The 812 Competizione, the newest Ferrari Limited Series, sits squarely at the intersection of Maranello’s road-going sports cars and the marque’s peerless racing pedigree developed over the past seven decades of success on the world’s circuits.
After its unveiling on the famed Fiorano circuit and the North American debut of the car in Indianapolis, a more private encounter was called for. In stepped the Palmer Motorsports Park. Cut into the top of a hill in the forests of Massachusetts, the Palmer circuit is a throwback to an earlier era of race track, belying its 2015 construction.
The 812 Competizione is not a mere evolution of the 812 Superfast, but is in so many ways an entirely new concept
It drapes its 2.3 miles of track over fourteen turns, rising and falling nearly 200 feet over the course of a lap. Evidence abounds of the circuit’s unusual construction as rocky cliff faces run right up to the edge of the circuit where concrete barriers are cushioned with tyre walls, marking off precipitous drops to the valley below. The first half of the lap is defined by a sinuous climb up the hillside, whilst the second half is marked by heavily cambered corners that recall the best moments of Laguna Seca.
The rear screen is an all-aluminium surface, with distinctive vortex generators creating a backbone shape to aid aerodynamics
It is a crisp autumn day when we take to the circuit. Besides a few staff on hand to manage the property, nobody sees the events unfolding – but they certainly hear them. Immediately after barking into life, with the smallest of urgings the 812 Competizione leaps toward its 9,500 maximum rpm.
The acceleration builds relentlessly, from idle to redline, hustling the horizon towards the driver. It is an experience both brutal and sublime. Brutal in its ferocity and volume, yet sublime in its smooth effortlessness. The ingredients that generate such an experience may be fresh, but the recipe is a classic simply updated for modern tastes.
The rear spoiler is taller and wider than on the 812 Superfast, increasing downforce over the rear axle at speed; brake cooling is assisted by special 'Aero' callipers
The mid-front mounted 65-degree V12 is merged with modern materials and techniques, such as titanium con-rods and rebalanced camshafts. Long gone are the carburettors of old, replaced by ion-sensing ignition systems that optimise ignition timing on the fly. Straight-piped exhausts have given way to intricately designed manifolds, gas particulate filters and exposed tailpipes. The outcome is at once familiar yet exotic, brutal yet sophisticated. No redline is reached faster, or with more theatre.
The straights at the Palmer circuit are not long, and frequently are not even particularly straight, but the temptation to prod the car toward its limits, especially when passing some of the nearby cliff faces, windows down, is irresistible.
The single rectangular exhaust outlet and the diffuser extending the full width of the car are both highly distinctive elements at the rear
But with just 2.3 miles of tarmac, fourteen corners to navigate and 830cv on tap, the experience becomes more akin to launching from one corner to the next, as the circuit wraps and twists its way up and down the hillside. In those sweeping hairpins and big braking zones the 812 Competizione confirms it is more than simply a cradle for a magnificent engine, and much more than an evolution of the 812 Superfast.
As with all sporting Ferrari models this one was designed to excel at every challenge that a circuit could offer. The brake-cooling system is completely updated, the aerodynamics – both on the upper and under body – have been modified. The 812 Superfast’s rear-wheel steering system has also been updated to allow for the independent movement of each of the four wheels, whilst Side Slip Control 7.0 makes its debut in the 812 Competizione.
The list of tweaks and modifications made by the masters at Maranello is indeed significant, but the experience remains unadulterated. There will never be a straight long enough to enjoy fully the mastery of the 812 Competizione’s V12, but perhaps that is not really the point. Perhaps the point instead is the drama of the moment, be it diving through the twists and turns on the Palmer racetrack, or snapping through the gears on the drive home from the circuit after an incredible day’s drive.