Horsepower put to the test

In the end, the power of two horses was no match for the nearly 600 horsepower engine of a Ferrari 458 Italia.

The sports car driven by racing driver Fabio Barone crossed the finish line just a few seconds ahead of the Roman-style chariot at the Cinecitta World amusement park in Rome, in an unusual duel between machine and beast on Thursday.

The race track was the same as that used to film the famous chariot scene in last year's Hollywood movie Ben-Hur. In fact, according to Barone, it was the movie that inspired him to think of such an event.

To make the race fairer, organisers provided a few handicaps for Barone, including having to take a longer outside "lane" trajectory, and having to battle extra sand on the course, which could clog the car's brake circuits.

The 44-year-old, who already has two world records for speed under his belt, also had to put in an extra half lap and forgo electronically assisted steering technology.

"Racing against those two horses was truly moving," he said, lauding the "really exceptional animals".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'Horsepower put to the test'. Subscribe