TWENTY-FOUR HOURS, 480 KILOMETRES. That’s how long we can keep, and how far we are allowed to drive, this Ferrari F12tdf. What to do with it? Track use is off limits and the small print says that we must not cross the channel. There’s a brief thought of putting it on a trailer and taking it to the Scottish Highlands, but that would be a right faff and would leave us with about ten minutes at the wheel. So we’ll simply go for a nice drive in the country and pop in to see some friends for tea. Car-minded sort of friends. There’s some good history in Slough, apart from being the location for Ricky Gervais’s The Office. Ford Advanced Vehicles’ workshop was on the Slough Trading Estate (in a building that was later the home of JW Automotive, of GulfGT40 and 917 fame) and so was Team Surtees before it moved to Kent. In the mid-’60s Lola was in premises on Yeovil Road, which is just around the corner from Ferrari’s main office. You go to the showroom at the old Maranello Concessionaires in Egham to buy your Ferrari but test cars are collected from a nondescript building in Slough. If I was Ferrari I’d get the council to re-lay the road outside its office.
It’s bumpy as hell and even with the tdfs suspension in the softest, ‘Bumpy Road’ setting, it’s not doing my back much good. I might not be able to walk by the end of today. Thankfully, when we reach a better bit of blacktop the ride becomes acceptable. Stiff, but no need for the osteopath yet. What an engine. The tdfs 6.3-litre V12 produces 780hp at 8500rpm. It is the most powerful naturally aspirated engine I’ve ever experienced, and that includes the 8.2-litre Chevy in a McLaren M8F Can-Am car. But it’s not just the power output that’s staggering, it’s how refined those 12 cylinders are.
Barely above tick over with the seven-speed dual-clutch ’box already in fifth along Slough’s Bath Road and today’s electronics act like an IV drip of Strepsils to prevent any coughing or hesitation. Twenty years ago an engine producing this amount of power per litre would have been cammy and agitated in traffic. Forty years ago it wouldn’t have ticked over under 2000rpm and would have oiled its plugs at the first set of traffic lights unless you sat there with the throttles wide open. The roads are rather damp this morning. This worries me. I have briefed myself by reading Jethro Bovingdon’s pilot’s notes from the F12tdf’s launch in Italy.
He was only allowed a few laps around Fiorano and a few hours on local roads but gathered enough thoughts to give me the impression that this is a car that needs to be treated with utmost caution. No understeer, very direct steering and a rather unusual sensation provided by its rear-wheel-steering system. I think it unlikely that I will twiddle the manettino to the ESC Off position today, but to keep it in the Wet setting would show a lack of self-confidence that might worry photographer Aston Parrott, so Race will do, with the suspension still set to Bumpy Road. At least the interior ergonomics are superb -what you don’t need in a car that can do 0-100km/h in 2.9 seconds are distractions.