It was truly heartening to spend the day recently at Blyton Park with the owner of a Ferrari F430 Spyder who had gone to great lengths to track down his perfect car. Nothing unusual there, I know you’re thinking. Most people in the market for a Ferrari don’t just buy the first car they see, they take their time, have cars inspected and study the market. But this car and owner combination was unusual. In the age of the paddle shift gearbox, I was very pleased to hear that The Owner had specifically tracked down a Ferrari F430 with a manual gearbox.
That Clarkson coined term ‘Flappy Paddles’ sets my teeth on edge and while there’s no denying that in the quest for lap times, the modern twin-clutch gearshift in the Ferrari 458 Italia is a remarkable mechanism, it’s easy to forget that, in my view, 50% of the pleasure of driving a Ferrari is the tactile gearshift action. I’ve been fortunate enough to be trusted with the keys to the iconic 288GTO and to this day, it remains a drive a recall over a glass of wine for many years to come. Sadly, I fear that as the Play Station generation advances, I’m in a minority.
However, this F430′s owner had previously owned a 360 Modena, with that most leisurely of paddle shifts. That was enough for him and the manual car was the target. So on our day at Blyton, for me there was an absolutely essential skill to be embedded, the heel toe gearshift. What could be better? A convertible Ferrari, a sporty V8 with a lightweight flywheel, a metallic ‘clack’ from each gearshift and a set of perfectly placed pedals to pivot the ball of your foot on.
It didn’t take long and soon we were lapping with the appropriate blips, clacks and accompanying satisfaction that perfecting the skill always brings. There only remains one thing to be rectified for next time. I need to discuss with Richard the possibility of installing a stone tunnel at the end of the main straight, just to get the full on effect.
The manual Ferrari is sadly gone from the current options list. Up there with vinyl records and valve amps, it cannot be described. You either get it, or you don’t.