Pista, meaning track in Italian is the name given to the track version of the Ferrari 488 GTB
Pista, meaning track in Italian is the name given to the track version of the Ferrari 488 GTB

Exclusive! Driving the new Ferrari Pista

Behind the wheel in the sports car maker’s latest offering
By Hormazd Sorabjee | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON MAY 19, 2018 10:31 PM IST

When your ‘job’ involves driving and reviewing beautiful cars on beautiful roads all over the world, it’s easy to get jaded. I have to admit that the standard routine of jumping onto a flight to some exotic place, then jumping into an exotic car that’s waiting for me and finally jumping back onto the next flight home, becomes one big blur, over time. But every now and then there are moments that remind me that I have the best job in the world. And last month I experienced such a special moment in northern Italy. I drove a Ferrari.

A hero among cars

It’s been 25 years since I drove my first Ferrari and every time I’ve driven one subsequently, it always feels like the first time. These subliminal cars with the iconic logo of the prancing horse on their nose, never fail to turn me into a dewy-eyed teenager. The same teenager whose bedroom walls were once adorned with Ferrari posters. What is it about this Italian marque? It’s the mix of history, racing pedigree and exclusivity underscored with brute power and sheer beauty that bubble up to stir emotions like no other brand.

The car has been given the rather unimaginative prefix – Pista – which in Italian means track, but leaves no doubt about its purpose

This time round, my emotional quotient is off the scale because not only am I driving the latest Ferrari built specially for a race track, but I am driving it at La Pista di Fiorano, Ferrari’s very own test track, which oozes history. It’s at Fiorano that every modern Ferrari has been finely fettled and honed. It’s here that Formula 1 cars were developed before testing restrictions were imposed and it’s here that founder Enzo Ferrari’s house with its bright red door and window shutters still stands. His office inside has eerily been left just the way it was since he died 30 years ago.

Ferrari has beefed up the suspension, brakes and tyres on the Pista
Ferrari has beefed up the suspension, brakes and tyres on the Pista

Faster than a speeding bullet?

Back to the car at hand, which is the track version of the Ferrari 488 GTB. It’s been given the rather unimaginative prefix, Pista, which in Italian means track but leaves you in no doubt about its purpose. Ferrari has a long history of making track focused derivatives out of its sports cars spun out of its deep racing expertise. The idea behind these track specials is to give rich customers a plaything that can be hammered around a circuit lap after lap.

You can alter the drive mode to allow you to drift the Pista in a controlled fashion
You can alter the drive mode to allow you to drift the Pista in a controlled fashion

Driving hard around a circuit is punishing and hence to cope with the brutal demands of track duties Ferrari has beefed up the suspension, brakes and tyres on the Pista. It’s got more power too and in fact, the Pista gets Ferrari’s most powerful V8 engine yet. It develops a colossal 720hp, which is a hefty increase over the standard 488 GTB’s 670hp. It’s lighter too, by around 90kg, and this weight saving contributes in no small way to a staggering set of performance figures. Ferrari claims a 0-100kph time of 2.8 seconds and a mind warping 7.6 seconds to 200kph.

Rocket man

The Pista’s rib-crushing acceleration takes my breath away and it took me half a lap of Fiorano to adjust to the ferocity of power. The engine revs so fast that the lights on the steering wheel telling you to shift gears are constantly illuminated. The engine is ear-splittingly loud and is a part of the Pista’s appeal but being a turbocharged engine it doesn’t have the soulful, high-pitched scream of previous, non-turbo Ferraris, and that’s a shame.

The engine is ear-splittingly loud and is a part of the Pista’s appeal
The engine is ear-splittingly loud and is a part of the Pista’s appeal

The Pista’s handling is another level altogether with enhanced grip and agility. Around Fiorano it clings to the tarmac like a thirsty leech, but to give you more thrills, you can alter the drive mode to allow you to drift the Pista in a controlled fashion. By the end of a couple of hard laps, I came to the pits wearing a grin wider than the Pista itself.

I have to say that the Pista is the most engaging Ferrari I have driven, it makes you, the driver, feel one with the car, like you’re melded to it. And yes, it didn’t fail to remind me that I do have the best job in the world.

Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India

From HT Brunch, May 20, 2018

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