Touring The British Countryside In A Ferrari Portofino
Words: Nick Hendrix
Photography: Michael Shelford
There’s nothing quite like a Ferrari. In 2019 it was voted the Strongest Brand in the World and after my blissful weekend with their new Portofino, it’s easy to see why. Now, I’m not talking as a business expert or a marketing executive, I’m talking as my former 12-year-old self who basically wallpapered his bedroom with Testarossa and F40 posters. There is simply nothing like a Ferrari in its ability to draw a crowd and put a grotesquely over-sized smile on one’s face.
Over a winter’s weekend, I and photographer Michael Shelford took the California T’s successor on a journey through one of Britain’s ultimate pieces of rolling countryside – The Peak District. During my day job as Detective Jamie Winter in ITV’s crime series Midsomer Murders, I’m extremely comfortable in the beautiful British countryside. The question I wanted to find out was whether this iconic luxury sports car, named after a glamorous Italian seaside town could fit in with similar ease. Would there be grumpy farmers cursing its V8 rumble? Would avid ramblers claim I’ve ‘disturbed the peace?’ And would the Portofino’s muscular haunches find themselves awkwardly stuck between hedgerows?
The simple answer is no. Not in the slightest. Quite the opposite.
After collecting the car from Ferrari HQ I embarked on a bit of simple motorway crunching to collect Michael. Instantly I was at ease – the Portofino is a wonderful place to be and just as at home sitting at (a law-abiding) 70mph on the M1, as hitting an apex at Monza. You are swaddled in elegant leather and placed in the perfect driving position – more designed for the weekend country club cruiser than Sebastien Vettel. After a reassuringly gob-smacked reception from Michael, we bundled his camera equipment into the (ample with roof up, meager with the roof down) boot and got back on the motorway for a final blast before reaching the green hills of bucolic Derbyshire.
With the aid of Apple CarPlay (an automotive staple now whether Mazda or Mclaren) we put our hotel into Google maps and hit the winding roads where I finally began to open the taps on this monstrous 592hp 3.9L twin-turbocharged V8. Even with winter tires and the wet ground I could feel the impressive potential underneath my right foot. The landscape where we were felt reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands or the moors of Devon – rich in heather and deafeningly eerie beauty. With that description, one would think a shiny red supercar parked up on a deserted track would look ridiculous, out of place, out of character. However, the red is rich and dark, the side air intakes as dramatic as the burgeoning sky and with the top down, it looked aggressive and ready to fight whatever mythical creatures may lurk in the undergrowth. The Portofino had arrived and was ready to conquer all.
After an unexpectedly gourmet 3 course meal at Losehill House Hotel, a few Negronis and the tail end of U.S. Marshals – we rested up in anticipation of more tarmac devouring in the A.M. The following morning was crisp, and the sun was working hard to show its face. Every day in a Ferrari seems to start with a car park discussion with a bystander asking about the car’s virtues and ‘how long have you had it?’. This morning was no different as a shy young lad and his mother asked if they could have a look. In these moments I had a taste of what it must be like to be an actual Ferrari owner (yes, I resisted the urge to invent my purchase and day to day life with ‘my Portofino’.) A quick photo op. and we were off to explore the nearby Derwent Dams – made famous by Mr. Barnes Wallis and his bouncing bomb in the Second World War. It’s a spectacular place and definitely a key attraction in the area – three large reservoirs created by the dams surrounded by beautiful woodland and hills. It was on these roads that I found I could answer the question of whether or not we were ‘disturbers of the peace’ – it’s an area populated by ramblers and cyclists and I was worried that even at an idle we would scare the wildlife. However, as we passed people and re-passed people (every time we stopped to take photos they overtook us again) we were met more with smiles than daggers and even caught a snippet of ‘I told you it was a Ferrari dad! Oh, yea so it is!’ In a slightly comical turn of events, we reached the end of the road to find it was a dead-end so would have to drive back past all the same people again – at least confident in the knowledge they’d probably enjoy another glimpse of the Portofino’s muscular tail.
If every day starts with a car park discussion, every day ends at the bar with ‘oh is that yours in the car park?’ The Peacock Hotel near Chatsworth House (both well worth a visit) was no different and the Portofino is the ultimate conversational icebreaker with the locals. After a few too many beers, we finally left to hit the hay feeling like local celebrities.
A few more winding roads, a few more cresting hills and a few more tree-lined vistas later and it was time to take her home. Back to be tucked up amongst the impressive paddock at Ferrari HQ.
My 12-year-old self would probably have assumed that a super sports car like this was meant to be driven fast and hard, to be a blur of red to any pedestrian and be in a constant state of over-taking. But the truth I found over the weekend was that a thoroughbred like this is to be respected, driven calmly and with style. There are too much power and engineering under its handsome bonnet for any mortal to truly use to its full potential, so why try? I’m no Hamilton or Hakkinen and actually you’d miss the point of this car if you were – it’s for luxuriating in, for relaxing in and more often than not, for sharing with others. You can’t put a smile on the face of an aspirational teenager if you fly past them at 199mph (which is, you guessed it, it’s staggering top speed.)
I kept the top down all the way home to enjoy every last decibel of that exhaust note and unashamedly bask in the feeling of being a Ferrari owner.
RADA trained British actor Nick Hendrix is best known for playing TV detective Jamie Winter in long-running UK crime series Midsomer Murders. Other credits include Marcella, The Crown and Call The Midwife on TV and Legend, Suffragette and Captain America.