Autumn's offering is the second Ferrari this month, the Porsche 917 baiting Ferrari 512 S, a 5.0 litre V12 LeMans racer homologated to 25 production models to try and win LeMans.
It may be slightly controversial but I do not rate this as a particularly good looker; striking it certainly is but compare it to the P4 and it begins to look like a lumpen mattress. Squint and you can certainly see the resemblance between the two but the body-integrated, wing-mounted spoilers are the start of a series of compromises that complicate the bodywork. The worst of all is the central headlights that look straight off a modified 1980s Nissans foglamps. One plus-point is the magnificence of that 5.0 litre V8 which greets you with a typically Italian approach to engine ergonomics, there are pipes and wires going everywhere with no real direction of logic applied. Yet it remains a perfect slice of imperfection whereas the bodywork remains imperfect and slightly disappointing.
To get into the 512 is a convoluted affair. The door sill must be at least a foot wide and is incredibly high, almost like a transmission tunnel, and you sink down into the seat cocooned by a high waistline. The dome-shaped windscreen helps ward off any feeling of claustrophobia in an otherwise tiny cockpit. Other than that the interior is remarkably well upholstered than would be expected from a LeMans racer, only the thick rollbar giving indication to the true nature of the 512 S. Other little things to mention are the almost comically small steering wheel and the offset manual gearbox with a gated shifter - 10 cool points to the Ferrari for that!
The first impression if driving the 512 is the LeMan approach to gear-ratios. First gear is exceptionally long, reaching well into the 70mph before redlining. Despite this, the 512 has good acceleration. Whilst it would be easy to pass this off as just the big engine, the power delivery is still impressive. The 512 definitely prefers higher speeds, feeling more comfortable regarding both the gearing and the way the aero-dynamics are set up. That being said, at times there is a feeling of front end lift, a somewhat stressful affair at 180mph.
The steering lacks feel however, having little feedback through tighter bends only really showing full potential in high-speed, long curves. Whilst I wouldn't go as far as to call the 512 vague in steering, it certainly is a weaker point of the vehicle, instead needing more aggression to get any feedback. The brakes I must add are really good, especially for a 50 year old car.
Overall I will say I prefer the feeling and overall dynamics of the Porsche 917 we can use in the game. The 512 certainly isn't slower or objectively worse, but does lack some of the driving engagement that would see it a far more enjoyable experience.
A capable, if slightly flat at times race car