Targa Tasmania–Day 4

The last day of our Targa adventure started even earlier than before. We needed to be up super early to pack, checkout, have breakfast and then head to the first stage of the day which was about 40 minutes away.

I gotta say, that by this stage I was beginning to run out of steam. A full day’s driving, followed by dinner and early morning starts where not really providing the ability to be as fresh as these Tasmanian mornings.

None the less, with our luggage stashed in the support van, we completed our final briefing and breathalyser before heading onto the suburban streets for the drive to the first stage, Cethana.

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During our trek we were greeted with some early morning fog that made the experience somewhat eerie as you can see from the above shots. Ferrari’s in the mist if you like.

Cethana, is quite a long stage by Targa standards at 40kms.

Our next stage, Castra, about 20 minutes away but would start off quite differently than all our other stages. Why? Well, we were greeted by about 5 kilometres of loose gravel as we climbed up the mountain.

There is nothing worse than the sound of stones constantly peppering a Ferrari as you will see when you watch the above video. Cringe-worthy to say the least.

At one point a stone appears to have gotten lodged in the brake calliper, so that during braking there was an awful grinding sound, which we didn’t appreciate exactly what it was at first. Luckily, the stone came loose not long after and there was no damage to the car and especially not to the carbon ceramic disks!

We continued along and completed the stage without further incident.

Gunns Plains was our next stage about 10 minutes away. This was a stage of about 15 kilometres.

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From there it was only 5 minutes to probably the best stage of the day, Riana.

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Riana is quite long at 36 kilometres and allows you to really get up some speed.

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It has some long straights, sweeping bends and some tight turns that were all filled with spectators.

The above video gives you an idea of what being in the passenger’s seat was like. I gotta admit that I really like the sound track that accompanies these videos. Nothing beats the sound of a screaming 458 powerplant.

Riana was to be our last Targa stage. We headed to Burnie to regroup and grab some refreshments. Unfortunately, we also probably over whelmed the local coffee shop with a sudden rush of orders from a caravan of cars and caffeine deprived occupants.

We headed off to our next stop which was to be the car collection of Chas Kelly.

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We parked up in the entrance way and had a tour of the cars he has on display there including an Ferrari F40 that Chas actually complete in Targa with (and crashed! Ouch).

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Chas then took us to his ‘shed’ to see the remainder of his collection.

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As you can see from the pictures, the collection in here is AMAZING! This is what I call a REAL man cave.

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It was clear that it was going to be tough to drag everyone away from the collection but the time did eventually come that we needed to head off to our afternoon stop.

Not far away was a local winery where we spent the rest of the afternoon sharing all the experiences we’d enjoyed over the last few days. Many were already starting to plan their return next year. Here I managed to score the prized ‘chunder’ award for being the closest to actually throwing up (I will however point that I didn’t actually, but I did go close). My prize? A set of plastic raincoats ready for the next time on Targa. Other prizes were also awarded to worthy participants.

As the sun began to set, we headed back to the Devonport ferry terminal for the return trip to the mainland. As we were ending our journey before the end of the Targa proper, the ferry was much less crowded and luckily the weather was much friendly. This meant, that we could at least get some sleep without the massive swells we experienced on the journey over.

We sat around the upper deck and enjoyed some finger food and drinks before calling it a night and heading back to the cabins.

Before we knew it, were had arrived back in Melbourne and rolled onto the mainland to commence our journey home. We rendezvoused for the last time before going our own ways back home. Some headed to the airport, others the open road. I returned with the land convoy back up the Hume Highway for the long drive back, which was completed without incident.

We were all tired and keen to get home but glad we had come to Targa Tasmania.

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So now it’s all done and dusted, and I’ve had a while to reflect, what are my thoughts? It was an amazing experience on the road as much as with a group of fellow car enthusiasts. Our accommodation was brilliant, the roads and scenery were amazing and the laughs we had were priceless.

Although I didn’t bring a car I did get to drive a number of Ferrari’s during the trip, which is always special. I will readily admit that I don’t like being a passenger in a car at any time but probably more so at speed. There was never any doubt about my driver’s or the car’s ability but I’d rather be behind the wheel rather than in the passenger’s seat I will happily admit.

Would I come back? If I did, I certainly wouldn’t bring the F355. Why? Being a manual car, without lots of driver aids (like say traction control), it would certainly be hard work driving and I am the first to admit that I don’t have the ability or experience to drive the roads we were on at the speed we were going in my car. However, if I was driving a 458, it would be a different story.

Probably the biggest takeaway for me was simply the added respect I gained for the 458. It eat up every stage with ease and never missed a beat. It is amazingly quick but it’s control, poise and braking ability is something you simply don’t appreciate until you experience it for yourself.

As much fun as the driving was I feel that the real highlight of the event was simply being part of a group of enthusiastic car owners who were part of the special experience that is Targa Tasmania. This is such a unique event, so well supported by the locals and enjoyed by everyone I hope it continues well into the future.

There we go, Targa Tasmania done and dusted in a Ferrari.

Targa Tasmania–Day 3

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Another crisp but clear Tasmanian morning greeted us on day 3 of Targa. We were up even earlier today for another full day of stages. Although everyone was keen for the off again, these early starts were not what many had in mind when they signed up, was a common conversation point as people shivered in the early dawn. However, everyone was keen for another full day of driving as we received our daily briefing and mounted up for the day.

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Our first stage, The Sideling was about a 40 minute drive from the Country Club. The Sideling is a 14 km stage.

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We then headed to Moorina about 50 minutes away. Moorina is stage that is all up hill. It was hill climb time and the 458 didn’t disappoint.

Only 3 minutes away was the Wedlborough Pass a 14 km stage which included a long descent down the mountain, which was not something we had really seen as yet. This did take some adjustment and braking as we wound down the mountain.

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Next up, Pyengana, only a few minutes away.

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From here we headed to St Helens for the lunch break. We parked up on a local football field and headed off to enjoy some refreshments.

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As I have said previously, it is truly amazing the support this event enjoys with locals, none more so than here at St Helens. While waiting for the group in front of us to leave we were blown away with the number of locals who had come to look at the cars. They were all really keen to learn more about us and the cars. It was truly gratifying to see how enthusiastic they were about Targa going through their neck of the woods and the support they give competitors like us.

We then had about a 45 minute drive to the next stage, Elephant Pass.

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This is the most famous East Coast pass of Targa. It is about 11 km long with plenty of challenging driving conditions starting with a hill climb and finishing with a hill descent.

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We had an usually long wait before we commenced the stage. This was great as it again allowed us to take in the fantastic scenery and catch up with others.

Elephant Pass was probably the most enjoyable stage I found in that it included both a hill climb and descent, while also having a combination of twists and straights all combined with some spectacular scenery.

With Elephant Pass complete we now headed along normal roads for 50 minutes to the Rossarden stage.

Once again this stage was through the mountains both up, but mainly down a mountain. It was a real rare treat to be able to drive these mountain roads at speed.

At the end of the stage we were greeted with with about 5kms of unsealed gravel road, which had a different effect on different drivers. Some, tried to ‘tip toe’ through the never ending ‘crunching’ gravel in the vain hope of limiting the damage to their car. Others, like my driver, took it as an opportunity for a ‘real’ rally stage by doing fishtails, slides, launches, emergency stops and more. For a few, like my driver, it was a prefect way to finish the day and you couldn’t wipe the grin off their faces.

I once again was given the controls of the 458 and we headed back to the Country Club. The return trip was over 90 minutes so it was great to get an extend time behind the wheel of the 458 which had seen quite a bit of action on day 3. Many a time the car had bottomed or ‘nosed out’ when travelling a speed down the mountain, but once again it had performed flawlessly. It truly is an amazing piece of machinery.

Today we’d done over 380 kms through Tasmania and was unfortunately our last full day on Targa a fact we lamented on over dinner at Cataract on Paterson in Launceston after freshening up before heading out. Tomorrow would again be an early and we’d also need to check out as well so we chose to make an early evening of it and get a back to our accommodation early.

Today, for me, was probably the best day on tour. We completed stages that really had everything and were truly characteristic of this wonderful place. The car and my driver performed flawlessly and we had some great times between stages. I don’t think it could get much better than this!

Targa Tasmania–Day 2

Today was to be our first complete day of stages, morning and afternoon, so we needed our energy and as such, most people were at breakfast early, with many still babbling about the prior day’s experiences.

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We excitedly headed down to the car park where we were again greeted by a clear but extremely crisp morning. We completed our last minute briefing for the day, grabbed our radios, got our stage notes out, passed the breathalyser and once again headed off across Tasmania to our first Targa stage.

High Plains was our first challenge, about a 40 minute road trip from the Country Club. This stage is about 6 kms in length.

After High Plains we needed to travel about 50 minutes to the next stage, Sheffield.

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As you can see, there is no shortage of scenery to look at while driving in Tasmania. Once again, the weather was magic, fine and clear.

I had also made a bit a discovery for myself while navigating during the rip roaring tour stages. I found that if I pushed my head firmly into the head rest I could read the notes and see the trip counter without becoming as motion sick. I think if I looked forward during the stages I would have been fine, but looking down, trying to read stage notes and then looking back up does not do one’s stomach well. Seems to me that you either look down at the course notes for the entirety of the stage or you look forward.

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Sheffield is about 15 kms in length and starts with an uphill run. When we arrived the group in front of us were yet to start so we parked alongside and as usual, drivers and passengers, made a beeline for the bushed to help irrigate the local fauna.

As we stood around shivering and stamping our feet to ward away the cold of mid-morning Tasmania we were joined by a few locals, who were keen to check out the cars.

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Another amazing sight we became accustom to down here is that fact that while we felt it was freezing and surely about to snow, the locals were getting around in shorts, thongs and T-shirts! They’re a hearty bunch down here.

Soon the group in front of us mounted up and rolled towards the start. As they took off from the start and headed up the mountain we could hear the roar of their engines and that made us all even more excited.

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Soon, it was our turn to tackle the uphill climb which was very different from most of the previous stages.

It was at about this point during the tour that I confirmed my growing admiration for the ol’ 458. It is an absolutely AMAZING car. Not only is it quick, it accelerates, brakes and handles beautifully. In short, I want one!

The above video will give you some idea of what it was like during the climb. Don’t forget, that Targa is conducted on closed roads so you don’t have to worry about traffic (read logging trucks) coming the other way. Travelling at speed across double lines, around blind corners, what can I say? Gold bless Tasmania!

From Sheffield we had a short drive of only about 15 minutes to the next stage, Nook.

Nook is about 6.5 kms long.

We now headed for lunch at Latrobe.

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Moriarty was the next stage after lunch, about a 15 minute drive from lunch. There was no time to ‘dilly-dally’ we had to be off at an exact time, directly behind the group in front. Stragglers would be left behind.

Moriarty is about 5.6 kms long.

Next up was Paloona, about 25 minutes away which was a 17 kms stage with plenty of twisty bits and tight corners.

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Mt Roland was next up, about 30 minutes away. This was one of the longer stages at 27 kms and basically starts with a hill climb, goes across a plateau and then down the other side.

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Mt Roland was our sixth and final Targa stage for the day. With the trip back to the Country Club, that would make fourteen driving stages in all up, over 350 kms for the day.

We regrouped at the end of the stage and confirmed plans for dinner tonight in Launceston at the Mud Bar Restaurant.

My driver and I swapped seats and I sedately headed back to the Country Club to rest and refresh before dinner.

Day 2 had been bigger, better and longer than day 1 and everyone was much more exhausted once the adrenaline had subsided. Today we’d taken on our first real mountain stage, both up and down, which was really special. We’d also had challenging twists and turns as well as flying straights. Everyone was really grateful that they’d made the time to come and looked forward to an even earlier start tomorrow for another full day of Targa Tasmania.

Targa Tasmania 2018–Day 1

After a restful night on stable dry land, our first full day in Tasmania dawned clear and crisp.

There was an air of excitement as participants shared breakfast in the Country Club before heading down to the car park to prepare for the first day of Targa.

In the car park we met our ‘guides’ for Targa who would be leading our group in their Golf R. The idea was to firstly have someone to follow and secondly keep the stages safe by limiting the maximum speed to around 120 kmph (yeah, right). These guys had been doing Targa for years and knew every stage like the back of their hand and were a great source of information and history of the event. Bringing up the rear would be the ‘sweeper’ in VW Amork, being the tour support vehicle that had followed us from Melbourne.

With last minute checks done, briefings complete and radios allocated we ran the gauntlet of the daily morning breathalyser and lined our cars up ready for the road train through suburban streets to the first stage.

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It took about 45 minutes for us to drive from the Country Club to the beginning of the first stage known as Holwell. As our group was the always going to be the second on stage we needed to wait for the larger first group to clear the start. As such, we all pulled over to wait our turn.

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This initiated a sequence that was to be repeated prior to each stage. Upon stopping, all the doors would fly open and both passenger and driver would make a b-line for the bushes on the road to relive themselves. Every wondered why roadside Tasmanian blackberries taste so good? Now you know!

Once the call of nature had been answered, people grouped together to share their anticipation for the coming day. There were a few experienced hands who could lend some experience of what to expect. Many of course complained about how cold it was as well. Whingers!

The other commonality with these short breaks before each stage was simply the stunning scenery, because remember, Targa is typically not held on main roads!

We soon received word to start getting ready for the stage. We jumped back in cars and trickled up to the stage start lead by our guides in their Golf R. I had my stage notes book ready to assist as best I could.

Holwell is a stage of about 8.5kms. It was short but challenging with a number of locations to watch for. Our 458 rolled up to the stage start and we watched the car in front disappear in a cloud of acceleration and moments later we were off in hot pursuit.

It wouldn’t have been 200 metres before our car windscreen intersected with a large rock thrown up by the car in front. Luckily, this 458 had a protective coating applied to the windscreen for exactly this reason and no damage was sustained. However, both the driver and I used the first of what would be many choice words you don’t use in polite conversation in response to the shock.

We backed off a little, giving the car in front some room, with the aim of avoiding any more rocks being thrown our way. As we sped along I did my best to read from the stage notes and let my drive know what was coming but all the motion and rapid speed as well as perhaps the fact I had not fully recovered from my sea journey, were making me feel quite ill.

We continued to barrel along at great speed. I will also admit that I don’t make a great passenger (I’m a control freak I know) so being thrown left and right as well as not exactly knowing when the car would be breaking and accelerating, was not doing my constitution much good.

The first stage was now complete but I was certainly worse for wear. As we travelled at road speeds to the next stage, Kayena, I could feel my breakfast wanting to come up for a look at the scenery. I quickly urged my driver to pull over just in case. Nothing came up but I did have to endure the scorn of the other drivers as they drove past. Nice to know who your friends are right?

After some fresh air, I felt much better and so we continued our journey. Turns out that my so called driver buddy had the seat heaters on full as well as the cabin temperature set a ‘toasty’ because HE felt cold. REALLY? I quickly pointed out that there would be two people in the car most of the time and if he didn’t want to see what I had for breakfast he really should ensure I am also comfortable with the environmental conditions in the cockpit.

With the cabin environment now sorted, we continued to the start of Kayena.

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Upon arrival at the stage we once again lined up to wait. The familiar exodus of drivers and passengers to the bushes on the sides of the road repeated itself.

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Kayena is a 7.4kms stage and was now starting to get into more populated areas.

I survived the stage but was still getting pretty motion sick with all the bouncing around, trying to read the notes, look out the window, worry about what my driver was doing and so on. It was there and then that I decided that if I was going to return to Targa it wouldn’t be as a navigator. Stuff that!

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We now headed to the George Town stage that is actually run through the city centre! You have to be kidding me I though. No way. But, yes way, it is.

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This was to be our last stage for today. After this we’d have lunch and watch other competitors tear through the town.

There was a fair backlog of cars waiting to do the stage so we stood around for a good 30 minutes waiting for our turn but when it came it didn’t disappoint.

There is something quite surreal about screaming through a pretty sea side resort town in Italian supercars at speeds of well over 180 kmph with nothing but a few pieces of tape to guide you the way to go. One good thing is that it is all flat but it is certainly tight. The 458 and driver, as usual, handled it with ease.

Although I was still feeling somewhat under the weather I did enjoy the stage. It is pretty unique and I don’t think I’ll get another experience like it.

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All competitors parked up in park behind the main street and then headed off to the hospitality tents for lunch. I restricted my intake as I didn’t want it coming back up on me. It was however very enjoyable for everyone to get together share experiences of this first day while watching the really serious competitors blast past. There were of course a few spectacular looses but nothing major.

It was dawning on us how special Targa is and we all remarked at how unique this event was. There is little doubt that something like this would not be held anywhere else. The really amazing thing was just how much support the locals gave the events. Every time we parked the cars up in a town to have lunch, locals descended from everywhere to have a look and ask questions. I started coming to the understanding of how special this event really is and why so many people want to get involved.

After lunch, it was time to swap roles and I could now drive the 458. My driver had offered to let me do a stage but I didn’t want to ruin his fun and especially I didn’t want to ruin his car, so I opted to take the 458 home most nights as well as too and from the evening meal so my driver could enjoy a find beverage or two.

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On the way back to the Country Club we stopped off to look at a private car collection as well as a look through the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania. Even during Targa, a fleet of Ferrari’s makes a scene.

We returned to the Country Club for some rest and to get ready for dinner at Pierre’s Brasserie in Launceston. On our return trip afterwards, through the deserted streets, we pulled over to refuel for the following day which would start earlier and go longer. Not something you see every day (or night) in Tasmania now is it? All bowsers occupied by Ferraris!

Our first day of Targa was done and dusted. I had almost been sick. I had decided never to be a navigator again (reading those stage notes is what did it to me) but it had been a truly amazing day. The weather had been brilliant, the scenery magnificent and company was awesome. Best of all, we get to do it all all again, bigger and better tomorrow.

Bring on day 2.

Targa Tasmania 2018 Arrival

Our starting point was Zagame in Richmond, Melbourne on Saturday afternoon after travelling down from Sydney. During the afternoon, we all made each other’s acquaintance and shared the excitement of participating in Targa Tasmania 2018. We received our final briefing from Renato of Motokenetic before heading off in convoy to board the Spirit of Tasmania ferry at Port Melbourne across to Tasmania. In all there were about a dozen cars ranging from the latest 488 to more ‘classic’ 355 and 360s. Both V12 and V8 models were represented.

It had been cold and wet all afternoon in Melbourne and that continued as we parked up in Port Melbourne and found somewhere to eat before boarding the dedicated Spirit of Tasmania ferry to the apple isle along with all the other Targa participants. Our embarkation had been delayed due to the late arrival of the ferry from Davenport. This was due to the rough seas in the Tasman. Little did we know then how rough the voyage was going to be that night.

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After dinner we joined the long queue of cars boarding the ferry. At the boarding checkpoint we received our tickets as well as room allocations for the journey. A short distance later we were on the ferry amongst all the cars bound for Targa. The holds where full of all makes and models of vehicles and space was tight but everyone was very excited.

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After grabbing our things from the cars, as these decks would be locked during the voyage, we headed upstairs to locate our cabin and drop off our luggage. Most people then headed to the lounge where many had already congregated. There we settled in for departure from Melbourne and commencement our of Targa Tasmania adventure proper.

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The sea remained relatively calm until we cleared Port Phillip Bay at about 1 am, after which point the ferry was battered by the five to six metre swell and squalls all the way across the Tasman sea. Most remained in their cabins trying to get some sleep amongst the pitching. The more ‘salty’ types didn’t have much trouble sleeping but the vast majority of ‘land-lubbers’ spent a restless night awaiting arrival in Tasmania in the morning wondering about their own and their car’s safety in the swell.

I found myself unable to sleep in large swells, feeling the constant pitching in unfamiliar and somewhat claustrophobic surrounds was unsettling. I therefore spent the duration of the night out in the deserted lounge watching endless AFL reruns and occasionally making a dash to the bathroom for a bit of a personal heave ho.

At dawn we were greeted by the announcement that we had arrived in Davenport and would soon be disembarking. Everyone once again assembled in the lounge area awaiting the go ahead to access the vehicles below decks. Many were bleary eyed from lack of sleep and tended to sway, not receiving comfort from the large swells during the night. A small percentage were fresh and unable to understand what the problem was.

Whatever the state of being, everyone headed below decks to pack their cars and head off the ferry and onto Tasmanian soil proper full of anticipation. After a brief regroup in the car park we headed off to breakfast at Raspberry Farm Cafe http://raspberryfarmcafe.com/ about 30 minutes away were a hearty breakfast and catch up was enjoyed by all. Many were still swaying from the night before on the boat but everyone was in good spirits and full of expectation as we finished breakfast and headed to the Country Club Tasmania http://www.countryclubtasmania.com.au/default-en.html just outside Launceston, which would be our home for our time on Targa.

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After checking in and freshening up we headed off to the drivers briefing where the officials gave us an overview of what to expect and what was required of us and what we could expect over the coming days. Our next stop was to assemble and get actually checked into event. This meant both driver and navigator details were verified, after which we received our ‘official’ Targa participants pack. This contained two number plates (back and front), a bag each, stickers for the car and basic stage notes.

It was at this point that it finally dawned on most of the navigators that they were not going to be merely ballast. There would be an obligation to provide directions for the drivers, both on and off stages. The note book contain a vast array of routes, directions and information that as it turned out would be required to navigate all stages safely and on time. With excitement building we headed off to the car park to adorn our cars with their new plates and event decals.

Attaching the decals to the vehicles proved challenging but nothing like trying to get the new plates attached to the cars. Number plates on a Ferrari are very much an after thought and typical that are installed an never changed for the life of the car. We now had to work out a way to attach both plates to the without damaging it.

Some attachment processes proved more successful than others but eventually all the plates were attached without too much impairment to the cars. The important thing was that these plates now covered or replaced the existing plates and would remain in place for the duration of our time in Tasmania.

With the excitement of the first full stage tomorrow our group headed off to dinner at Bluestone Bar and Kitchen in Launceston for a wonderful dinner and then back to the Country Club for the night.

Let’s try this

It’s been a while between updates unfortunately. However, the news is that the issues I have been having with the F355 failing to start have continued to reoccur somewhat intermittently.

Basically what happens is that I turn the key and the lights on dash display but the car does not crank. Since the starter motor has been reconditioned, I can eventually get the car to start by turning the car off and on a couple of times. Sometimes, if I hold the key in the starting position for a few seconds the car does crank.

Having a car that is unreliable at starting is not something that I’m comfortable with, so the best recommendation was the change the whole starter motor for a new unit. The thinking is that the fault lies with the solenoid and unfortunately, there is no way to change just that.

So, the car now has a new starter motor and we’ll have to see if that does fix the issues. stay tuned for more updates.

2018 Australian F1 GP

Well, I headed down to Melbourne again for the Australian F1 GP. Unlike last year, I was already in Melbourne for work so I just came along to the track rather than driving down in convoy like last year.

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The stand was in the same location as last year, right over pit exit as you can see above.

Managed to also do a pit walk in the heat and capture some video of the experience that it is for you so you get an idea of what a scrum it is.

Friday was bright and very, very hot, much of which I copped walking back to my accommodation at the end of the day, which was about a 30 minute walk from the track. By the time I got back, and after a hard week of work, I was pretty knackered, so I decided to go to bed early and give the planned cocktail party a miss.

I awoke on Saturday to a very different Melbourne, overcast and windy. I again headed off to the track and about 15 minutes away the heavens opened and it bucketed down. Not having any rain protection I didn’t have much choice but continue my journey to the suite to dry off there after having been thoroughly rinsed.

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The heavy rain continued for most of the day but started to clear by the afternoon, to once hot and sunny skies. Typical Melbourne as they say.

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The suite this year was much large and was really a combination of two suites. There was much more space to view the racing and best spot was again on the chairs at the back on the elevated platform. Food and drink was regularly forthcoming so there was no real need to move.

Those that had brought their cars for the vent also got some track time but it was in very, very wet conditions so speeds had to be kept well down. Still, when else do you get the opportunity to drive around an F1 track in your own car? Even in the rain, it is something special.

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That night I headed over with a few others to Lorbek Luxury Cars for a meet up with YouTuber Shmee150. Of course, there were also plenty of night cars to look at.

We finished the night with a nice Italian dinner, ready for race day.

Still overcast, race day was full of the usual excitement and enjoyment. Unfortunately I had to leave early to fly home but we got the right result at the end.

I’ll be back down south next month for Targa Tasmania, which is going to be a week of driving through some magic scenery along some amazing roads. Can’t wait.

Bathurst 12 hour 2018

The weekend started on Friday morning with the drive along the Bells Line of Road to Bathurst. We met at North Richmond, at the base of the Blue Mountains, and headed up in convoy over the mountains.

Once you are up the mountains the road stretches out to a very scenic run west. The only downside with this route is that, being a single carriage roadway, you may get stuck behind some slower traffic for a period. This can be frustrating but usually an overtaking lane or opportunity is not too far away.

After cutting across to the Great Western Highway via the Darling Causeway, we paused at Mt Victoria to catch everyone up and then we headed down the mountain to our Air BnB at Little Hartley.

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All the cars made a grand sight lined up, on the front lawn, of the residence as you can see.

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After dropping off our gear we headed to Bathurst via Tarana for lunch. The pub there is always a great place to stop on a drive.

Upon arriving at Bathurst, we picked up our accreditations for Saturday, had a quick look around and then headed back, again via Tarana. On the way back we stopped at a local pub just outside Lithgow for a cool beverage and an unwind. Unsurprisingly, this drew a bit of a crowd but everyone was more than happy to share the car passion. Petrol-heads are the same no matter where they are.

Dinner was at the local pizza place in Little Hartley, after which, happy and contented we headed back to the house, a short distance away, to get ready for a full day at Mount Panorama tomorrow.

After rising early we headed back up the mountain to Mt Victoria to have breakfast with some colleagues who were accommodated on the cliffs overlooking the valley. Unfortunately, the weather was cloudy, wet and rainy but the breakfast was magic.

We the rolled back down the hill and on towards Bathurst. Some again, went via Tarana, I stuck to the main road (given the F355 doesn’t have fancy inclusions like traction control). The further west we went the clearer the skies became until we once again arrived in Bathurst.

You get a nice sense of entitlement when you are waved through the checkpoints and directed right to the entry of the course, were the display was for the day. With the car parked I headed off to take a look around at the frantic work happening in the pits and then to avail myself of hospitality suite.

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The suite was right over the pits and a stones throw from the main straight. You could stay inside and watch the race and commentary on the main screen or head out onto the balcony to smell to octane and rubber.

Around midday we again got the opportunity to lap the track. This year we managed to squeeze in two ‘parade laps’. This is basically a case of follow the pace car around the track and with so many cars this year the pace was quite leisurely. However, even at these low speeds you get a great appreciate for what the track is all about, how challenging it is and why racing drivers love this place. It is something very unique, right here in our back yard.

The rest of the day was spent wandering around and watching the happenings on the track. We were also lucky enough to get a guided tour through one of the large transporters that was now decked out as accommodation for the teams. All I can say is that I want one of these transporters!

With racing done for the day we headed back home but this time we took the longer way there via Soafla. This is a really excellent drive with plenty of nice twisty roads as well as some challenging climbs and descents all along some excellent roads. In the afternoon sun, after a great day at the track, this was an excellent way to bring the day to a finale.

Not having been this route previously, I arrived at Soafla without any issues but didn’t see any road signs back towards Lithgow. Unfortunately, being in a valley, there was no phone reception here, so the GPS got a tad mixed up. After doing a quick lap of this very small town I headed off in what seemed like the correct direction, back out of the valley, up the other side. After a few kilometres I picked up the signs to the Illford, which then put me back on the road to Lithgow. I’ll have to make time to come back and this drive again, it was really great! Here’s the route:

https://goo.gl/maps/76zjwGWug5m

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and off to a nice meal at the Amber Rose in Little Hartley, which in this case was close enough to the house for us to walk there and back.

The Bathurst 12Hr starts at about 0545 and we had the option for a pit walk. However that would have required being there by 0500. That meant leaving the house at about 0400. Given that I had to work on Monday, I decided that this wasn’t for me so I had a bit of a sleep in, watched some of the race on the TV and then headed back up the mountain for breakfast at Petalura eatery in Mt Victoria.

After and excellent breakfast, it was time to head back along the Darling Causeway and along the Bells Line of Road back home, which was accomplished without incident.

The F355 performed flawlessly and was a joy to drive along the country road and just as came down from Mt Victoria on the Friday it passed the 70,000 kms milestone.

I had a great weekend and can’t wait to do it again! I’ll be back in 2019!

Next adventure? The Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Ready for a New Year

It’s been a few months since my last update, but life has been busy. However, here’s the latest.

In my last post I mentioned how the F355 wouldn’t crank and I initially thought it might have been something to do with the immobilizer. Being static, Sal DiMauro from Racing Red had to attend and troubleshoot the issues for me.

After some diagnostics, the fault was isolated to the starter motor. That meant that it needed to be removed for re-conditioning. There was some concern that this wouldn’t be easy given where the car was, but after removing enough parts, Sal was able to extract the starter motor and take it away for a service.

About two weeks later, Sal returned with the re-conditioned starter motor and re-installed it. The car then fired right up and I took it out for a long drive immediately as the battery was beginning to run down.

With the run complete, I tucked the car away in the hope that everything was now fixed.

Over the next few weekends the car started ok but I felt that there was still a delay upon turning the key before the car fired up. This was more likely my imagination than anything, but it wasn’t serious enough to warrant another visit from Sal. That could wait until the major service in December.

One of the things that freaks people out about the F355 is that every three years the engine needs to be dropped out of the car to change the timings belts. This is purely and simply because of the way the engine is mounted, these belts are effectively just behind the driver, hard up against the firewall. So the only way to change them is to drop the engine out.

The belts need to be changed every three years or so and this was to be the second time that I had it done. You can read about the first time here:

My car has no engine

There were a few other items that needed to be done at the same time including:

– Registration

– 2 x new back tyres

– Rear bumper repair

– Check the starter motor

– Check the oil pressure gauge

One of the things you notice very quickly in the F355 in the wet, is when there needs to be more tread on the tyres. A few weeks before the service I was driving along the freeway in the belting rain when the car decided to do some aquaplaning. No fun at those speeds. Thus, time for 2 new rear tyres. The front two where still in good nick luckily, with lots of tread.

About 3 years ago I carelessly reversed the car into a street sign and cracked the bumper:

Look before reversing

I’d attempted to fix the issue myself and had some initial success:

Final coat

However, over the years the paint that I had applied had changed colour and started to really stand out. I then decided to machine polish the area to remove/blend this disparity but that had revealed the initial scar. I left the scar knowing that I would deal with it at the next major service, however seeing the mark every time I drove the car really sent me bonkers I’ll tell you. I honestly couldn’t wait to get it fixed.

The oil pressure gauge had also been jumping around of late. One week it was high, the next low. So I added that to the list of things to get Sal to check for me.

So with the appointment booked I drove the car through suburban traffic in the middle of the day to Sal’s new location. No dramas ,but it is so frustrating to be seemly constantly stuck in traffic but I arrived in good order and handed over to the doctor.

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Such a major service, combined with the other items was going to take about a week to complete and when I checked in with Sal he said all was going well but that ceramic lining of my catalytic converters was on the way out and would need to be replaced at some time in the near future. Not immediately, but somewhere down the track.

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So, new “genuine” Ferrari catalytic converters would cost about $6,000 or the pair but “after market” high flow ones would not be more than $3,000. At this stage I’m leaning to the “after market” versions but I don;t need to make a decision just now, although I think I probably look at getting these changed at the next major service in 12 months.

I’ll know when the existing converters start to fail because pieces of the ceramic will break off and I’ll hear a rattling in the exhaust. Interestingly, the new converters are all metal, so once updated, this problem should disappear.

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Above, you can see all the belts that need to be changed. Due to the orientation of the engine, these sit next to the firewall facing the front of the car. As you can appreciate, an engine out is really the only option to change these.

The F355 has been designed to facilitate an engine out so it isn’t really a huge drama. Having the engine out also make it much easier to work on and get an all around picture of what’s going on and find any issues that might be missed if it remained in the car permanently. So, there are lots of good reasons why an engine out on the F355 is a good thing but it is simply part of the servicing requirements of the car. Thus, if you are going to invest in a F355 keep this in mind. The people that get freaked out are those who but a F355 and don’t do their homework and get a nasty shock when they are told the engine needs to come out every three years during a major service.

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So after about a week I made my way back to Sal’s workshop and picked up the car. They’d done such an amazing job on the rear bumper, fixing the crack, that I didn’t even notice it! There was no evidence of the abuse I had inflicted. I had two new rear tyres and the problem with the oil pressure gauge was a loose connection.

Rather than scything through suburbia, I took the long way home via the freeway to stretch the car’s legs. I gotta say that the car now feels really strong, really strong which is very pleasing.

I’ve now had the opportunity to drive the car on a few weekends and it was performed really, really well and I am ecstatic with how it performs. I’ve also taken the opportunity to fully wash, machine polish and details the car which takes quite a few hours to complete but is something I really enjoy.

With that, the car is home, fully serviced, fully detailed and ready for 2018! The next big trip will be in early February to the Bathurst 12 hour. Another happy year with the F355.

The five year anniversary

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It’s been a while between now so it is time to do an update and share the latest news with the F355.

Let’s deal with the bad news first, which means there will probably be more regular updates now. After many months for running flawlessly the F355 now won’t start! The ignition comes on but the engine won’t crank. This problem started to develop over the past few weeks where I’d turn the key and nothing would happen. However, after a few moments the car would fire. Over time, the delays to it actually cranking were becoming longer and longer, until today when no matter what I tried the car wouldn’t fire up.

At first I thought that maybe it was the immobilizer but after a brief email chat with Sal DiMauro from Racing Red it seems it maybe the starter solenoid. Either way, not being able to fire the car up could be a real pain as where it is currently parked is not the most accessible location. However, as always, the situation could have been worse if I stop and think about it. Imagine if I had stopped for petrol somewhere and then the car refused to fire up there? So having it not fire up at home is a small mercy I suppose.

I’ll have to wait and see what Sal DiMauro from Racing Red suggest to get the car at least drivable so it can be looked at closer.

So with the bad news out of the way let’s turn the annual update.

The car recently passed its five year anniversary with me. If you want to review the previous anniversaries then check them out here:

One Year Anniversary

Two Year Anniversary

Three Year Anniversary

Four Year Anniversary

The fifth year anniversary is wood so they say.

Costs

The only major component that needed replacing this was another thermocouple ECU for around $440. The car had started to get the annoying 5-8 Slow Down light on a more regular basis, so after it became almost constant I replaced the ECU and the problem went away. I had replaced the actual thermocouple last year but clearly the ECU also needed to be changed. So now both the thermocouples and ECUs have been changed out and hopefully will be good for at leats another 20 years!

The biggest percentage cost increase for the year was for a green slip. This jumped a whopping 55%. I did some comparisons, and it turns out that I am still paying the average for these cars. I could however, get no acceptable answer from the insurance company as to why the costs had jumped so dramatically. Let’s hope it is a once off hike. Time will tell.

Travel

With a low incidence of repairs, I managed to lift the distance driven by the car this year to over 7,300 kilometres which was a 23% increase over last year which was about what I’ve averaged annual over the past five years. However, all that driving did take me across a major milestone. Around the 67,000 kilometre mark I crossed the point at which I have put more kilometres on the car than ALL the previous owners combined. Thus, in the last 5 years I have done more kilometres in the car than car did in its previous 16!.

Overall, total costs were down about 25% to around $7,500 from last year and probably the cheapest they have been since I have owned the car. Aside from the current non-starting issue I have at the moment, this year’s maintenance bill will be higher because it is once again time to have the major service done and get the belts changed. I’m also going to need some new tyres. While the engine is out for the belts I’m going to take the opportunity to have the rear bumper fixed after I cracked it a few years ago. All of that is probably going to add up to a fair investment. Hopefully I can roll all that together with getting the car running again in one hit. I’ll report back and let you know when I have more information about the current situation.

This year’s learnings

1. As always, you can’t continue to own, and more importantly enjoy, a car like this without good back up. As always Sal DiMauro from Racing Red has solved any problem or concern I had with the car. Even now, with the current issues, I’m 100% confident he’ll get this solved and car will be back on the road real soon. If you need help he’s your man.

2. Cheap double sided tape doesn’t last forever! I returned home after a drive and noticed something on ground in the car’s parking spot. Turned out to be the front number plate, which I must have flicked off when I removed the car’s cover. Upon examination I could see that it was in fact only held in place by some cheap double sided tape that was now well past its use by date. I therefore reinstated the number plate in position using screws and premium double sided take for extra insurance. Getting all those points to align during application was challenging but now the front plate is much more securely fastened.

Low points

Aside from the current non starting situation, I’ve been somewhat stressed by the oil pressure gauge remaining higher that it should be at times. Now Sal tells me it may just be a bad connection to the gauge but there have been drives when the gauge goes to the maximum of 10+ PSI and stays there for the whole trip, even at idle.

I did check the oil and water levels and they seemed good. Of late, the pressure gauge has stayed within normal operating limits but it still catch my eye when I’m driving.

The good ol’ 5-8 slow down warning and cut out is always a pain. The worse occurrence happened early in the morning on my way to the Bathurst 12 hour. It happened because I got caught in a traffic jam on the freeway at 6am! Go figure. I put up with the cut outs for a little while longer before I decided that they weren’t going away and replaced the part. The good thing is with the replacement is that if there is one things I’ve had a lot of experience with on this car, it is fixing thermocouple ECU issues!

I’ve also had the usual bangs and scrapes of the nose which is annoying. Speed bumps and steep driveways are generally the culprits, most of which you can’t spot readily from the drivers seat. It always sounds much worse than it is, but it is still like a dagger in the back when it happens.

Another annoying thing is that the screws that hold in the roof clips regularly work their way loose. This is no doubt because of all the bumps and jarring suffered by the car on the poor local roads. You just need to remember to tighten the screws regularly or else they drop out while you are driving along, which can be very distracting when you try and find where they have gone in the cabin.

High points

A largely maintenance free year, with lower ownership costs. That has mean I’ve got a lot of driving in for the year which is why I bought the car in the first place. There is nothing like taking the car out early on a Sunday, doing a complete drive, no stops and returning before most people are even awake. Makes a great way to kick off a week.

All in all a great year for driving the car. Although this is currently tainted somewhat with the current non-starting issues I will admit.

Value

I will admit that I haven’t kept an eye on prices that much in the last twelve months. Doing so takes a lot of time and effort, unfortunately I haven’t had a lot spare to devote to the tasks.

However, as I look at the market today I feel that the car at worst, has retained it’s value and at best has increased maybe 10 – 20%. I think once I sort out a few issues with my car, like the cracked bumper, I would expect the value to increase. There are still things that need to be done to the car to continue to improve its value but they aren’t that major. So all in all, once the belt service has been done, the cracked bumper fixed, new tyres and the current non starting issue solved the car would be at its current peak resale value I feel. Not that I’m contemplating selling, but at that point all the major issues have been taken car of.

Summary

So at the moment the car is as broken as it’s ever been unfortunately. In short, it won’t crank which is frustrating and in someway taints this trip down the memory lane. However, that aside, the last 12 months have been very enjoyable F355 motoring. Driving time was up and costs were down so I really can’t complain at all.

The next 12 months will see a major service with the belts being changed, new tyres and hopefully the cracked bumper finally properly repaired. With all that done and the car back on the road, I’ll be a happy camper.

There may also be another opportunity for a trip to the land of Ferrari coming in 2018 but I’ll share more details on that as it gets close.

Until then, thanks for following along and roll on year six of ownership.