The LaFerrari and 918 of 1987.
1987 was a good year for fans of the supercar for two reasons. Firstly, because the worlds most desired and influential car brand began production of it's all-new, all-conquering, record breaking monster. And secondly because a small German manufacturer produced a car, they said, was capable of beating it.
In terms of performance, these cars are a bit like long lost brothers who have been reunited only to find out that they've led eerily similar lives. I mean, both cars produce around 470bhp, both will crack the 320 kph (200 mph) mark, both have twin turbocharged engines, and both will get you from naught to sixty miles per hour in under 4 seconds. However, driving them on track, they couldn't feel more different.
Nowadays, Ferrari's racing division is a total mess, more specifically, their Formula One team. Three team principles in one year, firing scape-goats left, right and centre. Their ironman lead driver has packed his bags and high-tailed it to potentially greener pastures at McLaren, and to top it off, they've fired the man who has been involved with the Scuderia since the 1970's, and stood steadfast through the good times and bad as the President of Ferrari since 1991.
Thankfully for road car enthusiasts with deep pockets, Ferrari's road division is as of late, as strong as ever, producing arguably the best super and hypercars of any high performance company in the world, with the likes of the 458 Speciale, F12 Berlinetta and the utterly mind-blowing LaFerrari. Really, the Scuderia have been in a 'road-car purple patch' since the inception of the company itself, and one of the shining lights in said purple patch is the legendary F40. A lightweight, twin-turbocharged V8 beast capable of producing 471bhp, with a top speed of over 320 kph (200 mph), cornering performance unmatched by anything other than an actual racing car of the time, all while looking like the car equivalent of Miss Universe.
As you're driving around, you'll notice that the Assetto Corsa version of the F40 maintains all of the charisma, power, speed, beauty and sound that the real life F40 possesses, and presents it all in the form of a millimetrically-perfect model of a Ferrari F40. The first thing that jumped out at me was the audio, unlike some of the other cars in Assetto Corsa, the sound that the F40 makes is spectacular. Originally, the sounds were created by a highly skilled modder, which Kunos then bought, and added their own little embellishments to give it a fuller, richer sound, like the louder hiss from the turbos, and the gargling and popping sounds on the overrun.
The F40 feels tremendously well balanced. Typically rear-engined Supercars will understeer due to the majority of the weight being over the rear wheels, but with the F40, the understeer is not as bad as you might expect. And if you do get some understeer you simply lift off the throttle and you'll get a good amount of lift off oversteer without it destabilising the car. However, much of the fun with this car comes with getting the tail waggling about. Given the correct approach, you can get this car to misbehave, however you sense that it doesn't necessarily want to, and it's not always easy to control due to the turbo lag, which often makes the throttle response somewhat unpredictable. As a result, the F40 feels like it was built purely for making an exhilaratingly quick laptime, so keeping the F40 in the correct rev range is crucial for power delivery. But once you've mastered it, driving the F40 becomes one of the most soulful and hair-raising experiences in sim-racing.
Now, on to the RUF, and immediately a mealy-mouthed anorak will say, "Orhh, that's not a Porsche 911", and they'll be right, this is not a 911. Because underneath the Porsche skin you will find a completely different car. The Porsche 3.2 litre flat-six cylinder engine remains, however RUF have tuned it for increased power delivery and output, and then added two turbochargers. Which is a bit like putting wasabi on a habanero chili, and then pouring Tabasco sauce on it. The net result of all of this means that the CTR produces 469bhp and 553Nm of torque, which in the late 1980's was a colossal amount of both.
Now you may be thinking at this stage, how on earth RUF can put this, let's be honest, controlled explosive, in the rear-end of the car, and still expect the CTR to even contemplate going around a corner? Well, thankfully RUF have accounted for that as well by upgrading the suspension, chassis, brakes, gearbox, high performance tyres and wheels, lighter bodywork, a roll cage and a re-positioned oil tank, and that's barely the start of it.
The CTR is an immensely fun car to drive, mainly because it's incredibly easy to get it sideways. It's so easy in fact that it seems as if this car wants to power slide through every corner it devours. The nice thing about it is that it's very easy to control the slide, in fact it's probably the easiest car in Assetto Corsa to do so. However, if your main objective is getting a fast lap, then it's an exercise in throttle control, because the turbo-lag in the RUF compared to the F40 is vastly reduced, meaning the two turbos will kick you up the backside with more immediacy, meaning it'll want to snap the rear end out more easily, so you'll be slower. Under braking the F40 also seems to be slightly better and more stable than the RUF which means you can be pretty confident that when you turn into a corner, you won't come out the other side backwards.
In a straight line, the CTR does stick it to the F40, however at the majority of tracks the F40 will usually be anywhere between 0.500 to 2.0 seconds per lap quicker depending on the track characteristics. This is mainly due to the CTR wanting to enter 'powerslide-lunacy' mode at every instance, which is great fun, but unfortunately being sideways isn't the fastest way around a corner. Meanwhile the F40 feels more planted on corner entry and exit, which helps it to stay ahead of the CTR at most tracks. At Monza however the CTR was largely a match for the F40 and often beat it because it excels on the straight sections... And Monza has plenty of those.
As with the F40, the sounds are very nice. It produces that lovely fruity 'Porche sound' that is loved and recognised all over the world. And when the adjustable turbo is set to 100% (1.4 BAR, stock boost is 1.1 BAR) it makes some fantastic turbo blow-off valve sounds as you come off the throttle. It's highly addictive.
When it comes to the interiors of the two car, personally I prefer the F40's interior as it has more of a racing feel to it with the steering wheel and gear stick, while the RUF looks to be designed around civilian use, but they're both very nice and accurately replicated.
As far as draw backs go, the gearbox in the RUF is a bit touchy sometimes, but that's really more about myself getting lazy with heel & toe. The Ferrari's gearbox is slightly more forgiving, but will still punish you for slip ups. I'd also think that perhaps the F40's internal turbo hissing sound may be a tad exaggerated, but I've never driven one in real life, so I have no way of knowing.
But, when it's all said and done, these are both utterly fantastic cars, and no matter which one you choose to drive, you'll still come away grinning like an infant. As far as road cars go, Kunos have set an almighty high bar, and with these two, they've managed to top it yet again.
RUF CTR "Yellowbird"
Porsche should be jealous of what RUF have managed to do with the 911, because this car is mighty impressive. However whilst this is a damn good car, and is arguably more fun to drive, it's just not quite as special to drive as the Ferrari F40.
As an instrument for making you feel special, and providing the rawest, most spine-tingling driving experience, nothing else comes anywhere even remotely close to it. The sense of occasion when driving this thing, even in the virtual world, is truly special. Kunos have managed to replicate the pure motoring essence and joy that the Scuderia managed to achieve with the F40, and for my money, Assetto Corsa's Ferrari F40 is the best road car in all of sim-racing.