We were once again fortunate enough to be contacted by Shell to come to another exciting event. On November 1, Australian Shell service stations will begin pumping a brand new V-Power formulation, and to get the word out DS was invited for a briefing session as well as a morning of fun. Flying into Sydney, a few of us from different publications piled into a minibus and headed out of town. After arriving in Kiama on the south coast of NSW and having a quick dinner and drink at the local pub, we hit the sack in preparation for an exciting day.
A cloudy Monday greeted us early the next morning. En route to the restaurant to devour some breakfast, three gleaming models immediately grabbed our attention, finished in Ferrari’s trademark Rosso Corsa hues. An F430, a brand new-looking California and an even more exciting 458 Italia awaited our arrival.
After a healthy plate of bacon, we had a quick chat about the introduction of Shell’s new V-Power formula, which is an improvement over standard fuel across three areas: Firstly, detergents are added for cleaning the injectors and valves. Second, a higher octane value reduces detonation. And lastly, friction modifiers are added, which coat the metals in the cylinders like a lubricant on every injection cycle. The new V-Power fuel has 25% more of these friction modifiers than the old version, which instantly start protecting the cylinders.
We also had a chance to ask some tricky questions regarding Shell’s involvement with Formula 1 (as discussed at the Melbourne F1) and briefly touch on issues like ethanol. It’s exciting to know that the F1 cars are actually able to run on the same fuel that is sold at the pump, and that normal cars could actually run just fine on the race fuel!
But back to the most exciting part of the day. After signing my life away, I was fortunate enough to be offered the California keys as the first drive.
Our minders patiently went through all the switchgear and nuances that characterise such a car before firing up the motor..
The burble of the Cali instantly made all of us grin ear-to-ear, but the sound coming from the tri-exhausts from 458 was almost scary. We edged ever-so-carefully out of the driveway, and the lead and chase cars took us veeeery patiently out of the town of Kiama.
Being in the middle of the pack with the 430 behind and the 458 in front afforded us an incredible view in the hills surrounding the town. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Cali was very comfortable to sit in and to drive and I quickly started feeling at home in it. Being the fully loaded model, it boasted extras such as the F1-style shift indicator on the steering wheel, all electric everything, plush leather as far as the eye could see, etc etc.. but who cares, right?
As soon as we were into the hills, I repeatedly hit the paddle with the minus sign, and the downshifts reverberated through the cabin. Instantly, all XXX ponies were mustered with the glorious front-mounted V8 motor screaming through the revs, gear after gear.. While purists may scoff at driving a heavier and less stiff chassis due to the folding roof, I say to those people, “STFU. Drive a good convertible and then tell me you don’t like it”. Corner after corner, the Cali hunkered down and shrugged off the average road surfaces with fantastic composure and a great deal of enthusiasm from the motor. Before I knew it, it was time to pull into a servo and swap drivers.
Jumping in the 458 was intimidating at first, but then firing up the motor was something else altogether. It felt like the angry rasp coming from directly behind my head was the car egging me on for more revs, for more fun times, waaaay past the point of legality.
“You wouldn’t thrash me, you’re a pussy”, growled the Fezza.
So I gave in to the goading. Back into first, then hammering through the gears and utilising all 560 horses in the boot, I found myself laughing out loud and yelling at Gwyn (from GripShiftSlide), “YESSS, OVER NINE THOUSAND!!!”..
When I was rudely returned to reality by the rapidly approaching ass of the Alfa in front, the carbon ceramic brakes did a fantastic job of keeping us out of the scenery. I’ve never taken a freeway onramp with SO MUCH noise and adrenaline, yet in such comfort and style (and maybe never will). The next 15 minutes seem like a shiny red blur in retrospect, an adrenaline-fuelled frenzy of full throttle, bellowing exotic V8 noise behind the ears, whip-like instant gearchanges, fluid, razor sharp corners and the sensation of body parts being rearranged by the mighty brakes.
The experience of a lifetime for a car enthusiast. I’m already trying to figure out how to bribe myself back into the drivers seat of one!
We wound our way up into the hills above Kiama where we found some incredible views. Once again swapped cars, this time into the F430. I think the order wasn’t ideal, because something that is normally incredible now seemed lacklustre. The gears were slower, the motor less powerful, the suspension more unsettled, the noise a little less throaty, the inside more dated.. I don’t believe I’m saying this about a 430!! But there it is. After being in the 458, the older brother just doesn’t come close. Despite that, it was still an Italian thoroughbred – just not the youngest model.
Wrapping up the day with a lunch overlooking the ocean, we bid farewell to our hosts and bused it back to the airport as the afternoon wound to a close.
As the molten ball of the sun sinks below the rim of the Australian continent and the Gold Coast slides slowly by under the plane, I reflect on the three cars I’ve driven today. Their characters are as different as night and day, and yet all three were unmistakably Ferrari: the California as the relaxed playboy, the 430 with its slightly older and more unique and defined persona, and the 458 as the muscular incredibly good looking athlete, reveling in his own strength.
Ultimately my hat must be tipped to Shell for providing DS with such an incredible opportunity. Much love!
As an added bonus, Shell are running a competition on twitter starting Monday 4 November until Sunday 8 December, giving away 50x $100 vouchers. Simply tweet a picture that represents “The car that you LoVe”, including the hashtag #ShellVPower and @Shell_Australia to enter. Get on it, easiest way to win $100 ever!