Mitch DeFrancis

Volume 43 Issue 22

Oct 27, 2018

I was 15 years old when my best friend and I went to watch the vintage races at Road Atlanta in Braselton, GA. I’ll never forget the roaming hills, sharp turns and long straightaways.

    I was 15 years old when my best friend and I went to watch the vintage races at Road Atlanta in Braselton, GA. I’ll never forget the roaming hills, sharp turns and long straightaways.

    My favorite part of this world famous 2.5 mile race track is hearing the engines echoing throughout the hills. Nothing, but nothing, sounds like a Ferrari on a race track.

    When I heard the Ferrari Challenge was coming to Road Atlanta, I knew I had to be there and I knew I had to bring my two boys, Graham Enzo who is 10 and Austin Fangio who is 8. Yes, that is their real names.

    I am the parts manager for Merlin Auto Group in Atlanta. I love this place and love being surrounded by Ferraris all day.

    This job allows me access to 30 to 40 Ferraris at any given time and knowing I was taking both my sons with me to the race track, I could not take my own 308 GTS QV.

    I chose a unique Blu Scozia 612 Scaglietti with the GTC package and factory sport exhaust. This car is absolutely gorgeous, it can haul myself, two rugrats, a cooler, and it makes some spine-tingling V-12 sounds.

    We planned to go Saturday and Sunday but that depended on what direction Hurricane Florence was heading.

    The boys heard me coming home from work Friday evening and were waiting outside screaming “We want rides! We want rides!!” Within a mile it went from one of the best drives in a Ferrari to one of the worst.

    The boys loaded up in the back seat and we went for a short jaunt. I punched the throttle a couple of times so they could hear the glorious sound of that V12 engine.

    The windows were down, wind blowing through the car, the sound of the car...then all of a sudden my 8 year old is screaming “Ouch, Dad...OUCH, DAD!!” He started crying and I was terrified, I had no idea what was happening.

    Apparently a honey bee flew in the passenger side window and landed on the rear seat next to Austin. He didn’t see it until it crawled on his leg and he picked it up and it stung him on his index finger, right smack dab in the middle of his finger print.

    I pulled the car over immediately and he showed me his finger and sure as heck it had the stinger stuck in it and you could see the poison sac pulsing away. He pulled it out and we headed straight home.

    Early Saturday morning we drove to the track. I checked in, got our passes and we parked the 612 in the Ferrari Corral near the VIP tent. Everything was first class there!

    The Ferrari Challenge is a global one-make series that is factory backed. Dave Seibert helped start the series in 1993 with the 355 Challenge races and are FIA approved.

    The Challenge races are limited to authorized dealerships or Ferrari shops to ensure the cars are very closely matched which really makes these events exciting to watch. These guys do not play around; they are SERIOUS about wanting to win. The race schedule changes each year and we were lucky to have it come to Road Atlanta.

    This year they would have the 488 Challenge, the first turbo car series, and the amazing 458 Challenge EVO.

    Fifty-five Ferrari race cars from dealerships across the US and Canada made their way to Road Atlanta for the final North American round of the 2018 Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli season.

    The 458s were amazing to watch and hear, we were seeing 1:26 lap times in qualifying. Martin Burrowes from Ferrari Ft. Lauderdale won race 1 and averaged 104 mph. Trevor Baek from Ron Tonkin Gran Turismo won race 2 and averaged 92.5 mph.

    The 488s were almost quiet compared to the 458s. The 488’s turbochargers act like mufflers and they were significantly less noisy than the normally aspirated 458s. BUT, wow they were fast.

    Thomas Tippl from Scuderia Corsa-Ferrari of Beverly Hills won race 1 and averaged about 106 mph and his fastest lap was 1:26.5. Geoff Palermo from Ferrari San Francisco won Sunday’s race 2 averaging 96 mph with 1:38 being his fastest lap time. All the races on Sunday had lower lap times and slower average speeds due to wet surfaces from Hurricane Florence.

    Overall we had a blast! The boys and I thoroughly enjoyed all the events. The VIP tent was fantastic and it was a big relief from the hot day on Saturday.

    Big thanks to Merlin Auto Group and Ferrari Market Letter for making this possible.


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