Behind the wheel of a rocket on wheels


You’ve probably heard the expression: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Well, I found myself in Maranello, Northern Italy, and I decided to do what those in that area have the opportunity to do: drive a Ferrari. Maranello is the home of Ferrari.

I traveled to Italy in late May on a press event for a select group of North American truck journalists organized by Meritor – a leading global supplier of drivetrain, mobility, braking and aftermarket solutions for commercial vehicle and industrial markets.

Company officials had arranged for a Ferrari driving experience.

I got to drive a mid-engine, 4.3L, V8-powered Ferrari F430 Coupe, accompanied by an instructor, Ugo Biocchini. He was fearless as he shouted – in broken English – passing and shifting instructions to me as we rocketed through the streets of Maranello. Apparently, traffic and warning signs, road surface markings – like e center lines and solid lines for no passing – and speed limits are only suggestions in Italy.

Clearly, Biocchini enjoyed thrill riding and flirting with disaster.  

From what I came to understand from Biocchini (neither one of us was fluent in each other’s language), the engine generated around 500 hp and the car cost more than $200,000.


The cockpit

Because I am tall, to me, the driver’s area felt like a cramped cockpit, with little leg and elbow room.

While the F430 could be driven in “automatic” mode, I went with the sequential-shift automated six-speed manual transmission mode. In this mode, well-placed paddles mounted behind the steering wheel – one at the nine o-clock position and one at the three o’clock position.

These paddles enable effortless, super-quick shifting between gears. The left paddle is for shifting down; the right lever for shifting up.

The rotary-switch manettino on the bottom right of the steering wheel can be turned to one of five positions to quickly control the electronics governing suspension settings, the CST stability and traction control, electronic differential, as well as change the speed of the F1 transmission and the integration between each of these individual functions The switch enables car settings to be changed to suit the personal preferences of the driver, road surface conditions and available grip.


First time

This was my first experience driving any Ferrari. The F430 was a gut-wrenching, G-force generating, rocket on wheels.

I found the sports car to be incredibly balanced, extremely responsive and easy to drive.

I have no idea of how fast I went because I was too busy focusing on not hitting anything or anyone.