What separates the Pista from the 488 GTB?
Special doesn’t mean totally limited in production number, though; the Pista will join the rest of the 488 range while it's still on sale, albeit at relatively low volume. It retains a 3.9-litre V8 but now makes 710bhp at the same 8000rpm rev limiter and 568lb ft at 3000rpm, but only in seventh gear; torque is limited in lower gears to make what, since its launch, has been the best sporty turbocharged engine in the world feel less turbocharged, more naturally aspirated.
It drives the Pista's rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Remember when these were first launched, and they told us that upshifts were effectively instant because one clutch would engage while another disengaged? Well, they’re still tweaking them. While the time between clutch activations isn’t being reduced much (there’s not much to reduce), there’s now an overboost on upshifts, and in the appropriate aggressive drive mode – a dial on the steering wheel scrolls through them – it punches downshifts in racier fashion, with more engine braking than before.
Specify the right options – including carbonfibre wheels at more than £10,000 – and the Pista can weigh as little as 1385kg (kerb, not dry). That's up to 90kg less than the 488 GTB. McLaren reckons the 675 LT is 1320kg at the kerb which, given that it has a carbonfibre tub rather than an aluminium structure, sounds about right.
The Pista does feature carbonfibre, though: for its bonnet, bumpers, intake plenum and rear spoiler. This is part of a raft of weight-saving additions that include an Inconel exhaust, a lighter flywheel, a lithium battery and titanium conrods. Among the bodywork modifications, which have shades of Ford GT – perhaps unsurprisingly, seeing as that’s a car entirely developed for endurance racing – there’s an S-duct at the front and a higher, longer wing at the back. The result is 20% more downforce than that generated by the 488 GTB: 240kg at 124mph, with only a 2% increase in drag.
The Pista's weight, power and aero, plus a newly developed Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyre (which leaves rubber on the road in rather more places than you’d realistically expect, so Lord knows how soft they are) mean that it's lighter, faster and more aggressive than the 488 GTB everywhere.
But it's not, says Ferrari’s leading GT engineer, Raffaele de Simone, any more difficult to drive. This is not a Ferrari like the F12tdf or 599 GTO, which you might kindly describe as a right old handful; it’s meant to be just as playful and accommodating as the regular 488 GTB, says de Simone, which, given that the GTB has 661bhp and is almost as docile as the Toyota GT86, would be quite an achievement, seeing as its output now starts with a seven.
But it turns out he’s right. This car – chuffing hell.
Unleashing the Pista on track
Our first go is around Ferrari’s Fiorano test track. The Pista is said to be two seconds faster than the 458 Speciale around here, which, given that the Speciale’s lap time is only 83.5sec, is a leap. The Pista in a different performance stratosphere from the Speciale: 0-62mph takes 2.85sec and 7.6sec to 124mph, compared with 3.0sec and 9.1sec for the Speciale.
But it doesn't take long to realise that the Pista is no more frightening than the GTB, but merely faster, everywhere. The steering rack, ratio, everything, is the same as the GTB’s. Anti-roll bars are unchanged, and while there is a stiffening of springs, it’s minor and only comes with a marginal decrease in ride height. The GTB’s friendly nature, then, is largely intact. In fact, because of the Pista's new tyres, which have stiffer sidewalls, steering response – Ferraris use a really quick, light, 2.0-turn rack, and McLaren and Porsche usually do it better – is if anything less nervous, more stable.