On a morning cold enough for my breath to make its ghostly aura visible I stood and admired the thoroughbred that lay before me. Beads of pure morning dew ran slowly down its sculptured face and dropped silently to the ground below while the sun struggled to permeate through the menacing looking storm clouds above.
The Stallion’s stance remained stoic and unyielding, portraying a confidence that you find in only the truest of pedigree. I nervously approached it from the front, desperate not to break the feeling of intense antici…pation that had grown to near boiling point within me. With a sense of trepidation I reached out and softly touched its nose as I silently went about introducing myself; before running my hand slowly along its beautifully smooth face – I had waited so many years for this opportunity and there was no way I was going to rush it.
Let me tell you how this all began
The setup was relatively simple, a night’s stay in 5 Star luxury at the Taupo Hilton, including a 3 course Dinner at the Bistro Lago with a lavish breakfast to kick off the following morning’s adventure. Undoubtedly a long soak in the hot pools and a casual stroll beside the great lake were on the agenda too. All in all a perfect weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of big city life, culminating in a relaxed drive back to Auckland; stopping for pictures and maybe a spot of lunch on the way. So why was my stomach filled with butterflies? Oh did I forget to mention that the drive back was to be behind the wheel of a fire breathing Ferrari F12berlinetta!
The room was as advertised, spacious, stylish and elegant; same with the facilities (pool, gym and sauna) all highlighted by the fine hospitality you’d expect from such a high class name. The evening meal was something else too. I opted for the Tuna Tartar entree and the Eye fillet main with a sorbet to wash it down. At the end of the meal the Chef came and spent some time talking through how the meal was prepared and about his own experience – he used to Chef at the Buri al arab! The bed (that would on any other weekend be soft and inviting), saw very little of my anxious frame, in fact I spent an extraordinary amount of time staring at the back of closed eyelids as I tried in vain to sleep and then spent the rest of the night doing ridiculous tasks to occupy my mind and ultimately waste time until sunrise. Also, knowing that the F12 was sitting in a cold garage made me quite uneasy – even though it was very secure.
Although my stomach still felt unsettled, breakfast was finally served at 6.30am and I made my way back to the Bistro to dine, I was determined to try and conduct myself as a normal human being on a weekend away (yeah right) – a normal human being that just happened to have a Ferrari F12belinetta waiting outside. Returning to the room, I showered and changed with as much attention as I would for a first date, which in many ways it was, I felt happily fidgety and excited – the perfect state of mind to go meet my ride.
And so there I was; standing beside a grigio titanio Ferrari F12 with its keys held firmly in my hand, it was MY Ferrari for the rest of the weekend and I was relishing the moment. I continued my tour of this magnificent beast as I gathered my thoughts and in truth; my courage. At the cabin end of its long flowing nose are the Aero Bridges, two air channels running down through the bonnet and along both sides of the vehicle, the effect is very unique and the arches on the hood are very architectural. Functionally it increases downforce but equally as important; visually the design is gorgeous. The F12’s rear is as staunch as the front, possibly even more so but with a hint of upperclass to it. The Champagne ‘Coupe’ glass design envelopes the distinctive Ferrari round tail lights and the ‘stem’ leads you down to the air diffuser and two sets of twin exhausts encased in Carbon Fibre.
As I stood back to admire the car one more time I think I let out an audible sigh. I’d put it off long enough, it was time to suck it up and get inside.
The first thing that hits you as you open the door is the deep scent of hand crafted leather, it’s delicious. I carefully stepped over the threshold and slipped into the driver’s seat. Now forgive me for a spot of nostalgia but there is a scene in the movie ‘Ferris Beuliers Day Off’ where Ferris gets to drive a 1961 250GT California Spyder and as he eases into the seat he lets out a breath of virtual ecstasy – I now know exactly how he felt. The seat and surrounding cabin fits you like personally tailored attire, the sensation was exquisitely comfortable; warm and inviting. I took several moments to admire my new surroundings. First and foremost the sports steering wheel, everything you need to drive is at your fingertips. Now; I’m getting quite used to luxury vehicles where the steering wheel allows the driver access to almost all the options that the vehicle has to offer but the F12 is different – it’s all about what they deem necessary to drive. Push button start (I’ll get to that in a while), Suspension adjustment button, high beam dip, manettino dial for driving mode selection, wipers, indicators and two horns (which are in the thumbs up position – genius) oh and of course the Prancing Horse takes pride of place in the centre.
Straight through the wheel in the instrument cluster is the large Rev counter and to either side sits the digital speedometer and various readouts of trip information or Sat Nav. As it was obvious the F12 was all about the Revs, it was about time I got to experience them. Foot on the brake and a sharp intake of breath, before a push on the bright red start button – The F12 took a moment (or maybe that was in my mind) before bellowing into life – the resulting sound was goosebump raising. The Naturally Aspirated 6.3Litre brute of an engine Grrred loudly through its quattro exhausts and this fabulous note enlivened the entire car – and its new driver.
Almost immediately the V12 engine settled into a deep grumble and while it went about the business of warming up the oil that lavishly surrounded its 12 pistons I continued to explore its cockpit. Five Carbon Fibre and Aluminium Alloy air vents break up the cars landscape of sporty but equally opulent leather that adorned the dashboard and flowed onto the door’s interior panels. The minimalist ‘centre console’ arch that segregates driver from passenger presents a few drawcard buttons such as Hazard and Launch, seemingly unnecessary things like infotainment and AC selection are given only palm size space so as not to clutter up the cabin. On the subject of space, the F12berlinetta has plenty of luggage area; certainly enough for a weekend getaway for two and there is ample visibility through the rear window but the reversing camera (and nose raising button) are welcomed extras for parking and driveways – after all; it is a big expensive car so best to keep it all in one piece.
When putting this whole experience together I had hoped for a fine day, let’s face it, having the World’s most powerful front engine rear wheel drive under your right foot is a terrifying prospect in the dry but throw in some wet weather and… Well I think you get the picture. Unfortunately the weather gods were against me and the forecast had turned to storms, but as I live in Auckland I naturally assumed the weather would undoubtedly break and the sun would shine – I was wrong. So before doing anything else I made sure the manettino was turned hard to the left in ‘wet’ mode (there are 4 other settings ranging from Sport up to insanity) before giving a soft pull on the right gear paddle and selecting first gear – it was time to go.
The roads were very wet, soaked in fact but this immensely powerful car showed no sign of slipping, the traction control in ‘nanny’ mode did its job admirably and after a surprisingly short time my confidence was up and I settled into a less rigid driving position (I even loosened the grip I had on the wheel to just ‘tight’) and started to enjoy it. The F12 feels sturdy and solid on the tarmac, yes it’s quite wide but it doesn’t feel that way while you drive. I must say however, that on the uneven NZ road surfaces out of the main centre, the F12 has a tendency to choose the ruts it wants to drive in, making it at times a little frisky, but I also feel that this may have something to do with the semi slick tyres that were fitted to its 20” shoes. Road noise is drowned out wonderfully by the V12 and I couldn’t stop myself jumping up and down the gears to open and close the exhaust baffles, believe me you’d probably do the same in my position, it’s glorious. Under high revs it feels like you’re at a an F1 racetrack, I was half expecting race commentary or narration and yes I did pull over to the side of the road, drop it into neutral and push down hard on the accelerator – it’s now my ringtone.
Aside from the thunder, lightening and hail, the drive back to Auckland was thankfully uneventful, I just spent the majority of the time getting better acquainted with this virtually living breathing machine. Parking it up on my driveway brought many of my neighbours out to have a look and I proudly showed them around, like a tour guide I pointed out the car’s multitude of highlights – the engine, cockpit, aerobridge, even things like the speed/rev dial above the glovebox (so the passengers can share the experience).
The next morning saw me using the F12 to commute to work, it handles the slow moving traffic like any other vehicle – Apart from the massive amount of attention you get from other drivers; the deep growl of the engine, the fine crafted interior and the fact that you are paranoid that other drivers are out to do the F12 accidental harm – Apart from all that, it’s just like any other commuting vehicle – you’d never know you were in a supercar GT.
I’d love to say that I really put this car through its paces and drove it like a man possessed, I’d love to say I unleashed all 544kW/690Nm of horses, I’d even love to say that using launch control I blasted the F12 from 0-100 in 3.1 seconds, but the truth is I didn’t. I drove it more like a man Obsessed rather than possessed, more in love that fighting to control.
It’s the beautifully sculpted and amazingly crafted machine of my dreams and it commanded and deserved all the respect that I gave it. I have no doubt that it has the ability to bite you in the worst possible way (if you start turning the manettino switch clockwise and stamp on its tail) but even in some obscene driving conditions the F12 went very easy on a Ferrari driving newbie and gave me an experience that will stay with me for many years to come.
So why the long face? Well as with all good things, my time with the Ferrari F12berlinetta came to an end. Will I still be anxious before getting behind the wheel of another Ferrari? Of course. Will they still hold the mystique and allure that I had held in my mind for so many years? Absolutely and in truth, probably way more so now.
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