This a tight, technical track that sits on the Spanish coastline an hour’s drive south of Barcelona, and one that Mahindra Racing uses to develop its Formula E cars – Mahindra being the Indian car-making giant that bought a controlling stake in the world’s most famous coachbuilder in 2015. It is now refashioning Pininfarina as a maker of luxurious electric cars with a calling card of extraordinary speed. The product pipeline includes more practical vehicles, but similar to the strategy that Tesla initiated with the original Roadster in 2008, the brand is starting in the headline-grabbing, uppermost echelon of the sports car market. The Battista, which is to be constructed almost entirely of carbon fibre, and with cabin opulence comparable to a Bugatti, will cost around £2million. And, frankly, a Formula E car, or anything else the sensible side of a Top Fuel dragster, wouldn’t see which way it went.
So far roughly 50 six-figure deposits have been taken, securing one third of the total production run. Given that this car is something of a step into the unknown, both for manufacturer and buyers, that’s an encouraging figure. At Calafat, owners-to-be and others who are still sitting on the fence get to meet the engineers and designers, can have a closer look at a rolling chassis (due to receive its full 1900bhp running gear in March) and, of course, drive the Formula E car.
It’s also a chance for us to catch up with a project that is a bellwether for the future of performance cars. So far, electric supercars have done little to dispel the notion that they exist as one-trick ponies that are obsessed with lung-crushing acceleration. The Battista would appear to be no different, but if such a historied brand, with engineers of the calibre that Automobili Pininfarina now has on its books, can’t make driving this thing simple fun – and engaging on a level removed from the thrill of naked speed – perhaps it really is time for us to start worrying.
In the last year, Pininfarina’s new technical headquarters in Munich has swelled from just six to more than 100 personnel. The original premises in Cambiano, Turin, are still operational and the cars will be assembled in Italy, but Munich has been crucial for recruitment. How crucial? The last entry on chief engineer Wollmann’s curriculum vitae reads ‘Head of Mercedes-AMG Project One’, which is the road-legal incarnation of Lewis Hamilton’s F1 wheels. Senior technical advisor Peter Tutzer played an integral role in developing both the Pagani Zonda and Bugatti Veyron, while chief technical officer Christian Jung helped implement Porsche’s Mission E – the ambitious project that led to the electric Taycan. Chassis engineer Giulio Morsone then comes fresh from developing the Ferrari Portofino.
What they and others have to work with is a carbon monocoque, to which the car's aluminium double-wishbone suspension is directly mounted. This, along with the four-wheel-drive powertrain, is supplied by the part Porsche-owned Croatian start-up Rimac, whose Concept_Two will bear a strong technical resemblance to its Pininfarina cousin, only with a more track-oriented setup. The Italian car is intended as a much more fluid-riding grand tourer, with softer spring rates and, per the latest simulations, a default torque split of 35:65 front to rear. Despite its mid-engined shape and frightening pace, there should be something aristocratic about the Battista, and on the subject of Nordschleife simulation laps, Wollman admits there have been some, “but only for performance reasons and cooling predictions; we don’t want to go into that game”.