The Formula One racetrack in Austin, Texas, is bristling with Ferraris.
There are F12 Berlinettas, each worth $315,000, and a flock of $233,000 458 Italias. The bright red exotics are splayed down the pit lane like a schoolboy’s fantasy.
These are our toys for today.
The setting is Ferrari’s first-ever driving school in the U.S., with two days of instruction on the racetrack and two nights hanging out with fellow Ferraristi. Not just anyone is invited to the party.
The school, officially dubbed the Corso Pilota, costs $13,500, which includes hotel and meals. And every single participant owns a Ferrari.
So, yes, it’s exclusive. You’d figure that with all the Ferrari owners, plus spouses and friends along, it would be a bunch of chest-thumping A-Types. In reality, you’d never pick out the guy who owns a rare Enzo and has a $1.4 million LaFerrari on order. The group is easygoing and collegial. Friendships are made, car collections compared. On the first morning, the shuttle bus from the hotel pulls up to the Circuit of the Americas racetrack and the participants (17 men, one woman) take a look at the assembled cars and start giggling. It’s going to be a good day.
Few companies are as skilled at instilling brand loyalty among customers as Ferrari SpA. The Maranello, Italy-based automaker strives to create a Ferrari familia. If you want buy the newest, hottest model in a timely manner -- less than a year or even two -- you’d best already own another Ferrari and be on a first-name basis with the local dealer. The Corso Pilota experience and its exclusivity are in lock-step with that philosophy. It’s a chance to drive all of the cars at high speeds and meet like-minded owners.
The school began in Italy and is also offered in Mont- Tremblant, Canada, site of the Canadian Grand Prix. Austin’s brand-new Circuit of the Americas held its first F1 race in late 2012, making it an ideal U.S. venue for the Ferrari school. I took part during the final school in December of 2013; new dates will be announced for 2014.
This was not a racing school, the instructors emphasized, but rather an opportunity to teach customers how to safely operate their very fast cars, and understand the vehicles’ extreme capabilities.