Viva Italia: Ferrari 458 Italia

Paul Barshon

We entered the Land of Brown Sauce for the express purpose of introducing the Italia to the massive crowd at Goodwood. (Ferrari realizes about eleven percent of worldwide sales in the U.K.) One of the announcers on Friday morning said, "This event is effectively the British motor show." It's truly uncanny. Everything from Jim Clark's Indy-winning Lotus-Ford 38 -- driven by our host, Lord March -- to Michael Waltrip's NAPA Auto Parts Toyota went up the 1.1-mile hill, hoping to qualify in the Fast 20 and run for highest honors on Sunday. About 0.8 mile along the course, there's a serious kink at an obstacle known as the Flintwall. Fenway Park has the Green Monster, Goodwood has the Flintwall. But for those doughty Englishmen who endured cold-water bathing at boarding school, this barricade of cobblestones and fossilized sea animals might as well be a SAFER barrier like those on American speedways. Professing the whole experience an eye-opener, Waltrip, waiting to embark on his second run, described how he'd made it up the course without knowing at all where he was going in the 800-hp stock car. "When I took off from the starting line, I started looking for that wall," he said.

Appropriately enough, the Italia was entered in the Supercar run. During the midafternoon, when it was getting on to cream tea time, I joined Pat Blakeney inside the cockpit of a right-hand-drive version from Ferrari's British press fleet. We chitchatted while everything from a Tesla roadster to a Koenigsegg Trevita preceded us. Blakeney manages the Thruxton Motorsport Centre in Hampshire and races formula cars. Lining up to start, he had a good reason to change the setting on the manettino, the "little hand" on the steering wheel, and selected the Italia's launch control. As long as he kept his right foot down, each automatic upshift would occur at redline without any human dithering. Receiving the signal, we roared away. Turn Three, before the Pheasantry Grandstand, required some serious downshifting and braking, but Blakeney simply blasted around the Flintwall. After 58 seconds, we crossed the finish line. I divulged that I was still tingling, and he divulged that I wasn't alone.

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