1 minute 25 seconds. That’s how fast the F430 Scuderia laps Ferrari’s Fiorano circuit. That might mean nothing to you, but consider this – that’s quicker than an Enzo manages. So the Scuderia’s pretty special, as toppling Ferrari’s limited-run V12 hypercar’s lap time just a few years after it was introduced is a spectacular achievement.
To achieve it, Ferrari has taken the F430 with its mid-mounted 4.3-litre 483hp V8 engine, trick electronic E-Diff and added a bit of F1 expertise from both Ferrari’s engineers and a certain Mr Schumacher. The result is that 1 minute 25 seconds and a lighter, faster more intense F430. Scuderia, “team” in Italian, is an apt name when you consider the combined effort that’s gone into producing Ferrari’s latest weapon.
Schumacher’s obviously too busy off spending his millions, or appearing in dodgy Fiat van adverts, today to make an appearance at Fiorano to demonstrate the new Scuderia. So Ferrari has drafted in its F1 test driver, Marc Gene. I’m about to be shown how quick the Scuderia is via telemetry, a big flat screen TV and an F1 driver. Except I’m not, as a glitch in the telemetry means the data-fest is delayed. As if I need a graphic representation of how fast the Scuderia is! I knew as soon as Gene started it up that it was something special, the raised tailpipes filling the air with a naughty sounding, purposeful metallic rasp as he blipped the throttle. Numbers don’t really do the Scuderia’s performance justice either; it’s too physical a presence to be concerned about milliseconds here or tenths there. Which is why I pay little attention to the telemetry screen when it’s working and instead enjoy the sight and sound of a Scuderia being thrashed by an F1 driver.
The standard F430 is not short of deeply impressive figures, so any improvements, however slight, are significant. Power rises by 20hp to 503hp at 8,500rpm and peak torque increases to 470Nm 5,250rpm – 80% of that available from 3,000rpm. Those improvements come via enhancements to the 4.3-litre V8’s breathing, both in intake and exhaust, a carbon-fibre air filter box, and polished manifold pipes; its cover is made of the lightweight black weave. The exhaust loses a pre-cat, new pistons feature and there’s a bewilderingly complex ignition system that individually controls the sparks; it’s developed from Ferrari’s F1 and FXX expertise.
Significant as the engine changes are, it’s the weight loss, aero changes and chassis developments that really make the difference. It’s 100kgs lighter (or thereabouts depending on how many carbon fibre options you go for), with a lexan rear window, lighter front and rear bumpers, titanium springs and hollow anti-roll bars all helping drop the kerbweight to 1,250kg. Dry, that is. 100km/h now arrives in under 3.6 seconds and the top speed is 320km/h. Wind-tunnel work means that if you’re up at those sort of speeds, there’s more downforce because its force is better distributed over the car’s axles.
The rear diffuser, more prominent boot-lip spoiler and a re-profiled front bumper and sills take care of the airflow and, as an added bonus, make the F430 Scuderia look more feral. For all its wild looks it’s certainly not untamed on the road. No matter how hard I try to unstick the rear, the Scuderia won’t let me. Flooring the throttle coming out of the corners and the F430 Scuderia perfectly balances the available grip and distributes what power it can. If I’d been listening to Ferrari’s technician rather than watching Gene lap the Scuderia, I might have better understood how it’s achieved, but it’s a combination of Ferrari’s incomprehensibly complicated E-Diff with the F599 Fiorano’s F1-Trac system and various stability, traction and braking electronic controls. Believe me, their combined effect is really quite extraordinary. Like the Ferrari’s F1 cars, and the standard F430, the manettino dial on the wheel allows me to control the governing hand of the electronic nannies. It’s no normal manettino in the Scuderia.
It’s now dubbed a “racing” manettino. The play-safe Slippery setting remains, softening everything up for when it’s wet. Sport’s next, and is the one Ferrari recommends for the road. Race follows Sport and ups the bar a bit allowing a degree of throttle adjustability. CT off is new though, and is where it really becomes interesting. It allows me to switch off the traction control yet retain the electronic safety net of stability control – albeit with its thresholds heightened. Above that there’s CST off, the hooligan setting that switches everything off for smokin’ your tyres and showboating. It’s for hugely talented or just stupidly brave. I’ll be leaving that one well alone, then. On the tortuously winding roads in the hills just a short drive from Maranello, the Scuderia reveals it’s not just a super-focused track weapon. Noisier, yes, faster, sure, but not compromised.
The interior, save for the odd Scuderia reference, lack of carpets and body-hugging seats, is much the same as the F430. The instruments are still dominated by the large rev-counter red-lining at 8,500rpm, the steering wheel containing not only that manettino dial, but the engine start button. Press it and the engine fires into life with a racecar-like blare. Some of the sound-proofing has gone with the diet and the exhaust might have been tuned for performance, but Ferrari also took time to make sure it sounded more purposeful. At low revs in traffic on the way to motoring Nirvana, the Scuderia works beautifully.
The Scuderia’s F1-Superfast six-speed paddle-shift can swap its ratios in just 60 milliseconds. That’s some 40 less than the 599 GTB Fiorano and only 20 or so off a current F1 car. In traffic it’s slick, but when I finally get the chance to really floor the accelerator the gearshift exhibits its racing edge, slamming through the gears with an almost imperceptible drop in acceleration. Get the rev-counter’s needle swinging up near its 8,500rpm red line and the Scuderia is about the most intense experience you can have on the road. And that’s merely with the manettino set to Sport. Up it to Race and the full speed shift comes into play, along with a higher limits of the electronic safety nets. Neither the Sport setting or Race would be much good had Ferrari not separated the suspension control from the manettino. The firmer suspension settings impress by not crashing or bumping, but to really enjoy the Scuderia on the fantastic though woefully surfaced roads winding around the Modena hills, Soft is the choice setup.
With it there’s quite incredible ability where supercars usually exhibit their inadequacies. It resists roll brilliantly, yet retains exemplary control on bucking, twisted tarmac. It makes the Scuderia feel remarkably wieldy, the suspension as key a facilitator in the Scuderia’s sensational pointto-point pace as its mighty V8 engine. Admittedly, it’s not a small car, but the chassis is so sorted it feels no less scary than a Porsche Boxster. It’s ferociously fast. Every time I exit a corner the next one’s on me before I’ve the time to really compute what’s happened.
Pushing the brake pedal results in instantaneous retardation, the enormous carbon ceramic Brembo brakes shrugging off serious punishment with no fade and prodigious stopping power. 1.6 G of braking force is possible, a sensational number for a car on road tyres. They need to be that good though, as the Scuderia accelerates so violently I’m often arriving at a corner with a bit more speed than is perhaps prudent. However, such is the F430’s balance and otherworldly control that even entering a corner on the brakes and downshifting doesn’t unduly upset its stance. The steering is precise and quick, but lacking the clarity of information of Porsche’s 911 GT3, a car that follows the Scuderia’s “lighter is quicker” mantra.
However, the Porsche wouldn’t see where the Scuderia went on the roads round here, the Ferrari’s extraordinary suspension control giving it the edge. Lamborghini’s Superleggera? Ditto. Yet the Ferrari’s inherent stability goads me to try to upset its balance, to bully its tail into playful slides. So I select CT off and cross my fingers. The result is surprising. The Scuderia still launches down straights with searing pace, but in the corners it’s far more involving. A string of hairpins lies ahead of me, clear and sighted, and oversteer is dialled up on the manettino. Initial fears of a huge insurance bill are put aside as the Scuderia works with me and returns gloriously playful and remarkably controllable slides when exiting the corners. Few cars, particularly ones that offer the sort of savage performance of the Scuderia, are as easy to drive hard and enjoy at the thresholds of grip.
Driving back through the gates to Fiorano there’s still time to go out for another quick drive. Every fibre of me is fizzing with an intravenous shot of Ferrari adrenaline. Although, I’ve never driven anything on the road with such commitment, which responded so faithfully to my input and rewarded so much, to go out again would only make me want one more. And I don’t have the £172,500 necessary to buy one.
Engine 4.3 litre 503hp, 470Nm torque Transmission
Six-speed automated manual, paddle-shift
Acceleration 0-100km/h under 3.6 seconds
Top speed 320km/h
CO2 emissions 360g/km
Boot capacity 250L
Price £172,500 / €330,000