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Ferrari's 458 flambé fire issue

2010-08-26 08:09

A disturbing regular site worldwide – Ferrari’s 458 Italia burning, this time in Paris. Is there a fundamental engineering fault to blame or careless, hooligan, owners.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Ferrari
Model 458
Engine 4.5l V8
Power 425kW @ 9 000r/min
Torque 540Nm @ 6 000r/min
Transmission Seven-speed DCT
Zero To Hundred 3.5 sec
Top Speed 325km/h
Weight 1 498kg
Front Suspension Double-wishbone coil spings
Rear Suspension Double-wishbone coil spings
Ferrari’s 458 Italia.

A car so superb in every way.

So good, in fact, that it is even blessed (officially) with an affix to its model designation denoting its country of origin.

Consider the gravitas of other Italian supercar brands (Maserati, Lamborghini and Pagani) you realise just how brazen Ferrari was to call its latest supercar the ‘Italia’.

Now, perhaps, this sense of arrogance is set to haunt the Maranello manufacturer.

Ferrari flambé?

On evidence there could be a serious engineering flaw with the 458.

More pointedly, it seems to have a penchant for self-immolation.

Each time a new supercar is launched there are the requisite number of wrecked exotics within the first few months, as the talentless nouveau riche owners explore the limits of their new toys.

Suffice to say a fair few 458s (ten, in actual fact) have been destroyed since the car was launched last year.

The issue is that not all the wrecked cars have been the result of late braking, or terrifically optimistic corner exit speeds...

A total of four 458 Italias (one each in the U.S., France, Switzerland and China) have simply gone up in flames – for no apparent reason.

Of course a fifth car was destroyed at Heathrow in a warehouse blaze. That 458 did not set itself on fire though, which appears to be the case with the four other cars.

The issue is serious enough to warrant Ferrari’s attention and the company’s engineering department has been commissioned to investigate.

"We are taking all the reports very seriously and are looking into them, but are treating them all as separate incidents," a spokesman said.

Engineering issue of owner abuse?

Ferrari is not ruling out driving error at this stage, yet something is seriously amiss as the four cars that burnt-out were not involved in collisions.

Any supercar is designed with a high tolerance for crankspeed abuse. These 458s are quick cars, designed to go fast all the time.

The fundamental issue may be the 458’s exotic structure.

Aluminium and magnesium are materials which burn with alarming ease once ignited, yet are key to the 458’s very low kerb weight (less than 1.5t).

Powered by a sophisticated 4.5l V8 engine that is mounted amidships and spins to 9 000r/min, the engine-bay’s heat signature could perhaps be too much for the rubber hoses routing fuel to the V8.

Owners operating the 425kW engine beyond its performance envelope for extended periods risk heating the exhaust plumbing to a level where fuel could be ignited. The 458 is a supercar though and running at 10/10ths it what it was designed to do.

Ferrari says it will release the findings of its investigation once reports into each and every incident have been finalised.

In the meanwhile, supercars fans wait to see if the 458 jinx is real or not...


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