Monday, 24 May 2010

GTO puts Ferrari 599 back off track

Based on the £1.3m 599XX, the new Ferrari 599 GTO is meant to be the ultimate Ferrari road car - more special even, than the Ferrari Enzo. Lest we forget, the latter was named after the company's founder to celebrate Ferrari's 60th anniversary.

The Ferrari PR and marketing department would probably prefer most people to disagree with me but I'm really not convinced, that it moves the game on or does anything that's not been done before.

Sure it has all the Ferrari hallmarks - striking looks, almost excessive speed and a ridiculous price tag; it's a paragon of extravagance, all best served in red - "Rosso Corsa o Rosso Scuderia signor?" - Yes, it has a 6.0 litre V12 that produces 661bhp connected to a sequential manual gearbox that changes ratios in just over half a second. And yes it has F1 derived carbon ceramic brakes as well as some new carbon-fibre panels and clever 'active' aerodynamic gubbins but it is, at the core, the 599 GTB (Gran Turismo Berlinetta) that's been on sale since last decade! a.k.a 2006.

It's like when Vauxhall took the Astra that had been on sale for 5 years and gave it a lick of white, pearlescent paint then threw on some shiny black wheels before flogging it off as the "Vauxhall Astra VXR Nurburgring Edition". I'll admit, I'm playing a bit fast and loose with my analogies here and the Ferrari is more of an upgrade over the regular car than Vauxhall's effort but it's equally worth pointing out, Vauxhall didn't have the cheek to ask that you pay £93k extra for the privilege of owning one of the "last-of-the-line".

I might change my mind if I actually got to drive one but that's another criticism I can level at the 599 GTO. Only Ferrari race and test drivers, a few lucky journalists and 599 people with £300,000 burning holes in the pockets of their chinos will ever get to drive it. And because it is only being sold to these 599 carefully chosen punters, very few of us will ever even get to see one outside of a static display in a hall at a car show somewhere - Birmingham NEC anyone? Just how relevant and genuinely exciting can such a car ever be if only about 0.00001% of the world ever get to see it doing what it's designed to do?

It's easy to see why the question on whether the 'GTO' moniker has been appropriately applied with the 599 keeps getting asked. It's only the third Ferrari to be called a GTO and to illustrate the weight behind that badge, Chris Evans recently spent around £15m for a 1963 Series II 250 GTO.

The other GTO, the 288 GTO of 1984 is the 'cheap' one and the rare times that one goes on sale, it changes hands for around £200,000. And yet it's still [in my eyes] more deserving to be called GTO than the 599 ever could be because the O stands for Omologato (or Omologazione depending who you ask). This is meant to give away the fact that the 288 and 250 were only built to allow homologation of their racing car equivalents into Group B sports car racing in the 1980s and Le Mans and sports car racing in the 1960s respectively.

The 599GTO wasn't built for homologation even though it's a street-legal version of the full-to-the-brim-with-race-technology, 599XX.

Ultimately, I think what grates me most is the impression I get from Ferrari that they think we're all 'fanboys' who will always worship them however much they play the same trump card. That they can sell virtually any car for any price as long as they garnish it with a smattering of 'heritage'. If it was up to me, I would be at Maranello right now scratching the Os on the badges to make 599 GTCs instead of GTOs.

Cinico in Italian - 'cynical' in English.

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