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Ferrari 458 Speciale. DRIVEN. Precious memories

Illustration for article titled Ferrari 458 Speciale. DRIVEN. Precious memories

It's been quite a while since I've sworn this much during a test drive. Almost a year in fact. But this is not swearing with vitriolic rage at an incomprehensible SatNav, Bluetooth connection or adaptive cruise control. It's swearing aimed internally. I'm not driving this Ferrari 458 Speciale as I should be.

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Rewind 12 months. I've just been given a quick tutorial on the Speciale – Ferrari's über honed, track-orientated version of its already mightily impressive 458 Italia – by chief test driver Rafaelle De Simone. He then casually mentions that for my first few laps of Ferrari's official test track at Fiorano, I should ease my way up to 200kph gently rather than going hell for leather straight away, to not worry too much about the rain that's started to fall, and then closes the door leaving me to drive solo. The only sound I can hear over the thunderous 4.5-litre V8 are the butterflies in the stomach growing a third set of wings.

Bizarrely, the specifics of the laps themselves escape me to this day: unable to rip my eyes from the windscreen or the rather solid looking Armco dead ahead, I have no idea what triple figure speed I hit down Fiorano's main straight on that morning. Instead, it's the sensations that stick with me, raw power meeting engineering perfection in a fine balance, the results of which cause my legs to turn to jelly. Down the straights, there is almost endless power capable of screaming its way past 9000rpm. Through the corners – tight and sweeping alike – there is poise, grip and a balance I've never experienced, the rear 20-inch wheels playing a devilish game of chicken with me, remaining perfectly aligned with the front but daring me to push harder so they can jink slightly, very slightly, out of place to keep me on my guard. The resultant lateral g-forces are beyond addictive, and soon I'm forcing myself to brake later, accelerate earlier, and – ultimately – go faster.

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And this is when the swearing starts.

Illustration for article titled Ferrari 458 Speciale. DRIVEN. Precious memories
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Faced with a 325kph Ferrari that will hit 100kph from standstill in a flat three seconds and race through corners better than any other road-going Maranello model, my right foot refuses to stay planted as marker boards fly past. Into the corners, I'm still braking much earlier than the Speciale is capable, feeding the power in much later than the grip can permit. I have only three laps to make the most of this privilege and I am squandering them. Dammit James, pull your finger out!

Fast forward to today. I'm watching in awe as the Speciale's speedometer needle climbs to a dizzying 7000rpm, a bus-sized chasm lying between both it and the redline. On the top of the steering wheel, the fourth of six red lights blinks on, signifying that "y'know James, you really can push the gearbox much harder than this."

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"F*ck sake James, concentrate!"

I've just hit the Kalba run, a meandering stretch of tarmac that winds up a mountain range in the heart of Hatta before plunging back down the other side, it's final stopping point the Fujairah coastline. Like Fiorano it boasts tight chicanes, tight apexes that flow into sweeping left and right handers, and straight stretches of road that end with heavy braking points. This time, I'm going to trust the car under me and ignore my right foot. THIS TIME, I am going to drive the 458 Speciale the way it was meant to be driven.

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Four red lights, upshift.

"For God's sake, come on man!"

FULL STORY available HERE on www.crankandpiston.com

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