTC4Lusso on snow-covered, wet or low grip surfaces. However, I felt that my lap time was not as good as my first one, perhaps due to the fact that my cameras were not on recording mode and I was basically driving too fast to adjust them.
The other two Ferrari models, the 812 Superfast and the 488 GTB, were simply to die for. The latter's new 3902cc V8 Turbo is the best of its class for power, torque and response times. The engine unleashes 670cv, 0-100 km/h in 3 seconds, 0-200 km/h in 8.3 seconds and top speed at 330 km/h. Moreover, the evolved version of Ferrari’s side slip angle control system (Side Slip Control 2-SSC2) is more precise and less invasive than ever, providing greater longitudinal acceleration out of corners. Aside from integrating with car’s F1-Trac and E-Diff, the SSC2 now also controls the active dampers, which ultimately renders the car's dynamic behaviour during complex manoeuvres.
The 812 Superfast, powered by a 6.5-litre V12 with 800 cv from 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds with top speed at 340 km/h, was dubbed the most powerful production car of all time, thanks to its highly innovative design and aero package and its unparalleled handling. It is also the first to be fitted with the Electric Power Steering (EPS). The introduction of the Virtual Short Wheelbase 2.0 system (PCV) combines electric front-wheel steering assistance with a mechanical concept based on tyre dimensions and rear-wheel steering. This is all integrated with the vehicle dynamics control systems, based on version 5.0 of the SSC, with the aim of improving agility and response time to steering wheel inputs.
What If I was blind-folded and led into the four Ferrari models without being told what model I was about to drive? Would have I noticed the difference? I can bet that most people (motor journalists excluded) won’t be able to tell which model they were actually driving and that’s actually the beauty of these Ferrari, as they have been engineered to be day to day cars, literally for anyone to drive.
Well, my final verdict? If I had to put my money on these four models, I would have to go for the Portofino for its slick style and the option to be a convertible. Plus, I know I would probably drive it every day. But then again, for pure showmanship, of course, I would go for the 812 Superfast to simply terrorise the city.
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