It’s two o’clock on Tuesday morning in Maranello, and I’ve not managed to fall asleep in the Hotel Planet – tomorrow is too exciting – when I hear a powerful car approaching and brapping to a stop. 

My room overlooks the main gate of Ferrari’s headquarters on Via Abetone Inferiore. 

I’m slow to react (no change there, etc), but remember a Ferrari test driver, and he’s not alone, once telling me engineers often test cars at night here because there’s less chance of being seen by photographers – which is, these days, pretty much everyone – and because the roads are quieter. 

But sometimes they hire these cars for a while; sometimes weeks, sometimes just a few hours for a benchmarking event. And sometimes they decide to ask the gaffer to write a cheque for several hundred thousand quid so they can buy a rival car, test the living daylights out of it, tear it to pieces and put it back together again, to work out exactly how much it costs. 

There was a time when a Ferrari’s natural rival would be a Porsche. Not today. There’s nobody each company takes more seriously than the other, despite one company boss (not Ferrari’s) once saying McLaren sold “different lengths of the same sausage”. Ferraris were good before McLaren Automotive arrived at the start of this decade. But they’ve been outstanding since. Would it be churlish to suggest these things are coincidental? 

Anyway, while there’s nothing unusual about it, if you’d asked me to guess which rival’s car I’d likely see at Maranello – and ditto at Woking – it’d be a McLaren and Ferrari respectively. Not exactly a revelation, then, but confirmation, of a sort.

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