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For me, the Mini Epic FL Road trip started officially at the airport when I picked up my brother (henceforth referred to as TR as he is younger) and then headed out to get the newly acquired Maserati Gransport. TR had flown in from the US for 5 days of Ferrari nirvana. The first of which was spent on the track followed by 1,400 miles on some of Europe’s best driving roads.

The track day at Donington started early with the usual safety and running plan briefing. As it had been almost two months since I last sat in the 360 Challenge at Spa, I was eager to get out on the track early. The track opened at 9:30 AM and we were rumbling down the pitlane at 9:31 AM. As the Challenge was running on new tires, the first couple of laps were quite sedate while we scrubbed the coating off and got a bit of heat into both tires and brakes. Being a bit rusty after the 2 month hiatus, it was also a good opportunity to get to know the car again. After a few laps, I was able to continue increasing the pace as it began to all flow together nicely. After roughly 15 laps, it was time to go back in, get a cup of java, and give TR a turn behind the wheel.

As the seat in the Challenge has been fitted specially for me and is not moveable, it required a bit of aerobics to get TR situated comfortably for his first session (if you are not used to having to navigate a roll cage to get into a car, the first couple of times it can be a real pain). Soon he was on his way and I was off to pray for the safe return of my silver striped friend. I then headed to the coffee bar and then out to the viewing platform the get a few pictures.

The balance of the day followed the same routine with each of us taking turns in the 360 Challenge. Confidence and speed continued to increase throughout the day and I was quite impressed with the pace TR was able to put up despite limited experience both in Ferraris and on the track. The final session on the track was by far the best and most challenging. The instructor seemed to be quite pleased with my laps and we decided to see if we could match the lap times the 430 Challenges were putting up. The 360 and 430 are about equal in the corners but the extra 100 bhp that the 430 Challenge has makes a significant difference on the straights. After a couple of warm up laps, we started really pushing hard and were able to put a couple of 1:17 and 1:18s up. From my perspective, the 360 Challenge felt very near the limit as the rear was sliding on a few of the corners, all the gear changes were at or very close to the redline, and braking was very late and hard. Net net, margin for error was near zero as I was reminded on every lap when we passed the gravel trap where someone else had spun off earlier.

Pushing really hard at the end is always a great way to finish a good track day. You can tell how hard you pushed by the level of mental exhaustion latter that evening. I certainly had no problem sleeping that night.
 

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Day 2 - The Road towards Reims

With a train to catch, we had to get off to an early start on Day 2. While we did a lot of driving on Day 1, actually forward progress was zero as we finished in exactly the same spot we started off. For day two we needed to cover both a far bit of the UK followed by a good chunk on France. After a quick couple of cups of coffee, all the bags went into the 2 cars and off we headed. I started out driving the 360 Modena with TR in the Maserati Gransport. The trip down to the Eurotunnel terminal was both quick and uneventful. After a short wait we were loaded on the train with the brilliant roads of France now only a half hour away. At this point, JazzyO called and it appeared that we would be intersecting shortly after our arrival in France. We agreed the meeting point and thus our little convoy would shortly grow to three.

While in the tunnel, we agreed to switch cars and planned the route to the hotel. As it was still quite a distance, we agreed to a combination of both highways and country roads which would give us an arrival time well before dinner. Arrival in France went smoothly and within minutes, we were back on the highway pointed towards the meeting spot with the 365BB.

As JazzyO had been caught in a bit of traffic, we arrived a few minutes ahead which allowed us time to get something to drink and stretch our legs. As we had parked around the corner from the filling station at the rest stop, we heard the 365 BB well before it was visually spotted. Fond memories (and a dollop of jealously) immediately flooded back. JazzyO’s 365BB is in terrific condition, sounds marvelous, and is impressive to watch as it carves up the highway. A quick round of greetings was exchanged before it was back to business. Off we roared towards the hotel where we would be meeting up with 212Export with his brilliant 430 Scuderia and agp22 in the silver 550 bullet.

After another hour on the highway, it was time to head into the country and the “D” roads of France. These are truly the roads Ferraris are built for, smooth, beautiful, and challenging. The initial bit went very smoothly until all of a sudden I noticed a distinct lack of Ferraris in my rearview mirror. After finding a safe spot to pull over, I quickly called TR only to find out that JazzyO’s 365BB had failed to proceed past the last intersection in the small town that we had just passed through.

A quick U-turn and it was back to see if there was anything we could do to help. As it turned out the problem was a bum alternator leading to a dead battery, we were able to use the Maser to get enough of a change in the battery to get the 365BB back up and running. With limited time and juice, off we set and a smart clip for the hotel. Fortunately the 365BB was able to make it without any further drama.

I guess our arrival at the hotel was slightly less than stealthy as 212 Export was well on his way to the parking lot when we arrived. Agp22 pulled in shortly thereafter. We all then checked in and agreed to meet up for dinner. Dinner was excellent and over not to late despite the long debate between 212Export and TR over the wine list and later the cheese platter.
 

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Day 3 - Chasing the Scud

My alarm clock for Day 3 was JazzyO’s 365BB. He and 212Export had gotten an early start on the day and were trying to see if we could get the 365BB sorted so that it could continue on the trip. Unfortunately it was not to be and JazzyO had get his brother and father to come down in the 550 rescue Maranello to escort the stricken 365BB back home.

The remainder of the group then set off in the general direction of Tours. We left the routing a bit up in the air with the only caveat being to avoid the highways and stay on the back D roads across the countryside. We agreed to 1st head south before turning west and to stop in one of the larger towns to pick up food for picnic somewhere along the route. During the brief stop, a local classics group pulled into admire our little group. We had a vibrant conversation utilizing broken parts of about six different languages before heading back off. The scenery in this part of France is beautiful and just a pleasure to drive thought. Keeping pace with the 430 Scuderia and 212Exports expert driving presented a continued challenge and added to the overall great experience. Watching the Scud move up behind traffic before jetting coolly past in the blink of an eye reminded me of watching a great white shark toy with its prey. The 430 Scuderia is in a very different league from everything else we encountered on the road.

After a few hours we stopped for a quick lunch in one of the great parks. As per Day 2, TR and I took the opportunity to switch cars at the break. We agreed on the driving order and to avoid ny problems, we agreed that agp22 would ride tail to keep the group moving smartly. Settling into the Maser, the question in my mind was could the Gransport keep pace with the Scud. Hope lay in the 4.2 liter Ferrari sourced engine and the sports setting. This would be ultimate test as to the big Masers true abilities.

15 minutes into the afternoon’s drive, I was deeply impressed with the Gransport. While the regular setting is fairly useless, hit the “Sports” button and Gransport transforms into a proper sports car. While it requires more work that the Scud, push it and it responds. The balance of the drive went smoothly and included a short stop at the Chateau de Chambord before we hit the hotel. As per Day 2, dinner was excellent and over not to late despite the long debate between 212Export and TR over the wine list and later the cheese platter.
 

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Day 4 - Being Chased by the Scud

We got an early start on Day 4 as we had a significant amount of distance to cover. The convoy again dropped by one with Agp22 deciding to catch up with us that evening. The days driving order was the 360, followed by the 430 Scuderia, with TR in the Maser in the rear. Within minutes of hitting the road we ran into a local bike group out for their Sunday morning ride. We got very lucky as at the 1st intersection, they went left and we turned right. Past experience indicates that most of these bike clubs seem to think they own the road and can be a major pain to get around. Personally, until they start paying road tax, they should be forced to ride in a single file on the far right hand side of the road and give way to all automobiles.

The first stint of the day was down the highway south towards Bordeaux. Shortly after clearing the Tours city limits we approached the toll booths where one picks up a ticket. Standing in front were a group of the ever friendly Gendarmerie. I was not particularly concerned as I believed we had been driving not to far off the 130 kph speed limit. Turns out I was wrong. As I passed through the tolls, I was waved over to the right hand side of the plaza and informed that they had clocked me doing 137 kph in a 110 kph zone. When I told them I thought it was a 130 zone, I was informed that it had been, but they recently changed it (don’t think they have bothered putting up signs yet). Seems that the rumored French Ferrari tax is still very much in force and after making a Euro 90 donation to the French Treasury, off we went again. The good news was that they had only gotten myself in the lead 360 with the radar gun, so the others got off.

It was another hour on the highway before we turned off onto the smaller freeway. The freeway section ran for about 120 kilometers and was fairly unexciting. After the freeway it was back into the countryside. Here we found some brilliant roads and the pressure was on to set a pace that would not put 212 Export and the Scud to sleep. The narrow valleys served as the perfect sound stage for the 360s tubi and the Scud. Using just the sound track, it was possible to match gear changes and braking points. The next two hours were some of the best, most enjoyable driving I can remember. The type of drive you just don’t want to end.

Sadly, we finally reached the hotel. After a short walk around town, agp22 arrived and we meet for a final brilliant dinner. As per Day 3, the food was excellent but this time we ended a bit later due to an extended discussion between 212Export and TR over the wine list.

Thus the 1st FL Mini Epic Road Trip was concluded and we all went our separate ways the following morning.
 

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great write up and pictures (as always), Boxer!!

so the Maserati is yours?? does that mean that you'll sell one of your current cars? I hope not!!!

I just can't understand why I wasn't there. Since your brother went from the US, being in another continent is no excuse! Crap, I want to go to the next epic trip!!!
 

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Great pictures Boxer! Your write ups are phenomenal. It looks like you guys had an amazing time! Is that your Maser?

Chris
 

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Great to read the remainder of the trip, as well as the first part from a different perspective, Boxer.

A great write-up again and I keep thinking about this trip even if I had problems. Wonderful cars, companions, food, drink, architecture and scenery. What more can a person ask for? It's the FerrariLife!

Thanks to all participants for making this special. Next time I promise I'll make sure everyone's awake before starting the BB... :)

Oh, and thanks for the nice pictures of the BB in action on the péage!



Onno



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Tremendous! :cool: Sounds like you guys had a fantastic time - hopefully the BB will be fighting fit for the 'Epic' trip next year. Jazzy it seems that you are going to have a tough time dividing your loyalties between 2 mistresses! :D The sound of the BB must be intoxicating!

One thing is for sure Mr Boxer has a knack for great venues. Incidentally how does 'TR' like his new nickname?!

Edit: How come you were riding with the coaches?

.
 

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Great!! Now that's where all it is all about. Seems the pleasure was all yours and the envy is all mine..;)

Onno, it's great to see you driving your beautifull BB for many miles, no garage queens for you.

Btw if that's a 'mini' trip I can't imagine how a 'regular' trip would be...
 

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Boxer, many thanks for bringing your impressions to words combined by the again wonderful pictures. Also your hotel pick's was oustanding !

To me, the whole trip felt instantly like the coming together of very good old friends (which in most cases have never met before) sharing the passion (also of wine and cheese platters:D )!

Thank's to all of you who made it become a reality.:)
 

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great write up and pictures (as always), Boxer!!

so the Maserati is yours?? does that mean that you'll sell one of your current cars? I hope not!!!

I just can't understand why I wasn't there. Since your brother went from the US, being in another continent is no excuse! Crap, I want to go to the next epic trip!!!
Yes, the Maserati Gransport is mine. Picked it up recently and got a great deal on the car. So far very impressed with it.

Maser is an addition only, no subtraction intended.
 

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Yes, the Maserati Gransport is mine. Picked it up recently and got a great deal on the car. So far very impressed with it.

Maser is an addition only, no subtraction intended.
The Maser looks great. :)

Chris
 

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Thanks for a great write up and pictures, Boxer. My appetite is sufficiently whetted for the epic run in 2009. A great incentive to get both the 308 and myself into shape for (the latter requiring a lot more work and fine tuning than the former!)

I read in, of all places, the latest Porsche Post (Porsche Club GB magazine that features a mention and pic of the 308), that Top Gear drove a Daytona through Europe and that it will be featuring in the new series. Sounds like epic drives in Europe in Ferraris are catching on. I read it here first. Roll on the FerrariLife Epic Drive (FLED) 2009!
 

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Fantastic adventure.

Been waiting to get the police's beautiful shot of my car from a 3/4 rear right angle where they were parked lower than shoulder of the highway, with the sun reflecting from the front. Saw the photo in the unmarked trooper's plasma screen, just awesome. They eventually caught up with me on a traffic jam following the speed trap (photo scene), and I paid the fine. Then they all (4 officers) gathered around the car, looked at the engine, guessed the number of valves, talked about fuel consumption and horsepower, and smiling, they advised that I should not drive so fast because of the traffic, a car could get on ahead of me, a tire that could blow, a dog could cross the highway, but they did love the car. I obviously defended that the car was super stable, the brakes highly precise, and that I only stepped on it when the path was clear of traffic.

After saying bye-bye, I took-off in 2nd gear full blast to merge ahead and resume my 230 Km/h average cruise. Looks like it's very complicated to get the picture mailed over, so I'll give it up.

JazzyO's BB at the first meet was great. Along with the Miura, Daytona, Countach, this was one of my dream cars when I was 11 or 12 years old. A shame he didn't come through with us.

Driving the big modern Ferrari GT in the French secondary roads behind the two central-engined Ferraris and the Grand Sport was fun, the view was unique!

When approaching Chambord, in the woods, a lot of overtaking was taking place, and it appeared that TR in the 360 was not keeping up to Boxer (Maserati) and 212Export (Scud) ahead, so I could not resist, and when the opportunity came up, I had to overtake TR and a bunch of other cars ahead of him. Net result, when we got to the castle, we had to wait for a while on the 360.

Overall, the hotels were fine, so was the company and the wine.

Pity it turned out to be so short; some moments, I'd like to make them last forever...:cool:
 
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