Lovely car the Scuderia. Only one problem: the waiting list, which currently stands at two years. There is an alternative, however. It involves a standard F430, a couple of superchargers and some adjustable KW coil-over suspension…
Now, while it’s obviously fine for a Mercedes to be pumped up like an automotive Incredible Hulk and it’s probably true that there are enough 911s around to lose a few in the name of slightly sick turbocharging experimentation, you might very well think that tampering with a Ferrari is just vulgar and what I’m about to suggest is tantamount to blasphemy. And yet, in the same way that you probably professed disgust at the idea of Max Mosley’s shenanigans but nonetheless looked up the video on YouTube, you can’t tell me that you’re not intrigued by the idea of a supercharged Ferrari F430 with 700bhp…
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Novitec started out in the 1980s, lightly tuning Alfas – something that it still does very successfully today – but in 2000 its very tall and very charming owner, Wolfgang Hagedorn, decided to branch out into Ferraris and set up Novitec Rosso. And while Novitec Rosso isn’t by any means sanctioned by Ferrari, it is at least ignored and therefore tacitly tolerated.
The company is based in the countryside just south of Munich and centre stage in its glass-fronted showroom (the back wall of which is decorated with a row of floor-to-ceiling images from the Pirelli Calendar) is the white Novitec Rosso F430 Race that is to be our car for the afternoon. The first relief is to see that it doesn’t have some gargantuan rear wing. Apparently there is one available, but largely because it’s a massive money-spinner and it’d be financially daft not to offer one. In fact all the aerodynamic enhancements on the F430 Race are quite subtle and the shape remains largely untouched. The rear venturi is rather extravagantly veined, but as Novitec has gone to the trouble of repositioning the exhausts higher up in the bumper, out of the airflow (à la Scuderia), you suspect it’s not just for show.
Peer at the engine beneath the glass hatch and it’s as uncluttered and jewel-like as ever, with just a smattering more glossy carbonfibre here and there and two very neat new airboxes towards the rear. Superchargers were chosen for their ability to work more reliably in heat than turbos – essential given that many of the conversions go out to the Middle East. There should be no problems with heat today, though. It’s bright, but showers have been sweeping across the Bavarian sky every now and again. I’m rather hoping it stays dry for a while yet…
The wonderfully secure Recaros (similar to those in the GT3 RS) are slightly more reclined than the standard seats, giving the impression that you’re sitting lower than ever. In front of you is a steering wheel that could easily be mistaken for something from Ferrari’s own options list. It’s beautifully wrought, just slightly smaller, with an overall shape subtly more like an F1 steering wheel with a longer flat section at the bottom. You can have your interior trimmed in violent green crocodile skin if you want, but this demonstrator has dark grey Alcantara. Besides, you don’t need shouty fabric when you’ve got an exhaust note like this. Fire up from cold and the bypass valves stay open for a short while, which is deafening but fantastic if you happen to be inside a showroom.
One of the changes to the suspension comes immediately into play as we shuffle out towards the road – a hydraulic lifter, like that on the Gallardo, to lift the low-skimming nose over particularly vicious sleeping policemen. Very sensible. Less sensible are the 20in wheels shod in scarcely believable 235/30 (front) and 325/25 (rear) Michelin rubber. There’s probably room for more air in the skinny tyres on my bicycle, yet miraculously this F430 rides perfectly comfortably over the drains and manhole covers of the first small village we pass through.
Pottering along, you’d never know that 697bhp was an ankle flex away either – everything is terribly civilised and the completely standard ‘F1’ gearbox is uncomplaining. When you do start using all the throttle travel you discover that the supercharged power delivery is very smooth. Settle into a natural pace using the revs between about 4000 and 7000rpm and, although it’s mighty quick, it doesn’t feel quite as bonkers as nearly 700bhp should. Then you reach 8000rpm and suddenly – WAP! – the rev counter hurls its needle straight over the last 500rpm and into the limiter. I’m surprised it didn’t snap it. As a driver you’ll be left completely startled. The full 697bhp might not be there for very long, but it certainly makes its presence felt.
Thankfully the 430’s chassis remains nicely neutral and there’s masses of lateral grip. Once into a corner you can use the added power safe in the knowledge that the rear end is nicely mobile rather than fearfully snappy. It even gives you enough confidence to get on the power early and stay with it, the steering wheel remaining straight as the car oversteers just the tiniest fraction. The front end is a little too stiff, though, and consequently turn-in feels a bit more like an act of faith than it should, and although the brakes are Brembo items manufactured exclusively for Novitec Rosso, the pedal goes very solid after not much travel and seems to be lacking in power. I suspect the reason for both of these failings is that the car has been set up for a test at Hockenheim on near-slick Michelin Cups rather than the less grippy Pilot Sports it’s wearing for our drive.
There’s another company not far from Novitec that has very much the same sense of quality and subtlety to the way it builds its cars. It’s called Ruf and it’s no surprise to hear that, before he set up Novitec, Wolfgang used to work there. The Novitec Rosso F430 Race is a very impressive car and transforms a standard F430 into a Scuderia alternative. Fully kitted out in this spec it is a lot of money – around £250,000 – but you could just opt for a new exhaust or a set of wheels to tide you over while you counted down the days on the Scud waiting list. And, naturally, Novitec will offer a supercharged version of that too…
|Engine||V8, twin superchargers|
|Bore x stroke||92 x 81mm|
|Cylinder block||Aluminium alloy, dry sumped|
|Cylinder head||Aluminium alloy, dohc per bank, 4v per cylinder, variable valve timing|
|Fuel and ignition||Electronic engine management, sequential multipoint injection|
|Max power||697bhp @ 8350rpm|
|Max torque||525lb ft @ 6300rpm|
|Transmission||Six-speed ‘F1’ paddle-shift gearbox, rear-wheel drive, E-diff, CST stability and traction control|
|Front suspension||Double wishbones, coil springs, adjustable dampers, anti-roll bar, hydraulic lifter|
|Rear suspension||Double wishbones, coil springs, adjustable dampers, anti-roll bar|
|Brakes||Cross-drilled and vented discs, 380mm front and rear, ABS, EBD|
|Wheels||8.5 x 20in front, 12 x 20in rear, aluminium alloy|
|Tyres||235/30 R20 front, 325/25 R20 rear, Pirelli P Zero|
|Top speed||216mph (claimed)|
|Price as tested||c£250,000|
|On sale||Now (www.novitecuk.com)|