Ferrari WEC racers Toni Vilander and Miguel Molina take Maranello's most powerful road-legal V12s for a spin in arid west Texas
The photographer signals for the two Ferrari 812 Superfast to swap places as they speed across the desert. The vehicles take turns overtaking each other, putting on a show for the cameras. In a little slice of the West Texas desert, one that looks like it was lifted straight from a Hollywood Western, the cars – one Giallo Modena, the other Rosso Corsa, each boasting more than 780 horsepower - dominate the scenery.
Luckily the drivers, Toni Vilander and Miguel Molina, know how to control all that power. Ferrari factory racing drivers competing in the finest offerings from Ferrari Competizioni GT, the 488 GTE and 488 GT3, these two piloti are accustomed to driving just inches from other cars at high speeds whilst testing the limits of performance on tracks around world.
Together Vilander and Molina won the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge SprintX championship. Individually, Vilander won the overall PWC GT title for R. Ferri Motorsport, whilst Molina notched a couple of wins in the European Le Mans Series in 2018. In the GTE Pro category, Vilander’s trophy cabinet also boasts a pair of 24 Hours of Le Mans victories in recent years. Today, though, there is no pressure to perform.
Their job is to follow the photographer’s directions as they enjoy driving the most powerful road-legal V12 Ferrari have ever built. But for drivers who are so used to the cockpit of a highly capable racing Ferrari designed to produce ultimate lap times, what enjoyment is there to be had in a road car? “The power,” says Vilander. “I wish I had this much power in the race car. It’s a beast when you go full throttle. The power is just so raw. It squeezes you to the seat.
On the race car, we need to follow certain rules. We need to adapt the power of the car, the torque of the engine, the turbo to all those rules.” But on the road car, aside from safety and emissions regulations, there are no rules. Thus Ferrari was able to re-engineer its V12 to produce that 780hp and put it in a two-seat GT that remains manageable on the road. “Ferrari builds a great compromise between a road car and race car, a car to drive on a normal road or to drive on the track,” explains Molina.
“You have the different engine maps, the different tools to play with in the car, different modes on the traction control. I think this is one of the strongest points of a Ferrari – you have a really nice car on the road and amazing performance on the track. “The power is really controllable, so you can modulate it quite well with the throttle,” the Spaniard continues. “The power is so smooth and that’s good for people that are not used to having this much power. It’s so easy to handle it, and that makes it fun.”
Vilander remarks how Finnish roads would also be a great place to take the 812 Superfast, especially in winter. He might, he says, even want to try it on a frozen lake. This desert environment - the narrow road in the mountainous Chihuahuan desert outside El Paso where the cars are being driven today - however, is a good reflection of the character of the car he’s spent the last several hours driving: quiet, calm, but with some sharp edges and a degree of hidden ferocity that can be brought out if and when the driver so desires. “I like the fact that it rides well on a normal street. But then whatever happens after that...” he says, a wry grin creeping across his face as he considers the possibilities. “...It’s cool. It’s a Ferrari.”