Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ferrari 599XX Pictures

When Fiat flew us to Italy to showcase its technology in 1988, for instance, the company’s CFO personally set up a Ferrari factory tour for us. When we arrived, the guard at the gate said, “So sorry. If only we had known you were coming.” Then, when we were promised a drive in the first Enzo on Ferrari’s Fiorano test track, well, sorry again, because the factory’s F1 team had already booked the joint.

And now I was to be the second journalist in the world to drive the 599XX—an extreme 720-hp track-only iteration of the surpassingly gorgeous 599GTB Fiorano—except six inches of snow had muffled the Italian town the night before. As press officer Matteo Torre said of the now-invisible circuit, “She is only good for, how you say, the cross-country skis.”

Signor Torre, however (who, as far as I could tell, never stopped running or answering his cell phone for 72 hours), had ambitiously initiated Plan B. “I am having already renting of the Vallelunga, four hours south,” he explained, rubbing his hands like Ernst Blofeld. What’s more, he’d also already shipped two 599XXs there. “Vallelunga, she is the terrible fast track,” he added. “Much fun. But also many of the, uh, crashes enorme.” Then he noticed the look on my face. “Oh, no, Mister John. Not so much of our Ferraris is crashing.”

If ever there has existed a meaner, sleeker, dragon slayer of a GT racer, well, neither Ecclestone, Mosley, Lauren, nor Leno has clapped eyes on the thing.

Except for the roof and windshield, not much of the 599XX is cannibalized from the all-aluminum 599GTB Fiorano. All four fenders, for instance, feature F1-like aero “fences,” vertical panels behind which air is scooped out from each wheel well. To relieve heat and pressure, the hood likewise features nearly as many holes as Augusta. The winglets on the C-pillars—resembling Alfred E. Neuman’s ears—funnel air inward, forcing it to slide down the Lexan backlight, then along the ducktail trunklid, and finally over the carbon-fiber blade spoiler. And then there’s the huge underbody fairing and rear diffuser, whose center section is air permeable. Two electric fans mounted inside the trunk suck air through that permeable panel and then vent it through the holes previously occupied by taillights. The air is discarded in individual huffs and puffs (like a subwoofer stomping out rap music), which, we are told, detaches the wake from the rear of the car. This is apparently a good thing, according to the F1 engineers who designed it—along with the winglets—during hundreds of trial-and-error hours in Ferrari’s own wind tunnel. The fans automatically quit sucking underbody air at 155 mph, a speed that suggests the car is traveling in a straight line and thus needs no extra downforce. Speaking of which, all of this aero chicanery creates 617 pounds of downforce at 124 mph and 1389 pounds at 186 mph. For what started as a street car, that’s a bunch.