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Novitec Rosso F430 Race - Horsing Around

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Speed has different connotations in different machines. In a Honda Accord, 200 kph means a front end that’s just about finding grip, while the rear has started to sing like a canary. In an airplane, the same speed delivers a body blow to your hindside, the Michelins struggling hard to bring the 100-tonne plus metal bird to a halt, or lift-off to cruising altitude. On a German ICE train, you barely feel the rails and is so well damped that the only indication of 200 kph is the digital signage above the cabin door. But in a Ferrari, 200 kph means opening the door to 300 kph. And some more. Now what if that 200 kph came in just 10.5 seconds. And what if it’s not an Enzo and can out-accelerate an Enzo in a drag!

You can see that video on YouTube and no, it’s not the FXX. Instead try putting in the words ‘Novitec Rosso’ in the search field and you will be surprised to see a hopped-up F430 whupping the Enzo’s rear all the way to the finish line. Novitec, if you ask, is a German tuning firm that specialises in everything from the Fiat group. In a country where every other tuner is trying to set landspeed records at Nardo or at the Nurburgring tuning Porkers, BeeEms, Audis and Mercs, Novitec walked the other way. And it’s paid dividends. Started two decades ago by Wolfgang Hagedorn, it began by taking the humble Fiat Uno, plonking in a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol producing around 200 bhp and made everyone in their Porsche 968s hit the right indicator on the autobahn when it squared up behind them. They’ve grown in this time and now have Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and of course Ferrari, in their list. In fact, Novitec is so special that they are the only company to tune F430s to produce northwards of 600 bhp.

When a casual conversation popped up with Racetec – their distributors in India – about a drive in Germany, they softly murmured about a 707 bhp supercharged F430. The phone nearly slipped out of my hands when an F1 car-worth power was uttered and it warranted taking that train from Frankfurt to Stetten, a small town in south Germany, a couple of days later. The F430 Race, as they call it, was a long time in the making. Novitec Rosso, Novitec’s Ferrari division have been working on the twin supercharged F430 for the last couple of years, finding ways to maximise the output through various engine and aerodynamic tweaks. Sparing no effort, Novitec Rosso exposed the car to one of the few wind tunnels in the world that has a rolling dyno to test the aerodynamic efficiency of full-size cars at max performance levels. The tests were carried out at a simulated velocity of 140 kph and each and every part was then tuned accordingly to either increase/reduce lift or downforce. So, that body kit you see is not just to look pretty!   So does the engine. It’s the most civilised beast, this side of an European truck racing champ. You might wonder why they didn’t opt for the general technique of placing twin turbochargers, but that would have meant lowering the compression ratio and opening the engine, an option they didn’t want to exercise. And of course, who better to ask about supercharging than the Germans, who’ve probably even supercharged their coffee vending machines to prepare ‘blow’presso.  On that count, the spec sheet reads like a veritable nightmare for the Enzo. The 707 bhp of peak power is as capable of freezing your toes as is the point at which it produces – 8350 rpm. Astonishingly, all that horsepower hasn’t dumbed down the torque figure either, the twin Rotrexs’ helping spool out a staggering 72 kgm of peak torque twisting and turning the drive axles.
 
Until now, the bi-compressor F430 produced 656 bhp of peak power, but the additional power on the Race was extracted by modifying the turbine vanes and an increased boost pressure of 0.48 bar. Other changes include larger intercoolers with their own water supply, new heat-insulated intakes with larger ports, larger injection nozzles, huff... the list sounds endless. Interestingly, they’ve also added a new stainless steel exhaust system with electronically adjustable flaps and what they really do requires you to read this article till the end. Visually, the Race has few features to distinguish itself from the regular F430. So it gets a triple pinstripe running from the bonnet to the boot, exhaust tips re-positioned to fry your knees instead of your ankles, a body kit with skirts and diffusers and everything else that makes it look like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The fact that it’s faster than the standard F430 has so few visual indicators that it’s designed to leave you wondering which comet hit you as it blows past you. And of course the fact that it has twin blowers behind those headrests ensures there’s not much indication by audio signals either. But to get to that stretch of autobahn you need to get of your driveway and as anyone with a supercar will tell you, it is the most painful process. Most often than not, the first thing that most resellers check on used supercars are the underside for scrapes. And to ensure that the reseller of an F430 Race never needs to give you a visual treat of his hanging paunch, Novitec Rosso have fitted dual KW height adjustable coil over front suspension. It increases the ground clearance by 35 mm by a flick of a button on the key, enough to get over road extrusions and get going.   

To get going, twist the key and fire the engine start button on the steering. It starts with a loud shriek and then settles to a burble, like any ordinary V8. Thankfully, there’s no start sequence like one gets to see with hyper-tuned cars, bringing another facet of the car’s inherent day-to-day usability. As I drove out of the facility and on to south Germany’s country roads, the flexibility of the motor just shone through. Slow speed calmness is akin to a Porsche 911, and for once, that slightly balky gearbox that plays party-pooper in the standard F430 on downshifts, loses all its high-handedness. In town, I opt for the standard drive mode, since the exhaust flaps stay shut, and it doesn’t attract too much attention.

But as we leave Stetten, a flick of the Manettino to Sport and the baffles open up – the result is not very different than a hundred-odd musicians going to the highest pitch at the flick of the conductor’s stick. It’s a growl that accompanies the hardest bite of the Pirelli P-Zeros of the tarmac one would ever get to experience. Do that from a standing start and the car will leave the likes of not just the Enzo, but the Porsche Carrera GT, Mercedes McLaren SLR and their ilk in its stainless steel exhaust’s wake. The car pulls like a manic horse that was jabbed with the longest needle known to veterinarians. At 3.5 seconds dead, it will cross 100 kph, and had you forgotten to lower the suspension, fear not, because at 80 kph it would have done it all by itself. It continues to cover ground with such rapidity that by the time a Mercedes C63 AMG would have hit 160 kph, the needle on the Ferrari would have crossed 200 kph and continued to pull harder. With the optional taller gearing, the car just kept accelerating with such rapidity that everything around it appeared like they had been stuck in a time warp. I kept at it even past 200 kph, the only time I realised that I was doing serious pace was when at
240 kph, the steering started to make minor corrections, not realising that I was on a slightly bumpy, empty stretch of road and if the German Polizei were around the corner, I would be deported back to India on the next available flight!   So on the next corner I slowed down to more sane speeds, but the corner itself was a prelude to a series of crests and dips. A fantastic opportunity to experience the car’s grip levels and turn-in abilities. It never wavered, relishing the set of twisties like it was the car’s last ever meal. The coilovers not only have helped eliminate issues of ground clearance, it has also helped dial-in more fluidity in the way the car attacks corners. As I pushed the car harder and harder over the crests, the suspension travel was just perfect, never threatening to send shockwaves through the monocoque post lift-off. Not only have Novitec managed to improve overall body-control, they’ve also managed to dial-in more feel through the steering by making minor changes to the rack. Even on Germany’s narrow B-roads where mirror slapping is easy, there is a genuinely poised appeal that very few low-slung, wide supercars will ever exhibit. Unfortunately, I had no opportunity to test the car’s high-speed poise at 300+ kph speed, or its 348 kph top speed – the autobahns were clogged with football fans heading south to Switzerland for the first of the Euro 2008 matches. Even then, the car looks at corners like a toffee that simply needs to be unwrapped and swallowed, and it does that unflinchingly.

All of this action is available at a price so nominal that it makes an Enzo or a 599 GTB appear like highway robbery. If you already own an F430 and want the full 707 treatment, it costs you about Rs 40 lakh. To put this in perspective, a brand new F430 at Rs 2.2 crore (landed) plus the 707 package is cheaper than a brand new 599 GTB at Rs 3 crore or an Enzo that trades today at upwards of Rs 6 crore. And that too for a used example! And it can be even cheaper if you decide to source the car from Novitec Rosso, because an F430 sourced through a Ferrari dealer would take at least nine months to reach your doorstep, while Novitec Rosso will source a car straight from the factory, spend a month doing it up and give you the keys in two months or less. With full warranty not only on its parts but on the entire car!

On the face of it, it sounds like a great investment if you want to own a hyper Ferrari. Because not only do you not have to live with the fear of low ground clearance, back-biting handling and a top speed that ‘only’ nudges 300 kph, you also get an F430 that as an overall package is better to drive and engineered than the factory example. Because at 200 kph you don’t want to be thinking about your pending electricity bill. Or worry about your business presentation next week. At 200 kph you want the sights and sounds to drown you out from the mundane. At 200 kph, you want to make a statement and have people voluntarily make way for you. In a Ferrari it happens automatically, and in a Novitec Rosso fettled one, it happens just a little more rapidly. BSM We’d like to thank Dirk and Wolfgang at Novitec Rosso for the drive. We’d also like to thank Racetec, Bangalore for arranging it. They can be contacted at 0 97411 11194

WORKSHOP

What you see in the picture below is the very same Fiat Uno that created Novitec. Yes, it’s a bare-basic shell, since it was crashed by its erstwhile owner and Novitec decided to buy it back to bring it to its original spec. But that’s one of the cars Novitec’s working on. Behind the large showroom, where the F430 Race, a 599 GTB and a partially complete Yellow Scuderia welcome you, is Novitec’s large workshop facility. Every car that Novitec builds is put together here, but nearly all the parts are fabricated and manufactured elsewhere. So the wheels come from Fondmetal, the superchargers from Rotrex, brakes from Brembo, tyres from Pirelli and so forth. In all of its tieups, Novitec owns a stake in them to ensure everything that goes on in its cars stays unique. So, while the 20-man operation put things together, the four-wheel dyno ensures that their work achieves whatever they set out to do. In fact, as Dirk Moersdorf, the sales head pointed out to me, the intake system for the dyno is as expensive as the dyno itself! Just paces away from the dyno are rather strange looking solar panels with a circular glass enclosing below. The company in fact owns these panels that pretty much power the entire village of Stetten and once they’ve done beautifying the surroundings, the glass enclosures will house nearly a dozen Ferraris for customers to check out. Of course that will happen during winter when customers park their cars at Novitec, while Novitec Rosso spends the summer in developing new bits. Right now, Novitec Rosso has just about finished working on a supercharger pack for the F430 Scuderia. Then, when the first of the Californias hit the roads after the Paris Motor Show in September, Novitec Rosso will get down to working on their own performance pack, which we’ll get to see at next year’s Frankfurt Motor Show. And before that, there’s a harder, faster 599 GTB with the same twin supercharger treatment. Gulp!