What is it?
There are two sports cars they just don’t get wrong. Most manufacturers, even these ones, occasionally turn out a duffer, but in the case of two vehicles – the GT3 RS version of a Porsche 911 and the special series version of Ferrari’s mid-engined V8 – they don’t miss a trick.
This is, I suspect, because they’re engineers’ cars. Purists’ cars. The first 911 GT3 RS, of 2003, only came about because Porsche needed to homologate two suspension links for racing. And the first mid-engined Ferrari special, the 360 Challenge Stradale, also of 2003, helped justify the Challenge race series. And throughout their iterations since, they haven’t missed a beat.
This, then, is Ferrari’s latest, the 488 Pista. Pista means 'track' or, apparently, ‘get out of the way!’, but I suppose either is appropriate enough.
The requisite link to motorsport is there, anyway. The Pista’s engine is, like a GT3 RS’s, effectively a race car motor, here from the 488 Challenge car. It was always in the plan that way: develop an engine that makes 50bhp more than the standard 488 GTB's, prove it in the one-make racing series car and eventually drop it into the ‘special’ variant.
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.