Summers in Japan are never fun. High 30s temperatures mixed with high humidity makes doing anything outdoors a literal living hell. But when Ferrari invited me to check out their two-day Racing Days event at Fuji Speedway, I couldn’t turn down an offer like that. I soldiered on and braved the scorching heat.
Think of Ferrari Racing Days as a weekend long festival celebrating all things Prancing Horse. The weekend is made up of a combination of another round in the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli Asia Pacific, demonstration runs of the Corse Clienti F1 cars, hot laps of XX cars, and various customer drives around the circuit.
Some Very Special Cars
We were treated to some very unique cars including all five generation of Ferrari’s Speciale cars from the 288 GTO, F40, F50, Enzo, and of course the LaFerrari. Some of Ferrari’s historic cars were also on public display including a 250GT Berlinetta TdF, Ferrari 275 GTB, and Ferrari 599 GTO.
The Racing Days was also used as an opportunity for the public debut of the 488 Pista and of course a special display of the J50, a special limited-run series made to celebrate 50 years of Ferrari in Japan. To my eyes, the J50 is the best looking modern Ferrari. The retro details that hark back to Ferrari’s old barchettas and targas do warm and fuzzy things to me.
The 488 Pista was cool to see, but compared to the J50 it just didn’t seem as special. Let’s not forget, the J50 is based on a 488 Spider. It also costs a whopping estimated NZ$5.5 million. So, it ought to look more special than a “regular” 488.
Not that there’s much to complain about the 488 if the paddock parking was anything to go by. Customers seem to love Ferrari’s current mid-engine V8 offering. That said, seeing a sea of Ferraris parked up together will never get boring. With more than 5000 Ferrari owners and fans coming together, there wasn’t a shortage of cars to look at. An event as big as this brought out some of the more interesting specced cars we wouldn’t normally see out on the roads.
Any cool colours?
Highlights included the special triple-layer orange LaFerrari, a dark green F12 Berlinetta, a very dark blue Challenge Stradale, and a right-hand drive 458 Speciale with a green stripe. Now, the right-hand drive bit is worth mentioning because generally Japanese customers order their Ferraris in left-hand drive because it’s more “special” and gives driving the car a more “foreign” experience. Why drive on the same side of the road as the peasants?
Speaking of outdoing the peasants, even among Ferrari owners there’s a hierarchy. You had the guys with the ‘normal’ Ferraris, then the ones with the limited run cars. But then you had the guys with the 70th Anniversary livery cars who wanted everyone to know their cars are special one-offs. Bearing the not-so-subtle 70th Anniversary badges and the eye-catching liveries, these cars got a lot of attention.
Though, to be fair these liveries could easily be recreated thanks to Ferrari’s bespoke Tailor Made program. I didn’t realise until the Racing Days just how many Japanese customers order their Ferraris with some Tailor Made customisation. It shouldn’t come as a surprise given the popularity of McLaren’s MSO and Lamborghini’s ad personam in Japan.
What about the track action?
Out on track there was a whole lot of excitement as the Fuji round of the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli Asia Pacific went on over the weekend. It was exciting to watch and hear these Challenge cars battle it out on the iconic circuit right under Mount Fuji. New Zealand was well represented by car #127 driven by Grant Baker. I didn’t get a chance to meet up with Grant but judging from his Instagram page he certainly had a lot of fun on and off the track.
When the Challenge series was going on, the Corse Clienti F1 cars and XX program cars took turns blasting around Fuji Speedway. It was a rare occasion where legendary winning cars such as the F1-89, 412 T2, F2004, F2005, F2007, F2008, F10, and 150 Italia were all out on the track together bringing a symphony of F1 engines to Fuji for two days. The 2004 and 2005 cars in particular sounded absolutely incredible, just how you’d expect a proper F1 car to sound like.
Speak of noise, the XX cars didn’t disappoint in the sound department either. Unfortunately the car I had wanted to see and hear the most around the track, the FXX, had an accident literally as soon as I arrived on track so it was retired for the rest of the weekend. Luckily we had cars such as the FXX K, FXX K EVO, 599XX, and 599XX EVO to keep us occupied. Which wasn’t too bad.
How’d they drive?
The funny thing was seeing the different levels of driving ability from the various XX owners. These cars are merely expensive playthings for the rich. You can’t actually race or use them outside official Ferrari events. Some of the XX guys knew exactly what they were doing and driving their cars hard. However, most of the guys were driving these 1000hp machines like they were doing a school run, albeit in V12 monsters. It was just interesting to see these cars going to the highest bidder rather than to people with the appropriate skill to control these cars. As was proved by the FXX accident.
Ferrari clearly knows their customers well because for the customer track experience there were two groups; the Family Run and the Sports Drive. They’re exactly what they sound like. The Family Run was a more relaxed cruise around Fuji Speedway if you wanted to bring your partner and kids with you. Or simply if you didn’t feel confident enough pushing your California hard around the track.
For those wanting to drive a bit more spiritedly, the Sports Drive was there to let you live out your fantasies of being Schumacher or Vettel for a few laps. Ironically, the top cars such as the Scuderia 16M, 458 Speciale Aperta, and LaFerrari only went out on the more chilled Family Run. The Sports Drive consisted mainly of 430s and 458s, plus a couple of brave heroes in a 288 GTO and F40. Respect to them.
After two days of Ferrari overload it got a bit overwhelming. The cars were great and the atmosphere of a shared passion for Maranello’s greatest was truly special. It was a shame the heat made it hard to fully enjoy the overall experience and I do wish more cars and owners got driven harder. Well, maybe that’ll be something for next year at Suzuka.