Ferrari takes another step into the stratosphere with ‘Modificata’
It may not possess the ‘winningest’ team in Formula One (at present), highlights Iain Robertson, but its record in sportscar racing, in many ways more relevant to its car sales business, is virtually unassailable and the 488 model is the reason for success.
Sex sells assuredly. Just ask any politician, or pop star, as more than a few have indulged with a fistful of notes, or a mostly flexible friend to hand. Sex, while enormously enjoyable, can also be torpidly troublesome and furtively flighty. While some sex can be essential, to meet procreative demands, there still exists some brow-raising Victorian reticence, when it is sought for purely pleasurable purposes.
Sex, in automotive terms, is a consistent high performer. Not the postpubescent mishandlings in the back seat of mummy’s Mitsubishi, naturally, but rather the drawn metal and stretched composites comprising the sinewy appeal of many of the world’s supercars. Of course, as rare a commodity as it is, its conceptual impact can seep into the mainstream, as proven subjectively by several Mazda models. While not wishing to lapse into Clarkson-esque paroxysms of eye-rolling ecstasy, or the typical motoring comic’s unwarranted and advertising-promoted adulation, Ferrari is a time-served master of the sensual art.
It starts with the name that rolls off the tongue with vibrato urgency and an enigmatic emphasis on the first pair of ‘Rs’. Best heard with vocal Italian resonance, it is a name recognised widely and pan-generationally, to be accompanied by a flash of sun-blushed rosso red and a yellow shield bearing the black ‘Il Cavallino Rampante’, a rearing stallion…all before seeing a motorcar…but, then, you see and hear the car.
Rest assured; Ferrari is not perfect. It has produced a smattering of less desirable designs over the years, a factor reflected in otherwise gilt-edged investment values. Mind you, why the Bertone styled 308 has seldom scored highly in the beauty stakes lies more with the fluent sensuality of Pininfarina’s penmanship and its relationship with the utterly gorgeous 246GT, than any alternative interpretation. Yet, the beholder’s eye can deny potential Latin automotive love affairs, especially when confronted with the edginess of a shrieking siren. Fortunately, Ferrari’s errors are few and far between.
In terms of model timeline, the 488, designed in-house by Flavio Manzoni, has been with us in a number of developed and one-off forms since 2015, including the open-top Spider, Pista, Piloti, J50, SP38 and P80C. In both GTE and GT3 forms, its competition history is the stuff of modern legends, with over 350 race victories and in excess of 630 podium positions, which cement its place as one of Ferrari’s most successful racing cars.
The latest 488 GT Modificata is a limited edition car that incorporates the technology that was developed for the 488 GT3 and 488 GTE models but stretches the limits imposed by FISA’s technical and sporting regulations, which were never intended to exploit its full potential. The Modificata is meant for use exclusively during track days and at Ferrari Club Competizioni GT events.
The car’s name sums up its role; ‘Modificata’ is a step beyond ‘Prova’, applied normally to prototypes, which in Ferrari jargon infers a design that has been evolved for performance gains. It takes the established and impressive performance of the GT3 and GTE, by combining their most effective innovations, then developing new twists linked predominantly to a powertrain that is no longer limited by the FIA’s Balance of Performance rulings.
Its legendary twin-turbocharged V8 motor has been subjected to advanced research, to result in specific components and material carry-over from the racing engine. Its maximum power has now taken an upwards hike to around 700 bhp, thanks to more extreme, performance mapping of the ECU. While Ferraris can be thought of as highly-strung, their levels of reliability have increased significantly over the past couple of decades and one of the developmental principles has been to retain that dependability. Meanwhile, the seven-speed, twin-clutch, automated-manual gearbox is now available with different ratio sets and a carbon-fibre clutch helps to manage the increased power and torque.
Just as the initial 488 introduced a different view of aerodynamics, using designed-in panel profiles and avoiding ‘add-on’ spoilers, Ferrari has completely reconsidered the high-downforce aerodynamics, by shifting the pressure centre forward. In essence, this generates higher downforce at the front of the car, without increasing overall drag, which ensures better efficiency and sensitivity to changes in the race-derived rear wing angle. Apart from the aluminium roof and uprights, the bodywork is produced entirely from carbon-fibre (like the 488 GTE variant). Amazingly, this combines to create a downforce of over 1000kg (a metric tonne) at 130mph.
For its suspension, the Modificata relies on the tried and trusted system applied to the GTE. However, the braking system has been re-developed in partnership with specialist manufacturer, Brembo, to feature the more efficient callipers that are fitted to world championship cars, coupled with an ABS system borrowed from the 488 GT3 Evo 2020, with model specific settings. It ensures that drivers are provided with a formidable handling envelope and potent but stable braking with fade virtually eliminated, which is confidence inspiring for wealthy track day enthusiasts.
Although the well-specified dashboard layout will be a nightmare to the unfamiliar, it follows typical race-car practice, with digital readouts, driver focused switchgear and the unusual treat of a rear-facing camera, with cockpit screen. The steering wheel follows F1 form, with a bank of fingertip switches that are easier to operate when strapped securely into the racing seat. For what it’s worth, there are only five events in the Ferrari Club international calendar, with two circuits in North America (Virginia; Watkins Glen) and one each in Italy (Monza), Japan (Suzuka) and Germany (Nurburgring), for which the 488 Modificata is eligible.
Conclusion: Inescapably, you need to be rich to indulge in the sex and sensuality of playing with Ferrari. However, Ferrari’s legacy is enthusiastic but safe. The company prefers to see its cars being raced and, being on first name terms with most of its customers, they can feel confident about receiving maximum support.