Back in september, I was lucky enough to go to Spa-Francorchamps to bear witness to the raw brutality of a « track car », Aston Martin’s latest beast, the VULCAN (read all about it HERE). That was an absolutely insane day to say the least. But it didn’t end there. Far from it. French car collector POG had something up his sleeve.
If you’ve never heard of POG (@pogforever on Instagram), believe me, you soon will in the upcoming months/years. For starters, he’s incredibly cool and a genuine nice guy: he shares his passion and crazy mindset with the world every occasion he gets. The man owns some pretty cool cars (including a Lamborghini Aventador and the subject of today’s article, a stunningly beautiful Ferrari 458 Speciale Aperta). He is quite known for generally doing some crazy and/or silly videos, which are, more often than not, almost ALL viral material. I highly suggest you check them out!
Anyways. This was the first time we actually physically met. We had talked before on the internet, as well as throughout this public trackday. And out of the blue, he offered me a ride in his amazing Ferrari 458 Speciale Aperta. The white monster stood in front of me, with its lovely blue interior, blue stripe & blue brake calipers. And obviously, the mini POG bearing french colours, giving the finger andtied to the back of the car, near the engine bay (apparently, the latter gives +5 bhp to the car, which isn’t too bad – true story -). I already had the privilege of being a passenger in nice cars, including some very nice Ferrari (like the Enzo, F12 TDF, LaFerrari, 599 GTB etc…). But this was my first time being in a Ferrari cabriolet, and the warm september weather felt good for it. After a 10-minute passenger ride, I was pretty happy.
But that was not it.
POG offered me the steering wheel. At first, I thought he was joking, so I played along and acted like this was a normal thing, thinking he didn’t *really* mean it. But he did. He was being serious. He insisted I took the wheel of his +400k limited-edition Ferrari. This gave me a huge and instant rush of stress and adrenaline. Why you ask? Well, one thing you need to know: as crazy as that might sound to those that don’t know me, I had just recently passed my driver’s licence back in May 2016. Even « worse »: I had only driven ONCE in 4 months since. You can understand how stressed I felt at the idea of driving this car, on so many levels.
At first I didn’t want to take the risk. I felt like I couldn’t handle it due to lack of driving experience. I am not your usual regular driver. However, I had a piece of paper in my wallet that certified that I was legally allowed to drive such a machine. That meant I technically could (and this theory would prove to be correct). So you know what? Why not ?! That kind of opportunity might not present itself again, so « carpe diem » my friends. I was about to drive a Ferrari for the FIRST TIME in my life, after drooling behind them for MANY YEARS. And it wasn’t just ANY Ferrari. It was a freaking limited-edition cabriolet with a 605 bhp engine. Could I have asked for a better « first time »? You can’t begin to comprehend how lucky I felt, and how I am eternally grateful to POG for the opportunity and for making a kid’s dream come true.
Getting in was, well, rather easy. And to be honest, easier than I thought it would be despite being so low: getting in and out was easy-peasy. One of the most important moments: the start-up. With sheer excitement, I inserted the key, turned the ignition, and I then pressed on the start-stop button, like a kid, hoping to hear the orgasmic sound of the engine welcoming you. But no reaction. Oops. How the hell do you start this thing up? POG eventually told me you had to keep your foot on the brake and THEN start it up. I could’ve guessed it. After maybe 5 minutes of trying like an idiot. This answers your question: yes, you can look dumb the first time driving a Ferrari.
I finally pressed the big red button, feeling like I was about to launch a nuclear missile. VROOOMMMM. The thunderous V8 engine started. Not as loud as I expected it and imagined it, but then again, you tend to over-exagerate everything in your mind during those situations. Just so you know, ever since I got inside the car, I have a HUGE and silly grin on my face. This grin would still be there 24 hours later, and my cheecks would hurt so, SO much.
One thing I forgot to mention: this was the FIRST TIME I was behind the wheel of an automatic car. First Ferrari. First automatic. Talk about losing a lot of different virginities that day. Everything felt a bit weird at first. Not having a clutch and a gear-box made me feel incomplete for a little while (for a minute). Like Romeo looking for Juliet, I kept looking for the clutch from time to time. My left foot kept trying to push an inexistent pedal, and I didn’t know what to do with it for a very short while. I internally kept thinking about shifting with my right hand and playing with the gear knob. But eventually, the sheer simplicity of the automatic gearbox system took over. Accelerate, brake. Simple as that. One has to admit: it’s much, much easier. No wonder people who have learned to drive with automatic cars have trouble when it comes to driving stick. Sure, it takes away a HUGE PART of the raw beauty and intensity of the driving experience. But what you lose, you gain in simplicity. It’s a different kind of enjoyment.
The loud V8 kept mumbling. I pressed my foot on the right pedal very gently, almost romantically, and off we went. Very very slowly at first. At this very moment, I felt like Captain Slow. But then again, can you blame me? First thing I face: a round-about. Where the hell are the turn signals?! Well, they’re incorporated in the steering wheel itself, near both of your thumbs. I eventually found out it was a bit of a flawed design in my VERY HUMBLE opinion. Here’s why: you action the turn signal with your right hand (works with the left hand as well), but then you manoeuver the steering wheel through the round-about to take an exit, which not only requires moving your hands on the steering wheel to produce a circular movement, but leads to the steering wheel itself being in a different position. When your exit shows up, your hands are nowhere near your turn signal, and you’re left wondering where the hell is your correct turn signal. Does that make any sense? Probably confusing. Maybe I didn’t « get it », maybe it’s something you need to get used to, who knows. I think that bothered me more than it should’ve.
I obviously didn’t want to push the car too hard. As I kept saying throughout the whole ride: I don’t want to be silly with it. My goal wasn’t to mimick a rally driver on public roads, or to push the car’s limits as if I was Sebastian Vettel. Not only do I not have the skills (duh), but it wasn’t my car. I wasn’t doing a magazine review, I didn’t have any expectations, I just wanted to enjoy myself while living an unforgettable moment in the life of a car enthusiast. My first time driving a Ferrari didn’t need to be a risky or stressful situation. I had no experience driving such powerful cars, and needed to build confidence to overcome the stereotype of the « uncontrollable monster ».
The car handled surprisingly well on every turn. It was very fast to get used to it. I shouldn’t be saying this, but even a kid can drive it. Hell, with the little driving experience I had, I didn’t encounter any difficulty. That being said, I have to admit I was on « FULL AUTOMATIC »: I didn’t use the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. The car felt so responsive and so « naturally easy » that I almost didn’t want to bother with the gear changes. But to be honest, considering this was my first experience of its kind, I didn’t want to have too many things on my mind lol. I had my doubts on the acceleration pedal at first, testing its reactivity and thinking a tiny pression would give me the full power. That is obviously false: if you want more power, you need to ask for it. That being said, it’s very easy to ask and the car responds very fast to your demands. But then again, so does the braking, which is very strong. Making this Ferrari 458 Speciale Aperta quite a lovely piece of engineering, built for driving pleasure. Everything felt easy, everything flowed smoothly.
I was driving around but for some reason I kept wanting to shorten the moment and stop. Maybe I felt like I didn’t deserve what was happening to me? Maybe I didn’t feel up to the challenge? Maybe I didn’t want to abuse POG’s kindness? Maybe a bit of all this mixed-up. But he was super cool about it, and kept insisting me to keep going. What a lad. As time flew, I was getting more and more confident behind the wheel. Gestures felt more natural. The stress and fears were very quickly replaced by sentiments of pure enjoyment and happiness. Driving is probably one of the most liberating activities you can have. Depending on the road you’re driving on, it gives you such a feeling of freedom and sometimes power. And I was driving a Ferrari. For the first time in my life. I was overwhelmed with feelings coming from all over the place, making this first experience unique and PERFECT. The belgian roads were lovely: smooth, no pot-holes, not a lot of traffic. Perfect driving conditions. The accelerations were mind-blowing and I definitely had a LOT of fun. Comes to show there’s no need to be silly JUST BECAUSE it’s a sports car (even though one would say « that’s what sports cars are for« ). But driving it in a relaxed way can still be very fun and provide you with all the excitation you need. Believe me.
Two things I had to get used to, though
1) The dimensions of the car. Though this wasn’t a problem « per se ». Let’s face it, sports car are usually quite wide, rather low, and sometimes longer than you’d imagine. When you’re not used to driving them on a regular basis, you somehow have to get used to a whole new dimension when you’re actually behind the wheel. Though it’s something that comes quite naturally (and quickly), you can never be too careful. This sometimes led me to bank on the right side of the road from time to time, especially when I saw a car coming the other way on a turn. But it was more the fear of doing something wrong, a newbie’s psychological fear than an actual real problem.
2) The other people on the road. Sure, I wasn’t driving very fast, but I wasn’t a « grandma » either. I was actually respecting speed limitations. But I sometimes felt people tail-gating me to a point it made me feel uncomfortable. Always with everyone’s best interest in mind, I kept wondering about safety-distances. I didn’t want some jackass rear-ending me. POG told me it was a rather normal and common thing: people are curious. They want to take a closer look (the dwarf giving the finger in the back helps, too). They sometimes want to take photos, or maybe play around with you / make you cringe. Sure, that’s a very good and valid poin – but maybe they’re just idiots?! I never was a fan of people tail-gating me lol.
Eventually, just like Andrea Bocelli once said, it was time to say goodbye.
Bidding farewell to the car with a few loud revs was quite lovely, too.
I didn’t realize what had happened to me until the next day, to be honest. I had lived one of the most epic days of my life. First, a ride in the Aston Martin VULCAN in one of the most beautiful race tracks in the world. And then, more than 30 minutes behind the wheel of a Ferrari 458 Speciale Aperta in the lovely belgian roads, with the sunset gracing me of its presence. One of the best automotive moments OF MY LIFE. First time driving a Ferrari ? No doubt about that. Thanks again to POG for making this happen and trusting me with your baby.
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