Ferrari, Bentley and Aston Martin: Eddie Cunningham's motoring dreams come true at Nutts Corner
It was an invitation I couldn't turn down. Drive a Ferrari, Bentley, Aston Martin and more at a specialist track day at the famous Nutts Corner circuit in Co Antrim? Yes please.
It was also a wee bit memorable to be greeted on a sunny-morning arrival with the question from the Charles Hurst staff: "Ferrari, Aston Martin or Bentley to start?"
After a cup of tea and a bacon buttie, I started off with the Aston Martin N430 (4.7-litre V8 with 430bhp and 490Nm). It took me a little while to get used to the kick-down from the 7spd F1 derived auto/manual gearbox. It is an acquired art, it seems.
So I used the paddles on the steering and they were much better in giving me control of what I wanted it to do. The 2dr had great balance (engine at front; gearbox at back).
You won't get many hand-built (mostly) cars with hand-stitched leather for around stg£100,000.
And then there was the DB9. This was far more like what I wanted to experience. And it was much more refined. The 6-litre V12 (510bhp, 620Nm) just whooshed it around what is a tight litlle track. You're looking at €265,000 or thereabouts, after exchange rate and VRT calculations, for the DB9.
Then there was the Bentley GT Speed with its W12 635bhp. That is thunderous power. The thing about it on the track was the massive straight-line speed and power. Not bad on the bends either. This would set you back €320,000 or thereabouts.
Later, I took the new Ferrari California T for a quick drive on the road before lashing it around the track. The 3.9-litre twin turbo was a joy. No way could I get anything like its 560PS (755Nm) but I certainly got a sense of the 0-100kmh in under 3.5 seconds.
This would cost you from around the €300,000 mark when you take exchange rates and VRT into account.
It's a car the moneyed folk could drive every day - my short drive proved that - but it was such an easy vehicle to drive at power and pace as well. I love the new steering wheel - it has nearly everything on it: from mode setting to indicators. And the dash is gorgeous. Wonderful cabin. Worth the journey just to see and drive with it.
And then there was the 570hp Ferrari 458 (€360,000 after exchange and VRT etc for the coupe; close to €400,000 for the Sypder I drove).
This was the pick of the bunch. With a 488 (660hp) soon to come it was also a sort of special drive. In race mode it was downright thrilling.
The day was organised by Charles Hurst, Belfast and the good news is they are planning a big event in the Republic at Carton House on October 22nd/23rd where these cars and many more will be on show - especially on the 23rd. Worth a visit, I'd say.