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Races
24/06/2016

Discovering Hokkaido in a California T

On the tracks of the first Ferrari Hokkaido rally

The top is down and the engine is stirring. In my California T, I join a troop of five couples and one solo traveller in their FFs, F12s and more. Coming from Southeast Asia, we are here for the first Ferrari Hokkaido Rally of 2016.

The rally participants gather together for a photograph

I’m excited, nervous even. I’ve never driven a Ferrari in my life and there’s a chance I may make the front page of The Hokkaido Shimbun the next day.

 

But God happens to be on my side and I pull through. It’s a breeze to drive through Japan’s northernmost region, between the flowering fields and volcanic peaks during this mild summer.

 

The lakes and little towns are as lovely as I had imagined, and here I am, surrounded with a kind of peace that will bring one to heel.

Hokkaido is Japan's second largest island, famed for its volcanoes and natural springs

From The Windsor Hotel Toya Resort and Spa, overlooking the gorgeous Lake Toya and beyond, we are tasked to cover an ambitious 550km over two days.

 

It sounds like a handful, but when you’re navigating through a View-Master reel of a picturesque country while singing out loud to The Killers Mr Brightside, you want to live each moment fully. All you need is an excuse to spend more time on the road, and that excuse is the California T.

The Ferraris make their way through the changing landscape of Hokkaido

We’re rolling with the slight time difference and what little extra hours the summer can give. The air is cool as we head for Otaru and we try our best to obey the stringent traffic rules. In Otaru, a small harbour city northwest of Sapporo, we have to shop. The thing about drives like this is that they are never short of fun.

 

This time, every team is given a thousand yen to buy a souvenir of sorts. ‘The best team will be rewarded,’ we are told. Of course, there’s more to it. We race each other for the best time and test our skills against a sharp-turning circuit under the guidance of seven-time gymkhana champion Masaki Nishihara.

 

We aim to capture the best moments on our phones, and we endeavour to be civil among the traffic, Michelin-approved restaurants and cool springs.

When the sun finally grows weary of our chasing and sinks below the mountains, the two days have gone by too soon. We have played hard, driven hard and been fed very well.

 

We’ve been told there might be another drive around Germany, but I guess that’s a story for another day, another time.