When you’re ready to fire up, you discover that the F40 is blessed with an uncommonly un-Italian driving position. The pedals are offset only slightly to the centre, the distance to them is good and the wheel is neither raked too much towards the horizon nor too far away. You feel well-set-up to begin.
The key operates only the fuel and electrical systems. The starter responds to a small, squishy rubber button on the dash just to the right of the wheel. Press it once and the V8 snaps immediately into life and idles smoothly. When you feed the clutch out, you find that it takes up evenly and easily; you're not going to stall.
The shift, as you go up-through the gears for the first time, gingerly, feeling things out, re-acquainting yourself with the wicked curves of Ferrari's Fiorano test track, has the familiar notchiness of the 328 but it's not difficult. Nothing hard or nasty about the drivetrain. There's a pleasing naturalness about the steering. It's direct, smooth and not too heavy.
Turn it and the car responds, flatly and without a trace of lost motion. Everything feels right – perfect – there. In a surprisingly short time you feel ready to start pressing on.
And when you do that, slowing back to a trickle and re-engaging first ad then flooring that tall, drilled metal throttle, the F40 runs through a short period of tameness then, coming up to 3000rpm, it begins to take off. It builds and as the tachometer needle nudges 3800, there’s just a frantic rush as the car lunges forward, pinning you hard into the seat. It's smooth but, God, it's potent and you keep your eyes darting between the road and the tachometer, seeing that needle slash towards the 7750 redline.
The take-up into the next gear is flawless and, with the turbos cranking hard, the blast of acceleration just goes on again and you seem to be in a blurr of time conquering distance, gearshifts and noise.
Not that the noise is overwhelming, but if you switch your attention to it for a moment you’re well aware of the level of the growl and then the turbochargers' whirr and the whole hollow wail. It has the tonal quality of an F1 engine, if not the sheer ferocity. From outside, if you stand and listen, you hear the frantic whoosh of the turbos start to drive oh-so-hard.
But, to be honest, when you're behind the wheel there's too much else to consider, at least when you’re on an open and challenging track. It takes only the first couple of bends to demonstrate the precision and response of the steering and the sheer grip that's lurking beneath you.
You start cornering into successive bends harder and find that the F40 edges into a nice, modest, deliberate feeling understeer. The feel is such – through the wheel, somehow through the whole car – that you know instantly what's happening. And you can choose whether you lift off or power on.
If you lift, the nose tightens instantly and obediently, but without a trace of viciousness. Even if you come off deliberately abruptly, having had a lot of power on, the tail moves but does not snap out. The car has poise, balance and manners, not to mention sheer roadholding, and all with such a satisfyingly meaty feeling.
If you choose to power on, the car pushes swiftly through its understeer and tightens progressively through to full power oversteer. The wonderful thing is that you can feel it, degree by degree, and balance the attitude as finely as you like. The communication come through the seat as beautifully as it does through the wheel and the precision of the throttle is as keen as that of the steering.