A highlight of the Ferrari FF test drive was pushing the start button and hearing the car roar to life.

Photo credit: Karin Holly
DOUGLAS A. BOLDUC

24 hours with a Ferrari

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Douglas A. Bolduc is Managing Editor at Automotive News Europe.
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A casual conversation on the rooftop of a Monte Carlo hotel led to an experience of a lifetime: the chance to drive a Ferrari.

What was unknown at the time was that the best part about having the FF would be the priceless reactions the supercar caused.

Let's briefly loop back to the beginning of the adventure. I met Ferrari Communications Director Stefano Lai at the 2012 Automotive News Europe Congress in Monte Carlo. He was there because his boss, Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, was the keynote speaker at the event.

During the chat Lai said that if I ever wanted to test a Ferrari I should give him a call. Given that I had never even sat in a Ferrari, the idea of driving one seemed impossible.

That changed this month while I was visiting the United States. Lai and his team at Ferrari North America arranged for me to test the FF.

The fun began almost immediately after leaving the Ferrari of Tampa Bay dealership. Here are some of the highlights.

• Pushing the start button and hearing the car roar to life. The noise turns heads. It also speaks to something primal in one's soul. You've just awakened a beast. It's time to play.

• Accelerating quickly for the first time and getting that amazing sensation of being thrust back in your seat by the shear force of the V-12's 651 hp. My wife Karin, who was with me for the adventure, said she had never felt that level of force from car. It was at that moment she became a Ferrari fan for life.

• Meeting FF owner Dr. William La Rosa, who happened to be at the dealership when we picked up our FF. Dr. La Rosa, 85, is a retired urologist who keeps busy running a cattle ranch north of Tampa. Mentally sharp, fit and trim, he's the kind of octogenarian we all want to be. The FF is his second Ferrari. He would like to add the F12 next.

• Surprising friends Eddie Burch and Sandy Chan, who live in the Tampa area, with the car after we had dinner. They took some photos of themselves in and near the car then we got on the road. About a block from the restaurant is a gentlemen's club where some of Tampa's well-known professional American football players have gotten into trouble from time to time. As we passed Eddie leaned over to me and said with a smile, "With this car, we could get anything we want over there."

• Being photographed while in the car. Once by a giddy teenager in a car next to us while waiting for a light to change. The other time was by cab driver who put roadway safety to the test by snapping shots with his iPhone while traveling at about 80 kph.

• Taking our friend Tim Garland for a ride, during which he asked how much the car costs? The answer: about $300,000. His reply: "When I'm in something worth that much it usually has a kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms."

• Having the chance to surprise my father with the car. By coincidence he was also in Florida at the time rather than being in Massachusetts, where he has owned a car repair business for more than 40 years. Some of my best memories as a kid were when he brought home sports cars he was working to make sure they we running properly. My brother and I got to enjoy rides in a Chevrolet Corvette, a Porsche 914 and a Chevy Camaro. It was really special to be able to repay his kindness.

In 24 hours we were able to provide six test rides. The FF was photographed as much as a supermodel during that time as it became a social media sensation inside multiple circles of family and friends.

What I came away with was a deep appreciation for the detail that goes into creating a Ferrari. The brand's racing heritage is evident in every millimeter of the car. I also gained a much better understanding of why someone would purchase a supercar: it's a mood lifter like no other I've ever experienced. Everyone that got to enjoy the FF walked away with a smile and an amazing tale to tell.

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at dbolduc@crain.com.

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