Ferrari’s massive year-end motorsports gathering, the Finali Mondiali (or Ferrari World Finals), came to the United States for the first time at the Daytona International Speedway last weekend. The four day event brought well over one thousand Ferrari owners and their cars, around 140 race cars that are rarely seen outside a Ferrari-sanctioned event, and thousands of other Ferrari fans to the high banks and right turns of the historic track’s road course layout.
Before last weekend, I hardly knew what the Finali Mondiali was and I needed a friend to convince me to even go. Going into the first day, I had no idea what to expect from what I thought was just a huge Ferrari owner’s gathering that would also have some race cars and other things I could never ever afford.
As it turns out – and I’m not exaggerating here, not even in the slightest – it was one of the greatest weekends of my life. Let me show you why.
The “thousands of Ferrari owners and their cars” part also wasn’t an exaggeration. More Ferraris than I’ve ever seen in my life up to this point were scattered all around the track, were driving around the Daytona Beach area, or condensed into one of three huge lots like the one pictured above. These cars were staging for a world record attempt for having the most Ferraris on track at once. These six-figured machines were lined up as far as the eye could see.
And in some cases, seven-figure cars were all lined up as well. There was just an overwhelming amount of Ferraris here. If I had to guess, at least two dozen LaFerraris were there, about a dozen Enzos, and maybe half a dozen F50s and F40s each. The three cars I feel I saw the most of were the new 488 GTB, some form of the F12, and any one of the newer Californias. Imagine being the guy who brought along his new limited edition F12 TDF thinking he’d be the only one with it, only to find there are 30 of them there.
The friend I went with is probably one of the most passionate Ferrari fans out there and his family enjoys car spotting, and even they were overwhelmed with what was there. For a car spotter, it was like fishing in an aquarium. There was just so much! So much that a car had to be truly special for me to even take a second look.
– like this one. This wasn’t the only 250 GTO I saw there, but it was the only one I saw driving around the infield. Usually a 250 GTO is game over because nothing else you’ll see will be as rare or as special. But not here.
Special as in this 458 Speciale that really caught my eye because of its color scheme. There were also dozens of these, but none of them were as pretty as this one. Ferrari does some of the best blues in the business.
I also found beautiful Ferraris in some of the oddest places. This 330 America (one of 50) was tucked in behind a row of RVs up against the fence, but I was glad to have found it.
And just in case owners felt inferior at any point, they erected a Ferrari dealership just behind the pits with a full range of their newest machines. This wasn’t just some tent either. It was something only a company like Ferrari could afford to move around.
Best of the best
Then there was this. One of the most expensive and most spectacular car corrals I’ve witnessed housed dozens of cars that even I’ve never seen before. It was closed to “guests of Ferrari” for the first few days, but eventually we made friends with a security guard (whose brother was a mechanic on Pimp My Ride) who let us in on a secret… it wasn’t closed off anymore.
It was a whole new world in there. After being desensitized to the thousand “ordinary” Ferraris outside, I walked into this corral with a giddy excitement that I couldn’t contain. I didn’t even know where to go first because I’d start walking to one car and then three more would catch my eye. This 330 P4 was one of the first cars I gravitated towards. It was the first real one I’ve seen and probably the only one I ever will see. The only word to really describe this car is “perfection”. Delicate lines, big curves, and an elegant silhouette created what must be the most beautiful racecar in the world.
The 330 P4 was far from the only race car in the corral though. This pair is also about as rare as it gets. In the background is a 288 GTO Evoluzione, one of five. It was body and beautiful. In the foreground is what I believe to be a ’94 412 T1, one of the last cars to use a V12 in F1.
Chalk this up as one of many Ferraris I didn’t know about. The 1952 Ferrari 340 Mexico Vignale Berlinetta was one of their early GT race cars and is also one of only three to have ever been built in this configuration.
And right next to it was this 1957 Ferrari 335 S, one of four ever built, because of course it was. One of these cars was in a catastrophic accident at the 1957 Mille Miglia which helped lead to its cancellation the following year. That means there are now three of these left at most. If I had to guess, I’d say this is the car that sold for €32,075,200 (~$34 million) earlier this year.
There were also some newer and equally rare cars on display, such as this Ferrari F60 America. It was an expensive way to celebrate Ferrari’s 60th year in America with just ten examples being built and sold before anybody else knew about it. It’s built on the F12 Berlinetta and has some tremendous detail to it. I remember writing about this in the news two years ago and thinking there was no way I’d ever get to see one. I think I counted four of these in attendance.
There were too many cars to photograph and write about in here. Literally everything was unique or special in some way and it was just awe-inspiring. This was one of the coolest sections by far and I can’t even begin to fathom how much money was parked here.
Even though none of the cars within this display drove on track, it was still neat to see some of the most valuable cars on earth all parked right in front of me. Seeing some of the most famous race cars from their history was also a great reminder at how Ferrari’s success in racing is really what got them this far. That was important considering what happened on track throughout the weekend.
World Record Attempt
One of the biggest draws for Ferrari owners was the planned world record attempt of having the most Ferraris on track at once. They needed about a thousand cars to beat the previous record, set by European owners at Silverstone a few years ago. This attempt brought a ridiculous amount of privately-owned cars on track. They had two pace cars lead the cars that were lined up two abreast for miles – literally. They must have spent at least 30 minutes just getting the cars on track.
The rules for the record attempt stated that the train had to keep moving for a full lap. When everyone started moving, the two pace cars were maybe 100 feet off the back of the last cars in line. This is a 3.56 mile track we’re talking about here and it was completely filled with Ferraris. There were some spectacular cars in line, too. LaFerraris, Enzos, various classics from the 60s and earlier, and even some rare one-offs. It was just… I have no words, really.
No cars caught fire but there were four or five cars that had issues within my sight. An F40, some 250-range model from the early 60s (I forget), and the others simply overheated. They were all basically in a slow-moving traffic jam for an hour, so cars that had spent more time sitting than others were the ones that had problems. But the majority made it back home and the record attempt was completed. Word is we managed 1,200 Ferraris, but I don’t yet know if this is official.
Here’s a look at one of the two pace cars for the weekend. This 488 GTB and others were driven by GT-class drivers like Vilander, Fisichella, and others throughout the weekend. Between some sessions they had four 488s on track giving rides to some people more important than me. Every now and then I caught one of them hooning, like so.
Now we’re getting into the competitions. Various Ferrari Challenge series races ran throughout the weekend with drivers coming from all over the world to leave their mark on the guardrails. I kid, mostly. The last time I saw a Ferrari Challenge race was just before the Rolex 24 on this same track. It was not pretty. For the most part, the racing here wasn’t very pretty either. Some of the better drivers had really close battles that were actually entertaining to watch. But they were often broken up by yellow flag sectors and safety cars caused by some pretty amateur moves.
This car wrecked on the first day of practice and had its front end obliterated by in impact with the wall. The team’s mechanics got the car up and running again within 24 hours. After that, the car ran pretty well with a driver who was much more careful.
One major new challenge that each of the drivers had to deal with last weekend was the banking at Daytona. Not all Challenge drivers had been here before and it provided an interesting dynamic for the race. Every 458 Challenge Evoluzione had the same power and mostly the same aero, so making up ground on the tri-oval sections required the right wing setup, the right lines, and a clean drive up the apron from the infield and chicane sections. It was also really neat to see the cars up on the baking from down in the infield.
This is where it gets really interesting. One of the headlining acts for Finali Mondiali were the XX cars, a customer racing/testing program that provides rich people with the chance to drive the most extreme science projects known to man. Typically Ferrari brings the cars and their mechanics to various race tracks around the world and tell their drivers to not crash. Some of them are brought home with the owners, but it’s not often that one of these is in your area. They were spectacular to watch.
Most of the cars were of the FXX-K variety based on the LaFerrari hypercar, but they even had some of the older 599xx cars and a single FXX (based on the Enzo). Everyone associated with the program was cool enough to open the garages and let pretty much anyone inside. I even saw some people not associated with Ferrari stick GoPros inside the cars with the owner’s kind permission. The people that drive these are insanely wealthy, but still kind as can be.
This was the only FXX on track. The driver was clearly aware of how rare and valuable his car was because he never really pushed it most of the time. There was one run though that blew me away. He was leading an FXX-K, which has about 200 horsepower on him. They were both driving quick and, as far as I could tell, were flat out on the tri-oval. But the FXX-K never got close enough to the FXX to pass. The FXX driver must have had the biggest grin on his face.
But the big boys on track were without a doubt the newer FXX-Ks. These use a modified LaFerrari V12 and a more potent kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) to produce 1,036 horsepower. They were just incredible to watch. They’re fast, loud, and take every opportunity to spit fire and light up the brake rotors. They had a single night session as well and it was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever witnessed. Blue fireballs on downshifts and upshifts and bright orange rotors lit up the dark track. I could even see the stability control modulate the brakes on each corner individually as evident from the alternating glowing rotors.
Let this be a lesson in picking the right camera lens for the job, especially if that job is nighttime action photography.
This yellow FXX-K and the yellow 599xx Evo are owned by a Google executive and his wife. She was driving the FXX-K carefully but quickly and she had actual motorsport experience before she jumped on board. I salute her.
Now we’re going back a few decades with the 333 SP. This is another one of those cars I never thought I’d get to see on track. There were nine of them here, about seven of which took to the track. These started racing in the mid-nineties across the world in various endurance races and even won here at the Rolex 24 in 1998. Even though it had a shaky start with reliability issues, it became one of the dominating cars of the 90s. And with its howling F1-sourced V12 and gorgeous body, it became one of the most memorable.
This Ferrari 333 SP is a bit more special than the others. This is the only 333 SP that Ferrari themselves built. The remaining 39(?) cars were built by either Dallara or Michelotto and raced up until 2003 by various teams. It was Ferrari’s first prototype endurance racer in twenty years and I desperately hope it’s not the last.
These cars are still just as magical today as they were in the nineties. Modern prototype endurance racers are beautiful in their own way with loads bodywork and intricate ways to pass air through it, but these are simple. The big wing on the back and a small splitter are all that accompany this sleek body, which I can only assume was hand-crafted by angels. These cars have this presence on track that makes them impossible to ignore, even when they shared the track with faster F1 cars.
This particular car was the most fun to watch because it was a real flamethrower. Almost every time I saw it hit a braking zone, it just shot out the biggest fireballs I’ve ever seen. It was even cooler at night because you could see them from the other side of the track. This guy also let Speedracer38 attach a camera to the back of his car during the night session which I highly recommend checking out right here.
These were some of my favorite cars to watch because they sound was incredible, look fantastic, and aren’t going to be seen very often. I’ll be lucky if I ever see one off track again and even luckier if it’s on track. I’ll never forget the way its howl echoed off the high banks of Daytona.
F1 Cliente Programme
Now this… this right here is what captured the most attention. Ferrari’s F1 Cliente program is unlike any other because it allows [almost] anyone with the passion and the cash to buy one of Ferrari’s old F1 cars and drive them as fast as they dare. These are cars that were raced by Schumacher, Alonso, Räikkönen, Alesi, and others that aren’t tucked away in private collections, but rather driven and driven hard. This is truly keeping Ferrari F1 history alive and bringing the experience to people who missed out, like me.
My first time seeing a modern F1 car happened during the night session. I didn’t get any pictures of it because I was frozen in awe. My jaw was on the floor and all the hair stood up. To this day, I’ve never experienced anything else as powerful or magical as seeing a Schumacher car assault my senses under the lights at Daytona. It was beautiful and loud, so loud that I could feel it rattle every fiber of my being. When several more cars from the V12, V10, and V8 era alongside the 333 SPs that were already on track, all their sounds blended into one hauntingly beautiful drone. It was like the heavens opened up and Enzo himself sang to me.
I missed the last great era of Formula 1, but that weekend brought some of it back for me to enjoy.
It was also the first time a Formula 1 car has ever driven up the 31-degrees of banking at Daytona. It was an interesting sight to see, but a neat one. It also provided the perfect spot to see these F1 cars at full speed, top gear, and highest revs. Even though they were a bit out of their element, they were wicked fast. Like, seriously fast.
At @DISupdates Marc Gene just lapped a 2001 V10 F1 car at a hand-timed 1:29.5. The track record is 1:32.8 by an Eagle-Toyota GTP car.
— Bob Varsha (@bobvarsha) December 3, 2016
These cars were every bit as exciting to watch as I expected and more. If you get a chance to see one on track, do whatever you can to get there.
Ferrari F1 team display
The Finali Mondiali wrapped up with a huge demonstration from various teams and cars. It started with the 333 SPs as they were joined by the remaining drivers from their ’98 Rolex 24 win and Max Papis who earned the nickname “Max Max Papis” from his legendary drive at the ’96 Rolex 24. They all shared a special moment together as they grouped around the cars and gave a quick interview. Max even went out in a 333 SP earlier in the day to relive some of his fondest memories. He was only supposed to do one flying lap. 4 laps later, he got the black flag.
After a quick demonstration from the 488 GTE and GTLM drivers, the current Scuderia Ferrari crew put on the last show of the event. Using the 2009-spec cars, Kimi and Sebastian drove several demonstration laps on track (and Sebastian almost hit a flock of seagulls again) and had a pit stop demonstration. If you blinked at all, it was already done.
And then they both finished off with some top quality donuts in the pits. It was a great way to end one of the greatest weekends a Ferrari fan could ever ask for.
Ferrari is a brand that all like to laugh at sometimes for their outrageous prices and the necessity of the fire extinguisher option, myself included. In fact, I even wore this shirt for two of the three days I was there (and either nobody noticed or everyone was too nice to say anything). But this experience further solidified the love I have for this brand. For a brand that builds so many machines out our reach as working class people, they care enough about their fans to put on this huge show every year and even bring it stateside to acknowledge the loyal fans here. The event was cheap to enter and was more about the cars than anything else than the personalities that own them.
This is a magical brand. Nobody else would go through the effort to preserve their F1 and endurance racing heritage and trust customers to keep it alive. Nobody else had an experimental hypercar program like Ferrari until the XX cars came along. And nobody else could pack a racetrack with more value than Ferrari could. Everybody I met that weekend was kind and eager to share their passion for the brand with others. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t afford anything I was looking at. All that mattered was that these special cars were even here, alive and open for all to see.
It was one of the best weekends of my life.
[Images © 2016 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian – full size images and more shots are available on my Flickr]