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How to be a racing driver for Ferrari
IT'S one thing to own a Ferrari, but to go one better, you can race for them. You don't need to be named "Vettel" or "Raikkonen" to be a Ferrari racing driver. For under S$1 million, anyone can join the club.
Apart from selling some of the most glamorous cars on the roads, Ferrari is in the business of selling racing cars, too. Many are bought by professionally-run teams who contest various sports car championships and endurance races.
But for adrenaline junkies who are more hobbyist than hardcore, it runs a racing programme called Corse Clienti, which allows well-heeled individuals to own a Ferrari race car, prototype, or even a Formula One machine.
Louis Colmache, the head of Corse Clienti for the Asia-Pacific region, said: "We help customers achieve that dream of becoming a Ferrari racing driver, which I think is something every little boy dreams of."
Surprisingly, that dream might seem good value to anyone used to Singapore car prices. A full season in Ferrari Challenge, which involves racing in cars based on the sports-focused 488 GTB, costs just over S$900,000.
That's broken down into about S$435,000 for the car, S$320,000 for logistics fees, and another S$160,000 for spare parts. That's less than a normal 488 GTB's on-the-road price in Singapore of just under S$1 million (without Certificate of Entitlement).
The road cars cost more because of taxes and import duties, which racing cars don't attract.
Plus, after a seven-race season is over, you still have a car in the pit.
The nature of competition means rivalries are a given, but according to Ringo Chong, a Singaporean who has taken part in Ferrari Challenge since 2011, the series is not intimidating even for greenhorn racers.
"The atmosphere is always friendly and the drivers are all there to have a great time," the 52-year-old said. "Everything is open; all cars log data which is free to share, so you can ask anything you want to know about the fastest drivers and improve.
"You end up spending a lot of time just driving and learning. Some weekends, we have over five hours of practice time, so it's great for drivers to hone their skills."
But if you want to experience the pinnacle of automotive engineering, Corse Clienti is your gateway to driving an actual Ferrari F1 car.
Ferrari has stopped selling its latest racers in recent years due to safety concerns over high-voltage hybrid components, so all available cars are now in private hands. But the company can help broker deals whenever someone is looking to sell.
Unlike the Challenge cars that sell for fixed prices, Ferrari F1 cars are treated like thoroughbred horses. Prices vary greatly depending on provenance - who drove it professionally and what race results it achieved.
For example, a 1997 car driven by Eddie Irvine, the 1999 drivers' championship runner-up, sold for S$1.13 million in 2014; the car Michael Schumacher won his 2001 championship in auctioned for a record-breaking S$10.28 million last year.
Thereafter, the company will help owners enjoy their cars to the fullest, with technical support from current and former F1 engineers. Customers can also get training from ex-F1 drivers and logistics support to take their cars to racing circuits around the world.
Mr Colmache likens it to a money-can't-buy experience that, well, money can buy.
"The only people who know what it's like to drive an F1 car are our (professional) drivers and these participants of F1 Clienti. Nobody else," he said.
"So an F1 Clienti customer is one of the only people who can say to a driver, 'I know what you experienced' - and that is priceless."