My immediate impression was that the Ferrari 360 Challenge I drove in the races at Donington Park feels much more like a racing car than the Porsche Carrera.
The 360 is stiff, solid and more responsive. It doesn't do anything to surprise you and slidesrogressively, rather than teetering on the brink like the German machine. It has the same kind of performance as the Porsche, but it delivers it in a better way and it feels like a quick car to drive.
The F1-style gearchange, which is a paddle shift behind the steering wheel, is gimmicky and unnecessary. Most people have never driven a car with a paddle shift, so they don't know the difference, but I have been lucky enough to drive quite a few.
It is SO slow. When you go to change down a cog, you pull the lever, read a book, make a cup of tea, smoke a cigarette and then it pops into place.
A racing driver has many excuses, but this is a serious complaint and the reason for my retirement from race two. I had a half-spin and normally you would dip the clutch and try and control things and keep the engine running (even my minimal skill can just about cope with this procedure).
You can't do that with the paddle shift. Once the car was gone, there was no way of saving it. And, once it had stalled, I didn't have the 432-page Haynes manual which tells you how to restart. You have to reset all the computers, do a little dance, fold your arms in a certain way and pray to the West. Needless to say, this was all too complicated for me and I sat out the rest of the race on the sidelines.
I wonder how necessary this is for the guys who race these cars. I reckon that most of the guys who race in the Ferrari series do it for fun, whereas the Porsche championship is full of guys who are trying to make a career out of motorsport. The Ferrari guys are enjoying a hobby, and have the money to race one the of ultimate status symbols in the world of motor racing. Although the car costs about £30,000 more than the Porsche, you are racing a Ferrari. That's a buzz in itself.
Having mentioned the gentlemen racers, there is a common denominator between the two categories. Two absolutely fantastic young chargers - Barry Horne (Porsche) and Lewis Carter (Ferrari) - are leading lights in both championships and make sure that the benchmark is extremely high. Unfortunately, I never got close enough to Barry to race with him, but Lewis Carter in the Ferrari was a revelation. He must have been - because he raced wheel-to-wheel with me and didn't make any mistakes under the sternest of pressure!
Although the Ferrari championship doesn't encourage professional drivers as such, both championships have a certain competitive level that means that the gentlemen drivers have always got something to aim for. That's half the joy for the guys down the grid as they can see the progress they make compared to the top guys.
Click here to return to the Ferrari Happenings page.