Went to the world-famous Nardo test track in southern Italy last week and drove a whole bunch of top-secret prototypes, none of which I can talk about but some of which will be on sale in an exotic supercar showroom near you soon (ish).
It was an incredible experience and a genuine privilege, being asked to be involved at such an early stage in the development of such exciting cars, and by such a highly regarded manufacturer.
(Pic courtesy of NASA)
It’s not something I’ve ever been invited to do before. Some of the cars I drove are at least two years away from production, so the feedback I provided might even make some sort of a difference. Maybe.
Nardo itself is an utterly beguiling place, deep in the heel of Italy, right in the middle of a beautifully deserted seascape, where the local restaurants serve the kind of simple seafood dishes that TV chefs tend to wet their trousers over.
The test track’s unique feature is 12km monster of a four-lane high-speed bowl on which it’s possible to do pretty much whatever speed you like – I did over 200mph in three different vehicles and, to be honest, it didn’t feel very dramatic in any of them. You can take your hands off the wheel at 150mph and go round without needing to compensate. Even at 200mph you need but a whiff of steering input.
Better still is the new 6.7km handling circuit that sits inside the high-speed bowl. It was built last year and has been designed to replicate key sections of the Nurburgring. That’s where we spent most of our time, jumping from one prototype to another, comparing notes, trying to workout which suspension set-ups were good, and which were not so good. And why.
The most fascinating thing I learned was that the versions that felt best, and therefore felt fastest against the clock, were normally slower than the ones that felt nervous and knife-edgy near the limit. Yet the amount of fine-tuning required to achieve such significant changes was actually quite miniscule overall – a kg or two taken away here, a slightly stiffer spring and a couple of mm thicker anti-roll bar there.
So,as Rolf Harris might say, can you guess who – or what – it is yet?Answers on a postcard.
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