Because it's there... CAR famously took a Ferrari F512M – the latterday Testarossa – to the sand dunes of Morocco. Cue some amazing photography and an epic tale of adventure through northern Africa
Ferrari to the Sahara: Part 1 (CAR archive, May 1995)
17 July 2012 11:30
Seventeen years ago, CAR came up with a brilliant wheeze of driving a Ferrari to Africa. It was the first time we had attempted such an adventure with a Ferrari – and we were surprised when Maranello agreed. Richard Bremner is your guide, as we drive an F512M down to the sand dunes of the Sahara. Read our full unabridged story over the next few pages
The Ferrari is 100 yards in front, and it looks as if it’s on fire. Engulfed in the raging swirl, it is identifiable only by the fierce circular glow of its tail-lights. It’s dark, and they look like the veiled eyes of a monster. The Ferrari is edging ahead, nosing about among the soft, shadowy contours of a dirt nothingness that appears to be everywhere, and leads to nowhere. I’m watching a Ferrari F512M driving into the Sahara. The storm raging over it is not smoke but dust, Saharan sand spat by the tyres and whipped skywards by the engine’s roaring cooling fans.
It is truly, profoundly dark out here. The only light comes from our cars and a night sky spattered with stars whose glow goes unseen by most Europeans. We are alone. We are heading for the Saharan dunes of Erg Chebbi.
Why, you might wonder, would we want to take a Ferrari to the Sahara? To get a great drive, is the short answer. Morocco has some fantastic roads – jaw-droppingly scenic, open, fast, and free of radar. The sort of place where a supercar can roam unmolested by police or other traffic. I rang Shell to check the availability of unleaded in Morocco. ‘No problem,’ came the answer. ‘There are unleaded stations every 100km or so.’
We faxed Ferrari. Could we borrow a £138,000 F512M to go to Morocco for a few days, please? Well, you’ve got to try, haven’t you? But Ferrari said yes. PR man Antonio Ghini had even been thinking of an unusual road trip with an F512M. Whether this involved the Sahara he didn’t say, but yes, we could have an F512M. We hastily made our plans, wondering how long it would be before Ghini saw the lunacy of our venture.
I would take the car from Maranello out of Italy, through France and into Spain, meeting Colin Goodwin and photographer Tim Wren in Malaga. They had driven from London to Malaga in CAR’s long-term-test Vauxhall Omega, which we would use as a back-up car. We would head for Algeciras, and take the ferry to Tangier. What awaited us there we didn’t quite know…
The F512 I collect is virtually new. It has 2600km on its odometer, paint the colour of blood and a spare wheel in the passenger seat. The spare is there because an F512M has different tyre sizes front to rear. Figuring that we’ll be unlikely to drive into a Moroccan Kwik Fit and collect a Pirelli 295/35 ZR18 P Zero off the shelf should a tyre get shredded, we have a front wheel and tyre stowed up front, and a rear beside me (it won’t fit in the boot) where it is to become a sometimes over-intimate companion.
As I leave Ferrari with the precious key in my hand, Ghini’s colleague Giovanni Perfetti shouts after me: ‘When d’you think you’ll be back?’ ‘Well, I don’t quite know,’ I admit. ‘Maybe 10, 12 days – it depends.’ ‘OK. Good luck. Ciao.’ That’s it. I leave, feeling like I’ve pulled off a bank robbery.
Click 'Next' to continue reading CAR's original Ferrari to the desert story from 1995