Ferrari 458 Italia – on-track driving impression

Track tested - Ferrari 458 Italia

Track tested – Ferrari 458 Italia

Car enthusiast Tony Littlewood recently had the opportunity to track test a Ferrari 458 Italia on a trip to Las Vegas.  Tony’s an old high school buddy, and had a chance to drive the Ferrari the way it was meant to be driven.

Here’s his report.

Hi Guys. I just got back from Las Vegas and we had a fabulous time.

Anyhow, I’m actually writing to share my experience at Exotics Racing. We went there on Saturday morning, 10:30 am, 72F, and dry.

On arriving you check in where they try to sell you the specials of the day.

On that day, it was 2 extra laps for $70, or 2 laps in an Audi R8 for $149.  I declined both. Soon after arriving we went into a 15 minute briefing on track layout, braking points, apexes, rules of the track etc.

They told us to look out for a Corvette Z06 flying by you on track driven by a drifting champion. He takes people out on track at maximum speed and you pay $99 as a passenger while this guy drifts around every corner. It was booked solid for the day, and apparently he goes through 3 sets of tires a day.

We then went outside to have a look at the cars that weren’t on track. All are open so you can take pictures sitting inside whatever excites you. There was a new Lambo Huracan, Aventador, several Ferrari 458s, 2 Ferrari 430s, an Aston Martin Vantage, a new Corvette, 3 Porsche GT3s, 2 Audi R8 V10s, a Porsche Caymen S (ho hum), and a Nissan GTR.

We then waited in the main reception for our name to be called at which time we were ushered to a Porsche Cayenne for a 2 lap orientation tour of the track. It was good in that all passengers can see out of the Cayenne easily, but my God does that thing lean in corners.

We did one slow lap to show the braking points (red cones) and the apexes (green cones), followed by a fast lap (at least for an SUV.)

I was then ushered to the car I had chosen which was a Ferrari 458. Why?

Because everything I have read about the 458 says it is a true track machine. They supply a helmet of course. I’m met by my driving instructor who will ride in the passenger seat.

All the cars have automatic transmissions which normally I don’t like, but after driving a friend’s 2014 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 with dual clutch automatic (same as the 458) I’ve been converted.

The Ferrari 458 is set up for my perfect driving position and off we go. The track is 1.2 miles and has an 1800 foot straight, so we’re not going to be hitting really high speeds, somewhere around 200 kph at the end of the straight. It takes a good 2 laps to really get used to the car and the braking points, but all the time the instructor tells me when to brake, brake harder, gear down, and accelerate.

There are other cars on the track, some going slower and some going faster (which didn’t happen). They have a good system to deal with this – if the instructor  sees a faster car (all mirrors are set up for him) approaching, he tells you to stay left or right and put the 4 way flashers on until the car passes. The only car to pass me was Mr. Drifter!  I passed the Nissan GTR and someone who obviously didn’t want to go fast in the Aston Martin Vantage.

The experience was fantastic. I now understand when car magazines refer to the feedback from chassis and steering and how it translates to performance. This car was easy to drive fast. I knew at all times what the chassis was doing and how much steering input was needed.

By the 3rd lap I could steer the car with the rear end and plant the right foot at just the right time.

I had five laps total which was good, but another two would have brought out the best in me.

The one thing that struck me after finishing was how stupid people are to buy this car for> the street, they’re wasting their money. This is a true track car and you could not possibly come close to what it can do on city streets.

If I had this car, I would take it to the track every weekend where I would have a set of racing slicks ready to install. Ferrari makes the California T and the F12 Berlinetta for the street, leave this beast for the track.

My recommendations – take the basic package and upgrade at the track – do at least 7 laps, 10 is even better. Don’t chose multiple cars, unless you can afford 10 laps in each. It takes time to get used to how each car behaves on the track. Also, taxis are expensive in Las Vegas so it would be expensive to take one to the track. So do what I did and rent a car for the day – it’s way cheaper.

(Thanks for the great write-up, Tony! I’m envious!  Tim)

 

 

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