The first thing I noticed was that nobody ever asked: “What model year is it?”
When it comes to cars, most people will ask about brand, year or model, and maybe how many cylinders it has or how much horsepower it produces. But when it comes to Ferraris, most people stop at “WOW.”
Yes, seeing a Ferrari up close will elicit wows from the crowd that it automatically attracts. But when you put 18 Ferraris of different model years and colors for the Italian marque’s 70th anniversary—the 125 S, the first car to carry the Ferrari name, came out in 1947—it’s almost like staging the motoring version of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Aside from gawking, the automatic response was to take out smartphones and do selfies on the part of the hordes that gathered at a couple of Shell gas stations and the parking lot of The Manor at Camp John Hay.
The funny thing is that two weeks after driving a Ferrari 458 Spider, I still don’t know what model year the car was. What I now know is that driving a Ferrari is like taking one shot of the most highly addictive substance on the planet called “fun.” You never quite get over it: It becomes the standard by which all other vehicles you drive will be judged. It becomes the curse of Asgard because the chances of you ever owning one are slim to none. I’ll hang on to the slim possibility.
Nonetheless, I have experienced the next best thing to owning a Ferrari, and that was to be part of the “Driven By Emotion” event to mark Ferrari’s 70th-year milestone. It included a drive from Manila to Baguio, an exclusive motorcade along Session Road, a joyride to Ambuklao Dam, an excursion to Pradera Verde in Lubao, Pampanga, and then finally the drive back to Manila all in three days. The only hitch was that, instead of having my beautiful wife or daughter as passenger, I was actually the official chauffeur of my kumpadre Willie Soong, the chairman and president of Autostrada Motore, the official Ferrari dealer in the Philippines. One works with the cards he is dealt.
So there we were, two senior citizens driving with the top down and the air-conditioning on, and listening to the roar of Ferraris for several hours. Music is a must for me when driving, but when you’re trailing several Ferraris, they all put out a different sort of concert that only car-crazy people can appreciate. This was undoubtedly one of my best drives as a motoring journalist who specializes in writing about the experience and not the technical aspect. Besides being a bucket-list experience, the drive also exposed me to the more advanced technologies of Ferraris and why they’re ahead of the pack in the world of supercars.
The 458 Spider is set up similar to race cars in the sense that most of the vital instruments, switches and controls are on the steering wheel or within easy reach of the driver, without him having to let go of the wheel. You have paddle shifters just a few inches behind the steering wheel so you can manually shift gears by merely pulling the paddles toward you. Upshift on the right, downshift on the left—you let your fingers do the shifting.
For the longest time, I had been intimidated by cars with paddle shifters, but after just 10 minutes learning the system on the 458, I think these shifters are among the best features of modern cars. The best part is that when you get distracted—as I was whenever we hit traffic and I forgot to downshift—the onboard computer will do the downshifting for you. Another interesting thing I noticed was that when I abruptly removed my foot from the accelerator, the engine quickly responded with what was basically an engine brake and not just a slowdown.
In terms of ride comfort, I don’t know if it was the thrill or how much fun I was having, but I must say that it’s one of the best rides I’ve had and that comes from someone with three compressed nerves on the spine as well as pain from the sciatic nerve. Ten minutes into the drive and I started to feel my lower back warming up, which told me that the seat was well contoured. At the end of the three-day drive, I did not feel tired or beat as I normally do after long drives. So aside from having the best seats in town, a Ferrari also has a fantastic suspension system that does not transmit vibrations and bumps to passengers.
No point in telling you how much power a Ferrari packs under the hood, because at a price tag that ranges from P18,000,000 to P25,000,000, it’s pretty much a given that these cars are very potent. The biggest challenge I would imagine to driving a Ferrari is fighting off the urge to speed or hit 230km/h. The fact that you can actually do it on our expressways is such a temptation, which is why you don’t just get to write down a check for P20,000,000-plus and drive away.
Majority of the Ferrari owners in the 18-car fleet have multiple driver proficiency training certificates from Europe, America, Japan and China. Those certificates don’t come easy, and they don’t come cheap. They don’t care about how rich you are or what Ferrari model you drive—all they want is to make sure you have the discipline and the expertise to drive a supercar. That is exactly what the drivers did during the event.
The support teams all lagged behind and were just amazed that the Ferrari owners were not babying their multimillion-peso cars. That is what real driving is all about. Prancing horses run wild and are not meant to stay in the stable. Oh, by the way, Willie Soong just texted to tell me that the 458 Spider I drove was a 2013 model. Thirteen really is my lucky number.