I’m staring into the garage behind my house in Carmel and feel that I’ve been slugged, like I’ve tumbled off a cliff. The spot where my LaFerrari Aperta was sitting last night is empty.
I’ve had some sports injuries—bad ones—and had a crash or two, like last year, when I went off the track in a race in Big Sur. And Lord knows I’ve had some fights. But nothing’s ever hit me like this.
How did it happen? Last night I’d stuck my head into the garage and said goodnight to her (to me, a Ferrari is always a her) about eleven. I went upstairs to the bedroom. Laurie was already asleep. I was soon dozing too. We both slept through the night, unaware of the intruder.
What a disaster! A look at my watch. Today, a warm, clear autumn Saturday is track day and I was to get the Ferrari to Laguna Seca raceway by eleven a.m.—one hour from now.
Without it, my life is ruined.
I run back into the house, now empty. I lose my temper and sweep my arm across the kitchen table, flinging papers and cereal boxes and dishes to the floor.
I don’t care.
Who did it?
My first thought: Denson Boyd. It has to be him. He’s got a tough crew, into all kinds of bad stuff, and his crib is less than a mile from here. He wanted to see the Aperta. I told him no. You don’t tell people like Denson no.
In three minutes I’m in his hood, small bungalows in sand-filled yards, untrimmed grass. Lot of people out of work, lot of kids on the street corner, just hanging, eyeing you as you go past. I stop in front of Denson’s and walk up to him, on his front porch. He looks at me, giving a cold laugh. ‘Ralph Wilson. Hell you doing here?’
‘No, I really don’t,’ he growls.
‘Where is it?’
‘Somebody stole your new plaything, hm?
‘And you think I’m the one did it. Well, it wasn’t. Get the hell outa here.’
I grab him by the collar. I get in his face and literally scream: ‘Where my Ferrari?’
It’s then that a blonde steps into the doorway. Pretty, tough looking—a tat on her arm. She lights a cigarette. I let go of Denson. She asks him in a bored voice, ‘Honey, what’s going on here?’ I don’t know her but I can guess the connection.
Denson mutters, ‘Ralph seems to think I stole something of his.’
Blowing smoke skyward, she asks, ‘When?’
‘Last night,’ I say.
She shakes her head. ‘We were in Big Sur. Got back an hour ago.’
Denson snaps, ‘It’s true. You want a phone number to check?’
The fact is, I believe him. Something about his eyes, his posture. No, he didn’t take the Ferrari. I don’t bother to say anything more. Just leave. They’re probably looking at my back like I’m crazy.
But they don’t understand.
Because the car was about more than a car. It’s about where I’m headed in life.
It’s about racing.
A few years ago I got to Austin for the Grand Prix, the Circuit of Americas. And I decided that’s what I’m meant to do: drive F1.
Today was going to be my big break: It’s Ferrari Day at Laguna Seca. And one of the men coming to the track from Maranello was Antonio Tommasi himself, the famed F1 driver for Ferrari. He’s a lean man, wiry, with curly dark hair and eyes totally focused, like as gun muzzles. He’s been called the Paganini, the Da Vinci of F1: An artist behind the wheel.
He doesn’t know me from Adam but my plan was I’d introduce myself, using the Aperta to get his attention—to show I’m serious about the business of racing. I’d explain that my only goal in life was to drive F1—and for Ferrari.
With no LaFerrari, I’m just another fan who means nothing to him.
I consider not going to the track but I can’t stand that thought. In twenty minutes I’m there, watching the drivers and crew unloading the vehicles and equipment. Despite the horror of my loss, I get a huge rush seeing some of the most beautiful cars in the world. The 458 Italias and Spiders and Speciales. The 599 Fioranos. And the Corse Clienti F1s, owned by amateurs, here to drive under the guidance of the best drivers on earth. Some of these, I see, are older and I can’t help but wonder if they were originally piloted by, maybe, Michael Schumacher or Niki Lauda.
And there, ahead of me is Alberto Tommasi, head down, talking to several of the crew, all wearing crimson slacks and short sleeve shirts, bearing the famous emblem of the prancing stallion on the yellow background—the horse image, I heard, adopted by Enzo himself after the image on the side of a famed WWI Italian ace’s biplane.
But I turn away. What’s the point of even approaching them?
I hear a man’s voice. ‘Hey, Ralph!’
I look up and see my parents, both in their mid-forties. And walk up to them in the parking lot.
‘What’s wrong?’ my father asks, seeing my face.
My parents look at each other, confused. ‘What do you mean?’
‘I woke up and went to garage. It was gone.’
‘Oh, Ralph,’ my mother says.
My father squints, looking confused, then gestures me over to his SUV. He opens the tailgate and nods down.
I gasp. There it is! The LaFerrari Aperta—a 1:18 scale model of the car, about 11 inches long. I’ve spent the last two months, building it from scratch as a present to Tommasi and the Ferrari stable.
Father asks, ‘You didn’t see the note I left?’
‘What note?’ I stammer.
‘On the kitchen table. We didn’t want to wake you, so I left a note before your mom and I went to the club this morning.’
Oh, no! I close my eyes momentarily, thinking back to my anger at the theft, sweeping the table clear.
‘No, I didn’t.’ My parents had a tennis date early this morning. The plan was that I would meet them here. They’d drive from their club and I’d bike here on my BMX racing bicycle, with the Aperta model in my backpack.
My father continues, ‘Better to drive it here with us, in case you had a spill on the bike.’
I hug both of them and struggle to avoid the tears. A twelve-year-old boy does not cry, I tell myself. Though I do, just a little.
There’s a bark from the back seat and I see that they’ve brought along Laurie, my golden lab. I feel guilty that I harbored some bad feeling toward her—for sleeping at my feet and missing what I thought was the theft last night.
I don’t feel the least bad about accusing Denson Boyd of the theft—and in front of the woman who had to be his mother. But the eighth grader is a nothing more than a bully—and his gang at school is pure trouble.
My father nods at the crew. ‘They’re going to get busy soon.’
And in a minute I’m face to face with the famous Antonio Tommasi (well, my face to his shoulder).
I present them with the model, mounted to a wooden stand. He and folks from Maranello laugh and stare with gleaming, admiring eyes.
Tommasi asks how I made it and I tell them that I drew my own plans to scale, using a tape measure and ruler, then built it all from metal I machined in my school’s shop.
Tommasi asks, ‘So. You like racing, do you?’
‘Yessir. For now, I race that.’ I nod to my BMX bike. He seems impressed. It’s the bike that was damaged—pretty bad—in the Big Sur race last year, but I’ve fixed it up perfectly; you’d never know. ‘But I’m going to drive F1.’ I stare into his eyes. ‘And I’m going to win.’
He studies me. ‘I think the Scuderia Ferrari must stay in touch with you, Ralph Wilson. Better for us if you don’t drive cars made in, say, England or Germany.’
‘Really?’ I’m breathless…
‘Sì, certamente. Well, thank you for your present, Ralph. This will occupy an honored spot in Maranello. Allora. You like the open cockpit, do you?’ He nods to my model.
‘Look what we have over there.’
I do and, yes, and I see a glistening… LaFerrari Aperta. I gasp. I hadn’t seen one in person before. The production numbers are very small. We all walk to it and I look it over.
‘Do you know much about it?’ a crewman asks.
‘Not much. Just, it’s a mild hybrid, a V-twelve and electric. Kinetic energy recovery system. Nine hundred-sixty horses. And the torque’s over six-fifty. Bore and stroke, ninety-four by seventy-five point two millimeter. Seven-speed dual-clutch tranny. Oh, and carbon-ceramic brakes. Naturally.’
The Italians laugh.
Tommasi asks my parents, ‘Would it be all right if Ralph takes a drive?’ He adds quickly, ‘As a passenger only.’
‘Sure,’ mom says. They both nod.
My heart is throbbing. I can’t speak.
Tommasi finds a helmet that will fit me. I tug it on and we strap ourselves in. He fires up the engine, which utters a unique sound that’s both a raw growl and pure music.
He taps the shifter paddle and we roll forward onto empty track. He glances at me. ‘Are you ready?’
‘Yes,’ I whisper. ‘I am.’
©2016 Gunner Publications, LLC