Top Gear

Why we’ll never see a “true” LaFerrari lap time

Last Sunday on Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson explained in detail just how difficult it has been to get McLaren and Ferrari to agree to having their latest hypercars taken for a lap around the Top Gear Test Track in the hands of the Stig. In comparison, Porsche agreed to the test from the get-go and are ready to supply a 918 at any time – showing just how confident they are with the car’s abilities. In Jeremy’s words, Ferrari might be warming to the idea of having LaFerrari power lapped, but there’s another side to this story that Jeremy wouldn’t dare mention – and is the true reason why I think we’ll never, ever have a clear answer as to which car is fastest.

A few years ago, automotive journalist Chris Harris wrote an exposé article about his past experiences dealing with Ferrari. When he was due to road test Ferrari’s new 599 GTB for Autocar magazine for example, Ferrari wanted to know which test track he’d be using for part of the test. He asked a fellow Autocar staffer “Why would they want to know that?”. The answer he received troubled him…

“Because, the factory now has to send a test team to the circuit we chose so that they can optimize the car to get the best performance from it.”


In his words, Ferrari promptly went to the track, tested the car for a day, crashed it, went back to the factory to repair the car, returned, tested some more and then invited him over to drive this “standard” 599. You’d be crazy to think the results would be anything but untruthful.

Exactly how bad is it though? Well, Chris also recalled the time when he was part of a test conducted by another english car magazine on the Ferrari 430 Scuderia. Part of that test involved a dyno session, where the car’s “standard” tyres promptly stuck themselves to the rollers. That’s some seriously sticky rubber.


Chris also recalls a time when he tested a 360 Modena press car that was two seconds faster to 100mph than a customer car he also tested. Sure you’d allow some leeway for a “factory fresh” car which may not be producing the same peak power as one that has “loosened up”, but in his words the press car was “ludicrously quick and sounded more like Schumacher’s weekend wheels than a street car”.

“Ferrari will never admit that its press cars are tuned, but has the gall to turn up at any of the big European magazines’ end-of-year-shindig-tests with two cars. One for straight line work, the other for handling exercises. Because that’s what happens when you buy a 458: they deliver two for just those eventualities. The whole thing stinks. In any other industry it wouldn’t be allowed to happen. It’s dishonest, but all the mags take it between the cheeks because they’re too scared of not being invited to drive the next new Ferrari.” – Chris Harris, 2011

Like any journalist with a brain, Chris was willing to cut Ferrari some slack because it is Ferrari we’re talking about here – the most famous fast car brand of all and the maker of cars that everyone wants to know about. By speaking out about Ferrari’s dodgy practices, his chances of testing any of their future vehicles was immediately in doubt. “The simple message from Ferrari is that unless you play exactly by the laws they lay down, you’re off the list.”


What are those laws? Apart from the laughable track test stuff, as a journalist you are expressly forbidden from driving any current Ferrari road car without permission from the factory. So if you want to drive a mate’s 458 tomorrow, you’d have to ask the factory. Will they allow you to drive the car? No, because it is of “unknown provenance”. Questions remain about what happens if said journalist purchased a Ferrari themselves, like James May has on at least two occasions. Do you think he phones Maranello every Sunday morning to ask if it’s okay to take his 458 down to the shops?

So with all that in mind, if we ever see LaFerrari sitting on the start line of the Top Gear test track with the Stig behind the wheel, imagine what rules Top Gear must have agreed to simply to make that happen? And if it laps faster than the McLaren P1 / Porsche 918 and goes straight to the top of the Top Gear Power Lap board, would you believe it?

The way I see it, the only way you could achieve a truthful result would be to test three customer cars (eg. supplied by “Bin Laden” from Dubai) without the manufacturer’s knowledge, to ensure none of them have been tampered with or otherwise set up specifically for the track. But this would piss Ferrari off to no end. In addition, Mr Bin Laden would most likely never be able to purchase any special edition Ferrari ever again and Top Gear’s relationship with Ferrari would be severely tarnished.

Or go the other way and let all three manufacturers bring their own support teams and set the cars up to be the very best they can be. But what would be the point of that?

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Estiiiig March 1, 2015 at 2:03 am

Well I don’t see why are we complaining so much. Ferrari has always done things like these and will continue to be an arrogant company but hey it makes some great cars,Chris Harris in fact is on his second ferrari. I think that all three manufacturers should tune their cars for the track and just get on with it. BTW, it has been reported that the RWD pagani which is the fastest currently did it’s lap in some really sticky tyre’s supplied by pagani.

KourushF March 1, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Yes, someone from Pagani, don’t remember who, might have been Mr Pagani himself, admitted that the Huayra did the lap in a set of its race tires, think they’re called Corsa but I still don’t understand why Top Gear won’t announce it. It was an official announcement from Pagani so why not Top Gear? And I find it a shame how Ferrari are so stuck up, there should be international rules set down that they can’t tweak their cars for a test. If Ferrari then refuses to do tests anymore then their sales will plummet and eventually they’ll do proper testing. The only way to see a change happen in my opinion

ajcohen February 28, 2015 at 7:54 pm

I feel like if anyone can get away with pissing off Ferrari, it’s Top Gear. Clarkson has already put a black stamp on Ferrari with last weeks episode. He doesn’t care who he pisses off.

They’ve done this before, remember Albania? The Bentley was a shit box because they wouldn’t provide a car. I foresee if Top Gear gets banned from testing Ferraris, they will just test old crappy Fiats saying they are the new Ferrari.

the guy with no name March 1, 2015 at 9:12 am

There isn’t a difference between an old crappy fiat and a Ferrari though.

the guy with no name February 28, 2015 at 10:53 am

This is why Ferrari will get nowhere. I only thank Ferrari for 1 thing…the existence of Lambo hypercars, because if Enzo Ferrari hadn’t been such a stuck up, self righteous prick and had admitted that there may be a problem with a car he’d built , Lamborghini (the man) wouldn’t have been pissed off and wouldn’t have made his own cars.

What the hell are Ferrari gonna do if a mate drove your car? How are they gonna know that you’ve driven it? Are they gonna come over to your house and take it away?

Also if I owned a LaFerari and had a choice between giving it to TG and never being able to buy another Ferrari or not giving it. I would make a beeline for TG, who cares if I can’t buy another one? Why would I buy another one with customer service like that?

If I can afford a car like that, I’d let TG test it as much as they want, then I’d drive over to Ferrari HQ in Italy and I’d blow the car up with several kilos of C4 right in front of their eyes.

Bottom line is: Ferrari are a bunch of stupid, lying, communistic, crap engineers who manage to seduce dumb people to buy their cars (this is why I’m stumped that May bought 2, he doesn’t strike me as an idiot). They’re like the Call of Duty or Beats headphones of the car world. I don’t blame McLaren for wanting a fair fight.

choo choo March 1, 2015 at 5:32 pm

What you are saying is mostly true, you said it’s like call of duty. Call of duty had a few good ones(uo, 2, 4) but the new ones are really crap and coming out every year. Ferrari had ther moments in the past too.

the guy with no name March 3, 2015 at 8:16 am

Yes, there is a moment when you’re in you prime, but that moment ends sooner or later, and those who are too blind too see it won’t see it.

Anonymous March 10, 2015 at 2:38 am

Ferrari are many things, but they are not crap engineers. Sure, their commander-in-chief was kind of an asswipe, but to my opinion, they make beautiful cars that sound and perform fantastically.

lafars March 11, 2015 at 4:28 pm

mclaren isn’t exactly clean either

remeber what happend when they lost to the 918 on angelsey on the EVO comparison, they delayed the release of the magazine and made the magazine claim they never recorded laptimes only to be faster than the 918

then we have laguna seca (MT), the 918 showed up with 1 set of tyres, the P1 with 2 sets of trofeo R tyres, they still lost though (both cars had technicians)

SigmaFour March 11, 2015 at 5:56 pm

You know as well as I do that the Laguna Seca time was set on the first set of tyres AND it was a customer car. Wanting equal tyres to the 918’s Cup 2s at Anglesey is not the same as cheating either. Seem to recall the P1 won at Anglesey, by 1.3s, on equal tyres. Customers have also managed equal 60-130mph times compared to what Motor Trend managed with the P1 press car and the car weighs close to the claimed weight, unlike customer LaFerraris which weigh about a quarter of a ton more than quoted and have no chance whatsoever of running a 9.6s quarter at 157mph either.

Westview March 12, 2015 at 12:13 am

Porsche came to Laguna Seca and won fair and square. And without cheater tires – unlike P1 which makes the result even more impressive.

SigmaFour March 12, 2015 at 11:14 am

The Trofeo Rs are optional on the McLaren P1 and are therefore in no way cheating. They are a semi-slick tyre like the 918’s highly bespoke Cup 2s and the only Pirelli tyre that can realistically compete against the Cup 2, especially the 918’s highly optimised Cup 2s, which are well above off-the-shelf items in terms of performance.

Westview March 12, 2015 at 2:29 pm

If I spent $1.2 million on a car and was told the stock tires are crap, I would be pretty upset. Lets face it, the P1 required track oriented optional tires to even stay in the same time zone as the 918 on its stock street tires. Well done 918.

SigmaFour March 12, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Dude the stock tyres are not crap, they’re just not as good as Cup 2s in the dry, they are however much better and less dangerous in the wet. When you spend the money you get the option of having Trofeo Rs at zero cost, not that you’d give a damn about tyre costs when you’re spending $1.2m anyway. Frankly, if crap like Cup 2s and Trofeo Rs were banned from public roads as being unsafe in the wet, it would make these tests much simpler to adjudicate. You really think Cup 2s aren’t track orientated? So how come Michelin market them as exactly that? There’s nearly no tread on them whatsoever. Is there a more track orientated Michelin tyre that’s road legal? Nope. Cup 2 is the quickest Michelin tyre and the Trofeo R is the quickest Pirelli tyre, that simple. The P1 won by 1.3s at Anglesey and at Laguna the P1 tested had a glitchy ABS system, which cost it near 2s under braking, just as the 918 previously tested there had a glitchy ECU causing it to top out at 141mph on the straight and run 1.1s slower than in this test. The ABS glitch can be seen in the huge speed delta under braking in MT’s graph. Also of note is the fact that the 918 needed recharging between hot laps in hot lap mode, whereas the P1 put in 15 laps with only 0.3-0.4s delta. On lap 2 the 918 was 1s slower, on lap 3 it was 1.5s slower without recharging. Good luck with that on a track day. So yes, the 918 running at a speed it can only sustain for only 2 minutes lapped 0.8s faster than a P1, with a glitchy ABS running at a speed it can sustain indefinitely. That’ll be really useful on a track day won’t it? I could also mention that the P1 still set the best sector times in every sector but sadly didn’t combine them into one lap… even with the glitchy ABS. The full data is very revealing, the best lap is littered with mistakes, in part generated by the ABS issue and its affect on driver confidence. T3 is a mess, T6 too (apex speed 4.1mph off best), braking too early into T8 and T9…..

Westview March 12, 2015 at 11:59 pm

Wow. 100 reasons why the P1 lost. First it was the tires, now it is the ABS. What next? The wrong windshield wipers? The Porsche on stock tires, which are in no way equal to the Trofeos on the track (see Chris Harris) still beat the P1 handily. Deal with it.

SigmaFour March 13, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Also explain why Chris Harris had Pirelli fit and inflate the Trofeo Rs but the Cup 2s were tested as was and the GT3 ended up 4s slower than a 458 Speciale, whereas it’s been <1s off in every other test. Do you know that the bespoke 918 Cup 2 isn't a standard Cup, or a standard Porsche Cup 2 as per the GT3?

SigmaFour March 12, 2015 at 11:16 am

In addition to the point below there is a rumour that the customer P1 in the MT test had an ABS glitch that cost it 2s.

SigmaFour March 11, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Perhaps you could also explain why the 918 at Laguna Seca was 3-4mph faster on every single straight than the one Motor Trend previously tested, even ignoring the hiccup on the main straight, and why the press 918 at Castelloli made 2mph more than the P1 on the fastest straight, when every instrumented test has the P1 faster in a straight line? And why the 918 pace fell off after the first lap at Laguna Seca, whereas owners state that Hot Lap mode lasts several laps in customer cars.

SigmaFour March 13, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Also explain why Chris Harris had Pirelli fit and inflate the Trofeo Rs but the Cup 2s were tested as was and the GT3 ended up 4s slower than a 458 Speciale, whereas it’s been <1s off in every other test.

ed March 13, 2015 at 1:50 pm

To be fair, MT said they first tested a pre-production 918, that was still in development. The first 918 prototypes had something like 718 hp and the final production model has 887hp.

If you watch the EVO video, they clearly say that McLaren brought ANOTHER P1, with different tires the second time around. Why didn’t they bring the first car back ?

Badger March 13, 2015 at 5:05 pm

Twisting facts slightly there. The very early demonstrators were around that power and RWD going back several years but the 918 MT tested last year was much closer to production spec and supposedly the same as the one they tested at Big Willow, both with allegedly 887hp. The mph difference is not big enough for a 170hp difference but it does explain why a telemetry analyser using Cd, dimensions and weight put the 918 tested at an average power output of 935hp on the straights. Several owners have also mentioned that HL mode shouldn’t run out of charge after 1 lap regardless of driving. As for the 918 TG tested at Castelloli which managed a higher speed on the straight than the P1, analysis of that puts power output into 4-figures.

Same registration plate, both black, orange callipers, you sure it was a different car?

Alex July 31, 2015 at 2:24 pm

It was faster because they used a 918 with the wessiah package which has lighter wheels and better aerodynamics in the second test

ReluctantTVLicensePayer March 14, 2015 at 6:21 pm

Oh well the race is never going to happen now anyway.

As a channel, the BBC will now be the equivalent of watching cement dry.

Alex U Koyfman April 16, 2015 at 6:38 pm

Crap engineers? Seriously? Have you ever been within ten feet of one? Or are you just a Porsche fanboi with a passive aggressive streak?

klunkerboy February 28, 2015 at 2:46 am

Ferrari will be more than HAPPY to supply a Ferrari The Ferrari for a test as long as Top Gear complies with a few simple things. One, that the 918 mearly be chained to the Queen Mary and Two, that the McLaren be lightly buried in concrete. Once these minor details are agreed to Ferrari will be more than happy to provide a car.


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