Tending Prancing Horse’s power plants
Lerato Matebese had a chat with Ferrari’s chief engineer, Francesco Morettini, who is responsible for some of the company’s best engines
Francesco Morettini is such an unassuming and soft-spoken man, you would be hard-pressed to guess his department is responsible for some of Ferrari’s most evocative engines, including the 6.5l V12 in the 812 Superfast.
I am sitting in the Cavallino Restaurant in Maranello, adjacent to Ferrari’s headquarters. Towards me walks a man in a light blue shirt and trousers. He shakes my hand and introduces himself as Francesco.
He and his team have the enormous yet exciting task of building the Prancing Horse’s most revered road car engines.
I have just driven the 812 Superfast around the Fiorano test track and am still gobsmacked at what I experienced. Then I realise the man seated across from me is responsible for that V12 nuke of an engine.
As the engine project manager at the famed Italian sports car company, Morettini’s face lights up as soon as I start talking about how brilliant this new V12 engine is.
"I’m glad you have enjoyed it because that is exactly how we would like our customers to feel when they drive this new engine," he says.
Having studied mechanical engineering at the University of Florence in Italy, Morettini says he had dreamt of working at Ferrari from a young age.
I ask him about the challenges he and his team faced when they had to succeed the already sublime 6.3l V12 that powered the 812 Superfast’s predecessor, the F12. He says besides making the engine more powerful and efficient, it was the driveability at slow speeds the engine had to achieve.
"Getting an engine to perform at high revs is the easier bit. It is how you can also make it more efficient and useable at lower speeds that makes it a more challenging aspect," he says.
"If you make the engine too peaky — delivering maximum power at very high revs — you sacrifice both mid-to low-rev torque characteristics, so finding that fine balance is challenging.
"Strapping turbos or superchargers to the engine is the easiest form of making power, but in the instance of our V12 engine, they have to remain normally aspirated and pushing the performance envelope brings its own challenges," Morettini says.
"Tolerances, power delivery and engine note all have to conform with our high standards and tradition that our customers have come to love of our V12 engines," he says.
The current V12 revs to a stratospheric 8,900r/min and when I ask Morettini if he and his team can make it rev higher reliably, his answer is a resounding yes.
This brings me to my follow-up question: will this be the last of the big-capacity, normally aspirated V12 engines.
He unequivocally shoots the question down.
"There is still some life and improvements to be made to the current engine, which traces its lineage back to the 6.0l V12 that powered the Enzo hypercar back in 2002."
Moving attention away from his brand, I ask Morettini which manufacturer’s engine he admires the most.
He says it is the Honda S2000’s power plant.
While manufacturers go about things differently to arrive at a similar point, Morettini says the 2.0l normally aspirated engine in the S2000 roadster is truly remarkable.
The Motor News team has always lauded that engine and it seems, by Morettini’s conviction, we aren’t the only ones.
As we get into the subject of the future electrification of Ferrari’s cars, Morettini says his lunchtime has ended and he needs to get back to work, but not before he mentions that electrification — much like that used in the LaFerrari — will be used to boost performance rather than replace the combustion engine altogether in the company’s foreseeable future.
That, if little else, should give petrolheads around the world some cheer that the Prancing Horse’s wailing engines will live on for some time.
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