To say that Dallara founder Gian Paolo gave us a special gift on his birthday is putting it lightly; the Stradale is quite possibly the closest a standard car has ever come to resembling a race car (its name literally means for the road).
Let’s think about it: the Stradale represents Dallara’s more than 45 years of racing experience packaged neatly in a single car that maximizes its purpose without sacrificing any of the driving feel. Think about it like the recipe for success that is Colin Chapman’s Lotus, as Dallara’s engineer admiringly notes.
Speaking of hopes and dreams, driving this car was extra special for me, seeing as I returned to Nardò’s track, where in 2010, my career began after finishing a race car testing course taught by Loris Bicocchi. He’s the same man who worked on supercars like the Bugatti Chiron, most recently, as well as cars from Lamborghini, Pagani, Koenigsegg and other greats throughout the years.
How It’s Made
To start, let’s remember that this car was designed for use on the track, and all of the emotion the track brings, without the hassle of needing a mechanic to put it in gear or service it, and without a trailer to bring it back home afterwards. The single frame and panels are made of carbon fiber for this reason. Being lightweight reigns here. The rest of its measurements serve its purpose: 165 inches long, 74 wide, and 41 tall. The center of gravity and aerodynamics have been fine-tuned perfectly, and with the rear wing, the downforce reaches 1,808 pounds at the maximum speed of 174 mph (only 77 pounds less than the car’s empty mass).
You’re getting the picture. The car’s extremely low exterior frame has a series of “tunnels” carved into it, increasing the downforce even more. When it comes to personalizing the vehicle, drivers can choose between a manual transmission and a single-clutch automated version, different types of suspension (and adjustable three-way shock absorbers), an even sportier exhaust pipe, not to mention accessories for the cockpit. You can order a windshield, or even a top frame that transforms it into a “targa” by adding two small, lateral glass doors to form a dome roof, much like that of a fighter plane.
How It Drives
Finding the right words to describe the driving experience is difficult, as is comparing the Dallara Stradale to anything else. The mix of being so lightweight and the strong downforce allow for lateral acceleration (about 2 g) almost double that of any other supercar that you can think of.
After this mental reset, also keep in mind that the unassisted steering isn’t too heavy. It is actually fantastically direct and linear. A slight turn of the wheel and the trajectory changes with little reaction to the road’s surface. The physiologic realignment isn’t immediate, but gradual.
The suspension is a compromise between two test-drivers: Marco Apicella, Jordan’s ex-Formula 1 pilot, and the previously mentioned Loris Bicocchi. The former wanted more it to be more “track” friendly, the latter, a little less, resulting in a vehicle that absorbs irregularities on the road with a long range and soft compression. The brakes are decisively precise without being rigid, as well as flat so that you can feel your foot placement without rolling.
The turbocharged 2.3-liter motor has a deeper growl than that of a Focus RS or Mustang, with tons of torque. You don’t have to push it to the limit, even though you can get there easily. The brakes are difficult to judge, especially on the road, in the beginning, but as you go faster, it comes naturally. The single-clutch, automated manual transmission is meant for the track, and a little rough-going on the road, whereas the manual clutch is fluid, but a little slow during more extreme use.
A Few Facts
The engine is made by Ford and modified to Dallara’s specifications: a larger turbo, different mechanical self-locking differential, and other components are added or upgraded. The Getrag manual shifter was also made robotic, starting with the manual transmission, at Dallara’s request. Interestingly, the suspension’s hard stops are deformed so that they progressively become more rigid during high-speed driving, when aerodynamics double the car’s weight and push it closer to the ground. And Pirelli created the tires ad hoc using mathematical figures and simulated tests long before they were tested by Bicocchi and Apicella on the road.
You will have to pay 189,000 euro ($234,500 USD) to get your hands on one of the 600 Dallara Stradale, but prices can go up to 250,000 euro ($310,200 USD) if you want the cockpit closed and all the options, including the wing, increased sports suspension, single-clutch automated transmission, etc. Considering this racing chassis company has created a new automotive division for the production of limited-edition cars, here’s hoping we will see another model after the Stradale.