15 Dec Ferrari Finali Mondiali Daytona 2016 – Kimi Raikkonen and John Hennessey
I recently received an invitation from the Shell V-Power Nitro+ marketing team to attend the 2016 Ferrari Finali Mondiali at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida. My first questions was, “what’s Ferrari Finali Mondiali?” Sure, I read a lot of automotive magazines and website and feel that I’m aware of the major car events worldwide. I’ve heard a little bit about the Ferrari “World Finals” but not being a Ferrari owner, it’s not something on my car guy calendar. But that weekend was open and I was quick to tell the folks from Shell, “yes!”
When we arrived at Daytona and drove out of the tunnel with our windows rolled down I was immediately aware of a very special sound. The sound of a Ferrari LaFerrari XX K as it rounded the steep banking at Daytona and on to the front straight away. Further, as we grabbed our video gear and headed into the pit area, I was just blown away by all of the special Ferrari’s that were everywhere. Race cars, road cars, F1 cars, classics. It was surreal. The best thing about the whole event up to this point was that there were very few people there. The time of the year meant that the only people in attendance were Ferrari owners, dealers and employees from Italy and from around the world.
I could go on and on about how special this event is – and I am not even a Ferrari guy. But to see these special cars up close and personal, anywhere outside of the most exclusive garages in Maranello and secret billionaire garages, was a very special treat. Here are three highlights from the trip:
- I got to attend the Ferrari media conference with their F1 drivers, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. I told my video guys that it would be cool to ask the drivers, “What’s your plan was to win some races in 2017?” We had a good laugh while we waited for them to arrive. After they sat down and started answering questions from the racing media, somebody gave me the microphone. Bad idea. I could not help myself. So I asked the very question that we had joked about 30 minutes earlier! Kimi is the Iceman and rarely speaks regardless of the question. Vettel smiled real wide and I caught him off guard and simply said something to the effect of, “winning, yes that is the plan.” I do believe that these guys want to win badly as do everyone who is a fan of the Ferrari F1 team, myself included.
- We had heard a rumor that the F1 drivers were going to not only drive the 2 factory F1 cars around the track but that they would also do some burnouts and drifting. Sure enough, the crowd all gathered on the pit lane and Kimi and Sebastian made several laps around Daytona in the factory 2009 F1 cars that were made to look like 2016 cars. The sound was just incredible. This is what F1 cars should always sound like. This was worth the trip alone and it gets even better. The drivers pulled down the pit lane and began to do smokey donuts – yes they were drifting Ferrari Formula 1 cars just 50 ft. away from where we were standing. It was a once in a lifetime experience.
- After all of that excitement, what could be better? I was told by the Shell team that I might have an opportunity to take a ride around the Daytona Speedway in a Ferrari with one of the factory test drivers. Wow, how cool and exciting. I’m at the end of the group with another journalist and one of the Ferrari PR people ask the two of us, “who wants to ride with Kimi and who wants to ride with Sebastian?” I immediately answer “Kimi” and the other guys asks for “Sebastian”. Pinch me. Is this for real? Not only do I get a lap around Daytona in a Ferrari 488 but I get the current Ferrari F1 driver and former world champion as my chauffeur. Check out the video that tells the story. Sure, I sound just like Ricky Bobby praying to “Sweet Baby Jesus” as we slide on to the high-banked turns at Daytona. I will never forget it. I also have even more respect and admiration for the bravery of the guys driving 24 hours at Daytona or Daytona 500, 3-wide amongst 42 other cars. Wow!
Needless to say, this was a bucket list event. If you like or own Ferrari’s then you must attend a future Finali Mondiali. If you are a hardcore car guy and attend events such as Pebble Beach, Goodwood, etc. then you need to add this to your automotive bucket list. Next year its in Mugello, Italy. If I get the call from Shell, I will be there PRONTO!
Thanks Shell V-Power Nitro+ and Ferrari for a once in a lifetime experience. Enjoy the incredible pictures as provided by Shell.