Review: Ferrari Pilota Sport Driving Course

The Ferrari Pilota driving courses are exclusive advanced race driving program. They aim to improve your driving skills and technique behind the wheel with the help of professional driver-instructors, eventually qualifying you to compete in real Challenge Championship races.

The complete program has five successive levels: Sport Course, Advanced Course, Evolution Course, Challenge Course and Scuola Pilota Challenge Course.

Our Ferrari Lancaster Sales Manager Adam Nardone recently took three Ferrari owners out to Italy to take part in the Sport Course. The group arrived on Wednesday and spent an action-packed Thursday and Friday driving and dining, finally travelling home on Saturday.

The Pilota Sport Course is held at the Fiorano Race Track, a private Ferrari test track located a stone’s throw from the Ferrari factory in Maranello.

Here Adam reveals what he did on the course and what it feels like to drive a Ferrari on a real-life track.

First things first: what was the driving like?

The course is essentially a full two-day analysis of your current driving performance, including racing line, application of brakes, power and general car control.

You also start to understand the dynamics of different car and engine configurations, for example the mid-engine rear wheel drive in the 488 GTB versus the front engine rear-wheel-drive in the V12 F12berlinetta.

In addition to the standard track driving, there is also a car control exercise on the skid pan. They taught us close car control without the use of driver aids such as traction control and stability control. 

It was a fantastic opportunity to drift a 488 GTB around a track – there was loads of wheel spinning and tyre smoke, and a little bit of ‘facing the wrong way’ when it didn’t go so well. 

Once you stop giggling like a child over the fact that some mad Italian racing driver tells you to do it again, but faster, you quickly settle in and concentrate to a level I don’t think I’d achieved since my driving test!

On the second day there was a time trial, applying our new skid pan skills to a tight, twisty and purposely watered track. There were varying levels of traction control allowed and the aim of all the drivers was to set the fastest time – the winner receives a prize upon graduation. I was surprised, and a little disappointed, to discover I came second out of the whole group!

Ferrari also videos all of your driving which they use to assess you in post-driving debriefs. And they give you a memory stick containing the footage to take away which makes a fantastic souvenir.

Plus a professional photographer is on location the whole time and took a number of photos, which we were also given at the end of the course.

What else did you do, apart from driving?

Dinners out were part of the package. On the Wednesday evening after we arrived we were taken by coach to the famous Montana restaurant, a place visited by all the Ferrari staff and their families, and generally anyone who comes out the factory. It’s also often frequented by the Ferrari F1 team and drivers when they are in Maranello for testing.

On Thursday after our track activity we were taken by coach past Bologna to the famous Palazzo Albergati. Here we were treated to a tour of the palace followed by a four-course meal in the old wine cellars.

Once the course finished on the Friday, our group of four had a very quiet dinner in Maranello. Needless to say after two intense days of driving tuition we were all pretty tired!

How many people went on the course?

I took three guests and there were another 20 Ferrari owners from around the world. We mixed with the rest of the group over dinner – one guy who was by himself had travelled over from South Africa.

What was your favourite part?

I thought the experience of driving the Fiorano circuit was phenomenal and the whole trip from arrival to departure was managed impeccably by Ferrari.

But I have to say, my favourite bit of the trip was the time attack driving on the second day. I don’t consider myself to be an ‘expert driver’ but the tuition I received on day one was comprehensive enough for me to be able to apply that on day two, set a fast time and noticeably feel an improvement in my overall driving ability and car control.

Has it changed the way you drive at home?

The course doesn’t teach you to drive faster, it teaches you control, balance, anticipation and to change the way you look at a road or racetrack. Of course, it’s very difficult to apply drifting techniques to everyday road situations.

But in day-to-day driving I have noticed a difference in the smoothness with which I steer and the more gradual application of accelerator and brake.

Why would you recommend the Pilota courses?

There are so many reasons to go! The facility is second-to-none, the cars are amazing and it’s an opportunity not many people get to drive the famous Fiorano circuit.

But above all it’s a fantastic socialising opportunity! There were more than 20 like-minded Ferrari-loving petrolheads belting around the track and the camaraderie was brilliant. And the sense of achievement once it was completed has also left a long-lasting impression.

What’s next?

The Pilota Sport Course is just the beginning – next year I’m already planning to take another trip with guests to complete the Advanced Course, which is held at Autodromo di Varano just outside Parma. It’s another two-day program which takes the skills learned from the Sport Course and further develops them.

This time the focus is on going faster, not just control. On from this is Evolution and Challenge, with the end result being a qualification to race in the Ferrari Challenge cup.

If you’d like more information about the Ferrari Pilota driving courses, please speak to Lancaster Ferrari Colchester. Be aware that there are limited spaces available.