It’s a moment of pure mischief. A few car lengths ahead sit Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, in their F2005 F1 cars. How often do you find yourself on the same bit of asphalt as a duo like that?
The man at the end of Mugello’s pit lane is waving us in, but a glance across the FXX’s cockpit and a vai, vai, vai motion with my hand is enough to encourage test driver Luca Badoer to keep going. We figure that the crowds packed into the grandstands won’t begrudge us another lap…
Ferrari’s XX programme took everyone by surprise during its launch at the Finali Mondiali at Mugello in 2005. It continues to this day – and remains as trail-blazing as ever. The original FXX was based on the Enzo and retains a sacred spot in Ferrari lore: only 29 were made, the 30th example presented to Schumacher.
Never officially homologated for road use or intended for competition activities, Ferrari instead used the car for a programme of track days and invited its top clients to participate. It would store and maintain the cars, as well as handle logistics. We read a lot about ‘experiential’ luxury now, but Ferrari was way ahead of the curve.
That first FXX had more power – 788 CV – active aero for additional downforce, and a revised, F1-infused gearbox. But the USP was that those select 29 owners would become a bona fide part of Ferrari’s development team. Learning how to wring the best out of a machine as extreme as this around Spa or the Nürburgring must have been a huge buzz. But so too was the knowledge that the car was a laboratory on wheels.
Via an even more powerful FXX Evo, the introduction of 2010’s 599XX (and subsequent Evo), the programme has deepened client involvement and resulted in profound technical progress. Some examples: in the 599XX’s boot you’ll find a pair of fans that extract air from the diffuser and towards the rear wing, which combined with other innovations to maximise downforce without adding drag.
New settings on the manettino gave the driver nine different traction control settings and detailed control over the magneto-rheological dampers on the suspension. Much of this technology later found its way onto the company’s road cars and goes some way to explaining why contemporary Ferraris combine such supple ride characteristics with equally sublime and stable handling responses.
Perhaps the best-known of all the XX cars is the FXX K, which arrived in 2015 and was based on the LaFerrari. If previous XX cars looked like works-in-progress, Centro Stile’s input on the FXX K exemplified the relationship between aesthetics and aerodynamics to create a car that had its own dramatic personality – including those abbreviated rear fins.
‘Everyone thinks a track car has to be brutal to be functional, and nobody really believes that a car like this can be beautiful,’ Chief Design Officer Flavio Manzoni told me during the car’s reveal. ‘Aerodynamics is a huge opportunity for designers. It’s impossible to think of a modern car like this without understanding the engineering principles.’
The FXX K would win the Compasso d’Oro design award in 2016, the judges noting its ‘high level of industrial artisanship’. A prestigious accolade for a car that could lap Fiorano five seconds faster than the LaFerrari, aided by bespoke Pirellis and a total power output of 1050 CV. Drive settings encompassed ‘qualify’, ‘long run’, ‘manual boost’, and ‘fast charge’, harnessing the V12 ICE and hybrid systems, while another five-position manettino governed the E-diff, traction control and Side Slip Control.
Amazingly, 2017’s Evo upgraded the aero for even more downforce…