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Ferrari: 'Ring records and F1-engined road cars aren’t for us*
*Except the F50 obviously, which was brilliant
Shots fired over at Ferrari. Chief technical officer and ex-Porsche man Michael Leiters told TG.com at Geneva that Ferrari will be staying well away from the current Nürburgring lap times arms race, reignited this week by Lamborghini’s searing 6min 52sec Huracán Performante.
“I don’t want to follow this announcement”, Leiters told us. “We never announce times [for our cars]. For me, the Nürburgring is a technical target, an engineering target. It is the most challenging circuit, and it’s true, if you are quick at the ‘Ring, your car will tend to behave very well on normal streets, because you need a set-up that’s less hard than a racing set-up.”
“[But]…there are so many things that can have an impact, and so many variables you can play with to set a lap record…I don’t like that. For me, a lap time is just an internal engineering target. I’m not thinking about setting records.”
Pretty unequivocal on not chasing the Huracán Performante with a 488 Speciale Ring pack or somesuch, then. But what about the ultimate in performance cars? We asked Leiters if the likes of the Aston Martin Valkyrie and Mercedes-AMG Project One would spur Ferrari on to replace LaFerrari with an even more extreme speed machine ASAP…
“Our philosophy is not to present a new LaFerrari every ten years”, Leiters replies. “We want to present a new supercar when we have defined a new roadmap of innovations and technology. And only if we are convinced that the combination of this innovation will create the new stage of Ferrari performance, will we develop a new supercar.”
Referring to the F1-spec newcomers from AMG and Aston, the R&D boss says “Between the cars that are now in discussion, and the cars we have made, or the cars by Porsche or McLaren, for me these are hypercars, not supercars. Now I’m speaking just for Ferrari, I’m not big on the idea of taking a Formula One engine and putting it into a street car.”
But what about the F50? That used a 4.7-litre V12 block related to the 3.5-litre engine in the back of Alain Prost’s 1990 F1 car…
“True, we did this exercise with the F50, but it has to be a compromise. You have to reduce the revs – an F1 engine revs from 6,000 to 16,000rpm, so we have to reduce the spread of revs. That makes everything very difficult, and I don’t understand why you’d do it.”
Speaking of V12s, Leiters is very positive that big, non-turbo engines have a bright future at Ferrari. He says the 780bhp unit in the nose of the 812 Superfast (pictured above) is “enough to be competitive for the next four years, and then we will look at alternative technologies.” Hybrids perhaps, or a V12 turbo? Leiters says the main consideration is to keep the cars fun. “Our customers love the V12. They love the sound and the response and the feeling of the power climbing smoothly, and for me this is more important than just having a big number.”
We also reminded Michael it’s a decade since Ferrari showed off the MilleChilli concept, a shrunken Enzo lookalike that promised Ferraris of the future would have hybrid drive, advanced aerodynamics and be smaller and lighter. Several of those boxes have been checked, but nothing’s close to the 1000kg weight that gave the design study its name.
Is it time Ferrari brainstormed a new, outlandish concept? Leiters isn’t keen on the idea.
“I don’t like concept cars. I like going to the limit, but at the end, what do you bring home from the limit? You don’t have to homologate the car, so you have no constraints. You don’t have to sell it, so you can go very extreme. You don’t have to make money, so perhaps it’s not affordable. Sometimes, you see concept cars, then you see the series production car, and what remains? Normally, just a diluted design. You see a tremendous car, and two years later, you look at the homologated car and say ‘Oh my goodness – it’s still nice, but it’s diluted’.”
“That’s talking about design. If you talk about technology, I don’t see how you could make a [super]car that’s 1000kg. I just don’t see it. Maybe it could be a one-seater, maybe it can be more compact, or a four-cylinder…but this is not a Ferrari! I could present to you a car that weighs 1000kg, but I wouldn’t be able to sell it. I prefer concepts that innovate inside a car – and to present cars that lead from a technical point of view.”