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Top Gear, Dario Franchitti and an F40
Posted on: May 24th, 2011

You’d like Dario Franchitti. You’d like his open, direct manner, the way he wears his success so lightly, and how proud he is of his CAMRADD award. And you’d definitely like his road cars and what he does with them.

 

In this month’s Top Gear magazine Ollie Marriage travels up to some of Scotland’s best driving roads to chase Dario as he gives his personal Ferrari F40 a good flexing. Ollie, not to be out-done, turned up in a 458 Italia.

 

You’ll find the full feature (and some wonderful pictures) in the mag, but as a little taster here’s some of Dario’s wisdom that we didn’t have space for:

 

On his Ferrari F40
“I’m the second owner and I’ve owned it for 12 years. It’s never been out in the rain – I’ve left it places at night when it’s started to rain. But when it is driven, it’s driven… enthusiastically.”

 

On letting Colin McRae loose in his F40
“Colin lived not far from here and him in that, [he motions at his F40] that was unbelievable. Unbelievable. Oh man, I trusted him, he would come out of junctions throwing big old power slides. He was so good.”

 

On other Ferraris
“I was so upset about the 599 Aperta. I was invited to see it at Pebble Beach and I really wanted it to be something special. I wanted a modern Daytona and it wasn’t that – it was more like a Corvette. I guess if I want a Daytona, I’m going to have to buy a Daytona…

 

“If money was no object I’d definitely have a Ferrari 275 and a 250 GTO, but you’d have to sell Scotland to buy one. What else? I’ve toyed with a 550 Barchetta for ever. It’s not practical at all, but I found one in London with cut down roll hoops. What a difference. It looked so much better and totally balanced the car.”

 

On convertibles
“I must admit I do like convertibles. All the purists will be going ‘eurgh’, but I spend my life looking for that last bit of grip, so on the road I just want to have some fun and in a convertible you can get the top down, you can hear it better, you get the senses, the wind coming past and whether that’s the F355 or the Carrera GT or 911 Speedster… I like a bit of soft top.”

 

On the Golf GTI
“When I was younger it was about having the latest and greatest, but not any more. You know what, now I’d love to have a Mk2 Golf GTI – a 16v like I had back in the day. I’d love to find one, stick it in the garage and work away at it. Well, get someone to come and supervise me! You know, play around with it.”

 

On racing Indycar ovals
“The cars are designed and set-up only to turn left, so when it goes into oversteer it’s a completely different feeling. You can throw a bit of lock at it if you’re quick, but if you aren’t quick enough you can’t because then it’ll bite back. And the feelings it gives you; you fight it to a point and the trick is to learn the feelings and the signals it’s giving you, because like I say it just feels completely different.”

 

“The cars are so finely tuned that a change in wind direction, a change in temperature can make a massive difference, so every time you go out for even a standard practice, you’re on the edge. And you do this day after day. Mentally it wears you out.”

 

On the Indy 500
“Indy’s a cool place, it gets under your skin. I think it’s the biggest single day spectator event in the world, something like 350,000 people. The straights are close on a mile long and the lap is 2.5 miles. I think we max around 235mph, but with Indy it’s not so much that as the fact you’re rarely below 225mph in the corners. Still, it’s not too bad for G-force: it’s about 2g, when some of the short track ovals we’ll be pulling 4g or more.

 

On track driving in road cars
“None of my cars has ever been on track. They’re just too compromised. If I had an Ariel, I’d take that on the track, that might be different or if I had an old racing car I’d go and play around at Knockhill. I’d love to get my old Champ car going, but Honda won’t give me an engine – well, I don’t think they’ve got one any more, so that’s a bit of a non starter.”

 

On driving Jim Clark’s 1965 Indy 500 winning Lotus 38
“Jimmy’s my hero, so that was such a special occasion. It’s also the only time I’ve ever been on a track and just sat there and tried to take in all the sensations, rather than gaining a tenth of a second into the apex or wondering what the dampers are doing.”

 

On life after racing
“It enters my head, but I’m just not sure. I’d like to do something around cars, or racing and Indycars. But I think it would be fun to be involved in developing road cars. And not just the quick stuff, but an everyday car. How do they do that? That’s a big job. But the thing about a road car is everything happens slower than in a race car and the movements are bigger, so it’s easier to tell what’s going on. I’d find that fascinating.”

 

And on Top Gear…
I love the TV show. I mean I’d never buy anything based on their recommendations, but it’s bloody entertaining.

 

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