The awe-inspiring combination of a Ferrari race car and the Daytona International Speedway represent the peak of the Corso Pilota driving school – and here at the wheel of the 488 Challenge Evo, actor Daniel Wu feels right at home
The grandstands at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida, USA, are one of the most spectacular man-made amphitheatres in the world. Over 100,000 seats look down upon the famous oval and its demanding infield track, the structure so vast – at nearly one mile long – that its design compensates for the curvature of the Earth.
To come as a fan to this evocative circuit is truly special, to be one of the talented professionals competing for victory on track even more so. But you don’t have to be a factory Ferrari driver at the world-famous Rolex 24 at Daytona to take to this revered circuit in a Prancing Horse race car…
Established in 1993, the Ferrari Corso Pilota driving school offers different levels of coaching to perfectly match experience and ambition. Participants progress from the initial Corso Pilota Sport programme, through Corso Pilota Avanzato and Corso Pilota Evoluzione, to the advanced Corso Pilota Challenge where the Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo race car awaits.
The Corso Pilota Challenge is offered at key race tracks across the globe. Theory sessions and technical briefings examine the set-up and controls of the 488 Challenge Evo, while track activities include rolling start simulations and overtaking exercises. State-of-the-art video and data acquisition goes hand-in hand with highly qualified instructors, allowing for detailed analysis of lap times. It is an action-packed course – which is why actor Daniel Wu feels right at home.
‘Racing around Daytona is an incredible experience, so iconic and really intimidating at first, particularly due to the embankment straight, which is a handful,’ says Wu. ‘The embankment is so steep, there’s fear you’ll slide off and crash into the wall, but once you’re at speed, of course the physics keep that from happening.’
Wu has never shied away from getting physical, starting his career as protégé to action great Jackie Chan. He captured mainstream appeal in the television martial arts drama ‘Into The Badlands’ from 2015-2019, on the big screen opposite Alicia Vikander in ‘Tomb Raider’, and in 2021 we’ll see him alongside Hugh Jackman in ‘Reminiscence’, written and directed by Lisa Joy (‘Westworld’). Fittingly, as he hurtles down the embankment stretch at Daytona at 178mph in the 488 Challenge Evo, Wu finds himself completely in his element.
‘It’s like a surgeon’s tool, so precise and confidence inspiring,’ he says. ‘The 488 Challenge Evo has such incredible control and downforce that even at full blast, it’s not scary at all. You literally melt into the car and become one with it. It sounds cheesy, but that really does happen.’
Wu’s no stranger to Ferrari nor to the track, but hadn’t before experienced the exhilaration that only a Challenge car can deliver. ‘The way Corso Pilota slowly transitions you from the F8 Tributo into the 488 Challenge Evo, reinforcing all your previous training before graduating to the race car, is a seamless process,’ says Wu. ‘Once you’ve experienced the intoxicating Challenge Evo, it’s hard to imagine ever tracking a road car again, it’s incomparable.’
Coincidentally, Wu and his business partner recently acquired a 1972 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’ Spyder, named for this very track. ‘The Daytona is just so, so beautiful, with all the romantic elements that make it a Ferrari, from that 12-cylinder motor to that gated shifter and, on top of all that, it’s a convertible, too. And despite its age, it drives like a brand-new car.’
With that, he dons his helmet, briefly converses with his instructor, then climbs into the 488 Challenge Evo and heads out onto Daytona’s imposing racetrack once more.