Behind the scenes of test driving supercars in 2018
Another motoring year is ending so it’s an opportune time to reflect on my highlights for 2018. At the beginning of each year I never know what supercars adventures I am going to have or indeed if I am going to have any adventures at all. I thought I would go behind the scenes of how I got to drive a few McLaren’s and a Ferrari this year. The first thing to remember is simply to ask if you can test drive a car, the worst they can say is no, but sometimes they say yes. Planning a test drive can take weeks if not months to arrange, and sometimes just when you think it’s all arranged the whole thing falls apart. So here is my 2018 supercar year.
In May of 2018 I was offered the opportunity to drive a McLaren 570S spyder for 24 hours in Los Angeles courtesy of McLaren North America and McLaren Beverly Hills. This opportunity came about as a result of a change in leadership at McLaren North America. I managed to contact the new VP of McLaren North America through his profile on LinkedIn. When I managed to borrow a McLaren 540C from a contact here in Vancouver I passed on my article to my VP connection.
While the article and media outlet were not enough for a full test drive, I was invited down to Los Angeles to attend the reopening of McLaren Beverly Hills. I was offered the opportunity to take a McLaren 570S spyder out on a test for 24 hours and to return it when I attended the reopening. I was absolutely thrilled to be offered this opportunity and even more thrilled when the 570S spyder was clocked in a delicious Mantis Green. Driving down to Long Beach and having the historic Queen Mary ocean liner as a backdrop for some photographs was very special. I love being able to take my test cars to places that are unique, or simply different from other photoshoots. It was also a bit surreal driving up Rodeo Drive in a Mantis Green McLaren, certainly not a place to take your supercar if you are shy (which I am a bit). Test driving these supercars gives one a small window of what full time ownership of a supercar must be like.
Timing and knowing the right person also help get you a test drive. As with any other business in the world developing connections is critical. In the car business there is an awful lot of turn over especially at local dealerships so nurturing relationships is an ongoing process. When the new McLaren 720S came out in 2017 I was very excited at the prospect of driving this supercar, so naturally I asked my contact at McLaren here in Vancouver if I could get a test drive. My lobbying effort started on the 20th of June 2017 sadly my contact was not able to provide me with any opportunities to drive the McLaren 720S over the course of the last year. Things turned around when I took a doctor I know to the Luxury Supercar Weekend in September this year. He introduced me to this new salesman at McLaren who had taken him for a test drive in the 720S a few before. My friend told the salesman to let me test drive the 720S, and within two weeks I had driven the 720S.
Now for a Ferrari supercar adventure with a happy conclusion. This past October I received an invitation from my contact at Ferrari North America to test drive the new Ferrari GTC4 Lusso T down in Los Angeles. I first contacted Ferrari North America back in 2016 when I had only been writing a short time. Somehow, I managed to persuade the press officer to loan me a Ferrari California T. To this day I am not sure how or why this press officer loaned me the car. It should be stressed that getting a press car once from a manufacturer is no guarantee of getting one on a regular basis from then on. Luck, timing and most importantly providing large viewing figures of your articles or videos help facilitate your new press car. Thanks to the generous readership of my McLaren 720S article by the readers of Drivetribe I was offered the Ferrari Lusso T drive in Los Angeles. This Ferrari press car was arranged by a local Los Angeles PR firm that handles the west coast fleet of Ferrari press cars. Once you have the invitation all that is required is to nominate some dates and then see which days the car is available. I then begin planning the driving routes, which are governed by a four-day 375-mile test limit. Playing within a 375-mile limit requires attention to detail. For this latest adventure I decided to base myself in Malibu in order to take advantage of the great canyon roads and to limit the amount of mind-numbing Los Angeles highways I would have to drive (the dreaded 405 is always at the top of my list). I am a big fan of the Ferrari Lusso T with its twin turbo V8 instead of the V12 found in its bigger brother the GTC4 Lusso. It’s a quirky car that is not for everyone which I rather like. I fell in love with the cars first incarnation as the FF. Give me $417,000 extra dollars and it will grace my driveway any day. The Malibu canyons proved to be some of the best driving roads I have enjoyed on a test drive. On a more somber note all the roads I drove on and enjoyed so much were consumed by the terrible fires that ravaged the communities of Malibu and Paradise. Equally tragic was the shooting which took place in Thousand Oaks at the Borderline Bar and Grill two weeks after I got back from my drive. My friend and I had considered going to that pub, but we went across the road to the Tipsy Goat instead. When I found out the location of the shooting, I was very upset, it gave me a greater connection with the tragedy than it otherwise would have it If I had not visited the area.
Last month I was asked by my local McLaren dealership to test drive a McLaren 650S spider and then do a write up for the dealership. The plan was to have the car for a whole day, so I picked a route I had not had the chance to drive before, along the scenic Fraser valley canyon replete with 7 tunnels to enjoy the sonic thunder of a twin turbo charged McLaren V8 with 610 screaming horses. Once the route was organised it was then up to the weather deities to provide some good weather. This delayed proceedings a couple of weeks, then I ran into my first road test speed bump. Due to a change in insurance the dealership could no longer let me have the car by myself, instead I had to be a accompanied by a salesman and our time was limited to just two hours. Now two hours in a McLaren is infinitely better than no time at all so I changed the route to make the drive closer to the dealership. So now I was waiting for good weather and for the salesmen to have some time to go with me. A few more weeks went by before the plug was pulled on the drive and the article. So this was a month of organization and waiting for weather, and people only for nothing to happen. This is some of the behind the scene antics of being a freelance supercar writer.
I am still hoping to close out the year with a real scoop, namely getting a ride and possibly a drive in the new McLaren Senna. This tale started out a few weeks ago when I happened to spot the Senna going out for a pre delivery shakedown drive. I was thrilled to get some video and a few good images. I posted the short video on Instagram where to my surprise the owner left me a comment. I have never met this gentleman but I do know him by his supercar reputation around Vancouver. Short version I asked him if I could do a story on him and his Senna, he kindly agreed. I think you can see where this is going. The only hiccups are weather and in December Vancouver enjoys a serious amount of rain, and the car was being wrapped in Marlboro McLaren colours as a tribute to Ayrton Senna and his championship winning seasons with the McLaren F1 team. Well the wrap finally got finished this past Wednesday for a big reveal at McLaren Vancouver. Once again I have scouted the driving and photoshoot locations which are naturally weather dependant. According the weather service good weather is expected next Friday and Sunday after this holiday activities will start, and the owner will no longer be available. Fingers crossed the weather and the owner all come into alignment next week. UPDATE 7 January - Sad to report the owner backed out of the article so no Senna drive :(. On the the other hand I saw three Senna's at McLaren Vancouver yesterday so who knows.
Now you may be thinking Jason you are one lucky bugger, swanning around in supercars, what a life. While I am blessed to have the opportunity to drive these magnificent supercars, I am not making a living while engaging in these adventures. All my trips down to Los Angeles hotels, airfare, gas all come out of my pocket. Drives in Vancouver are cheaper, however if it’s a private car then I am paying for the gas and sometimes for the insurance. I do get paid for some of my articles, however the best I have ever been paid for an article is $200. As you can imagine this does not cover an airline ticket or hotel in Los Angeles. It is a real challenge to get your material picked up by a magazine. I am grateful to Drive Tribe that I have a platform that allows me to publish my supercar adventures. To pay for my adventures I scrimp and save, do odd jobs, work extra hours at my day job in order to get the money to take advantage of these test-driving opportunities outside of Canada. It is my ambition to make my passion for writing and photographing my supercar adventures a full-time career, in the meantime it's only a part time passion.
I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look at my 2018 supercar year. I am looking forward to next year as I have an invite to test drive the Ferrari Portofino. Now I must find the money to make this next adventure possible. Happy holidays and a prosperous new year. One last scoupe for the year, I saw the first Ferrari Pista in Vancouver this afternoon. Off to chase another test drive.