The pursuit of perfection – precision, passion and performance combined. One misty, rainy and rather drab morning in Zhuhai, I was given the chance by world renowned Italian marque Ferrari to test drive the latest 488GTB and Spider offerings. Upon arriving at the track, the dull grey weather was broken by the bright colours of the traditional Ferrari red GTB, and stunning yellow Spider. I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of this stunning looking car, but a short drivers briefing by Corso Pilota head instructor Marco and fellow race driver Andy Yan would have to be sat before I would drive in earnest. They particularly focused on the weight balance and distribution of the chassis and it’s improvement from the 458, while also stressing the development of the electronics in order to best deploy the 670BHP from the turbo engine to the rear axle.

First order of the day was a couple of laps as passenger – something I’m not particularly used to of course! – but the high end interior was highly comfortable and you immediately notice the attention to detail in the aesthetic design. The track was quite wet, and with the car setting in the aptly named ‘wet’ setting, the car felt very… safe. Not something that racing drivers always want to experience of course! However, in a straight line you get a great mind bending speed time warped sensation when on the loud pedal – and the accompanying symphony is an absolute joy. It’s now my turn to enjoy being in my more accustomed drivers seat, and I immediately fall in love with the uber-ergonomic wheel which fits my hands perfectly, with a heads up display to match. The rev lights on the wheel are bright and swift, and add to the enjoyable driver’s experience. The car has a lot of grip and feels exceptional under braking – of course, with all the car’s driver aids switched on, it was doing a lot for me, but I still managed to have some fun. I think I would have to come back on a dry day with the aids off to really push this to the limit and give a bit of a better idea as to the balance and performance of the chassis. One of my main gripes, mainly with the Italian manufacturers, is the decision to put the shift paddles in a fixed position – unlike similar offerings from Porsche where they follow the wheel. I’m a racer – and I think these high performance machines should offer the safest solutions because I did find myself having to think and take a hand off the wheel to change gear on occasion – which would not be the best idea especially driving on the twisty roads down to Big Wave Bay for example…

Next up to test was the Spider version of the 488. With the prior few laps of experience now, I was straight down to business and had a lot of fun – more so than in the GTB, but it is very hard to put my finger on why exactly! Anyhow, it was a good excuse to head back out in the GTB for a final time and a direct back-to-back test. I think the settings that the manufacturers manage to achieve so that the ordinary driver can control these cars are quite something – and essential for those with less experience, but I can’t help but feel my enjoyment was being heavily curtailed so much as I felt I was playing a computer game with all the aids on. Still, when the system decided to give me the power once the car was fully in a straight line it really was something to behold - and the braking performance and ability to change direction in the slow speed corners was tremendous fun.

The latest offering from the prancing horse well exceeds previous performance levels in every area and offers a fantastic benchmark for the competition. With the powerful turbo engine, seamless sequential gearbox, and the attention to detail in all areas to make it extremely aesthetically pleasing, when you get behind the driver’s seat of this beast you will be sure not to be disappointed… 

At a damp Zhuhai track with Ferrari

At a damp Zhuhai track with Ferrari