The last 5 years of my life have been in pursuit of my dream to create and host a TV show about exotic cars on the roads of Canada called First Rides. This undertaking involves constant research, writing of episodes, making connections with people who have exotic cars to use on the show, and endlessly surfing the net and YouTube for the latest videos about supercars.  In late July 2013 I came across a website with a link for a Shell competition to find the Ultimate car Enthusiast in Canada; this was the one competition in the entire world that I should enter. The grand prize was six nights and seven days in Italy for two. The heart of the prize a two day adventure at Ferrari to tour the factory, the museum and to drive a Ferrari on the Fiorano track!! I was on my way to see my wife when I received the call that I had won the competition. My wife went through the roof with joy and for the next 2 months I kept thinking this was a dream I would wake up from any moment, but once we’d arrived in Maranello with the Ferrari sign visible from my hotel room balcony and the roar of those engines in my ears, I knew it was no dream.

Upon arrival in our room, I collapsed onto the (hotel) bed feeling sick from what later turned out to be food poisoning. In the midst of my agony I kept hearing the roar of engines, mighty V8’s and V12’s revving then fading into the distance, then I remembered I was in a hotel 5 minutes from Ferrari on the trip of a life time. I’d like to say that immediately cured me, it did not, but I was motivated to get off the bed and get ready to enter a world of myth and legend. I have been a Ferrari fan since I was 8 years old watching the 1978 Formula 1 GP at Monza, where I was mesmerized by the red Ferrari of Gilles Villeneuve.  Ferrari cemented its place in my heart with Magnum PI’s classic Ferrari 308 and over the years as I watched each new generation of Ferraris come and go I always dreamt of what it would be like to drive one.

The first day driving down the Via Abetone Inferiore No 4 gave me goose bumps. So many hours spent on Google and now here I was looking at the historic Factory Gate entrance; no longer an image on a screen. Reality is so much better. Our first stop was lunch at Ferrari’s famous restaurant, Il Cavallino, which is across the road from the Factory Gate. Afterwards we toured the factory then in the evening had dinner at the Montana Restaurant, an institution famous in its own right from all the drivers eating there and the enormous amount of authentic Ferrari and F1 driver’s paraphernalia.  We walked into Ferrari had a group picture taken in front of the historic gate and I felt like a little kid where everything is wonderful and new and exciting. I was not sure how I would react touring the production floor, however witnessing the first time a new Ferrari 458 engine’s is started was highly emotional. We witnessed the birth, if you will, of a red Ferrari 458 Italia, a red F12 Berlinetta, and a slightly rarer yellow Ferrari 458 Speciale its production beginning only 3 weeks prior.

My senses were overloaded as we drove along Viale Enzo Ferrari, the main avenue at Ferrari, as test drivers headed out on the mandatory 50km testing for each new Ferrari. Every car resonated with its unique sound, the V8 California and 458 competing with the roar of the F12 Berlinetta.  I was blessed by a rare sighting of not one but two LaFerrari supercars out on test rides, exotic car nirvana.  At the Formula 1 race car building were we lingered a mere 5 minutes but were privileged to see the chassis of the race cars that had just returned from the Japanese GP. I am a huge Formula1 fan and while completely in awe, I also realized what a rare and unique position I was in. The last building on the tour was the Clienti Program where ex-F1 racing cars are sold to private citizens. They are maintained by Ferrari and transported around the world at the owner’s request (and expense); row after row of Ferrari Formula 1 thoroughbreds, with famous names like Alonso, Raikkonen, Berger, and Schumacher still adorning the sides of their cockpits. I am so used to watching these cars surrounded by hordes of mechanics, and here they were all alone within easy reach. History lives in these cars but to access their history is for those with deep pockets.

Driving away from the F1 team buildings I caught my first glimpse of Fiorano, perhaps the most famous test track in motoring and Formula 1, the hairs on my arms and neck stood up as it dawned on me that the next day I would driving a Ferrari on this very track. I awoke the next morning once again to the roaring of Ferrari engines only today I knew I would be making those sounds myself. The Pilota driving program is a unique experience only available to owners of newly purchased Ferrari’s and even then at substantial cost.  Wherever I looked I saw Ferrari history, perhaps none more remarkable than Enzo Ferrari’s white house No 27, outside of which the instructors waited for their new crop of eager Pilotas. Listening to our race instructors briefing reminded me of a Formula 1 driver’s meeting, then it was off down the Pizza Michael Schumacher to the Ferrari pit where a host of famous cars and now famous faces have begun their journey to Ferrari history. Waiting for us at the Fiorano track were nine gleaming red Ferrari 458s, ours for the day.  My first taste of Fiorano was as a passenger while we went for an orientation lap with our instructors. I have never been thrown about so violently in a car before, but oh what an exhilarating ride.

My first lap behind the wheel was sensational, my biggest memory is of my instructor saying, “Go! Go!”, then seeing the world go by in a blur. The transition from street driver to circuit driver took a few laps, but with the instructors encouragement confidence began to build and I began to push the car faster and faster. I confess to a healthy dose of fear surrounding me at all times as I pushed my driving boundaries. The instructor’s “Flat! Flat!” (Meaning push the accelerator all the way to the floor) followed “Break! Break!” was the theme of the day. The highlight was driving a lap in which our telemetry was recorded so we could compare on a printout various aspects of our driving versus our instructor’s. My wife joined in with the instructors in exhorting me to go “Flat!” on my timed lap (she is much braver than I and was pretty much “Flat!” the whole time she was driving) so with her words ringing in my ears and my instructor urging me on I went “Flat!”; what a feeling that was, and to still feel in control of the car. I got a “Bravo!” from my instructor which I was rather proud of (even prouder when telemetry showed my average speed of 155km was faster than my wife’s at 153km). In all I did six runs for a total of 24 laps. This was a day where I never looked at my speedometer once, though I was assured I had gone 207 km down the main straight, where I learned the true meaning of hard breaking and where every lap was a moment in history for me and Ferrari.

The Ferrari experience culminated with a private dinner in the Ferrari Museum and was held in the Sala delle Vittorie (Hall of the Victories), surrounded by 9 championship winning Ferrari Formula 1 cars and all the race winning and championship trophies. I was surrounded by the glory, the myth and the legend that is Ferrari. This was a trip of a life time and the fulfillment of long cherished dream. One dream has come true, now it’s time to make my TV show First Rides come true as well.

Watch the First Rides trailer at