26 July 2012| Review, photos & video by: RaceMasteR J. | Location: Killarney Raceway.

There are a lot of people who hate me right now and I don't blame them. But I don't think I should be blamed either. My dream drive came about rather unexpected. It was an early Thursday morning when I got a call saying stop everything I'm doing and be ready in 5 minutes to be picked up. Why I asked? I was told that my opinion was needed about a certain matter and that we were going to see a man about a horse. A red horse, a prancing horse, a 458 Italia horse! I was naturally dumbfounded but immediately grabbed all my camera gear and headed out the door.

We headed off to Killarney Raceway to attend a very small private track day, for Ferrari's and Maserati's. It was organised by Viglietti Motors for a few of their clients and some potential clients. The cars present included a 550 Maranello, a 612 Scaglietti, two 430's, two 458's and a California, not to mention a good few Maserati's. Out of all the cars there, the one that stood out the most for me was a white Maserati Granturismo MC Stradale. That car just looked the business and sounded dirty, very dirty. Anyways, coming back to why a lot of people hate me...

I was offered to take the 458 Italia out around Killarney to see how it went. The whole day I was setting myself up for worst case scenario, so should I not get a chance to drive it, I would be fine. So naturally when I was given the keys, I was overwhelmed. I remember jumping in and sitting in the driver’s seat, the smell, the feel, the carbon fibre, the buttons, the dials, the red stitching, aluminum and most of all, a bright yellow circle with a black horse staring me right in the face. The salesman, Shaakir, jumped in next to me and asked me if I knew how to start it, I said no, but we'll get there.

I set up the Go Pro on the front windscreen, but thinking about it now, I should have rather set it up on the side window facing the steering wheel. Anyways... Shaakir gave me the start up procedure, turn the key to ignition, foot on the brake and press the start button. The car fired up into life with a signature Ferrari V8 howl. But according to Shaakir, that wasn't as loud as normal due to the lack of fuel in the car. I pulled away slowly into pit lane making sure I didn’t hit anything, as I could not see the nose but only the two wheel arch bulges on either side. Cruising down pit lane the car seemed very docile and within a few meters it was already in 3rd gear. The 7-speed dual clutch F1 gearbox was in Auto mode. Approaching the pit lane exit the marshals gave me the all clear signal and I promptly placed my right foot firmly on the loud pedal all the way to the floor. The car accelerated gradually but firmly.

If that’s how it pulls in 3rd gear, I can certainly believe it does 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds! I was already impressed! Approaching turn one, I let off the gas and cruised, letting the car slow down, flicked the downshift paddle and the car screamed into 2nd gear. Oh it was a glorious sound! At that very moment, I wasn’t sure if I switched the Go Pro on. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and no one would believe me if I didn’t have the footage! I double checked to see if the camera was rolling while cruising through turn one, up changing into 3rd gear, talking and listening to Shaakir explaining how the gears worked. Relax, I’ve played Forza, I got this – I thought… haha. The camera was indeed on. Thank goodness! Back to business…

Leading up to the apex of turn one I slowly rolled on the power and immediately felt the super responsive 419kW 4.5 V8 right behind me. I quickly changed into 4th gear to tame it down a little. At least until it was pointing straight, only to floor it to turn 2. Hard on the brakes, downshift – blip, blip, OK! The feeling in the brake pedal didn’t exactly inspire confidence. After a whole day of pounding around the track, the carbon ceramic brakes didn’t get a chance to rest. I kept my mouth shut as I didn’t want to scare Shaakir into making me abort my session due to the lack of brakes, I thought I’ll just brake earlier. Don’t get me wrong, the brakes worked, but it wasn’t a reassuring feeling when your foot sinks almost all the way down to the floor and then the car starts to slow down. Anyways, back to turn 2. I point the car into the corner and I could immediately feel the reaction time of the car as I turned the wheel. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming, it was incredibly nimble. I fed the power on and felt the car hugging the inside of the bend. I kept it tucked on the inside so I could straight line the kink as much as possible. But as I approached the kink, I remembered an email a while back with a red Ferrari 360 which smacked itself right into the wall just after the kink, then I remembered sitting shotgun in Subaru while sliding backwards towards the wall just after the kink, a few race cars during a regional race day losing control at the kink… No ways! There’s no ways in hell I’m going to floor it through here! Not now, not in this! Changed up to forth and cruised through, waited for it to straighten up, back on the power towards turn 3.

Hard on the brakes again, downshifted, and this was the first and last time I actually noticed the shift lights on the steering wheel. At this point I never even looked at the rev counter or speedo yet. Clipped the apex of turn 3, waited for the sweet spot and powered out towards the double apex’d turn 4! On the brakes once again, back into 3rd gear, blip, turned in, rolled on the power through turn 4 and blasted out onto the back stretch. At that point I realized that the steering was indeed razor sharp and the whole car felt very agile. I thought I was imagining myself when I went through turn 2 earlier, but that was at a much slower speed. Going through turn 4 was much faster and the inputs I fed the wheel and how the car immediately reacted was phenomenal. Going down the backstretch I felt that 540Nm’s of torque shoving me firmly into the seat, I glanced at the big yellow rev counter and saw the needle climbing up towards 9000rpm… change! I quickly looked at the speedo and saw 260km/h, and I wasn’t even anywhere near the end of the back stretch. But I would have needed just a little more road to reach its maximum top speed of 325km/h. The last time I saw needles that high up was when I did 300km/h in a certain black e92 M3. I got to the 150m brake marker board and hit the brakes hard again into turn 5. Here’s when things got a little dramatic. I’ve never ever experienced a car like this before. The 458 had the ability to change the conventional racing lines that I knew. With this car I could brake later, point and shoot and the car would say, sure bring it on! I could accelerate so much sooner out of a corner. Or so I thought.

Going through turn 5, feeling the grip, I rolled on the power. But I think I did it a bit too soon. As the 295 20 inch rear tyres broke traction the car ended up going into a slide. I counter steered and kept my foot on the gas, but not flat and powered out of the corner. Easy peasy! That was fun! Even though the car has tones of grip through the corners, it still has the ability to break traction due to the super responsive cataclysmic 562 horsepower V8 engine. That coupled with pin point accurate steering the car was a dream to control. I thought the traction control would of kicked in sooner, but apparently it allows you a decent quarter opposite lock before it intervenes. The engine is so responsive the only thing I can compare it to is a superbike. The way it accelerates through its gears, the way it downshifts, it’s insane. Bikers would always say there’s no car that can come close to a bikes acceleration, but I would say this is the next best thing.

The rest of the lap/s was pretty much the same awesomely great experience, only I was just getting more confident, except through that infamous kink. So much more confident that as I was coming out of turn one, I rolled on the power a bit too quickly once again, and the car broke traction. It caused the rear to slide out, which I immediately countered, but here’s when the problem came, it stepped out the other way too. In other words it tank slapped me. So I not only had to correct to the right, but immediately correct to the left again, all that with throttle control. The first thing that went through my mind was please don’t let ME be the one to put this car into the wall today.

Thankfully with a bit of effort on my side and I’m sure a lot of effort from the cars highly sophisticated suspension and stability system, I was just fine. After that I decided to rather quit while I was ahead. I had my fun. I should call it a day. As they say, responsible gamblers know when to stop. I can’t say I completely drove with my head in this session, but my heart will always have a special place for the prancing horse Ferrari brand now.

Watch the video below to see how my dream drive went. Find the rest of the pics from the track day further down.

RaceMasteR J


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