All Fired-up : Talking to Aries & Debra Wong

By topgearsingapore, 11 October 2019

If you’re standing on the outside looking in, the sort of devotion and outpouring of passion for Ferrari can boggle the mind. There’s an animal magnetism to the brand that doesn’t discriminate between young and old, male and female, or even rich and poor. 

Of course, if you’re lucky to have been immersed in the theatrical pomp and pageantry of any of Ferrari’s exhibitions or calvacades, you’ll appreciate the strong sense of family that binds tifosi the world over together – what’s more, you don’t even need to own a Ferrari to appreciate its prancing goodness. 

Naturally, we prefer to find out what it’s like for an owner who is plugged directly into the collective.

Avid Ferraristis, Aries and Debra Wong, who recently added a Portofino to their garage – the first to be registered in Singapore, no less – help break it down for us. 

Portofino gives Ferrari a chance to prove to its detractors it doesn’t just produce exotic sportscars. It can create a compelling, recreational GT as well...

“Generally, the Ferrari ownership experience has been great, and while it could still be attributed to the novelty of a new car, we really, really like the Portofino,” Aries tells us.

“Portofino gives Ferrari a chance to prove to its detractors it doesn’t just produce hardcore, exotic sportscars. It can create a very compelling, recreational GT as well, which is executed in a more ‘casual’ fashion, but still channels the spirit of the brand.”

He adds, “One of the few things I appreciate about the Portofino over the California T is how rousing the engine and exhaust sound – it’s never ‘casual’ to the extent that you lose that trademark Ferrari soundtrack. Also, the Portofino no longer has to be stationery before you can operate the roof.”

Debra, Aries’ wife, chips in, “In a way, you can even consider the Portofino to be very easy to drive. The steering is very natural and fluid, and the turning radius is spot-on. There’s a tight U-turn we have to make near home and it’s a doodle to clear in the Portofino. Moreover, it’s great to be able to chuck our shopping bags into the Portofino’s back seats!”

Some of the Portofino’s strong selling points are its sporty and ‘fierce’ 812-esque design, as well as a well-rounded depth of character that sees it effortlessly segue between shopping excursions, office commutes and even formal dinner engagements. 

(Click HERE to read our review of the Ferrari Portofino)

Aries concurs, "The Portofino still feels indisputably exotic, but there's a versatility to it: Compared to lowered sportscars, the Portofino’s suspension and stability are better suited to everyday use – for instance, our 458 Spider is a lot lower and firmer in contrast! I would highly recommend the Portofino to friends who are looking for a GT to complement their garage of exotic sportscars.”

The young couple is no stranger to sportscars, and maintains a fleet of mixed brand performance machines that includes a 488 Pista in Giallo Triplo Strato in Hong Kong, which is where the pair was most recently based before settling in Singapore. Incidentally, they enjoyed the Portofino so much they ordered one in Hong Kong as well!

(Did someone say Giallo Triplo Strato? Click HERE to read about a superlemon F12tdf and an equally yellow Isetta 300!) 

Aries describes the all-rounded Portofino as serving a ‘recreational’ function for the couple. “If you enjoy fast driving, you’re unlikely to have the roof down; besides, we already have the 458 Spider in Singapore for our high-performance needs – in contrast, the Portofino is the perfect GT for more chill, recreational use.”

With other naturally-aspirated sportscars in his garage, it’s only ‘natural’ that we find out what Aries thinks about Ferrari’s ‘turbocharged’ engines in the Portofino and 488 Pista, or even the SF90 Stradale’s ‘hybrid’ engine.

(Click HERE to read our 488 Pista review)

“Sportscars at this level need to be turbocharged to stay competitive. It’s certainly a different take compared to older cars like the 430 Scuderia and 458 Speciale, but such cars need to evolve, simply because technology is rapidly evolving. From the 458 Spider to the California T, then the Portofino and the 488 Pista, we bear witness to the inevitably of technology and how quickly it evolves: From the interior, to the driver systems and UI, everything is improving, and we really like this.”

Aries doesn’t think Ferrari is late to the ‘crossover’ game either. “It attracts people who love the brand and have been waiting for a Ferrari crossover. I would consider it, because a family-oriented crossover with the brand’s cachet and performance will serve my needs perfectly. In this segment, the generation of buyers isn’t likely to buy a traditional four-door sedan unless it’s a proper limousine like a Rolls-Royce, and a high-performance crossover like the Purosangue is a natural progression for Ferrari.”

Naturally, a large part of Ferrari ownership includes the passionate community of owners and club activities that help foster an even greater sense of belonging and devotion to the brand. After all, at this level, it’s a lot more than just about the cars, although it is the love for the cars that brings such like-minded petrolheads together. 

“Passion for cars makes the world a smaller place, especially for the Ferrari family,” Aries tells us. “The brand, the support, the drive convoys and the Ferrari Owners’ Club (or FOC for short) – it’s all like a family to us. Ferrari owners in Hong Kong and Singapore are very sophisticated and worldly compared to some of the other brands.”

“The Ferrari Club is like a family to us; there’s no unnecessary drama, especially since we just want to get together and have fun with the cars. Best of all, FOCS cares about the safety of everyone – that’s very important, especially in drive convoys,” Debra continues.

“That’s right,” Aries says. “As far as the FOC Singapore EXCO (this also extends to the Hong Kong and UAE chapters of the FOC) is concerned, it’s safety first for its members, so the drives are orderly with no dangerous high-speed overtakes. The events are planned well in advance and very well-organised.”

The couple has a zest for the high-life and the world is their oyster, and they’re looking beyond keeping cars in Hong Kong and Singapore, especially since it’s also about being able to drive and enjoy such sportscars properly… particularly if it’s a Ferrari V12!

(Click HERE to read our review of the 812 Superfast)

Aries smiles and says, “We’re already looking at the 812 Superfast, but we’re thinking of buying it in Abu Dhabi or somewhere else in the Middle-East, because there’s the option of storing it with the Ferrari dealership. The greatest joy will be to stretch its legs (and lungs) on the long straights in the UAE, and even on the occasional European road trip, because it isn’t difficult to transport the car into Europe for drives – best of all, it will be great to be able to use the V12 to the max!”

PHOTOS Zotiq Visuals

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