What better means of brightening up a rather dreary, grey day than a racing harness holding you firmly positioned in a hugging seat sculpted directly into the carbon fibre monocoque of a light, agile sports car? And what if I told you this sports car was created by one of the most renowned names in racing engineering as the fulfilment of a life-long dream? Enter Giampaolo Dallara, his 60 years of engineering experience and his eagerly awaited Dallara Stradale.
Having already worked at Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and De Tomaso, Giampaolo Dallara set up his own company in 1972, and soon found himself involved in Formula 1 and 3, creating successful cars for various teams. He expanded into IndyCar in the 90’s, winning lots of races, and eventually becoming the sole chassis supplier for IndyCar. A venture into creating a Le Mans racer followed shortly after. To put it mildly, there is no shortage of engineering experience or success, which meant expectations were running high when word got out a few years ago that Dallara would be creating his own road car.
The Stradale was launched on Dallara’s 81st birthday, and the great engineer himself drove the car out on the streets of Varano de’ Melegari, where he was born in 1936 and where he set up his company. The Italian word stradale literally means “for the street”, which in a nutshell sums up Dallara’s intentions and challenges.
The Dallara Academy, which lies only one kilometre from the headquarters, was opened last year, and combines education and experience through its labs and historic displays. From the 1966 Lamborghini Miura through to the Stradale, an impressive number of racing cars are on display, and even the tailor-made Z-bike, with which Alessandro Zanardi won gold medals at two paralympic games.
Daniele Guarnaccia, project manager for the Stradale, invited me for a drive on the roads above Varano de’ Melegari, and opened the canopy door for me. As we climbed into the car, adjusting the pedals and steering wheel, Daniele explained how they had dug deep into the collective expertise to create a car that eats corners for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but also a car that behaves civilized on any normal road. This combination of qualities has been sought after for ages, and it often ends up a jack of all trades, master of none. Not so in the Dallara Stradale, as far as I could tell. The exquisitly balanced chassis and suspension swallowed anything I could throw at it (or rather, throw it at), be it corner, bump or rough tarmac, and with growing confidence in the car, the enjoyment of being the man behind the wheel kept increasing.
Power and sound comes from a turbocharged 2.3-litre Ford inline-four, mated to a six-speed gearbox, which can be operated manually or through paddles and actuators. The engine develops 400 hp and a massive 500 Nm of torque, and the torque curve is impressively bountiful. With a kerb weight of 855 kg and downforce up to 820 kg, the recipe indicates mind-boggling performance. Standstill to 100 km/h can be done in 3.2 seconds, and with lower downforce, the Stradale will max out at 280 km/h.
The Stradale comes in various guises; Barchetta, Spider and Coupe, and both doors and rear wing can be added or removed with relative ease. However, if you remove the rear wing, remember to adjust the front wing as well to retain the car’s balance. The entire car is very well thought out, such as the sides of the coupe, which add tremendous rigidity to the body as well as acting as an air tunnel. Daniele said that every part should ideally have multiple purposes, and that’s a philosophy that shines through. Even during production, the nearly completed car is mounted on simulated wheels and weighed down to adjust the suspension and balance just so.
I came to Dallara with high expectations, having known the name Dallara for decades. Daniele told me how they planned it, the factory showed me how they made it and the car showed me what it could do, and it might very well be the best car I have ever driven. Only 600 Stradale will be produced, and there will be no successor. Dallara’s dream has been realised, and the Stradale is indeed a dream to drive, so there doesn’t seem to be much more to prove. The Dallara Stradale is undoubtedly a must-have for anyone who smiles in recognition whenever passing a warning sign for curvy road ahead. I know I smiled.