My head is bouncing from one side of the seat bolstering to the other with such ferocity that I’m regretting my lack of recent gym activity. My neck muscles are suffering. Add in the spine-wrenching acceleration and gravity-slamming brake force, and I’m exhausted after just one lap. And since this is only the warm-up lap, we’ve been taking it gently…
Welcome to the utterly visceral experience that is the Ferrari FXX K, one of the highly focused track-only cars in Ferrari’s exclusive XX programme. I’ve accepted a generous invitation from FXX K owner, James Weiland, to sample (from the passenger seat) just what this amazing machine can do. And there’s nowhere better to do it than Spa-Francorchamps, the very track around which Formula 1 cars will be circulating later this year. This corkscrew of tarmac – hilly, winding and an ultra-fast – is unique.
The exertion required to tackle Spa is clear in James’s voice over his helmet microphone as he talks me through our next lap – the fast one. “OK we’re barrelling into La Source at the start of the lap, right into the kerb and out on to the straight. Through third gear, fourth, fifth and sixth, and we’re into Eau Rouge. This corner is crazy, insane – everything people say it is. Brake just a little before the hill, feed the throttle in as you rise up and hang on like you’re on a rollercoaster. This morning, I was sliding up here in my Challenge racer…” Safely through Eau Rouge, we’re now catapulting away on the fastest section of the circuit, the Kemmel straight, where the V12 engine is barking at full volume. I clock the speedometer exceeding 290km/h (180mph).
“I’ve been quicker,” says James wryly. “At Daytona, I’ve been up to 320km/h (200mph).” A series of quick turns and a tight hairpin lead you down the hill to what James describes as, “Maybe the best corner at Spa, the double-left of Pouhon. It’s super challenging. It ranks right up there with Eau Rouge and Blanchimont.” Speaking of which, the sweeping double-left of Blanchimont is upon us in the blink of an eye.
You can take this corner pretty much flat-out, at what feels like insane g-forces and scarcely believable grip from the tyres. Then we fire off again towards the final chicane and the end of the lap. “This car is amazing,” says James. “It’s at the top of the tree. The FXX K has 1050hp, more than double the horsepower of my Challenge racer. The power is so surprising every time you drive it.
You can dial in the amount of hybrid energy you use; we’re on ‘Q’ for qualifying, so it’s very fast. You can adjust the traction control, too. The FXX K is so well balanced front to rear. It’s very tossable, it does exactly what you expect it will do.” James sums up my feelings precisely as he concludes: “This is a bad-ass fast track and this is the right car to be hauling around here. You must have respect for Spa but you have to push in order to be quick here. We’re going for lap time.” And what sort of time are we talking? 2min 26.5sec is the answer. That’s about the same pace as James’s Challenge car – and that’s a pure racing car. Almost unbelievably, there’s the prospect of even more pace. James has his name down for Ferrari’s new FXX K Evo upgrade. “If they can ratchet it up another level, how can you not try that?”