Another dream drive for Ferrari fans

In a tiny Italian village, locals are going about their daily business when an evocative buzz reaches their ears. As an eye-popping array of late-model Ferraris wails slowly down the main thoroughfare they stare, then wave. Some even break into cheers of appreciation.

In a tiny Italian village, locals are going about their daily business when an evocative buzz reaches their ears. As an eye-popping array of late-model Ferraris wails slowly down the main thoroughfare they stare, then wave. Some even break into cheers of appreciation.

Few of the star-struck onlookers - devotees of the Prancing Horse brand to a man, woman and child - register the oval-shaped "AUS" sticker carefully affixed to each bumper; they're too busy trying to identify each of the cars they adore but seldom see.

Behind the wheel of his Ferrari F430 Spider, Tony Demarco and his wife Trish bask in the adulation, and the feeling is repeated along the length of a convoy of the friends they have brought along on what could be the ultimate three-week European driving holiday.

"It's the best reaction you'd ever experience. There is no word to explain the reaction you get from police, from everyone," he says. "You would think these cars are a dime a dozen in Italy, but you hardly see them on the road and the people just flock around them more so than they do here. And they are so respectful to the cars."

The Melbourne-based, semi-retired property developer has previously organised and led such a trip three times, and is deep in planning a fourth for early next year.

The former owner of the PRD Realty real estate business, and a small band of his fellow Ferrari fanatics, carefully load their cherished cars onto a ship, which they meet six weeks later at a port in the south of France. Then the fun begins.

This is no ordinary fly-drive holiday abroad. Each of the eight cars that will participate in next year's trip will contain a couple who will part with more than $50,000 - and closer to $60,000 once petrol, tolls and daily expenditure is added - for the 21-day adventure. They will stay in the finest hotels, eat at Michelin-star restaurants and, of course, make it their business to tackle some of the finest driving roads in Europe.

Past trips have included a visit to the Ferrari factory in Modena and a track day on the company's Maranello test circuit, plus the Nurburgring and the Stelvio Pass.

"We paid $20,000 for exclusive use [of the Maranello track] for the day. We were given hot laps in a 458 by the Ferrari test drivers. What an experience," Mr Demarco says.

"They can't believe we brought our Ferraris from Australia. They were stunned. The president gave a speech at the track and said 'I can't understand why you do this', and we said 'we wanted the experience of driving our own Ferrari.' "

The next trip is planned to visit Modena again, where Mr Demarco hopes to pick up a rare and super-expensive Ferrari F12 model he is currently negotiating to buy.

The trip is likely to include stops at Lake Como, Zurich, the Nurburgring, Frankfurt, Salzburg and Vienna. This route, Mr Demarco reckons, will include some of the world's best roads, including Germany's Black Forest and the Austrian Alps.

The first trip included a mammoth 21 cars, which was quickly scaled down to 10 the following trip, and just six last year after two late withdrawals. Mr Demarco is aiming for an eight-car convoy next year.

"Eight is the ideal. We could go to 10, but it's hard to fit 20 people around a dinner table and have a good conversation," he says.

"Even eight can limit us in terms of parking and accommodation, some places are pretty remote."

If it sounds like a Boys' Own adventure come to life, it is, with the men typically taking the driving duties. But Mr Demarco says their partners are also well looked after, with an itinerary selected not just for driving but also with shopping and sightseeing in mind.

"The drive is the thrill for the guys. In 2010 we tended to stay one night here and two nights there, but that was too taxing on the ladies, they didn't want that," he says.

Last year's trip moved to alternating two-night and three-night stays.

"It means the boys can shoot off for a drive all day, and the girls go shopping. Everyone's happy that way."

Related Articles