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James Suckling

Driving the Dream

Posted: May 30, 2008 9:32am ET
I have to admit that I was a little nervous. Look at my face in the video before I drove the car. I think I look a little pale, even ashen. But it all went well, and after four laps around the track, I began to feel confident.

It was all part of a morning at the Fiorano racetrack near Modena, Italy. The track is the official track for Ferrari, both for testing their
production cars as well as Forumla One. I was asked last Monday to go with some friends from Florence who were hooking up with their local Ferrari dealer to try out some of the new F430s on the market. Who in their right mind would say no to that?

Anyway, we drove up from Florence to the track, which took about two hours. We already had a couple of Ferraris. One of the cars was a sleek black 430 coupe. The other was a dark silver 550 SuperAmerica.

But when we arrived at the track, there was dead silence for a moment. In front of us were four gorgeous new F430s, complete with test pilots to give you few tips while zooming around the track. The cars were breathtaking.

I don’t want to bore you with all the specs on the cars but they were the standard 490- horsepower models with F1 paddle gearboxes and ceramic brakes. They are essentially rockets with wheels.

We spent about one hour learning about the mechanics of the cars as well as driving positions and some techniques. But the real lesson was when we took a quick two laps with a test pilot. Mine was Sergio. (I thought I had a fun job!). He drove the car with great precision but at the same time in a smooth and relaxed manner. At the straightaway we hit about 200 kilometers per hour before braking and shifting down three gears to second to take the first curve. It was a blast!

I had to wait about an hour after that to get my chance in front of the wheel of the F430. I have driven one a number of times last year, but driving on a track is so much different than the road. It takes more concentration and technique knowing when and where to brake as well as making the right gear changes through the various curves.

My heart was pounding when I climbed into the car. The sound of the engine was like a growling lion. I had images of me putting my head in a lion’s mouth at a circus. But then I quickly snapped out of my mental state as I pulled on to the track. Vrooom. Second, third….

“Brake. Brake,” said my co-pilot in Italian. “Okay, third gear, fourth gear, take it smoothly,” he said. “Accelerate out of the turn…”

It went on like that for the rest of the test drive. And I was happy he was there. The most fun was down the straightway with the sound of the eight-cylinder engine whining at high rev and hitting about 180 kilometers per hour just before smashing the brakes hard and then down shifting just before the curve. The Ferrari gearbox is so smooth on the downshift – seamless is the word that comes to mind.

I was sorry the four laps were over so quickly as I pulled into the pit and got out of the car. Shit. I want one. But at about $280,000, I am not sure that is going to happen anytime soon. Nonetheless, driving a Ferrari F430 has to be one of my funniest things on earth to do with my clothes on, and the convertible would be just the right summer car to enjoy a cigar– if you can keep it lit!

Comments   3 comment(s)

Patrick Thayer — Annapolis, MD —  May 30, 2008 4:17pm ET


Pete Noel — Medford, NY —  May 31, 2008 2:41pm ET

James, thank you for the description! I'm another Ferrari enthusiast, though I probably know less than the others. Owning a Ferrari before I die is a goal of mine.

James Suckling June 1, 2008 3:13am ET


Me too! Luckily I have a couple of friends with them...

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