Cars

With the 296 GTS, Maranello’s open-air sister to the 296 GTB, Ferrari has brought peak fun to the road just in time for summer. Official Ferrari Competizioni GT driver and 2021 WEC champion, Alessio Rovera, put the new 830cv V6 beast through its paces in Sardinia
Words: Chris Rees
Photographs: John Wycherley; Film editor: Oliver McIntyre

Shimmering blue sea to one side, hazy mountains to the other. Between them, a long, winding ribbon of sweeping corners and tight hairpins. Poised ready to devour these roads is the new Ferrari 296 GTS, the latest open-roof spider from the Prancing Horse, and sister model to the 296 GTB. This scintillating Sardinian scenario could surely not be more perfect to showcase what the 296 GTS is all about: maximum fun to drive, with the added dimension of open-air thrills. Peak enjoyment? It’s hard to imagine a more inviting prospect. 


The Ferrari 296 GTS's retractable hard top (RHT) takes a mere 14 seconds to deploy: the roof splits into two sections that fold flush over the engine


The lucky pilot with his hands on the steering wheel and an eager look in his eye is 26-year-old official Ferrari racing driver, Alessio Rovera. Together with François Perrodo and Nicklas Nielsen, he won both the 24 Hours of Le Mans in LMGTE Am class and the FIA Endurance Trophy drivers’ title in 2021. This year, he’s competing in IMSA and WEC with an LMP2 prototype run by AF Corse. 

 

Go behind the scenes on the 296 GTS Sardinia shoot 

After driving the 296 GTS on these stunning roads, he’s bursting to share his impressions. “The day is perfect,” he says. “The sun is out and the sky is blue, almost matching the paint of the car. The roads here are ideal to enjoy the 296 GTS.” To add to the spectacle, Alessio is joined on the day by a 296 GTS with the optional Assetto Fiorano track-focussed package; together they performed quite a show on the Sardinian roads. 

 

The sense of excitement ignites with the 296 GTS name – derived from the engine’s displacement (2.9 litres), number of cylinders (six), and the Gran Turismo Spider initials. This magical conjuration of numbers and initials bears within it not only the Ferrari spider heritage, but also something entirely new, since this is the first ever six-cylinder road-going spider to wear the Prancing Horse badge. 

The winding roads of Villanova in Sardinia provided the perfect testing ground for both the 296 GTS and the 296 GTS Assetto Fiorano

Of course, what gives the 296 GTS its unique character is its retractable hard top (RHT). This 

can be deployed at the push of a button in just 14 seconds, at speeds of up to 45km/h. The folding roof splits into two sections, neatly folding flush over the front part of the engine. 

 

The essential ingredients that make the phenomenal 296 GTB such an exciting car to drive are retained in the new 296 GTS. That includes, of course, the epoch- making V6 engine. The wide 120-degree ‘v’ between the cylinder banks enables the two turbochargers to be installed within the ‘v’, bringing advantages in terms of packaging, low centre of gravity, and weight reduction. 

 

Not only that, it also helps unleash extreme levels of power – indeed, an outright world record for specific power in a production car, at 221cv per litre. Combined with the plug-in electric motor at the rear, the total power output is 830cv, catapulting the 296 GTS to thevery top of the rear-wheel-drive spider segment. Its top speed of more than 330km/h and 0-100km/h time of 2.9 seconds are unchanged from the 296 GTB. 

  


Ferrari driver Alessio Rovera drives across the Ponte Vecchio of the Sardinian town of Bosa, which dates back to the 9th century BC 


The searing sound of the V6 has clearly made a big impression on Alessio: “You only hear the noises you want to hear, which in the spider are more intense. At high revs, the engine sounds amazing, and when you throttle off, it sounds like popcorn – really cool! It’s not as loud as a racing car, though; it’s the perfect compromise for the road.” 

 

Alessio does sense racing DNA in the 296 GTS. “I’m used to driving 488 GTE and 488 GT3 Evo race cars, which have a longer wheelbase. The 296 GTS’s short wheelbase makes it feel so nimble through corners, with very fast changes of direction. It feels superb and is especially quick through hairpins. Even on bumpy roads – and Sardinia has a lot of those – you can adjust the dampers to suit. The brakes are amazing, too; the technology is incredible. The feeling is close to a racing car, a real racer for the road.”