MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec -- The Ferrari FXX may look like an Enzo supercar that received the white-stripe Pepé Le Pew treatment at the factory. But after being thrown around in the passenger seat of an FXX driven in anger, no more proof was needed that this prototype is considerably different underneath the skin from the already legendary 2002-2004 Ferrari Enzo.

Its Toronto-area owner is one of about 10 North American owners and only 29 in the world, all of whom eagerly plunked down the equivalent of €1.5 million (US $1,904,400) for the privilege. Originally, only “about 20” FXXs were planned, but that number went up quickly as the orders poured in, and all 29 examples were gobbled up in a six-month period between November 2005 and April of this year. This owner -- who requested that he and the company he owns not be named -- held his monthly track day session in late June at the Mosport International Raceway just north of Bowmanville, Ontario, and was gracious enough to invite this writer to ride shotgun in it for a few neck-stretching laps.

The white stripe going down the middle of the entire car may be the FXX’s most prominent visual distinction from the Enzo, along with the multi-tiered spoiler, beady headlights and sculpted round quad exhaust pipes in place of Ferrari’s traditionally round taillights. The Enzo’s heroic 660-hp V12 engine, carbon-fiber body and Formula One-derived technology mark it as the current pinnacle of Ferrari production-car performance -- assuming, of course, that you don’t consider the FXX a production car, because it can’t be driven on the street. The FXX’s 800 hp and 508 pound-feet of torque easily top the Enzo’s performance numbers, with the former’s dynamic abilities all enhanced by shaving almost 500 pounds off the Enzo’s already sprightly 3,000-pound curb weight. Think about that for a second: The FXX is as light as the bite-size Mazda MX-5 convertible but offers what Ferrari says is “over” 800 hp.

View the Ferrari FXX slideshow here

Climbing into the FXX under doors that swing up and forward, the owner pointed out the screen that projects an image from the roof-mounted camera, a high-tech way to dispense of any rearview mirrors. The interior is not much to look at, with none of the leather or chrome details that have come to define Ferrari. The passenger seat is the only obvious indication that this FXX is anything but a modified race car, with large red knobs for engine start and suspension setting adjustments, so as to be easy to use with racing gloves. Less obviously, the FXX also comes with an advanced telemetry system that can transmit information about top speed, max revs, brake temperatures and more to Ferrari engineers in real time.

Shifts are quickened over the Enzo’s by a revised F1 paddle-shifted gearbox that boasts gear changes in under 100 milliseconds, which Ferrari says is nearly as fast as its Formula One single-seaters. Brembo and Bridgestone provided unique ceramic brake and tire designs for the FXX, respectively.

“It’s a real race car,” said the construction company owner about the FXX. “The Enzo is softer, not as punishing to drive, but also not as exciting.”

What seemed to impress the owner the most about the FXX was the care and privileges Ferrari bestows upon its first-ever “client test-drivers,” as the automaker calls FXX owners. “You’re given a day at Fiorano (the Ferrari driving school) that’s all yours, and the whole Ferrari team of engineers, mechanics and support crew is out there catering to you enjoying your car,” he said. “At the time I had my day, Ferrari had an issue with the 599 (GTB Fiorano road car, unveiled later in Geneva), and so the engineers came out and asked if they could do a few laps. Since it was my day, they needed my permission for 10 minutes of track time.”

Unlike Ferrari’s road cars, however, the FXX is very much a prototype for a future model, so Ferrari is still selective in the information it gives its owners about the vehicles. “It was only recently that I got a CD with details about the car’s mechanicals,” he said.

With that background digested, the moment of truth had arrived. The engine fired up as quickly as a yes-man when the boss storms into the room, and we gingerly made our way through the pits, the engine burbling contentedly as the open track beckoned. I figured the driver would probably take it easy on his out lap, but as soon as we saw the clear, uphill path ahead of us, the engine instantly went into shrill shriek mode. The formerly tight five-point racing harness seemed strangely limp as my torso flattened into the racing bucket behind me. With my leg braced against a carbon-fiber crossmember in the floor for support and my hand on the roll bar, every upshift was like a zap with a demonstration stun gun: an instant violent shock, but over as quick as it started.

Slowing down was another eye-opener -- or closer, in my case -- as I had to keep blinking to ensure my contacts would stay where they belonged and not on the windshield ahead of me. Having previously enjoyed some hot laps around the same track in Porsche’s $440,000 2005 Carrera GT with legendary endurance racer Hurley Haywood, the absolute wall of braking provided by the FXX’s carbon discs were easily on another level -- even though, unsurprisingly, Haywood was a much smoother driver.

Going up the long, uphill backstraight, the FXX owner’s first two fingers upshifted the vehicle into warp speeds at a rate that would astonish a 605-hp Carrera GT owner. As a quick right-hander approached, I thought he was thinking more of a liftoff from the ground than liftoff of the gas, and I saw the digital speedometer flash 260+ km/h (160+ mph) regularly while still accelerating hard uphill. Its big brakes, slick tires and extreme aerodynamic downforce become your best friends when traveling this quickly, as their extreme capabilities easily dangled with two lives at such speeds. The hills at Mosport don’t feel like a ramp in other cars. From the FXX’s passenger seat, charging uphill feels like falling off a cliff, as your stomach is constantly left about five feet behind the rear bumper.

The pace gradually increased over the five laps we managed before the low fuel light came on, each shift becoming a quicker rifle bolt slinging you forward. By that point I was already wondering what I had said wrong to deserve this automotive flogging. Even with me bracing myself as much as I could, my neck, legs and hang-on arm tingled like wobbly Jell-O after the car was shut off.

“I saw 260 [km/h] flash on the uphill,” I told him excitedly upon exiting the car, feeling like a teeny bopper that was just pulled on stage by the boy-band member whose visage adorned her walls. “Yeah, I was taking it easy,” he calmly told me. “On my own, when I want to push it, I see 280, 285 (177 mph) back there.”

This supercar successor to the Enzo will be Ferrari’s first road car that can legitimately maintain that it was partly developed in North America, with feedback gained from owners specially trained by the factory and 17 official track sessions held around the world. The automaker says that feedback gleaned from the client test-drivers will be used in future Ferrari designs, not only the road-car successor to the Enzo.

Therefore, there’s significance to the FXX outside its 29 buyers. The typically sweet sounds made by Ferraris will soon have a more international aroma, thanks to the FXX program and its owners around the world, no matter how the cars are painted.



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