Saturday, 07 March 2009 09:16
By Ian McCullough couriermail
DRIVING a Ferrari would lead many people's "bucket list".
So I was excited and not a little intimidated when I ran my eyes across four Ferraris, all red and with the tops down.
I'd been invited by Sydney's Prancing Horse Ferrari Rentals to be part of a drive from the company's workshop in suburban Marrickville to the South Coast and back.
There were a 2006 Ferrari F430 – worth a cool $550,000 new; a 2002 360 Spider, a 1998 F355 and two 1988 328GTSs – one of the 328s was the escort vehicle
We had been advised not to wear jeans so as not to damage the cars' leather seats. And after being given a quick lesson on how to start the car and get used to the gear-change paddles on the steering wheel, we were off.
Our guides for the day were Prancing Horse director Walter Szyszka and mechanics Rob Falato and Matt Thio whose passion for the cars they maintain is infectious.
We turned a few heads as we left town but Szyska pointed out that the rubber necks weren't looking at us, only the cars!
And one poor guy in a brand new convertible Alfa Romeo, complete with a blonde woman in the passenger seat, was left for dead at the lights by five red bullets.
It's drive time
The first Spider I got my hands on was the six-gear manual 328 GTS. Thankfully, changing gears was not as difficult as it looked at first as we journeyed through the Royal National Park towards Bald Hill.
Here, we were presented with the chance to sample the performance of the beautifully shaped semi-automatic 355 Spider and give the gear-change paddles some serious work for the first time.
From Bald Hill we drove down the majestic Sea Cliff Bridge that curves out over the sea on the Grand Pacific Drive, which has been labelled NSW's version of the Great Ocean Road.
Although it was difficult to really open up the car to its full potential, it was amazing to be at the wheel of such a machine.
After Wollongong, we turned off the Princes Highway to head up the narrower, winding Illawarra Highway towards the Southern Highlands town of Robertson.
Peddle to the metal
The cars hugged the road as it twisted left and right, and the sheer power they generated going uphill was enough to make getting back into a standard car later something of a comedown.
We stopped at the impressive Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk before Robertson. It's 25 metres high in the middle of rainforest with brilliant views down to Lake Illawarra, Wollongong and the Pacific Ocean.
From there we headed back down the mountain to Coolangatta Estate, on the northern bank of the Shoalhaven River close to Nowra.
Formerly the home of Alexander Berry, who settled the south coast in the 19th century, the original buildings have been turned into accommodation with a restaurant and a winery.
The long day was completed with a short drive north to Gerringong, a small town long favoured by holidaymakers, which overlooks Werri Beach.
Here we pulled up at the stylish Bellachara Hotel, which is well worth visiting, even if just for the outstanding dinner in the restaurant.
A combination of seafood, meats and salads was just the ticket after a hard day's drive.