Enzo Ferrari and motorsport have been synonymous since the ’20s when a young Enzo raced with much success for Alfa Romeo before taking the reigns as Alfa’s race manager in the mid-’30s and then, right at the end of the war, running an ageing Tazio Nuvolari in a Ferrari at the Mille Miglia: all this is part of the mythical romance that makes Ferrari, for many an enthusiast, the single most loved auto-manufacturer there ever was.

That fabric of history, though, also means it’s sometimes tempting to define the Scuderia in terms of easily-understood eras: Sportscar domination in the late-’50s, Le Mans domination in the early-’60s, Formula 1 dominance in the mid-’70s.

Unsurprisingly, Ferrari’s road cars also come with their own myths, and it’s equally tempting to narrow down Ferrari’s Golden Age of road-car production to just one year: 1983, and the start of an era that began with the Ferrari GTO 288 (that you can find waiting in Project CARS 2) and continues, uninterrupted, to the mind-bending cars that roll out of Maranello to this very day.

So why 1983 and the 288 GTO?

Because the 288 GTO led directly to the final road car Enzo Ferrari would ever personally oversee: A car that Enzo had requested from his engineers and designers with a simple missive: “I told my wish to the engineers,” Enzo would explain when this, his final car, was presented to the world in 1987. “I told them, ‘build the best car in the world’.”

That car was the Ferrari F40, and it’s in the Ferrari Essentials Pack.

 

The Best Car in the World

For Ferrari’s private race clients, the latter part of the ’70s had been barren years—with the demise of the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Series III Daytona (you can race the Competizione model in Project CARS 2), Ferrari’s sportscars and GT race-bred cars were practically non-existent aside from the 512 BB LM, the beautiful-sounding 5-litre V12 that also comes to the Ferrari Essentials Pack.

The only thing that sustained the privateers in that era were independent tuners such as the Veneto-based Michelotti concern who, with some support from Maranello, kept the flame of Ferrari’s legendary GT-racing program burning by modifying Ferrari’s road-cars for the race track.

By 1983, though, Ferrari’s racing clients were really left with little to modify. Ferrari were most definitely not in the sportscar game, and their road cars, it was whispered, had become perhaps a little soft, a little too … plush. Still, no-one could imagine a set of circumstances that would entice Ferrari back into GT racing with a full-blown GT-runner.

And then Group B happened.

Group B was a new set of regs—or, rather, a loosely strung-together set of non-regs—introduced in 1982 by the FIA which quickly attracted pretty much every manufacturer with motor-racing lubricating their veins. And that included Ferrari who, in 1983, began secretly working on a new GT car for Group B sportscar racing.

The new GT was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March of 1984 (you can drive that car today in Project CARS 2) and was named the Ferrari GTO. To differentiate it from the GTO from the 1960s Le Mans-winning car, the media attached a “288” to the name, in honor of its 2.8-litre V8 turbocharged lump—yes, turbocharged, because Group B. It was, for Ferrari enthusiasts the world over, a dream come true. Ferrari, back in GT racing, ready to take on the world, with a factory-made runner.

The 288 GTO proved an immediate sensation. Barely street-legal, they were produced in their road-going variant solely to meet homologation numbers in order to go racing in Group B …

… except, of course, for one fatal problem …

… by the time Ferrari had produced the 200 required for homologation, Group B racing had been banned outright.

The regulations that had led to an arms race by manufacturers all-too-willing and keen to pump multi-million-dollar budgets into cars that were as deadly as they were quick was consigned to the record books at the end of ’86, and for Ferrari’s new 288 GTO, the first Ferrari produced for motorsport since the ’60s, it was the end of the road. At least, for its racing program.

For the 272 road-legal 288 GTOs, it was just the start of a road trip that would lead Ferrari into a whole new world of profitability that would change the landscape of the auto-industry forever.

The market that the 288 GTO heralded-in a whole new era—that of small volume (Ferrari had announced that only 272 would ever be built from day one), high-price supercars—and this is the car that defined the ethos of the limited-production supercar of the 1980s. Many customers bought the 288 GTO for no reason other than to sell it on at considerable margins; some would buy it from a second buyer and still churn a massive profit. The 288 GTO’s success saw car makers of all stripes jump onto the bandwagon, creating a super-hot supercar market with prices that kept inflating until, sometime in the late-’80s, the balloon inevitably crashed.

All modern Ferrari supercars can trace a line directly back to the 288 GTO and its success. That lineage began with the 288 Evoluzione (which was created by Michelotti, along with the factory at Maranello) which, in turn, led to what remains, for many, the greatest, scariest, most thrilling supercar the world has ever known.

The Ferrari F40

During the mid-’80s, a legend developed around Maranello’s test-track at Fiorano (the circuit also comes with the Ferrari Essentials Pack) involving a car that was the subject of countless “spy” shots as it made its way in and out of the nearby Ferrari factory, a Ferrari without a name or an identity. It looked like the GTO 288—albeit one that had been on a regimen of steroids—and kind of like the 288 Evoluzione, but somehow fiercer-looking.

What the public didn’t know at the time was that there were five Evoluzione models built, test-mules built to extract the very last ounce of performance from the GTO 288 in order to develop a new Ferrari supercar—one that was personally requested by Enzo himself.

What no-one knew, either, was that the car was being built in an unprecedented amount of time—in a little over a year. “The timeframe was unusual,” Ermanno Bonfiglioli, head of special projects for Ferrari, recalled for Top Gear many years later. “Within the very short arc of 13 months,” the chassis, the engine, and the body were all developed side-by-side, something that is unbelievably rare in the auto industry.

And what that meant for test-driver Dario Benuzzi (who’d been fine-tuning road Ferraris since the late ’60s) was seriously hard and dangerous work around Fiorano, as he recalled for Forbes Magazine: “The handling of the first prototypes was poor. To tame the power of the engine and make it compatible with a road model, we needed to subject every aspect of the car to countless tests: from the turbochargers to the braking system, from the shock absorbers to the tyres. [But] the result was an excellent aerodynamic load and high-stability even at high-speed. We obtained precisely the car we wanted, with few comforts and no compromises.”

In 1987, this new Ferrari was presented to the press at Maranello’s civic center, and then, some weeks later, to the public by Enzo Ferrari himself at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

The design was by Pininfarina, the F was for Ferrari, the 40 for Ferrari’s 40th anniversary, and it was the final Ferrari built under the inscrutable gaze of “Il Drake”. Somehow, it managed to bring together 40 years of heritage into one design—a car that was an exclamation mark for every Ferrari that had come before it. This was to be Enzo’s final Ferrari, and creature-comforts were few because this car bled the very DNA of what Ferrari had always been about—pure driving exhilaration packed into a beautiful, racing-red design that captured the essence of speed.

The Ferrari F40—Designed with Emotion

So what makes the Ferrari F40 the car that, today, still retains its position on any list of greatest supercars ever made?

Let’s start with the basics: no ABS, no power-assisted brakes, no traction control, no power steering (rack-and-pinion), no door-handles (you use a wire), plastic windows, red cloth-covered sports seats, felt-covered dashboard, no electric windows, drilled aluminium foot pedals, suspension with tubular A-arms and coil-springs, Koni shocks, and anti-roll bars, adjustable ride height (lowering itself on the way to a top speed of 324kmh) and, if you asked nicely, Ferrari would even throw in a racing gearbox—a 5-speed non-synchromesh.

Composite materials to cut down on weight meant there were only eleven pieces for its body panels, and it featured a fully-removable rear-section to allow access to the engine. And not just an engine … a mid-mounted 2.9-litre turbocharged V8 pushing 480hp at 7,000 RPM in a car weighing just 1,100kgs.

What did that mean in real numbers? How about 0-100 in less than 4 seconds? In 1987…

The design, meanwhile, was again by Fioravanti at Pininfarina, and that design did something intangible … it took the ethos of the 1980s, all the excess, all the optimism, all the bounty, and molded it around a chassis to create something that just defined its era. And then they added that epically integrated full-width wing …

“With no power steering, power brakes or electronic devices,” recalled Dario Benuzzi in Forbes, “[the F40] demands the skill and commitment of the driver, but generously repays it with a unique driving experience. Steering precision, road holding, braking power, and intensity of acceleration reached unmatched levels for a road car.”

Unmatched—a car that was made to be driven, to be tamed—and a car that demanded a driver of the highest caliber.

When Enzo Ferrari died, in August of 1988, just over a year after launch, the F40 became a scorching commodity. Despite Ferrari not announcing the final production number to avert the crazed antics that had welcomed the GTO 288, the F40 was selling from customer-to-customer at astonishing prices, fetching over a million dollars per car (sticker price was around $200,000). Ferrari kept building them all the way to 1992, for a final production run of 1,311 units. And all, of course, came in every color the customer wanted—as long as that color happened to be Ferrari red.

The F40 remains—for purists—the last “true” supercar. Or as Jalopnik has it, “The F40 was the last gasp of the analogue, ‘80s turbo era.” It was also Enzo’s final request from his team—a car that will forever point to Enzo’s unique vision.

 Lead Vehicle Artist Casey Ringley gets under the skin of the Ferrari F40 in Project CARS 2

There is a mountain of good reference material available for the Ferrari F40—detailed owners and workshop manuals, independent tests, and measurements from private-owner cars, as well as “FerrariChat” discussions and so on—all of this made putting together an accurate model quite a straightforward process. Being one of the best-known and most popular road cars of all time worked very much in our favor for sure.

The engine here is the street-tuned version of the same 2.94L twin-turbo V8 as we have in the F40 LM. It was one of the first turbocharged engines to use ECU management of boost pressure to shape the torque curve; spiking boost pressure to the peak 22psi at mid-range rpm range and then bleeding some off at high rpm for smooth torque delivery up to the power peak.

Quoted at 480hp@7000rpm, those numbers were generally considered to be quite underrated at the time, and most tests I’ve seen have cars producing nearly that number at the wheels. What’s probably the case is that boost bleed-off wasn’t really active in test cars and owners easily tuned around it to hold near the maximum boost pressure right up through the full rpm range for just north of 500hp total. Ours defaults to that setup at 100% boost and the ‘official’ boost curve for 480hp at 75 percent boost.

Gearbox uses the Euro-spec ratios with 2.727:1 final drive ratio for hitting the 200mph top speed. Differential is a clutch & ramp type with default set to only around 25 percent lock in both directions (four clutches + 50° ramps); the car has so much rear tyre (335/35R17!) that it doesn’t need a great deal of differential lock to handle the power, and too much can shift the car into power-understeer since there is so much grip at the back from the 335s.

Double-wishbone suspension is largely a carryover from the F40 LM in-game, and is built from detailed, dimensioned blueprints of the chassis, with adjustments for the road car ride height. Funny enough, the road car’s suspension could be adjusted for ride height and track use but it required unbolting the whole thing and moving each suspension arm to a different set of attachment points. Ferrari were happy to let you adjust the car, but don’t screw around with the roll center design.

F40 owners have measured their own cars with spring rates at 480lb/in (83N/mm) front and 325lb/in (57N/mm) rear, which gives the factory setup a 12 percent stiffness bias to the front for a nice, stable, GT-race car kind of setup.

Brakes were derived from Group C racing parts and the aerodynamics produce some useful downforce to keep the car stable at high-speed. Real car had no driver aids, not even power brakes and steering. It really was a racing car for the road.

Overall, it’s surprising how easy and predictable the F40 is to drive. You’d expect the wildest, fastest supercar of the late-1980s to be a handful that requires constant attention to turn fast laps. But the 480-500hp isn’t really all that much by modern standards, and the general balance of the car was designed for both stability and to inspire confidence.

Some old magazine tests of the car mention how it “edges into a nice, modest, deliberate understeer” (Autocar Magazine) and that comes across in our model too. Push the car too hard and it smoothly informs you about it without upsetting the chassis; a little trail braking or throttle lift is usually enough to pull the front end into the apex and then you are met with just the right amount of power oversteer on corner exit as the turbo boost comes on.

It really feels like the car is working with you, and it pays off; I’m running the F40 around Fiorano within one second of my Ferrari 458 Speciale times despite a 100hp deficit.

Handling QA Lead Jussi Karjalainen’s Default Setup Notes on the Project CARS 2 Ferrari F40                

The F40 is an interesting car to drive, with some clear foibles to it that would be done differently today. The insane power output (for the day) made them put really wide rear tyres on it, especially compared to the fronts, which on modern rubber, like we primarily simulate, makes it feel like it has a surplus of grip at the rear end and less at the front end.

The turbo lag is equally humongous by today’s standards, and the gearing has big gaps to it (second gear pulls all the way to 150 km/h, whereas third gear in the 458 SA pulls to a bit over 130 km/h), which makes efficient power usage a bit tricky. On controller, this leads to some issues with getting the car to turn well at certain speeds, when the long gearing gaps prevent good engine braking. It’s an interesting experience driving this car, very much of its time period, and definitely a capable machine.

 

The Project CARS 2 Season Pass offers all four DLCs plus the Motorsport Bonus Pack, all at a discounted price.

The Ferrari Essentials Pack is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and (PC Steam).

Project CARS 2 - Ferrari Essentials Pack DCL

*The Pista di Fiorano is a Ferrari-only track, both in real-life and, of course, in Project CARS 2.

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