Drivers often have brand allegiance and will stick with a car company they have grown to like for complex reasons. Yet Ferrari’s relationship with its owners has always felt that bit deeper. Chris Rea called it La Passione. And believers need an outlet for their faith. Ferrari is on hand with the answer. Owners of some of the marque’s most desirable models are invited each year to the Cavalcade. This is a select event that feels more like an exclusive private club for the well-heeled car collector. It usually runs as two events, one for new Ferraris and one for ‘classic’ cars – defined as those older than 20 years. This year is the 10th anniversary of the Cavalcade and after a disrupted 2020, Ferrari decided to bring the modern and Classiche version of the event together on the island of Sicily.
Sicily fits right in with the Cavalcade’s mission of supplying good times and drives in the manufacturer’s homeland. Base camp is the San Domenica Palace high on a terrace in Taormina overlooking the Ionian Sea. The Cavalcade entrants arrive from all corners of the globe and unsurprisingly, as rare Ferrari owners, they tend to be car lovers of a certain financial standing, notwithstanding the entry fee of just over 25,000 Euros for the five-day event.
The visual feast of Taormina with its Greek theatre and walled gardens set against the backdrop of Mount Etna is dialled up a notch with the addition of over 150 Ferraris, which is initially a little overwhelming for anyone with even a passing knowledge of legendary cars.
The structure of the event is based on the archaic rules of the regularity rally, which rewards drivers for hitting a target time for a driving segment based on average speed limits. But this being Ferrari and Ferrari in Sicily, there is a relaxed approach to both the rules of the event and the law of the land – as I am soon to find out. Cars are set off in two minute intervals and the noise of those waiting to leave gets an already beating heart thumping even quicker.
My charge for the Cavalcade is one of the latest Ferraris – the 812 Superfast GTS. Launched as a coupe in 2017, the 812 is a wolf in wolf ’s clothing and burbles with intent as soon as you fire up the mighty 789 bhp engine. Ferrari has since peeled off the roof and given it the GTS moniker. Same engine, same mind-bending speed capability, but as a convertible it is far more agreeable than the hardtop for a romp around a Mediterranean island. Wind in hair, V12 upfront and unleashed into Ferrari’s in house premium road trip, it is hard not to get a little carried away as I peel out onto the Autostrada. Until that is, I see the flashing blue lights in the rearview mirror. That cold feeling you get when you have done something wrong as a child washes over me.
Has my seemingly perfect day ended before it’s begun? I needn’t have worried. I receive a casual smile and a subtle gesture that implies ‘Andiamo’ (Let’s go). The penny drops. I am driving a Ferrari in Ferrariland. Of course, the police are enthusiastically on board and here to add to the adventure. I remember something I was told earlier by an entrant – ‘The only thing better than driving a Ferrari, is driving a Ferrari with a bunch of other Ferraris’. ‘With a police escort’ can now reliably be tagged on to that mantra. So, a brace of 812 GTS Superfasts, a 488 Pista Spider and a red La Ferrari are line astern chasing down the coolest motorcycle cop with his blue lights parting the traffic like a modern-day Moses. I’ve had worse Monday mornings.
The first stop of the day is the Sigonella military airbase. Rows of gleaming Ferraris line up in the heat haze to have a blast down the runway, free from traffic and, I now realise, the less relevant speed limit. It’s a chance to try out the 812’s launch control and the staggering 0-62 mph time of under 2.9 seconds. I run out of road, or I should say, runway, before I hit the 211mph V-max, but it doesn’t feel far off. Next, it’s off to the lunch stop on the southern tip of the island.
Emperor Frederick II’s presence still looms large over this land even 800 years after his rule. The fortification of Castello Maniace in Syracuse is the site for the midday checkpoint. No longer engaged in keeping out marauding invaders, the castle’s thick walls now offer a cool and calm environment for lunch. Sicilian delicacies such as cannolis, granita and arancini vie for attention, but the wines from the nerello mascalese grape grown on the fertile hills of Mount Etna will have to wait until driving has finished. The day’s driving has been a fairly lengthy 400 plus kilometres, made more mentally tiring by taming a car that is continually straining at the leash. Ending the day with energy low, but adrenaline running high, driving the Cavalcade 10th Anniversary 2021 is to pray at the church of Ferrari. You are invited to pay your respects to its hedonism and good taste. La Passione indeed.