Corso PIlota–Day 1 (Part 2)

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It was now lunch so we all adjourned the room where we had our briefing at the start of the day for a hot Italian lunch. Over here, lunch is the biggest meal of the day and socially the most important. That means there was no shortage of great food to enjoy. Traditionally, not being a big lunch person and knowing that our group was next on the skid pan I decided to keep lunch very petit.

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Once the lunch break was complete we jumped in a van for the short trip from the main garage to the skid pan where two 488 awaited us.

A figure eight course had been set up and liberally applied with water. The idea was to turn the electronic aids off in the car and then see how well we could control the power in slippery conditions.

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It is a bit intimidating to get behind the wheel of a car like this and then be told to ‘lose control’. The initial worry for most is not knowing the figure eight course layout, which is only marked by cones. However, it is surprising how quickly you visualise the ‘virtual’ track when you are out there. If you also want to know where those 30 kilometres of travel are when you pick up your Ferrari then we think we know know! All in the names of testing, of course.

Since there weren’t any initial takers I thought I might as well go for a ‘spin’. I can tell you with this much horse power at the disposal of your right foot getting out of control is pretty easy. Staying in control through tight turns also requires a lot of work at the wheel. However, at the end of the day it is brilliant fun and a real learning experience.

What is really interesting is when you turn all the electronic control back on how rarely the car will actually lose control. That’s the smarts that are now built into these cars. Truly impressive stuff, and something you don’t appreciate until you get the opportunity to play like we did.

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Our group returned to the main garage complex and this time our drives were to out of the ‘box’ or the main garage.

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So the rest of the afternoon was again spent trying to master the correct driving technique and for me braking hard enough early enough into the corners. I can still hear my instructor ‘Brake, brake, brake more…’, and regular response ‘Damm, damm and more damm’.

Each participant is provided with a memory card which you plug into the vehicle before you set off. Onto this card gets saved all sorts of information including videos of your sessions (which I’ll post up in a little while). Having all these sessions available is going to be great for review later. I haven’t as yet had a chance to go through all these yet. I’m saving that for when I get back home and return to being ‘boring’ as a way to remind me of my time on the course.

The recoding of the sessions onto the memory card is just one of the ‘quality’ offerings of the course. You have a personal ‘host’ assigned to your group who informs you of what car you are next scheduled to drive and for those who have wandered off, they also come and find you. There is plenty of food and drink available in a cafe inside the garage. There are also photographers walking around taking pictures so you don’t necessarily have to worry about recording the memories. The whole course has been well thought out and produced so you can focus on the driving.

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During the afternoon I was beginning to make progress and had ‘graduated’ to using the paddle shift in both cars. However, that meant I had more things now to think about, which again meant that the chance of mistakes was dramatically increased but using the paddles, or driving in manual, certainly gave you more control and was also basically more fun.

At one stage I remember looking down at the speedo, while rocketing down the straight, and being pretty sure it read just over 200 kmph! Wow. The more your drive, the better your technique gets (slowly) and the faster you go. The course does not time your laps and it is not until you step out of the car after your drive that you realise, ‘Hey I just drove a Ferrari’.

I will also say that you plenty of time in both cars. Although your sessions are short (clearly to reduce fatigue and errors) you are swapped to another ride very quickly. The timings is great, because you have time to grab a drink or go to the toilet, have a bit of a rest and then you are back behind the wheel again.

Kudos goes to the instructors who are in the passenger seats pretty much constantly. You are never out their on your own, they are always riding shotgun giving you help to improve your driving. It is certainly humbling to be constantly told what you need to do to improve but it is all done with the aim helping you improve and get more enjoyment from the cars. Tough love, as they say.

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The track part of the day was now over and we all headed back to the bus all buzzing about the experience.

We had about a 90 minute break to get refreshed and then we were off to dinner in Bologna. The location for this was Palazzo Albergati. This basically a summer palace for some very influential people in Bologna’s history.

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We were treated to a short guided tour and then dinner in the wine cellars.

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With dinner over it was back on the bus to the hotel. I am not afraid to say that by now I was totally and utterly knackered and couldn’t wait to hit the sack. It had been a huge day and my mind was still full of everything that I’d done and all the things that I need to do to improve my driving tomorrow. The Corso Pilota was now half over for me but I was keen to go at again and this time I’d be far more prepared and less intimidated of getting behind the wheel of a Ferrari at speed.

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