First drive: 2016 Ferrari 488 GTB & Spider in Yas Marina UAE
If you’re a regular reader, you may have caught our Ferrari 488 GTB reviews which, if you read between the lines, would realise that it is probably the best supercar today, barring those ultra-expensive limited-production hypercars. However, we never drove it on a racetrack before, which is exactly why we decided to attend Ferrari’s Passione Rosso customer event at Yas Marina Circuit last weekend, which had a little corner reserved just for us media people.
First up was a coned autocross course at the skidpad. The Ferrari 488 GTB is every bit the sharp weapon we expected it to be. The car picks up speed with the rapidity of an all-wheel-drive rally car, while grip is immense in the sharp corners. It is easy to overcook it in the tight turns and induce traction-controlled understeer, but keep it within its grip limits with just a hint of tyre squeal, and the sideways forces on your neck can be tremendous, even if it doesn’t look dramatic to someone watching from outside. Even more fun was the mild tail-swagging the 488 did on swift transitions and when putting down the power when straightening out after a tight corner, all in “Sport” mode which, ironically, is the softest of the driver-selectable settings.
We then hit the actual circuit, taking turns in a 488 GTB and a 488 Spider (with the top up), and it was more of the same conclusions, except at much higher speeds. Coming out of the pit lane in automatic mode, the car inexplicably sat in 7th gear as I buried the throttle, and yet it still kept accelerating at a decent pace. But downshifting just a single gear using the paddle-shifter transformed the car into a raving monster as it picked up speed faster than most hot hatches in 2nd gear. Corners were taken with ease, with mild understeer induced by the ESP when the front tyres squealed, and mild oversteer when a bit more power was applied exiting the tighter hairpins. You can read more about how a Ferrari 488 GTB drives in our earlier road test.
The evening of driving was capped off with hot laps by none other than Giancarlo Fisichella, the F1 driver with 3 race wins under his belt who was active from 1996 to 2009.
The Passione Rosso event is a great night out for owners and invitees, offering the rare chance to drive arguably Ferrari’s most well-rounded car in a setting without road restrictions. Don’t ask us how to get an invite though, short of buying a Ferrari. Even we as long-time media were invited for the first time.
Video by Tammam Mazen.