The Finest Horse in the Stable : Ferrari F430 Scuderia [review]

Car Specifications
Engine: 
4308cc
Cylinder Layout: 
V8, DOHC, 32-valves
Top Speed: 
320km/h
Transmission: 
6-Speed F-1 Superfast
0-100km/h: 
3.6 seconds
Power: 
510bhp at 8500rpm
Torque: 
470Nm at 5250rpm
Features: 
  • Brilliant chassis
  • E-Diff makes all the difference
  • Superb V8

Having waited with baited breath for almost a year, Ferrari finally introduces its latest weapon, the 430 Scuderia. Lamborghini may have launched its Superleggera version of the Gallardo early this year, but instead of immediately crossing swords with their adversary, Ferrari continued careful development of their 430 Scuderia, an Italian name given in tribute to their Formula One “team” who are World F-1 Champions this year.

Readers who know of the 360 Challenge Stradale, understand the principle behind such cars. These are carefully considered lightweight versions of sports coupes with performance benefits far beyond the mere lightening of the car’s bodies.

Ferrari has also chosen the target of slashing 100-kg of weight from the entire car and shortlisted just 170 items that could be deleted, substituted with lighter materials or redesigned to achieve this goal.

About 90% or the reduction came from the chassis or bodywork by the liberal use of carbonfibre to substitute door panels, and the rear engine cover. They even specified Lexan for the rear windshield to be unbreakable and lightweight.

Of course the plush carpeting and sound proofing has been jettisoned as well. Ferrari could have done better but that would have meant some compromises and costly re-homologation for safety but an overriding concern was the need to retain luxury touches like powered windows and air-conditioning.

Carbon-Ceramic brakes also help the weight reduction process and despite the discs being a massive 398mm in front and 350mm in the rear, all told the weight savings is about 15-kg over the steel items. Using hollow roll bars and titanium springs in the suspension also reduces unsprung weight further.

The new light alloy 19-inch rims and special P-Zero Corsa tyres are also part of the weight reduction program shaving off a kilo at each corner. In the end Ferrari succeeded to reach a dry weight of 1250-kg and with fluids, ready to drive it is just 1350-kg, about 100-kg less than the standard F430.

The suspension has been lowered 15mm from the stock F430 and the spring rates have gone up 35% in the front and 32% in the rear to compensate for the reduced suspension travel and to sharpen steering response.

The P-Zero Corsa tyres are not just there to save weight as they are the closest thing to a street-legal racing tyre we can have. Ferrari asked Pirelli to improve the wet driving characteristics especially aquaplaning and they have redesigned the front tyres to better expel water. Time and time again over the tortuous test route around Maranello, the Corsas impressed with their amazing grip and finesse. Ferrari claims the Scuderia can pull 1.4g in corners and it is largely thanks to these tyres.

There is some logic to this apparent weight shedding madness and it is Ferrari's goal to reach a power to weight ratio of 2.45 kg per bhp to beat other contenders in this class. With the 100-kg removed, they were closer but just shy of the mark.

Another 20bhp over the standard 490bhp would have to be added. Not happy by merely adding 20bhp at 8500rpm, the engine department decided that they should improve power throughout the range of the engine.

So they increased the intake flow characteristics by 30 per cent by hand-porting the intake manifold and ports, finishing off with micro-shot peening to give it a very smooth and durable finish. Using the larger mass-flow sensor from their V12 engines reduces restriction from this bottleneck and and the carbonfibre plenum chambers help reduce weight.

Ferrari's F-1 transmission, now appears in Superfast II guise, reducing shift times to a scant 60ms, considerably faster than the 100ms of the 599GTB and the 150ms of the 360 Challenge Stradale.

To achieve this Ferrari has developed a stronger actuator to shift gears quicker and programmed the clutch opening and closing for one smooth continuous motion. They also said that without a complete redesign of the conventional 6-speed gearbox, they will not be able to make it shift as fast as the real Formula One gearboxes that shift in 25-40ms.

However with 510 frisky Italian ponies from this 4.3-litre V8 eager to stampede through just the rear wheels, controlling wheelspin begins to look like an impossible task. Ferrari claims the Scuderia hits 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds or less, beating machines which have 4WD to aid traction.

To achieve this remarkable feat Ferrari uses the E-Diff of the 599GTB and the latest F-1 TRAC, a sophisticated traction control system that controls all the resources of the car namely the engine, gearbox, brakes and the fabulous electronically controlled rear differential that can redistribute up to 100 per cent of the power to whichever wheel with the most traction to optimally utilise the grip of just the two rear tyres.

Thanks to these last two features we were able to literally blast through the mountain roads around Maranello using full throttle out of the bends. There is no abrupt curtailing of the power or any lurid power slides so long as one is in Race mode and not entering bends too fast. This is the best almost fail safe setting for most drivers but the Manettino controls on the steering wheel has a new program setting called CT-Off (traction control-off) apart from the Snow, Sport, Race and CST-Off (traction and stability control-off).

And the icing on the cake? Michael Schumacher insisted that Ferrari include independent suspension settings that were previously inextricably linked to the Manettino settings. Now one can have a soft(er) suspension setting while in Race mode.

"Why," you ask, "would anyone need this?" Well, over the bumpy and less than perfect mountain roads, a supple suspension setting is beneficial in order not to be bumped off course but one still wants the race-mode precision steering, throttle and gear change response to enjoy the drive in the mountains. The hard suspension setting is best left for race tracks where the road surface is very smooth.

Summary
Ferrari has delivered motoring nirvana; a supercar with superb lightweight handling dynamics, surgically precise steering, fatigue free braking, rapid fire gear change, acceleration that literally punches out of corners and a sexy bod to die for. The catch? Well, it costs almost as much as the 599GTB, is a tad loud and by the time you read this, the waiting list would stretch over two years.- AL; Photos: Roberto Carrer
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