“To complicate is simple, to simplify is complicated…Everybody is able to complicate. Only a few can simplify”
Adding simplicity to something complex like a high-performance automobile is a demonstration of excellent skills in problem solving. Just like a minute repeater chronograph is a fabulous work of craftsmanship and engineering, able to give pleasure by its smooth and well thought-out movement, a supercar is a creation that is able to blend opposites and elevate them to 11.
Supercars are just like the expensive chronographs you see manufactured by Richard Mille, Patek Philippe and A. Lange & Söhne. No one buys them to actually read the time they tell (your cheaper smartphone will do so brilliantly) but because of how they do it. Do not lie to yourself and admit that once in a lifetime you’ve been amazed by these lovely timepieces: the soft ticking and the day-to-day fiddling with the mechanism is what makes the ownership pleasurable and fun. Yet, they’re beautiful and easy-to-use instruments; all you have to do is to raise your wrist and read the numbers. So much complication for such an easy, elegant move.
Supercars are no different: you do not require a special license to drive them and all they do is transport you from A to B. They’re means of conveyance in all respects… but it’s not what matters. It’s how they roll that make you become addicted to them. Furthermore, they’re the ultimate representation of speed on land: innovative technology, cutting edge materials and hours of R&D work go into one, all for the sake of enjoying the thrill of speed, which is mankind’s greatest achievement. The history of the Automobile has been characterized by the search for power and speed, and both manifested in different interpretations throughout the years.
We can tell that the engineers behind these cars are speed scientists… and each has their own recipe for it. In other words, these people are able to engineer a feeling and the thrill we seek when we hop in one and go for a drive. The emotions we have are engineered to perfection and tailored to everyone’s taste. When we drive a fine car, we usually stress the actual simplicity of use and the straightforwardness of the driving experience: if it’s made for driving, it should be intuitive, straight out of the box.
The Dallara Stradale can be an actual example of something complex made incredibly simple. It’s relatively easy to get in, see out and drive, and it’s the kind of car many people do not know they want in terms of pure driving finesse; it’s so simple that it almost conceals the high technological content it has. The car itself is a project held in the dreams of Eng. Giampaolo Dallara for at least 20 years but never came into fruition due to the Company’s priority on racing cars. However, when Mr. Dallara reached his 80th birthday, he decided that this dream must become a vivid reality.
The whole car has been developed around the true meaning of its name: “Stradale,” which means road-worthy in Italian. This alone implies that the car must tackle brilliantly the problems of everyday roads whilst being confidence-inspiring, comfortable, safe and thrilling at the same time. As Eng. Dallara said, “In this car there are 50 years of mistakes” and it shows. All the experience in the manufacturing of composite materials, aerodynamics and the development of vehicle dynamics have been put into this car.
The Stradale puts the driver in the middle of the action and it’s not an all automatic machine; it’s you who will decide how and when things should function, making the driving experience delightfully spontaneous and natural. It’s a car that you can use and can decide how to use it: from the track to your favorite mountain road and also as a GT on longer trips. How does this translate in practical terms? Into a very balanced, effective and incredibly satisfying car to drive.
To drive the Stradale on the road stretching from the Factory to the town of Bore, where it was developed, in order to better understand it, is quite a treat. It’s a lovely stretch of road offering a good mix between technical sections, fast bends, rough surfaces and long straights. Our companion for the day has been no other than the first example made, Eng. Dallara’s own car. It’s a manual, lemon-yellow example which has been used extensively for testing. This very car, according to what we’ve been told, has covered roughly 130.000 km of which many were spent on the track. Quite remarkable, isn’t it? Yet it was as fresh as ever and a testament to the great project that the Stradale is.
So, finally… how does this car drive? Sure enough, our expectations were high and they were brilliantly fulfilled. Despite what everyone thinks, stepping inside is relatively easy and aided by the fact that you can lean on the car without scratching it. Once inside, the cockpit is roomy and perfectly laid out, with all the controls kept to a minimum and within reach: you’ll be surprised at how every switch is within reach and usable without looking. The seats are fixed and to adjust the pedal and the steering you have to move them. Right from the start you find the same ergonomics of a proper racing prototype just with more space and headroom. The bubble canopy gives you a sensation of being in a Group C rather than a road car: this alone increases your thirst for lateral acceleration!
The gearbox is a reinforced unit modified by Dallara themselves: the lever has a nice and precise long throw, which seems to invite you to shift as fast as you can. Perhaps disappointingly for some, it lacks the pronounced mechanical “bolt-action” feeling that some might look for in a car like this one, but it’s ultimately easy to use and well calibrated. Besides, as soon as you start driving, you’ll soon forget about this aspect and immediately concentrate on the car rather than on nuances like these. Needless to say that the view out is excellent and it’s very confidence inspiring from the first meters. The pedalboard is made for driving and it’s laid out for the perfect heel-and-toe technique; it’s set on the softer side, so it requires a little adjusting but it’s effective and well thought after.
As soon as you drive off and encounter the inevitable speed bump, you’ll be amazed by the comfort and by the fact that you do not need to swerve left and right to avoid scraping the front splitter. As a matter of fact, you never scrape the splitter… not even when you’re flying on potholes at 150 kph! For the people in Dallara it’s called “engineering” while for us everyday Muggles it’s definitely magic. The suspension is cleverly set up and, while in a normal sportscar you would brake and swerve to avoid any irregularity in the tarmac, in the Dallara you just keep the throttle pinned and you almost feel nothing. What a great car!
Immediately, the Stradale is your friend and it rewards you with an impeccable ride; you’ll always be connected to the road but in a very refined manner and you’ll immediately find yourself pushing your limits further. Once you get to some twists, you’ll immediately begin to fall naturally into a rhythm, dancing with the car, increasing the speed and always looking for the perfect line to follow. The unassisted steering is precise and direct and has a very linear feeling and sincere feedback. The handling is neutral and well balanced between front and rear and it’s so good that once you’ve driven the Stradale, she’ll be your point of reference for many other road cars. To put this in other terms, whenever you’ll be oversteering and loosing grip with your GT3, the Dallara just sticks to the ground and gets the job done. Remarkably, the suspension setting is what will leave you amazed: you can literally take bumps and irregular surfaces like as nothing has happened. This keeps the car stable and well-planted, encouraging you to drive aggressively: enter the corner still with little brakes, reach the apex and power yourself out of the corner. It’s so easy… and addictive!
I cannot stress enough that this car lives up to its name, i.e. it’s superbly thought through for road use. The way it makes the tires work with the tarmac and the sheer precision are so confidence inspiring that you literally put the car wherever you want. Every input is well balanced mechanically, there is no on-off or harsh response and everything reacts very progressively, making the car suitable to everyone.
The 2.3 litre turbocharged engine, much criticized for not being a much more exotic unit, is indeed perfect for this application. It has massive amounts of torque down low and has a vigorous progression till the redline and has a very technical sound: yes, a V12 or V8 soundtrack is missed but a turbo straight four is fitting to this kind of car. It sounds like a LMP2 prototype and adds to the mystique of driving a proper racing car developed for the road. Ideally, you can drive fast by using upper gears and take advantage of the torque to get yourself out of the corners.
The pace, the rhythm and the satisfaction are what makes this remarkable car special. Supercars are exciting but few are satisfying, simply because you can’t use them as intended, while with the Stradale, you can find yourself at home every time you drive it. It’s a simple recipe but a very effective… and complex one. Just like the satisfaction you get in admiring the details of fine chronograph and love the simplicity of just using it to look at the time, you fall in love with the Stradale for how it’s a complex object, made simple.
The Stradale is the epitome of not getting from A to B but how to get to your destination. If you buy one, make sure the route will include some twists and turns because that’s a simple way of enjoying yourself!