My date with the Prancing Horse at Knockhill

For many petrol heads across the world, being able to get behind the wheel of a Ferrari is perhaps one of the greatest privileges that you can experience.

Posters of the famous red cars adorn the bedroom walls of children who grow up dreaming that one day they will be able to sample the beauty of motorsport’s most iconic manufacturer.

The Ferrari brand is one that will forever be associated with luxury, wealth and performance. It symbolises true racing excellence and style. Only the luckiest are able to own one of these famous Italian supercars and even being able to sit in the drivers’ seat is something that very few people will ever achieve.

Little did I know that I was about to follow in the footsteps of motorsport heroes such as Michael Schumacher and Gilles Villeneuve by getting behind the wheel of a Ferrari and joining that elusive club of drivers’ who have been able to experience the true magnificence of Maranello machinery.

The day that I would achieve a lifelong ambition was to take place at the Knockhill circuit in Fife. The track is Scotland’s national motorsport centre and home to a Ferrari 360, which I would soon get behind the wheel of.

The Ferrari is capable of reaching a top speed of 189mph reaching 0-60 in just four seconds. Its 3.6 litre V8 engine is capable of producing a staggering 400bhp and features a Formula One style gearbox. The 360 cost more than £100,000 when it was first released in 1999 and it is arguably one of the best cars in the modern era of Ferrari.

All of this was fresh in my mind as I made the trip to the track and any dreams that I had the talent of the likes of Schumacher and Villeneuve would be quickly shot down in flames when I remembered just how expensive the 360 is.

The stage was set for what was to be a defining point in my life so far. The weather was kind to us and the track was bone dry meaning that the only thing I had to worry about was not putting the car into the tyre wall.

The ferocious power of the 3.6L V8 engine is simply incredible.
The ferocious power of the 3.6L V8 engine is simply incredible.

In order to avoid destroying the beautifully crafted Pininfarina body, I was given four training laps in a 240bhp Seat Cupra under the expert guidance of the Knockhill team. The circuit is intimidating at first but it soon becomes an easy flow of medium speed corners as you begin to enjoy the experience. The Seat session helps you to find the perfect racing line and help put you at ease as you prepare for the main event; the iconic Italian stallion.

As we returned to the pit lane I could not take my eyes away from the blood red beauty that stood before me. I had waited all my life for this moment and I was about to cross off a huge box on the bucket list as an ever-growing crowd looked on.

As soon as I got behind the wheel I felt a huge adrenalin rush surge through my body on a scale that I have never experienced before. As I turned the key and the V8 engine roared into life, the hairs on my neck stood up almost simultaneously. I sensed that my instructor was looking forward to the experience as much as I was. The onlookers shared the huge grin on my face as I revved the Ferrari once more and all eyes were on me as I took to the track.

I exit the pit lane and the sheer amount of power between my fingertips quickly becomes clear as I put my foot through the floor and head towards the first corner. The 360 hits the apex perfectly and does exactly what I ask of it. It is surprisingly easy to drive as it thunders along the circuit and up the hill towards the blind chicane and the back straight.

Eager to showcase the Ferrari’s true power to the expectant audience, the roar of the Ferrari can be heard from anywhere on the circuit as we head towards the final hairpin. The car turns with such accuracy and easiness that after just over a mile it feels more like a go kart than a bulky supercar.

I watch the speedometer rise as we accelerate past the pit wall at more than 120mph but the main straight is not long enough to unleash the true power of the Ferrari. I quickly run out of road and slam on the brakes as I clip the apex into the first corner.

From a distance you expect the Ferrari to be heavy and difficult to control but it the steering is so light and accurate that it becomes surprisingly easy to drive. There is no need for a radio in this car, the V8 engine is my soundtrack as I make my way around the track once more with the 360 encouraging me to go just that little bit faster.

The Ferrari is everything that you expect it to be and more. It lives up to your childhood dreams as it flows through the circuit with ease. You truly feel that you have joined the ranks of an elite club as you experience this incredible machine. It is not a car but instead it is a living, breathing piece of beauty that talks to you as you make your way through the track, responding to your every request with such elegance and perfection.

As I head into the pit lane for the final time I do so knowing that this has truly been a breath taking experience. I have achieved something that I never thought I would be able to do and is an achievement that will stay with me for as long as I shall live.

They say that you should never meet your heroes, you will only be disappointed. I say that nothing could be further from the truth.

This article appeared on the Impulse Magazine website in April 2013.


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