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by John Cadogan

Would you pay $30 for a six-hour test drive in a Ferrari F430? Many probably would.

Short of being a motoring journalist – and, trust me, that’s not quite as flash as it seems at first glance – there’s a range of different ways to get your rear end into a Ferrari. Most of them are, unfortunately, quite expensive.

An exception to this rule, showcased recently by Melbourne’s Crown Casino, costs just $30. However, there are additional hidden (but not unforeseeable) costs.

Before we get into that, there’s a curious phenomenon in play right now at Maranello in Italy, the corner penthouse of Ferrari Central: There’s been an explosion of ‘cheap’ ways to access to the Ferrari brand. Maybe it’s coincidental. There has always been clothing, flags, sunnies and sundry accoutrements – including carbon-fibre-cased laptops – for those who can’t stump up the Samsonites jammed with hundred-dollar bills required to invest in the real deal, but this has really taken brand access up a notch. I’m all for it. I mean, red boxers with little cavalinos prancing across them will only get you so far with the chicks.

For example, Ferrari World, the new theme park in Abu Dhabi, promises access to aspects of the Ferrari-esque performance to we mere plebs, for nothing more than a fistful of dollars. The 240km/h, 1.7-G Formula Rossa rollercoaster, which hits 100km/h in just two seconds, will be more fun than one can rightfully expect to have with one’s pants on.

On the local front, there’s never a shortage of Ferrari ‘news’. Ferrari’s public relations executive in Australia, Mr Edward Rowe, is a prolific writer of press releases on behalf of the brand, offering dozens of pre-packaged news stories a month on behalf of Ferrari (as well as Fiat, Alfa-Romeo and Citroen). And, in one such ‘one size fits all’ missive – at least this week – ‘Ferrari’ and ‘cheap’ got another significant run.

It must be noted that these two words wouldn’t normally coexist on the same page, unless separated by ‘really’ and ‘not’. However, Mr Rowe sucker-punched the audience up front with the promise of 599 GTB Fiorano ownership for just 80 bucks. ‘Where do I sign up?’ I thought. One in each colour suddenly seemed on the cards. The empty nature of Mr Rowe’s threat soon became apparent, however – the $80 Ferrari 599 was in fact a radio controlled toy, and only one-tenth scale. Hardly the kind of thing one would rock up outside a high-profile nightclub in, say at 10pm next Saturday evening, and then expect to be escorted past the no-neck wrangler at the head of the queue.

But don’t worry, this $30 test-drive is the real deal. And you know it’s true because it’s too kooky to be made up.

Earlier this month 32-year-old Mr Adam Ramsay, of Flemington in suburban Melbourne, walked out the front door of Melbourne’s Crown Casino. It hadn’t been a good night – Mr Ramsay had apparently locked his keys inside his delivery van parked in the Casino’s car park. However, things were about to get – briefly – better.

A red Ferrari F430 sat on the forecourt, under the charge of the casino’s valet parking attendants. Millionaire professional poker player, Mr Van Marcus, the Ferrari’s rightful owner, was at the time inside the casino, presumably polishing his skills.

Mr Ramsay, standing on the forecourt, did, as they say, the math.

At the time, Mr Ramsay might have been immaculately attired, swathed in Armani and perfectly groomed. A Panerai Slytech or Omega Speedmaster may have been casually draped across his wrist. He may have said: “Kindly bring my Ferrari over, my good man. I wish to retire to my city penthouse for the evening, using this symbol of western success as my conveyance.

However, in my mind’s eye I prefer to think Mr Ramsay was listing a little bit to port at the time, wearing three-day growth, trackie daks and a flanno, perhaps thongs or, at best, Nikes. Slightly bloodshot eyes. If the world were perfect, there would have been a hint of ‘builder’s crack’ evident just north of the trackie-dak tan-line, but perhaps this is too much detail. I’d really like to think he actually said, “Oi – give us the red one, thanks mate.

In any case, a conversation ensued in which, according to reports, a request for the car was made. The valet requested the ticket, which Mr Ramsay – perhaps thinking on his feet – claimed had been misplaced. The valet explained that the casino had a procedure in these cases. Mr Ramsay would be required to fill in a form, and also produce ID in the form of a driver’s license. Mr Ramsay complied, on both counts. He also paid the $30 valet parking fee.

Then, in a crude real-life adaptation of cult film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Mr Ramsay drove off in Mr Marcus’s F430 and proceeded to enjoy a six-hour driving spree through suburban Melbourne.

And they say dreams can’t come true.

Mr Ramsay’s criminal endeavour came unglued at a servo in Broadmeadows on Melbourne’s northern fringe, where he was arrested and charged with theft.

The burning question in my mind, having driven several supercars and more seriously expensive performance cars than I can count – the overwhelming majority of which I could never hope to purchase, and probably wouldn’t want even if I could – is: Standing in the dock of Melbourne Magistrates Court, was it still worth it?

All I can say is, I hope Mr Ramsay has the photos, because he might well never need to buy himself a drink ever again if he does. It was a ballsy, if misguided, effort. And something of a record, with some reports claiming the incident was the first Ferrari theft in the country. The fine, if one is imposed by the court, will likely be less than the depreciation on the Ferrari in the time it was in Mr Ramsay’s charge.

Poker-player Mr Van Marcus was reunited with the relatively unscathed Ferrari. So cue the happy ending there.

And the verdict? Magistrate Peter Couzens described the Crown Casino’s valet parking operation as “shoddy beyond belief”. It’s hard to argue with that. So it’s likely the Casino’s $30 Informal Supercar Experience might be removed from the valet’s menu shortly – if it hasn’t already been axed. If you want to try the $80 diminutive Ferrari 599 experience instead, visit Ferrari Maserati Sydney – preferably in your boardies and thongs. Or, if it’s cold, trackie daks and flanno.







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