About six weeks ago Mrs. SSO and I started planning a road trip to Scotland. The route was planned, and hotels were booked in both London and Scotland. Two weeks ago, we cancelled our plans with the hope that we might be able to reschedule in the fall. McLaren had extremely generously offered to lend us a car for the trip to Scotland and I was very much looking forward to spending a week driving the McLaren GT on some of the greatest roads in the world. However, in light of what’s going on in the world right now, a cancelled road trip is completely inconsequential, and I consider ourselves extremely fortunate that we are able to even consider going on these sort of road trips.
Going back six weeks to when Mrs. SSO & I started discussing the trip, one of the first questions that came up was who to invite to come along with us. While a solo road trip is fun, sharing the driving experience and meals with great company who equal appreciate great roads, luxury hotels, and gourmet food, takes the experience to a whole different level. Looking back to our last two Scottish road trips, my memories of several great dinners is a vivid as some of the great northwestern roads. For us a great road trip is a holistic undertaking where you need to get five critical elements right: hotels, restaurants, cars, drivers, and the routes. The first two on this list are generally Mrs. SSO’s responsibility and the last three are mine.
Of the three critical elements I’m normally responsible for, the easiest is the cars. We have a simple rule for these trips, all the cars on the trips have to be supercars. There is actually a practical reason for this, we want to make sure all the cars can comfortably keep up with each other as the driving can get a bit “spirited” at times, when the conditions allow. Picking the roads is easier that it might first appear. At this point I’ve built up a decent database of great roads in different countries across Contintenal Europe and the UK. The challenge is normally linking the routes up with the hotels Mrs. SSO has chosen. Net net, the roads and hotels are puzzle that just needs a bit of time and patience to put together.
Where things get quite a bit more complicated is when it comes to the drivers. The majority of supercar owners I have met over the last couple of decades fall into three general categories: “drivers”, “lifestyle”, and “polishers”. For our road trips, it’s the first of these three groups that is relevant. To qualify as a “driver” in this case, it’s not just the mindset of an enthusiast who gets great enjoyment of taking a supercar out for an early morning drive, but also a driver with extensive track day and/or racing experience or who has taken advance driving skill courses. In my case, I learned how to drive a racecar with Fiorano Ferrari, have done more track days than I can remember, and did advance driver training with Ride Drive in the UK. The Ride Drive instructors are off duty policeman who are trained in high speed pursuit. In terms of how to drive enthusiastically and safely on a country road, I probably learned more in a few hours with Ride Drive than in any of the other advanced driving courses I have taken. While setting this sort of criteria might sound a bit elitist, its actually for everyone’s safety.
When you are driving as a group across great empty back country roads or in the mountains, having a group of cars with similar capabilities, piloted by drivers with similar skill sets, is critical. While we have never had an “incident” on a road trip, there have been two near misses that I have witnessed. In both cases the driver didn’t understand the gap between his Ferrari’s capabilities and his limited talent. Had it not been for the Ferrari’s excellent traction control and great brakes, there would have been plenty of bent aluminum. Getting in over your head in these situations makes you a danger not only to yourself and your passenger but also to everyone else on the road. Hence selecting who to invite is critical as the last thing I want to do is put anyone in a situation they might not be comfortable in.
There is one more added complication on the driver invites. Not only do they need to be an experienced and skilled supercar owning driver but also have to appreciate and enjoy great hotels and excellent food. While this sounds pretty straight forward, some people will surprise you. On one trip we had a friend of a friend come along who turned out to be quite an eccentric individual. This gentleman turned up with a cooler of tuna sandwiches and booked himself in alternative budget hotels nearby where we were staying. I know it wasn’t an issue of money as this gentleman had more than plenty of it. There is something uniquely wonderful about enjoying a great meal with friends in a wonderful location after an exhilarating day driving that is very hard to top.
When everything eventually returns to normal, we will celebrate with friends on another great road trip. It’s always good to have things to look forward, especially in very uncertain and trying times. Stay safe and healthy.
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