They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes; the potential for disappointment such that it could undo years of admiration. But even knowing this, when Andrew Frankel called to say he was filming a ‘Meet the Ancestors’ video, and would I like help out by pedalling a Ferrari F40 for an afternoon, I couldn’t help but say yes.
Having grown up with posters of the F40 on my bedroom wall, the chance to drive one is about as exciting as it gets.
Before the driving though there was a lot of looking and listening to do, examining the detail in the Kevlar construction, feeling the lightness of the doors and discovering how weirdly appealing a felt dashboard can be.
But it was when I first heard it run, that I really started to lose the plot. Even with a completely standard exhaust, the ripping, popping mechanical shriek is so loud it would have you ejected from most track days. I could have listened to it running up and down that runway all day.
But that would have meant passing up on the opportunity to get behind the wheel. The last thing Andrew said before pushing the door shut, was “It’s easily binnable in a straight line, in the dry, and we’ve insured it for £260,000”
This is what happens when you put together the following: Very wide straight piece of runway, old hard tyres, second gear and full throttle. At 2000rpm the rushing noise starts, but all remains calm. At 3000rpm things start to fizzle, the speed already building yet still relatively slowly. At 4000rpm the boost gauge flutters. Then bang, the world goes upside down.
The engine seemingly misses about 2000rpm, jumping straight to 6500rpm. At first I think the rear tyres have lost traction, which I pretty sure they did for a bit, but a quick squint at the speedo shows we’ve just added mucho mph in the time it takes to say… Well I won’t repeat what I said, but it wasn’t a particularly long word. As it happens I’d figured a Nissan GT-R only days before, but the way the F40 accelerates on boost makes the Nissan feel pedestrian. It is just so raw, unforgiving, brutal, and brilliantly, addictively fast. What is must be like to drive one on a wet B road doesn’t bear thinking about.
So having met a hero, I’m even more in awe. It takes something serious to relegate a 430 Scuderia (which we had along to represent the modern context) to second best, but then the F40 is a proper piece of kit.