They say never to meet your heroes.
We’ve all heard the tales; the displeasure that follows a bad holiday, an overhyped product or being left crestfallen by a celebrity encounter can sully what should be a brilliant experience.
I write this after having chased my automotive dream across the Aberdeenshire countryside on a crisp autumnal evening. This year has been good to me – I got to drive an F430 and Gallardo at the start of summer
– but Saturday 25 October, 2014 will forever be seared into my memory as the day I got up close to the Ferrari F50. One thing’s for sure: it did not disappoint.
Built to celebrate Ferrari’s fiftieth anniversary, the naturally-aspirated 4.7-litre V12 produces 513bhp and mated this to a swoopy Pininfarina-designed body. Power is delivered to the rear wheels via a 6-speed manual click-clack
H-pattern gearbox, with the carbonfibre monocoque keeping the car light at just over 1000kg.
On paper, the latest generation of German supersaloons easily outmuscle the lithe Italian. Despite this, to reduce the F50 to mere numbers misses the focus of the car entirely. To this day, the F50 stands alongside the McLaren F1 and Lamborghini Diablo as one of the purest driver’s cars ever to make it into production. Carbonfibre is used excessively to lower the car’s mass. The engine is derived from the 333SP racer. For most of the 1990s, I drooled over every facet of Ferrari’s ferociously fast and heart-wrenchingly gorgeous halo car.
There are those car shoots that you meticulously plan, and there are those that seemingly arise out of nowhere. My encounter with 1 of 349 F50s ever made fell into the latter category, as a happenstance text from a friend led to our drive. Deciding to take advantage of Aberdeenshire’s spectacular evening skyline, we headed in convoy up to our photo location; a picturesque and challengingly narrow old military road. Our convoy’s collective thirty cylinders pierced the night both aurally and visually, with a Bentley Continental GT illuminating our charge and my BMW bringing up the rear.
Following the F50 was a complete delight. Whilst some pedestrians were oblivious to supercar royalty, others snapped their heads sideways as the barely-silenced engine burbled past. It skipped over the tiniest of imperfections and yelped on the tiniest of throttle openings. It may have been a cold night in Scotland, but I kept my window down for the outward journey just to hear the V12 sing. Once freed from the city it truly cleared its voice, sounding not dissimilar to an early-2000s F1 car on full throttle. Powering through the Scottish countryside on a clear night and with my favourite Ferrari screaming ahead of me, I tried gamely to hustle the 320i and keep in touch. The rear diffuser seemed to suck in and spit out all the brown leaves that lined our route, whilst the canopy above reflected that shrieking V12 back down to us. Open roads and fast cars; what a mix.
We shot on location in the murky darkness by setting the DSLR to a long exposure and running around the car, illuminating it with high-powered lights. As you can see, the results were pretty spectacular:
I’d love to say that I kept my reserve when I was offered some seat time, but I’m certain I turned into a grinning moron. Sliding my body across the wide sill and falling into the tight-fitting seat, I felt an odd sense of deja vu. I was now cocooned inside the car I’d driven endless times on Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 as a child. To my right was the carbon-balled, Ferrari-inscribed gearknob. In my hands was the dainty, grippy steering wheel. Alcantara was everywhere; the seats, the dashboard, even the headlining. The metal pedals were just begging to be used. Pretty soon, however, I had to climb up and out of the F50 and settle back into my 320i. It felt like trading a speedboat for a canal boat.
I had expected my time with the F50 to be exhilarating, fascinating and, above all, fun. It comes as a great relief to say that it was every bit as incredible as I imagined it would be. After all, how many people can say that they’ve heel-and-toed in pursuit of an F50 in the dead of night?
Thank you goes to my colleagues over at Pete W Photography
, GT Scotland
and, of course, the kind owner for realising a long-held dream and driving the Ferrari as hard as it was designed to be driven.