Fiorano. A circuit graced not by the many, but by the few. Built by Enzo Ferrari in 1972 on two large fields surrounding his home on the edge of Maranello, La Pista di Fiorano went on to become central to the marque’s F1 successes of the next three decades. Built as a test-track – not a race-track – its corners simulate many of those on iconic circuits around the world. Its figure-of-8 shape ensured Enzo fitted a whole lot of circuit in to a very small space. With F1’s regulations mandating that test days are now limited and controlled, Ferrari’s road cars, track-only FXX creations, and ex-Grand Prix Corse Clienti machines have unfettered access for lap after lap of Fiorano – and we’re about to tackle it in the new 812 Superfast.
First stop; a briefing with Raffaele di Simone – former race driver and the marque’s head test driver, as a man at the centre of Ferrari’s road car programme he’s been involved in the development of every recent model. After a handful of laps as di Simone’s passenger, during which time he ably demonstrated the 812’s ability to shorten straights and straighten bends, we returned to the pit box, swapped seats and, as I strap in, it dawns on me that I’m sitting where Gilles sat, where Niki sat, where Michael sat – looking out through pit exit on to Fiorano.
A dab on the throttle and we’re on the circuit. Straightened up, and the first opportunity to press the pedal to the floor – we’re heading for Turn One. A right-hander. Following some heavy braking and multiple flicks downshifting to 2nd and I’m pushing hard while looking for the apex – it’s hidden, and until you see it you’re aiming for the invisible.
The transition to Turn Two and I’m working the steering all the way – there’s barely a straight here and the wheel (the 812 is the first Ferrari with electric power steering) is always a few degrees from central – but let’s accelerate anyway – the car gains speed smoothly through every gear change. The 812’s engineers have perfected the mechanicals and the software boffins have made certain that maximum power goes through the wheels – we’re planted. Turns Two and Three form a flowing S (right – left) of increasing speed. We’re fast now.
Heading towards the double right-handers (Turns 4 and 5). One before the bridge, one after. Turn 4 tightens, but on exit there’s plenty of opportunity for the 812s V12 to get up through the gears… building speed before the crest of the bridge; caution is advised here – because you will go airborne and arriving at Turn 5 unsighted at entry makes a clean manoeuvre rather tricky and something possible only for drivers more familiar with Fiorano than me.
From here – if you divert your eyes from the tarmac for the briefest of moments – you’ll be rewarded with the best view of the circuit laying ahead and to your right.
Barrelling down towards the slowest corner of the circuit (Turn 6) – 1st gear, 180 degrees – the temptation is to brake and turn-in too early – late brakers and those following the smoothest entry are rewarded. Here’s where I imagined I’d get a rest, but instead this was where I found myself working hardest and it’s the only place around the lap that I felt my heart pounding – somewhat alarmingly too.
However, it’s soon forgotten with entry the fastest part of the circuit – time to put the 812’s ultimate speed and Ferrari Power Oversteer (FPO) fully to the test. Flat out on towards Turn 7 – a kink which involves a lift of the throttle rather than any troubling of the ceramic brakes – and then drag up to Turn 8 – it’s a short straight in the 812 – then brake heavily in to it – a smooth and medium speed lefthander with a nice wide and opening exit that despatches you back on to the pit straight – down under the bridge, box to the right, and off on another lap…