Ferrari 599 GTB

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Andrew Frankel

A run at Fiorano in the new wonder car from the Prancing Horse, It proves much more impressive than the 612 Scaglietti, not to mention the poor-performing AF Fettucine…

Any journalist who goes to Maranello to attend the launch of a Ferrari and claims to be able to treat the occasion with the same dispassionate objectivity as any other new car introduction is either an automaton or a liar.

It’s not just that the whole place — from that famous little archway the racing cars drove through to go testing up the Abetone road, to the entire Fiorano test track — reeks of heritage; at least as serious a challenge to your status as an independent arbiter is the unrelenting enthusiasm with which the people there go about their business.

I’ve just returned from driving this new 599GTB, and before I was allowed even a sniff of what appeared to be the most exciting front-engined V12 Ferrari since the 365GTB/4 ‘Daytona’ they gave me five eggs, half a kilo of flour and told me to make fettucine while they got on with drowning me in Lambrusco.

The following morning, with a clearer head than I deserved, I made my acquaintance with the 6-litre, 611bhp, 204mph monster.

While I have long heaped fulsome praise on the likes of the F355, F430 and 550 Maranello I can’t see even these, let alone the likes of the 360 Modena and 612 Scaglietti, ever being mentioned in the same reverential terms as the Dino, Daytona and F40. But in the 599GTB Ferrari has created a new hero, one whose place in Maranello folklore is as guaranteed as any road car to come before.

Its strength is its focus. Ever since the death of the Boxer and the introduction of the Testarossa in 1984, Ferrari’s 12-cylinder two-seaters have been compromised by a perceived need to provide Ferrari customers with both a touring and a sporting car. But now that the outsize and ugly 612 Scaglietti has taken over the entire GT mantle, Ferrari’s designers have been free to hone a rather sharper edge for the 599GTB. “We were told to make it an F40 for the 21st century,” one of Ferrari’s chief test drivers told me and, while the 599 is considerably more civilised than the maniacal F40, you can see what he was getting at.

Except, of course, that it’s much, much faster. Around Fiorano, the front-engined, series-production 599GTB is an astonishing 5sec quicker than the mid-engined and highly specialised F40. It’ll hit 62mph from rest in 3.2sec, 125mph in 11 sec and change gear in 0.1sec. It has a top speed of 204mph, despite the fact that at that speed its body is developing 190kg of positive downforce.

And, I am glad to say, it is an unrelenting joy to drive. The massive V12 (which first saw service in the Enzo) revs to 8400rpm, the gears come and go quicker than you can think, and when the corners arrive it turns into them with a relish I’ve hitherto only seen in cars with engines behind their drivers.

In short, the 599GTB is a masterpiece, the true successor to the Daytona and quite the best thing to come out of Maranello since the F40 broke cover nearly 20 years ago. Sadly the same could not be said of my fettucine.

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