I squeeze my way through the crowds. Ferrari is a constant draw at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and in the Supercar Paddock, you often struggle to see the cars for all the people. But I have an appointment to keep, so I need to get to the front. I give my name, the rope is lifted, and I’m through, to within touching distance of the Ferrari display. I’m the lucky person who’s riding up the hill in the Ferrari 812 Superfast.
The 800hp super-GT that sets new benchmarks for the legendary V12 engine from Maranello. It’s the most powerful normally aspirated engine the world has ever seen. And I’m going to experience its full fury in front of the Goodwood crowds.
Rob Barff is the driver who will unleash the 812 Superfast onto the famed Goodwood course. He is an experienced GT and LMP racer. “You’re going to enjoy this!” he says to me. He smiles: “Almost as much as I will..!” Ferrari team jacket zipped tight, I grab my helmet and walk over to the bright yellow Superfast. Helmet on, I climb in, buckle up the harness and excitedly sit and wait for Rob to do the same. “Ready?” he says, then fires up the V12. It explodes into life with a howl.
The crowd turns and looks on, expectantly. Rob twists the Manettino dial and obliges: he floors the accelerator, the engine howls, the rear wheels spin, and we make the most dramatic drift forwards to the Goodwood start line. “Your choice,” says Rob: “Launch control speed or tyre-smoking drama?” I choose the former. I want my run in the Superfast to be as fast as possible. We creep up to the line, wait for the signal: when we get it, Rob reacts instantly, and we’re away, hurtling up the Goodwood hillclimb at a furious pace. The acceleration is incredible. My stomach feels as if it’s been left back at the start line.
Rob blasts towards the first corner and doesn’t brake until we’re almost upon it – just seconds into the run and it’s already terrifyingly fantastic. I asked for speed, and he’s delivering, by piloting the 812 Superfast with pin-point precision. The V12 engine sounds glorious and grip from the tyres is never-ending, as Rob demonstrates total commitment behind the wheel. I catch myself on the video screen at the side of the Goodwood course: the cameras can barely keep up and the crowds have gathered to watch the spectacle. I look back to the course and see the infamous flint wall pass just millimetres from us: this is a precision driving masterclass from Rob.
And then, up ahead, I see the finish line. We accelerate towards it at maximum speed, the flag waves, and finally the 812 can catch its breath. Me too. My hands are shaking, my eyes are wide open and I can barely speak. “How was that?” says Rob as we drive into the finish line paddock. “Amazing,” I gasp. “Simply amazing… thank you!” Rob smiles again. “No need to thank me, I had a ball too. “And I get to do it again tomorrow…”