After 25 years covering the auto industry, I've become a bit jaded about driving. Sometimes you need to stifle a yawn when you pick up the keys to the latest sedan or minivan. But not, I must quickly admit, when the keys in hand fire up a brand new Ferrari F430.
I had the good fortune to tag onto the final stages of a 3-day rally that brought nearly 80 cars and more than 100 Ferraristis to Northern California this week. This was more than just another car show. Participants ran through a series of time trials, slalom courses, with even a few scavenger hunt-style challenges thrown in. Raw muscle won't win a rally. You have to stay on course, and on time. Too early to a checkpoint, and you'll lose as many points as you would being late. The level of competitiveness was as intense as I've ever seen at one of these events. But to Mark Mitchell, an estate planner out of San Juan Capistrano, what else would you expect from a bunch of Ferrari owners? "Most of the people here are entrepreneurs, and they play a tough game. They play to win. This is just an extension of every-day life."
So reining everyone in wasn't easy as we hit the checkpoint just south of Sausalito. But ultimately, with a little helpful prodding from the California Highway patrol, everyone fell into line. No, not for tickets, but for an incredible, escorted tour across the Golden Gate Bridge. For a few amazing minutes, the rest of busy Southbound US 101 came to a halt, the CHiPs guiding us in two neat and nearly orderly rows across the fog-shrouded bridge. I'd have expected some angry epithets from those forced to wait, and more than a few extended middle fingers, but instead, folks waved, cheered and snapped their digital cameras. All too soon, we were on the city side of the bridge for a rushed lunch at the Sir Francis Drake Yacht Club.
Still on the clock, half the ralliers were out of the dining room and back on the run before the main course was even served. So goes the competitive drive, especially when you're behind the wheel of a car like the F430. We'll have a more complete report later this week!