AND THAT REIN 4rINDII ME.
Would a reunion with Ferrari’s F40 be worth the wait, or just result in disappointment?
In my limited experience, meeting up with old flames is an overrated pastime. The last time you met, one of you dumped the other and it’s rarely long before you remember why.
The prospect of meeting up with a Ferrari F40 after more than a decade apart awoke similar feelings of apprehension in me. When I first drove one, it was the fastest car in the world. Like the McLaren F1 and Bugatti Veyron that followed, it broke new ground.
But now there are Mercedes estate cars with more power, Japanese saloons that would blitz it off the line and any number of mass-produced sports cars and coupes that will corner faster and brake harder. In every measurable direction it has been eclipsed. And given that it will be 25 years old next year we shouldn’t be surprised.
But I can still recall turning up at Bob Houghton’s Cotswold base, climbing into one and wondering if I shouldn’t climb straight out again. I sat there recalling a drive in a mid-engined Renault 5 decades after I first drove one and finding it nasty, crude, slow and dangerous. Was the F40 about to go the same way?
Not a chance. True it was truculent, awkward, heavy and uncomfortable, but when I found some space and let its 2.9-litre twin turbo go to work it was also every bit as inspirational as I’d remembered. In fact, compared to the quicker but also softer, heavier and more remote supercars of today, it was even more exciting than I’d recalled. Every straight, corner and gearchange is an event in itself. It makes you feel alive in the way purpose-built racing cars do. From an era where other Ferraris were either indifferent (Testarossa, Mondial), overrated (328) or outdated (412) came the greatest road car Ferrari has made.
‘What’s the greatest road car you’ve driven?’ is the question I am asked most and think about least before answering. I’d have said the F40 20 years ago, and I’d say the same today.