Big Time

Big Time 1
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Speeds in excess of 150 mph on the back straight lead directly to seriously heavy braking for Turn 12—and the F12 simply shrugs it off. The carbon-ceramic brakes are utterly powerful and completely consistent lap after lap. At no point do I feel as though I might get into trouble by relying on the F12 in the braking zones; I suspect that the brakes have more resolve built into them than I do. In fact, the brakes register so little in my consciousness that I have to think back to the way they respond long after I leave the track. Have I experienced more powerful braking before? Sure—in an F1 car.

Turn 12 leads directly into a technical section, which includes Turns 13 and 14, and then a short burst towards an extremely tight left-hander, Turn 15. In this sequence, the F12 again places second best to the 458 Italia, but the balance is restored in the triple-apex right-hander that follows.

Modeled after the quadruple-apex Turn 8 at Istanbul Park, the Texan version also places an emphasis on balance and momentum. Speed builds as the corners fall away, and the Ferrari proves its ability to manage g forces with great aplomb. This sequence would be even more entertaining if the exit to Turn 18 didn’t need to be sacrificed in order to get back to the right side of the track for the high-speed, 90° Turn 19.

Just like Turn 10, Turn 19 is challenging because it suckers you into carrying too much speed. As per usual at COTA, there’s plenty of run-off area on the outside, but using it is not the fast way around the track. Here, as on other parts of the track, I never quite figured out the limits of grip in the Ferrari, but they are unquestionably very, very high.

The final corner, Turn 20, resembles the last blast at Laguna Seca in terms of angle and approach. It also sets up the run down the front straight and across the start/finish line. Here, the track is bordered by a retaining wall on one side and large grandstands on the other, so the Ferrari sounds like a true race car as it blasts towards the climb leading back to Turn 1. However, out in the wild, without the benefit of man-made structures to magnify the impact of the exhaust note, the F12 is more muted and somewhat refined compared to the other Ferraris on hand.

In the final analysis, did the F12 measure up as a track car? In terms of feel, not really. The 458 Italia still easily trumps it in that regard, and proves a more comfortable companion in tight turns and quick transitions.

That said, whatever my F12 expectations were beforehand, they were far, far exceeded by my experience at COTA. The engine is the superstar here, for sure, and the way its power progresses is impressive in a way that I haven’t seen from a production car—ever.

In some ways, the F12 is even too fast for COTA. This fantastic Ferrari deserves a venue with more high-speed curves, a place like Monza or Spa, where it might well prove to be a legitimate track car. It certainly has the inherent balance and the consummate predictability needed for drifting through corners at triple-digit speeds.

More than anything, what my track time revealed is that the Ferrari F12 is massively desirable for the way in which it blends the highest levels of cachet, luxury and performance. I can’t wait to drive one on the street—particularly on Highway 130.

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