To the world of motoring, Ferrari means fast. Having someone else build the fastest road car doesn’t go down too well in the corridors of power at Maranello, even if the racing heritage of the prancing horse transcends all other contenders. While, the Ferrari 288 GTO had topped the fastest Countach, the mid eighties saw the Porsche 959 at the head of the field. Ferrari responded with the F40 in 1988 with all but 200 mph. Then came the Diablo in 1990 nosing ahead, but all were to be engulfed by the rash of supercars that flooded a diminishing market – Jaguar, Bugatti and McLaren cleared 200 mph comfortably.

Ferrari f40

Following the dramatic success of the limited edition 288 GTO, underlined by the premium prices paid for such exclusivity, Ferrari knew the market would still absorb a larger number of even faster cars bearing the prancing horse. With the Evolution version of the GTO still born by the lack of anywhere to race Group B cars, Ferrari had a second base from which to work on the car that would celebrate 40 years of production. The chassis followed the tubular carbon fiber replaced the welded sheet boxing to give a lighter, stronger structure; body paneling and interior trims also benefited from modern companies – inside it was pretty Spartan with bare carbon fiber and little sound deadening.

While the suspension was similar to that of the GTO, it was modified to adapt to Pirelli’s latest Zeros which were considerably wider; so track and car width increased too. Power was also greater; using the same basic 308 unit larger bore and shorter stroke, but with the twin turbos producing higher pressures, the output rose to 478 bhp at 7000 rpm from the 2936 cc V8.

With all the weight reduction and near 20% power increase, it was not surprising that the F40 was very much quicker off the mark with 0-100 mph in 7.6 seconds against the GTO’s 11.0 seconds; the top speed, too, has risen from 189 to around 200 mph. on the road it is tremendously fast and responsive with levels of road holding that can only be explored on the track. But take the new F50 to the Ferrari test track at Fiorano an it is 4 seconds a lap faster; that is what the new car is all about – a little faster in acceleration with the same top speed, but with Grand Prix technology to give real race car road holding.

Ferrari f40

The chassis is a carbon fiber monocoque to which the engine is solidly bolted, acting as a stressed member to carry the rear suspension loads through the final drive casing, which doubles as an oil tank, between engine and the new six speed gearbox. Like a GP car, the springs are laid across the top of the casing an operated by push rods.

The front suspension also uses push rod operated transverse springs and is mounted directly onto the monocoque via aluminium inserts. Both front and rear damping is electronically controlled according to speed and dynamics forces. While the V-12 engine uses the same 65 degree angle between the banks as the 465, it is based more on the normally aspirated 993 Grand Prix engine with 5 valves per cylinder operated by chain driven camshafts – Grand Prix cars no longer use turbos. Developing 520 bhp from 4.7 liters, its output per liter is even higher than that of the 355.

Carbon fiber, Kevlar and honeycomb are used for the bodywork, which is wind tunnel developed to provide a down force balancing that from the underbody venturis; the full width rear wing and high lighted panel joint line are features that link the F50 to the F40. Inside, there is naked carbon fiber with just a little soft trim while LCD instrumentation panel gives bar graphs for mirror display but needles for rev counter and a speedometer which reads a 360 km/h! The car comes in two forms, closed with an integrated roll-bar, or open with roll-hoops emerging from the twin head-fairings. It is a real racer for the road and will be extremely noisy for the occupants – not a grand tourer.