A USB slot. Thank God. It’s like seeing a wedding ring on a Mafia hitman – proof that there’s more to his life than death and dark suits. Apple CarPlay too, and satnav. Good on you Ferrari, for fitting these trinkets to a car that wears each aero flick like a knuckle-duster, for they remind me that the F12tdf is only a car.
A track-orientated car, though, so to a track then? We might refer to it as solitary confinement. However, there was one stipulation from Ferrari: no track use. I’m not even going to pretend I know why, although my unsettled mind latches on to the idea that Ferrari could be deploying the F12tdf simply to cull a writer.
So, a plan: I’ve chosen to come and chase fast jets – and one fast jet in particular – through west Wales. Rainy, windswept, leaf-strewn, blustery, autumnal west Wales.
Must learn to keep big mouth closed in features meetings. There is a method in my madness, although looking back, even I find it tenuous. I’m putting myself in the hands of the car’s electronics. Ferrari claims the systems are so advanced that they not only make the F12tdf safer, they make it faster. Switch them off and you’ll go slower, they say. Switch them off and you’ll crash, I say. More on that in a bit.
Anyway, in using advanced electronics and control systems to manage its performance, the F12tdf has quite a lot in common with… a Eurofighter Typhoon. Ahem. Famously designed to be aerodynamically unstable, the RAF’s premier aerial dogfighter relies on its computing power to keep it airborne. We’ll pick that up a bit further on, too.
If it’s any consolation, a Typhoon wouldn’t have far to fall around here. The Mach Loop is where the military comes to fly its cool stuff fast and low. Officially this is one of three TTA’s (Tactical Training Areas) in the UK, and is properly known as LFA 7(T). They can fly down to 250 feet through here, around a lap that sweeps past (and well below the summits of) Cadair Idris, Corris and Crib in Fawr. Down at ground level it’s a 32.4-mile lap picked out by the A470, A489 and A487.
At 6am the next morning, it takes me over 45 minutes to get round. According to a “knowledgeable source”, if you were to press play on Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’, a Typhoon, pulling 6g in some places, will complete the Mach Loop at about the point the last chorus kicks in.
But they don’t paint Typhoons yellow, and it must be said the Giallo F12tdf really punches out of the scenery. As long as it’s not punching into the scenery, I’m happy. Trouble is, it’s already had a go at me. Five miles up the road from the drop-off point, manettino in Sport, it tries to park me backwards in a fence.
Many changes were made to the F12 in its modification to become the tdf. It’s 110kg lighter, 30bhp more potent, revs to 8,900rpm, generates over twice the downforce, and the six per cent shorter gear ratios fire upshifts through 30 per cent faster. Among all this, front tyres that are 20mm wider might seem inconsequential, but I promise you, they’re at the cutting edge of what makes this car so aggressive.
I cannot conceive of any situation on a public road where the tdf might understeer. Perhaps if it hit ice. The front end is astonishingly direct and schizophrenically reactive, so when I turned into that corner it bit harder than the rears could cope with, they slid and all of a sudden I was in bed with a horse’s head, strangled squeals and all.