By Dave Abrahams
Maranello, Italy - Imagine if the Ferrari competition department was allowed free rein to build a special, hardcore performance version of the F12berlinetta.
Imagine no more; it's called the F12tdf, it's as hardcore as you can get in a (barely) street-legal car and just 799 examples will be built, for 'gentleman racers' who are just as home at a track day as they are racing trains across Europe.
tdf stands for Tour de France; not the bicycle race, but an annual long-distance sports-car race that was run on public roads in France from 1899 until as late as 1986, and was dominated by Ferraris during the 1950s and '60s.
And you thought the Cannonball Run was crazy.
The heart of the new tdf is a tweaked version of the F12berlinetta's naturally aspirated 6262cc V12 with race-spec mechanical tappets and variable-geometry intake trumpets derived from Formula One. It delivers 574kW (up from 545) at 8500rpm, and 705Nm (up from 690) at 6750rpm, with more than 550Nm on tap from 2500rpm all the way to the red-line at 8900 rpm.
That gets laid down at the rear wheels by way of a special version of the F12berlinetta's dual-clutch gearbox with six percent shorter ratios to amp up acceleration, and 30 percent faster gearshifts.
‘GENTLEMAN’S RACING CAR’
But it takes more than straight-line muscle to make a gentleman's racing car; the tdf has phenomenally quick turn-in, thanks to a wider track than the berlinetta and rear tyres eight percent larger in rolling diameter than the fronts - 315/35 versus 275/35, on 20 inch rims all round.
Normally, that would be a recipe for terminal oversteer, but the tdf compensates with a new rear-wheel steering system called Virtual Short Wheelbase, integrated with the electronic driver aids to provide race-car steering response with Gran Turismo high-speed stability.
That's helped by an aerodynamic redesign so radical that the tdf is practically a new model, with 87 percent more downforce than the berlinetta - up to 230kg at 200km/h. The rear wing alone is 60mm longer and 30mm higher than on the parent model.
One-piece Extreme Design brake callipers, borrowed from the LaFerrari, haul the tdf down from 100km/h to a standstill in 30.5 metres and from 200 in 121 metres. Hold on to your lunch, sports fans - that's negative acceleration of 1.3g.
Then the Ferrari Weight Police went through the car like an income-tax audit, shaving grams wherever they could and exchanging metal and plastic for carbon fibre, knocking 110kg off the kerb weight of the berlinetta to roll the tdf out of the workshop at just 1410kg.
The instrument binnacle and satellite pod are made of the light stuff, as are the one-piece door panels; the cabin is trimmed (where it's trimmed at all) in alcantara synthetic suede rather than leather, and the seats are upholstered with special lightweight fabric. The glove compartment has been replaced by a simple knee-pad, and the carpeted steel floor panels by bare aluminium chequer-plate.
The claimed results are impressive: 0-100 in 2.9 seconds, 0-200 in 7.9 seconds, and more than 340km/h flat out. Perhaps even more impressive in real-world terms, however, is that it laps the notoriously tight and difficult Fiorano test circuit in 1m21s, just 1.3s slower than Raffaele de Simone's all-time record for a street-legal car of 1m19.7, set earlier this year in a LaFerrari.