On the road in a motoring icon
- Credit: Archant
MARK G WHITCHURCH takes a Great Drive from an ‘oasis of calm’ to the ‘Goodwood of the West Country’
Tucked away in the folds of the Mendip Hills, a stone’s throw from Bath is Huntstrete House, a grand Georgian manor that was acquired in 2013 by the Home Grown Hotel Group and renamed The Pig Near Bath. With its extensive grounds, walled kitchen garden and its own deer park, this oasis of calm in our county is a fabulous place to start a rather indulgent Great Drive.
A fuss free, relaxed welcome leads us up to our room, complete with four poster bed and roll top bath. The ground floor comprises of a number of relaxing lounges that lead to a funky bar area that makes the most of this historic building’s stunning architecture. Dinner is served in the greenhouse restaurant with views over the garden and deer park beyond. With a menu created from the best locally sourced meats and fish together with vegetables from the kitchen garden, the experience was divine and one certainly to be repeated!
After a superb night’s sleep and informal breakfast, we joined the A368 in the direction of the hamlet of Chelwood to pick up the A37 in a southerly direction for a sweeping journey to another grand estate and a glamorous gathering of exotic mechanical art, where our prancing horse steed will fit in nicely!
Cruise the A37 through Temple Cloud and Farrington Gurney, up the hill and turning left to remain on the A37, now heading for Ston Easton and the Mendip Hills. Past the Mendip Inn on your left and just past the turning for the A367, turn left onto the Old Frome Road.
A wonderfully sweeping road with fast opening corners, crossing over Long Cross Bottom to pick up the Old Wells Road. Continue on past Cranmore Tower for more of the same exhilarating roads. At the junction with Somer’s Lane it’s right, down the hill to the T junction where it’s right again to follow the road to hook up with the A361 near Nunney Catch. Cruise the A361 into the Market Town of Frome. There is a wide range of markets held in the town throughout the year, visit discoverfrome.co.uk for more details on when these are held.
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Back on the road rejoin the A361 to hook up with the A362 with signposts for Corsley Heath. Another wonderfully sweeping road that will eventually take you past the Longleat Estate before arriving at the roundabout with the A36, where we bear right. Another fast road that cruises through some beautiful rolling countryside.
Continue through Knook and the road rises and follows a ridgeline before dropping down into a picturesque valley. Follow the A36 for another 13 miles until you reach the majestic town of Wilton, where you follow the signs to Wilton House. Open to the public throughout the year, it’s best to refer to their website wiltonhouse.co.uk for full details.
We timed our visit to coincide with the Wilton Classic and Supercar event that is held annually in June. The’ Goodwood’ of the West Country, this superbly well organised and attended event draws some incredibly rare and beautiful machinery to be exhibited around the lawns of the 16th century mansion house. This year the event was a two day affair and celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Bugatti Veyron. The perfect end to a supercar Great Drive!
The Ferrari F12 Berlinetta continues the illustrious V12 front-engined Ferrari bloodline, a car that can trace its origins back to the very first Ferrari, the 12 cylinder 125S of 1947. This phenomenal machine can list the near priceless 250 GTO, the beautiful 275 GTB and Rock Star 365 GTB Daytona amongst its illustrious predecessors.
With its long sculpted bonnet and tight rear haunches this is a good looking car, modernistic, yet clearly following the DNA of the near 70 year old concept. Designed in harmony by stylists and aerodynamicists, this weapon of the road boasts some new aerodynamic tricks developed by Ferrari’s XX Programme. Vents in the front wings are sculpted like aero wings to increase downforce over the front wheels, whilst the concaved sides help to direct air efficiently over the voluptuous form.
Incorporating 12 different alloys, many of which started in the aviation industry, this is a compact machine, shorter, lower and with smaller overhangs than the outgoing 599 model.
Under the bonnet, nestling amongst the swathes of optional carbon fibre, is the 6.3 litre V12 naturally aspirated engine, producing a mind bending 740bhp. Ferrari tell me that the crankshaft has been aerodynamically shaped to cut through the oil within, helping it to gallop that much faster to its redline.
The very Ferrari-esque interior consists of lightweight bucket seats that hold your form to perfection and covered with soft Italian leather and alcantra centres to keep your behind in place as the G-force builds. The dashboard is focused around the driver. Rev counter takes centre stage flanked by LCD screens form the driver’s binnacle. In true Ferrari form, these are not what you would call Germanic intuitive, but with time you learn to follow the logic. None of these discoveries are frustrating; it’s all part of learning how to live with a motoring icon that is a Ferrari.
The steering wheel is familiar to the rest of the Ferrari range, with buttons to operate auxiliary functions such as wipers and indicators neatly arranged around it. At first this is a real faff – but within no time it feels natural and you can pretend to be an F1 driver, from where the concept has been derived.
Thumb the red starter button to whir the hand built motor into life, releasing a symphony of mechanical rapture. What separates this from any other fast motoring experience is the F12’s rampant ability to pile on the acceleration, from low down in the rev range it wants to gallop to its redline, snatch the next gear and do it all again. You can feel the electronic differential and wizardry fighting the gargantuan amounts of power that is being dumped at the rear wheels.
With a top speed of 211mph, from rest to 60mph covered in a neck jarring 3.1 seconds, the new Ferrari F12 Berlinetta certainly has maximum Top Trump statistics. With a base price of £240,000 plus the near £100,000 of options fitted to our test car, the price is as startling as the acceleration. But for me this has to be the ultimate Supercar, whether it is for crossing Somerset or that ultimate trans-continental blast to San Tropez or Monaco.