BEFORE I begin, let us dispel some common myths that surround fast cars in Jersey.
1: They are pointless on the Island’s roads.
Well, if we’re going to stick to the law every time we drive, there’s no point owning a car that goes over 40 mph. So get rid of that M3 or Golf and stick to, well, a restricted 50cc moped or a truck.
2: You must be constantly wary of scratching it.
And who isn’t conscious of marking their car? You’ve got just as much chance of scratching a Ferrari than you do a Micra. Admittedly, it is slightly wider, so Sand Street car park poses more of a challenge, but if you can afford a £152,000 sports car, the chances are you will have a private parking spot somewhere.
3: You’ll bump the front spoiler when you get on the ferry.
I saw a Ferrari driver do a natty sideward manoeuvre to get his car on Condor 10 in St Malo the other week. Personally, I’d choose to travel at high tide.
4: They must guzzle petrol.
That may be so, but you get there quicker, so I’m sure it all evens out.
5: It’s a poser’s car.
Yes, it is.
So, where is this all going? Well, I was recently handed the key of a Ferrari F430 Spider and told to take it for a spin for the weekend. Occasionally, journalism has its perks.
There hasn’t been a dedicated Ferrari dealership in the Channel Islands for some time, and the nearest to our shores is a family firm called Meridien Modena, which is based in Lyndhurst in Hampshire. The garage decided to bring two F430 Spiders over (with the help of Ferrari UK) – one to show prospective buyers, the other to hand to me, whose experience of real speed on four wheels stretches to karting in Cancale.
Before I get down to the details of what I was driving, I need to explain one thing: it was pure, unadulterated fun. If I could afford a F430 Spider I would buy one. (Incidentally, having had the fortune to fly in a private jet to Nice once upon a time, I would buy one of those, too. Saying that it is easier than scheduled air travel is a gross understatement.) But I will never be able to afford either of them, so I digress.
Okay back to, the Ferrari F430 Spider – the facts:
Engine: 90° V8 punching out 490 hp and delivering a specific power output of 114 hp/l and 465 Nm of torque (petrolheads will know what I mean).
Acceleration: 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 4.1 seconds.
Top speed: Over 193 mph.
As you can imagine, there are lots of other stats (overall length: 4.512m etc), but now you know the key one – it can go nearly 200 mph. But the F430 Spider is far from a stripped-out speed machine. It was comfy and, dare I say it, really rather easy to drive.
Knowing that their clientèle are a discerning lot, Ferrari haven’t just taken time over the workings of the car, and they have drawn a lot of expertise and design features from their colleagues in F1. They have also made a very stylish yet practical car, with a tasteful leather finish, a surprising roomy luggage compartment in the front (must a boot be in the back?) and an electronic bonnet that is an engineering feat in itself.
You don’t even have to twist a key to start the engine. Slot it in and then press a large red button on the wheel and hear the engine roar into life.
And forget a gear stick. You simply have a pair of paddles either side of the column: right hand one to change up, left hand one to change down. But don’t worry if you forget to change gear – the car will do it for you if needs be. It also has a fully automatic function. Who would have thought that driving a super car could be so easy?
Ferrari has, however, catered for those who know how to drive. Lifted from F1, the F430 Spider has a dial that Scuderia drivers call the manettino, which enables the electronic settings to be changed to suit personal preference, road surface conditions and/or available grip. The five settings are ice, low grip, sport, race and a final one that switches off all stability and traction control. I didn’t touch that one.
So what did my weekend entail? First, I took my dad for a spin. He told me to slow down while I was still reversing out of the drive and looked strangely pale and contorted when I gently pressed the accelerator going down Mont Pinel towards L’Etacq.
Just when I was about to cruise down the Five Mile Road, he insisted that I pull into the Château Plaisir, as he wanted to show off the car to some his drinking mates. A couple of them seemed to give it some gesture of appreciation but that could have been a reaction to the gas in their Breda.
Dropping off papa, I picked up various mates who showed more enthusiasm. The guys at footie also clambered round the car, mainly in astonishment that someone so unco-ordinated on the five-a-side court could be entrusted with such a vehicle.
I did take one stunning blond out for a spin. It was going perfectly – we looked just like the pair in Out Run for the old gamers among you – until she needed to be dropped off at a temporary traffic light outside the White Horse Inn. Hardly Malibu.
But throughout the spins along the north, south, east and west coasts, the car maintained its beautiful sound, its wonderful responsiveness and, to repeat, its ease of control. Yes, the F430 is marginally wider and longer than the average car, but nowhere did it feel cumbersome. I was cautious a few times on tight granite-lined corners, but only because I knew I had to give the car back.
Even reversing was easy, as a machine that goes beep-beep-beep told me how far I was away from any object. Needless to say, over the weekend I grew in confidence and the initial butterflies in my stomach soon joined the tightly managed airflow disappearing behind me.
I didn’t go too fast – despite the temptation – and felt as much in control as driving a ‘conventional’ car. After overtaking a hire car along the Five Mile Road for the final time (the driver beamed at me as I passed – he knew the score), I drove to the L’Horizon to hand the key over to Glenn from Meridien.
And so my Ferrari experience was over. I had attracted quite a few glances, the lads and lasses seemed to be have been impressed and I had discovered that driving a fast car was not the challenge I thought it would be.
Would I want one? Yes. Will I ever be able to afford one? No.
But here’s the thing: do I think that buying a poser’s car is pointless and a waste of money?
Not any more.
• Picture: The JEP’s Julien Morel at the wheel of the Ferrari F430 Spider