McLaren F1 owners will sleep restless nights as soon as the Ferrari FX hits the streets. Ferrari has clearly set its aim at McLaren's 1995 "ultimate supercar" to reclaim the crown as manufacturer of the fastest, meanest production car on the planet. This is no mean feat, considering the achievements of the McLaren F1. During the past 7 years, no manufacturer has even bothered to seriously challenge its place in the record books.
The lightweight, BMW V12-powered McLaren F1 packed 627 bhp, with gigantic torque available all the way from tickover. It was a showcase for the most advanced engineering and high-quality detailing available on anything short of a jet fighter, the result of a no-expense-spared approach to the project. As it proved to be an immensely capable supercar (also immensely expensive, selling at over a million U.S. dollars in Europe), the F1 also went on to a long and successful racing career, including prestigious victories on virtually every racetrack, including Le Mans.
The Ferrari FX seems poised to improve on the F1's astounding spec sheet. All the information available as of this writing in early May is purely speculative and unofficial, but every hint points toward what will be a very special car indeed.
The completely new, all-alloy 6.0-liter, 60-valve, 65-degree V12 will feature continuously variable intake runners (a system derived directly from Formula One racing experience) as well as continuously variable valve timing to pack a fearsome 650 bhp at 7800 rpm. The 640 Nm (472 lb-ft) of torque will be available as low as 4750 rpm. These figures hint at extremely flexible engine behavior, with torque available at low revs combined with the ability to pull seamlessly to the 8200-rpm redline. The engine is not directly derived from the Formula One unit, as had been the case with the F50; its compact size and lightweight construction do, however, show the influence of Ferrari's experience in the design of racing engines.
The new F1-style paddle-shift system is Ferrari's first gearbox of this type to withstand such high torque and will be similar to the one installed on the recently introduced 575M. Lack of development time meant that a similar system was never fitted to the F50, but the FX will offer its lucky owners the complete Formula One experience. Even the steering wheel is going to resemble those seen on Formula One cars, featuring the familiar gearchange pads, as well as multi-function switches, presumably for regulating vehicle parameters such as damper stiffness and traction control-hopefully not for the stereo or cell phone controls! A very direct steering ratio is to be expected, if not the single-turn lock-to-lock of a Formula One.
The structure of the FX is said to be similar to that of a Formula One racer in the way it is built around an extremely rigid, monolithic carbon-fiber "tub"; however, that's where the similarities end. On Formula One cars, the engine and gearbox serve structural purposes, contributing a great deal to the stiffness of the vehicle by being rigidly connected to the rest of the car. The rear suspension on Formula One cars is also usually pivoted to the gearbox housing. Such solutions, as good as they may sound for racing purposes, are impractical for a road car. The vibrations that would reverberate through the cockpit would make it unbearable for anything but the racetrack. Details have not been disclosed, but the engine and gearbox of the FX should not serve such an extreme structural role; rather, they should be coupled to the structure using conventional rubber dampers connected to the carbon fiber monocoque.