February 15, 2011

What did they put in Chris Harris' Tortellini?

I'm guessing you read his anti Ferrari rant on Jalopnik by now. More than the "revelation" manufacturers serve up cheater cars and seek to influence the outcome of tests would be to know what pushed @Harrismonkey over the edge.

In any case, can we put a plug in for reviews like our shoot out between the Scud and the GT2? If we were able to do it, certainly real journalists could give it a shot more often!

Don't miss the comments below, some funny stuff there!



  1. Right on the Money AC. AoO Supercar tests is the only fair way to go!

    Certainly having ringer engines in press cars is cheating, but is adjusting what is adjustable cheating?
    I personally hate it when they say a car understeers like a PIG and find out they are running ZERO camber when negative 4 degrees can be dialed in (GT3, GT2, Scud, etc.), or complain about too loose of a rear end when driving on rear tires that have been drfited to death by 5 prior journo's crews!
    A minimum level of setup and preparation is required IMO, specially when testing supercars for laptimes. Mondeos and other transport appliances are different

  2. Not adjusting an adjustable component is like not using all the gears. It's retarded. And there you have to feel for manufactures dealing with the Frank Bacons of this world. Where they blow it is that they try to hide it.

  3. Agreed. I don't think its any surprise that manufacturers use ringers at press events. However I am glad Chris sorta did the exposé he did, I only wish more journalists would do it instead of just taking what they're fed.

    In the end, any review worth a grain of salt will be with retail-obtained cars, head to head for comparisons on the same day. Having said that, I really doubt most automotive journalists could even come close to doing the kind of job you did on the Scud vs GT2 article. Was the way a super/sports-car review should be. Fantastic (proper!) automotive journalism.

  4. Sport bike manufacturers do it all the time. Almost all superbikes have adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping. No one knows these stuff better than their own factory engineers. So it's not shocking to know that Ferrari is sending a support team to magazine tests.

    That being said, Ferrari seems to be overdoing it quite a bit... then again it's understandable as Ferrari has its roots in racing because as the old saying goes if you are not cheating you are not trying...

  5. Slimy Italians... Changing spring rates, tyres, engine mapping etc is total bullshit. It's a road car and should be judged on it's on/off track ability and subsequent ride/handling compromise. Makes me even more pleased to hear that the MP4-12C stuffs the 458.

  6. Yes it is okay to adjust what is adjustable, as long as they do it for ALL the cars they produce, not just press cars. What Chris is complaining about is the fact that Ferrari is effectively manipulating what the journolists writes about their car, thus misleading consumers.

  7. @Anon. Well, you know the 12c was designed using a photocopied 458 manual right? :)

    @Jonathan if it's adjustable, it's up to you to use what's there to adjust to suit your needs. Otherwise it's like buying pants and not hemming them.

    And let's not forget that while we can't argue much about how great gt3 are, Harris has been given a seat in official Porsche cars for the n24. That's a form of "adjustment" in my book :)

  8. Adjusting the adjustable suspension is fine, but what Ferrari does by adjusting ecus, changing tyres, something a customer will never be able to access, is all kind of ridiculous and unnecessary and frankly a bit of an insult to their own engineers.

    Can't say they're all on their own anyway, Mercedes did this with their SL55 press car, that thing was unbelievably heavily tuned.

    I can't help but say that a part of the vitriolic attitude that he displays is probably due to the flak he receives from the Ferrari PR machine and him being sick of their shit, something personal. Just imagine how angry Ferrari would have been after he did the GT3 vs 458 video.

  9. "What Chris is complaining about is the fact that Ferrari is effectively manipulating what the journolists writes about their car, thus misleading consumers."

    I think this is accurate. However, I think it doesn't matter. We're giving Harris' comments too much significance.

    1) Whether a Ferrari comes out ahead of a Lamborghini or Porsche is meaningless to consumers. If a guy wants a Ferrari, he's going to buy a Ferrari; he's not going to wait to receive a blessing from Chris Harris. This sentiment might be different in the sub-100k car world, but guys who are buying high-buck exotics know what they want.

    2) However, whether a Ferrari comes out ahead of a Lamborghini or Porsche is important to the factory. Great. Big deal. Let the factory run whatever preparation tactics it wants. We as consumers read car magazines for good writing and photography, not for seeing our marque of choice "beat" some other marque.

    3) Harris is mistaken if he thinks that his role as an auto journalist is to provide an unbiased authority on what cars are superior to what other cars. Evo is not Consumer Reports. Every driver is subjective. Whether he got a ringer is meaningless. This is how an auto review goes: "I liked X car, and here's why..." It's not: "Y car is objectively superior in every dimension as opposed to Z car, and here's why..."

    Harris: get over yourself.

  10. NSK makes great points. It would be' more useful if someone like Harris described himself as an "opinionist". Which in infinitively more useful anyway especially since he's a bit of a tracktard anyway.:)

    Look at all the reviews of the 12c, I posted that McLaren video because it's useful to know that their reviews are based on probably 3 laps on the track with a kinder and one hot lap with JB. And a voluminous McLaren press release. That's just the way it is.

  11. Exactly AC. I personally value Harris opinions the most from any other journos b/c from his reviews and my later tests and ownership of some of this cars I've learnt that I tend to like what he likes (plus being an amateur racer, tracktard and enjoying every ride with some fooling around)

    I'm never looking for dispassionate analytical numeric conclusions. Boring Road and Track and Card and Driver give you plenty of that. I buy EVO and other British magazines b/c of their opinions.

    Also, although to some extent is "cheating" and manipulation, I do value the effort a manufacturer puts in trying its best to influence the public media opinion. That says a lot about their passion and commitment.

    On the other hand, I find it depressing from other "high end" manufacturers (read: Jaguar, Aston while being owned by Ford and Lotus) when their cars fail or bits and pieces fall off in the hands of the press!! What can one expect from a car bought by a mere mortal like us? (that it catches fire!!??? - inside joke)

    Bottom line is modern day Ferraris are spectacular to own (more reliable than anything else), awesome to drive and provide the performance to match the flamboyancy of the brand so I will keep wanting/owning one unless proven otherwise...

  12. ... by "...3 laps with a kinder..." I meant " 3 laps with a MINDER" damn iPad :)

  13. @CG hey...don't you know only Ferraris catch on fire? :)

  14. It just needs a Magazine or Top Gear to make a stand then. Are Ferrari really willing to stop sending cars to be tested? I suspect not. Imagine if EVERY group test didn't feature a Ferrari? How do you think their sales would hold up.

  15. Maybe but I'm guessing a red car on the cover sells more magazines than cars...

  16. Ummm...How many Ferrari drivers 'adjust' there car? Very few.

    I'm surprised at everyone's reactions. Most track-tards read this shit for 'opinions' but I don't know about you guys...If I'm never going to be able to drive one of these cars then I want cold hard facts. Editorials are fun to read but no offense to Harris, AC, Tiff or Clarkson but you guys all say the same shit every-time anyway. 458 owners don't show up to the track and get the treatment he is talking about. Review_the_car_fairly...Okay so everyone does it. Then lets not point fingers at Ferrari. Harris didn't go about it in the best way but I praise him for at least saying something.

    And to say that because he's a part of Porsche has something to do with it is just childish.

  17. OMG you mentioned me in the sentence as Harris Clarkson and Tiff??? I love you man :) lol

  18. "Look at all the reviews of the 12c, I posted that McLaren video because it's useful to know that their reviews are based on probably 3 laps on the track with a kinder and one hot lap with JB. And a voluminous McLaren press release. That's just the way it is."

    I think Sutcliffe has covered 2000 unmonitored miles in the 12C.

  19. Excellent, I'll read his opinion with more interest then... but most of the people who wrote articles that have appeared in the last 48 hours have not.

  20. Some did however have calculator watches! :)

  21. Having been at an automotive racing school specializing in high performance engines for the last year and a half, these are my thoughts:

    These cars can be adjusted to a level that I think is beyond most journalist's understanding. To really optimize a high calibur car (GT3, Scud, etc) you need to have a lot of time and experience with the car you are testing.

    Look at Top Gear testing the Super Sport Veyron. They waited until the air was at it's absolute thinnest before James did his run. Suddenly their test driver goes out in the car and clocks off 267...WAY higher than James May's run.

    Ferrari SHOULD send a team to a journalist to ensure accurate setup of the car.

    I don't know guys...my bottom line is if you can afford a Ferrari, I bet you can afford some computer tuning for it, or some different springs, or some slick tires.

    I watch EVO and Top Gear for fun and to see crazy cars that blow my mind. I don't turn it on thinking "I hope this is an accurate comparison because it will affect my decision as a consumer."

    -Chris Hurst

  22. It's Chris Hurst again, thought I would add one more comment:

    Ferrari makes you play by their rules to test their cars because they are trying to uphold a particular brand image. From a business / marketing stand point it is very understandable and logical what they are doing.

    Say some journalist goes out on a cold wet day in a 599 GTO and shuts off the traction control. He then starts to say how uncontrollable the car is, how horrible it is to drive and how it doesn't deserve the GTO badge because he failed to realize that shutting the traction control off on a 599 GTO in the RAIN in the WET might cause the car to be a big sensitive to throttle input.

    Ferrari all the sudden has millions of people who just watched an uneducated and down right wrong review of their car. They go to their friends, blab all about it and all the sudden the car has a bad reputation, sales decrease, etc etc etc.

    Oh wait a minute...whats this?


  23. Good job Chris Hurst! That's exactly the point!
    Ferrari's failure was not to realize that Mr. Harris has a LOT of credibility in the Tracktard community (However, not sure how big is the intersection of that subset with actual Ferrari buyers) and should have tried to feed him some Kool-aid just like Porsche has been doing, starting last year when he raced a "bascially bone-stock" GT3RS in the N24....

  24. I'm pretty surprised by your reaction. I'm Italian, but in my opinion what Ferrari are doing is very similar to cheating.

    Come on' guys, having two cars at a test, one for straight line speed and the other for handling, does that seems fair to you?

    And also with tuning... I can see your point when you say that a Ferrari is tunable, but how many customers will do that? And a part from this, also a GT3 RS is tunable but apparently Porsche behaves differently...

    Anyway, Ferrari are not the only unfair people: take a look at this video:


    This was done at the press presentation of the MP4/12C in Portimao, and how unfair is that? First of all, they did choose a Carrera Turbo instead of a Turbo S, which would have made more sense looking at the price tag. Then look at the start: McLaren moves first, then the Ferrari and the Porsche leaves the line one year later!

    What a crappy show is that? I'm sure that the MP412/C is a great car, but they don't need to do this.

    And anyway, the 458 wins just for the sound...

  25. Engine tuning or using different components is cheating, but....
    For straightline speed I would use:
    - Higher pressure (Cold) on tires
    - Zero Camber
    - Zero toe in front

    For track laps:
    - Proper pressure (optimal when hot) and sticky tires if thats an option
    - All the front camber you can get away

    For road test
    - Take away a good amount of camber b/c otherwise it will follow all the road ruts and imperfections

    Doing the above can save several seconds a lap which means your car ending above or below the other manufacturer. Perception is everything to the public....

  26. @CG not to mention that 95% of auto journalists know and care more about the thread count in the sheets and the quality of the buffet at the luxury resorts manufacturers take them to than the effect of camber on tracking.

    Now the EVO boys might have objected being lumped in with the calculator watch wearing Frank Bacons of this world and that might be what precipitated the rant.

    But hey, they need to keep a sense of humor about themselves, I suggest reading the classic HOW TO BECOME A BRITISH AUTO JOURNALIST IN FIVE EASY TROPES on SpeedSportLife. ;)

  27. If your going to make ANY adjustments to the car the whole thing turns to shit. Where does it stop? Engine swap or aero parts for the track portion of the test? It shouldn't go any further than pressing a mode button from the drivers seat.

    It's a road car and should be driven to the track and tested as such. That way the fundamental character and design of the car will not be masked by bullshit part changes. If the reviewers teeth fall out on the way to the track we know where the compromises have been made and can judge the cars track performance accordingly.

  28. well, c'mon if a piece is DESIGNED to be adjustable you'd be a fool NOT to adjusted to suit your needs.

    It's like at track days, how many people do you find with adjustable shocks who NEVER adjust them and then complain about this or that? lots, usually these characters then go and just buy a whole different component or car...

    A more valid argument is that 95% of Ferrari owners would rather adjust the type of wax they have someone detail their car with than corner balance the thing :)

  29. @AC - I agree with your last comment about obviously adjustable components being adjustable - shocks, wing angles, alignment, tire pressures, etc. But as has already been brought up in this discussion, the fundamental question/issue is how far does this adjustability extend.

    Do you think Ferrari will take kindly to owners tuning their ECUs (beyond mode/onboard computer settings) on their own? I bet the warranty will be voided right away.

    What about intake/exhaust swaps? Or sticky R-comp and slick tires on lightweight wheels? Sure you can bolt those on, but if the car doesn't ship with those from the factory, what's the point of comparing it to other stock street cars? Why don't they compare this stock 458 to a Techart 911 or even a RUF?

  30. I don't know how much you can pump up a normally aspirated motor already outputting what, 120+hp/l with a simple ecu flash... Now turbos, that's a different story, cough gtr cough..:p

    There is no reason to compete if you are not in it to win, and Ferrari is after all a race team (ok, and a chacka marketing machine). I'm positive they rationalize by saying they want their cars to be tested in a way they can express their full potential. But they are not alone. For example did you ever see a manufacturer lend two models for a shoot out test? No, since obviously one will lose and they want to protect their product placement.

    Have you ever heard what Porsche said to official race teams who developed Cayman race cars?....

  31. Yeah, I've heard the Porsche thing with Cayman ,and it sucks, but that's different from magazine tests, where they're supposedly testing "showroom" cars.

    I'm sure that the magazine reviews do far less in convincing a rich guy to buy a certain supercar than provoke bench racing discussions about which is the better car on internet forums. So in that sense, nobody really gets scammed out of their money. Hell, I stopped reading supercar comparos when I got out of my teens, and stopped paying attention to car mags altogether a few years back, so really I shouldn't give a crap what Ferrari does either way. But being a Ferrari F1 fan for many years, this doesn't make me like them any stronger.

    But now I wonder if the Risi 430 GT2 was closer to a production "magazine" 430 than the Flying Lizards' GT3 RSR to a magazine GT3 RS :P

  32. @AC

    I don't know anything about the Cayman story and I'd be very curious to know more, can you make a resume?

  33. @zizzo the history is that motorsport made it unofficially VERY clear that the best bits will end up in 911s...

  34. Thanks for updating me AC. Well, it's not very kind from them and it confirms that they don't want to fulfill the potential of the Cayman...

    It's a pity, I've driven one for 2 weeks and I think that with the right power it could be really outrageous...


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