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Ferrari 599 GTO

Italian legend’s fastest ever roadgoing supercar is as thrilling as you’d imagine.

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Kerpow! A serious road-burner, the 599 GTO will go down as one of the great front-engined Ferraris, especially as emissions regulations mean the V12’s days are numbered. The electronics keep you safe, but this is really a track car. Very grippy, insanely fast and shriekingly loud, models such as this used to be called ‘hairy chested’. Now we just say GTO. Shame they’re all sold out…

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Model names don’t come much more exciting than Grand Turismo Omologato – a badge Ferrari uses to christen its barely disguised race cars for the road.

In fact, so special is the title that it has been called upon only three times in the Italian legend’s entire history: first for the 1962 250 GTO and then on the 1984 288 GTO, both of which are now collectors’ items worth their pared-back weight in gold. This is officially the third occasion – but by comparison to its forebears, the 599 GTO might be regarded as something of a bargain.

It costs ‘a mere’ £299,300, making access to the model’s 661bhp 6.0-litre V12 that little bit more affordable. It’s not only the fastest roadgoing Ferrari, but the most powerful, too.

Predictably, the 599 GTO has a race car-inspired design, with a chassis set-up which gives supreme speed in corners and huge mechanical grip. But while this combination offers masses of performance, it comes at the price of mid-corner stability – forcing engineers to use electronics to adjust the GTO’s dampers, traction and stability systems to keep the car on the straight and narrow.

Suspension There are five different grades to this experience: Wet Weather with everything softened off, Sport – or normal – mode, Race which hardens the suspension and allows faster gearchanges, CT which gives a bit of tail-out oversteer potential for the track, and CST or ‘everything off’ for the truly skilled or insanely brave. Ferrari says the car is fastest in its CT setting, but a professional race driver might just match it in CST.

Let’s hope it works as we thumb the starter button and savour the engine’s amazing buzz and whirr in the pits at Ferrari’s Fiorano test track close by the Maranello factory.

As well as thinner aluminium and carbon fibre panels, the GTO has a stripped-out cockpit. There’s also a separate panel to indicate the chassis set-up, with colour coding for the engine, transmission and tyres to show when they are warm enough for the application of full throttle. Race seats have a firm embrace and there’s basic air-con and a radio.

With changes on the six-speed automated box now down to only 60 milliseconds, and 100kg less weight than the standard 599, the GTO tears out of the pits like a scalded cat. The real test is at the end of the straight with the infamous hairpin leading into a series of off-camber curves.

Stand on the carbon ceramic brakes and the GTO slows with crashing violence, throwing you against the belts. Turn into the bend and the steering’s speed of response defies belief, yet there is no payback with a lurid tailslide. The 4.71-metre coupé charges through bends, constantly telegraphing the limits of grip, although it is a strange experience for those more used to balancing understeer against oversteer.

On the road the GTO is harsh and noisy, but not unbearably so. You can just about drive it gently without waking the incredible performance, but it is an exercise in self restraint. “This car is mainly for the track,” says the chief engineer. Absolutely right – but what a track day tool it is.

Rival: Murcielago 6.5 SV Something of a last gasp for this magnificent old-stager, and its 663bhp V12 is nearing the limit of development. With a top speed of more than 210mph and a 0-60mph sprint of about 3.5 seconds, this thrilling Lambo is one of the great supercars.

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