When the Ferrari UK press office emailed me a few months ago and asked if I was going to the Goodwood Festival of Speed (FOS) and whether I’d like a passenger ride up the hill there was only ever going to be one answer.
As the FOS weekend drew near, I started to wonder which Ferrari I’d get to go in. After a little more thought I figured that it probably didn’t really matter, whatever if was it would be a Ferrari and, let’s face it, they don’t have any duds in their line up. Aside from the race-bred FXX-series and the one off customer specials also on show, it would be a choice of Portofino, GTC4 Lusso, 812 Superfast or 488 Pista.
Now I think any petrolhead, given free choice, would probably go for the Pista which was specified in a striking yellow with black racing stripes, or even the 812 in red with its long bonnet and powerful stance. On a hot sunny day, which it was, the white drop top Portofino could also appeal. But who would choose a black four-seat shooting brake?
The 6.3 litre, V12-powered, four wheel drive GTC4 Lusso, successor to the game-changing FF, was my allocated ride up the hill climb. Would I be disappointed that it wouldn’t be sufficiently sporty or seem Ferrari-enough?
I signed a next-of-kin form, was handed a balaclava and Stilo helmet (in Ferrari red of course) and was introduced to my driver, Ray Grimes. I was then told of how Ray liked the Lusso and its all wheel drive because he could cut the first corner and go across the grass. Sensing my unease at this, Ray started chatting about his history which assured me that he was a very experienced professional racing driver and instructor so I would be in safe hands.
In actual fact, Ray’s company for the two hours or so before, during and after the run was one of the things that made the experience even more special. He’s a great character and we happily chatted about motorsport, cars, social media influencers and all manner of topics without any awkwardness.
Lining up in the assembly area was an opportunity to look at some of the other entrants in the supercars batch up close. We were alongside an immaculate slate grey Singer-reimagined 911 piloted by endurance racer Marino Franchitti. The attention to detail on this car was breath-taking, from the laminated and turned wooden gear knob and woven leather trim to the polished mechanicals and quilt-lined engine bay.
Back in the car and moving onto the estate road which forms the Hillclimb course, Ray gave the Lusso a bit of throttle-brake, throttle-brake to get some heat into the discs. With the additional weight of the helmet, I felt something of what an F1 driver must feel as they brake hard into a hairpin. At the turning circle, rather than be conventional and use the Lusso’s four-wheel steering, Ray span up all four tyres to perform a kind of skating 180 degree U-turn which was delivered with a glorious V12 scream.
The driver of the Portofino ahead of us was a non-professional, someone high up in Fiat Chrysler, so we were held just short of the yard of bricks until he’d cleared the finish line. Ray explained that the final few bends of the course were blind and the last thing you wanted to do was commit and find another car suddenly attached to your front bumper round the corner.
The start-line marshal stepped back and with the slightest beckoning gesture from his fingers we were off. The stated 0-62 mph time for the Lusso is 3.4 seconds and this was probably about as long as it took for me to return to my senses from the take-off. Before I knew it Ray was lifting off slightly and leaning in for the first double right-hander and then back on the power for Park Straight.
Far from being just an opportunity to show their supercars to the crowd, Ferrari and the other manufacturers want to demonstrate the performance and all the pro drivers do their best to oblige. The straight, being quite wide and open, didn’t feel especially fast but we were nudging towards 150 mph as Ray approached the infamous Molecomb corner. This 90 degree left-hander has seen the most accidents over the years due to its awkward bumps and dips on the way in which means the driver must brake before they can even see the corner. The post marshals here are quite often called upon to rebuild the five rows of hay bales ready to catch a gung-ho Molecomb debutant.
No such ignominy for us as Ray is an old hand. We are out of the corner and a short blast later the track is narrowing as we come up to the Flint Wall. As race track feature naming goes, this one is perhaps the most straight forward. It is literally a flint stone wall that looks like it is blocking your way up through the darkness of a copse of trees. As you get closer, you see that the road jinks sharply right, then straight again following the curve of the wall. Ray shaves the bales on his side of the car as we enter and then the door mirror my side narrowly avoids sparking off the flint apex.
Still pushing, there are a few more bends on an ever-narrowing track before we summit, cross the finish line and coast into the top collecting area. Although the supercar batch isn’t officially timed, you can tell from the in car camera footage that we’d covered the 1.16 mile course in about 58 seconds, that’s an average speed of over 70 mph on what is essentially the Duke of Richmond’s driveway.
After a short break while the remaining supercars completed their runs and the official course cars followed up, we headed back down the hill at a much less aggressive pace. With helmets off and windows down we waved to the marshals and crowds now showing their appreciation for both the cars and their drivers.
Back in the supercar paddock I thanked Ray and the Ferrari team for the privilege of this great experience and reflected on my brief taste of what the GTC4 Lusso can do and also on whether it deserves its place in the garage alongside the more archetypal Ferraris.
Was I disappointed? No, not in the slightest. Was it enough of a Ferrari? Yes, and then some. Given a choice, would I opt to take one out instead of an 812 Superfast or a 488 Pista? Do you know, I think I might. The versatility of the GTC4 Lusso covers a lot of use cases and it leaves me wanting to explore its capability further. Watch this space…
Stewart Longhurst is a contributor from Sports & GT find more at https://twitter.com/SportsandGT