In the last of our inspiring interstate series, Barry Green tackles three the best drives that South-East Queensland has to offer — one of them in a Ferrari 488 GTB, no less.
Car: Ferrari 488 GTB
Drive: Mt Glorious via Mt Mee (190km)
The Pie Drive from Samford to Samford, less than an hour’s drive from the centre of Brisbane, is as satisfying a fang as it gets.
For the galloping gourmets among us, there are no fewer than four bakeries (five, with a short detour) serving up great coffee and the best of that archetypal Aussie tucker (and the author’s only vice), pie’n’peas.
And that’s without mentioning the qualities by which any driver’s drive is measured – punchy, 2nd gear uphill corners; hairy hairpins; curves that sweep and flow; daring descents; and redline-enticing long, straight bits; one where you get a fair share of smooth hot-mix bitumen and relatively light traffic.
From Samford Village, we turn right on the outskirts onto Eaton’s Crossing Road. A few kilometres along, it’s the sign on the left to Clear Mountain you will be wanting. The name says it all – the views are amazing.
From the top of Clear Mountain, it’s downhill to Winn Road and on to Mt Samson Road. Welcome to the open speed limit (100km/h) for the first time. At Dayboro comes the first bakery stop opportunity at – you guessed it – the Dayboro Bakery, just before the turn-off to Mt Mee Road (SR58).
From here on, to flout the speed limit is to roll the dice. Speed cameras and police traffic enforcement (including undercover cars and motorcycles) regularly stake out the 60km/h, long curving climb past the circa-1876 Glengariff Historic Estate and Ocean View Winery to beyond.
Be patient, and the signs change to 80 and then 100, but by then it’s an opportunity lost; the blacktop has straightened. Until, that is, the other side of Mt Mee township where the road cascades downhill some 2km in a wicked succession of tight, but sweetly-cambered and radii-ed curves, all scribed out in unblemished hot mix. But here’s the tip – go safety fast, and treat the descent as a reconnoitre; then, at the bottom, turn around and go for it uphill.
SR58 meets the D’Aguilar Highway (SR85) at D’Aguilar. Turn left, and down the road is Woodford, a substantial-sized town, and a second pie stop. If you miss it, don’t worry. Some 25km on is Kilcoy, with yet another bakery, and it’s here where you need to look for the sign to Lake Somerset.
The road follows the natural terrain that encircles the lake. It rises and falls, curves and contorts, making for one hell of an engaging drive. Expect, also, a searching workout of your car or motorcycle’s suspension.
Just past the lake, hook left onto the Wivenhoe-Somerset Road and you’re immediately back into open countryside, devoid of roadside vegetation, plenty of clear vision ahead and open speed limit. Eventually, you come to a T-junction. Continue straight on to Fernvale and sample one of the Old Fernvale Bakery’s range of more than 150 types of pie (seriously) or, turn left on SR31.
North Parkway (becomes Mt Glorious Rd) offers up kilometres of flat, sweeping smooth bends with generous width that would do justice to a racing circuit. Take note, though, the 80km/h speed limit receives regular enforcement from the boys and gals in blue.
From the White Cedar picnic area, tall timber closes in and the limit drops to 60. You’re now in among the D’Aguilar Range; the road tightens, twists and undulates through steep cuttings in the mountainside; where traction and grip are boss. A rich pocket of rain forest welcomes you to Mt Glorious village.
Re-caffeinated at the cafe, it’s a short run downhill through the twisties along Mt Glorious Road, through Highvale to Samford. Another pie, anyone?
Our wheels? Take it as red
After punting a fabulous 430 Scuderia around the canyon roads of northern Colorado in 2009, it was a long time between classic Italian reds until the next vintage, the 488 GTB, in 2015, Ferrari’s first mid-engined, turbocharged model since the legendary F40 in 1988. Here’s how it went on the Pie Drive…
Thumb the starter button and the 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 roars into life. Select 1st in the 7-speed, dual-clutch gearbox by tapping the right-hand paddle shift and the magic carpet ride begins. With nil turbo lag, acceleration is phenomenal. 0-100km/h comes up in just 3.0sec. Peak power and torque? 492kW @ 8000rpm and 760Nm @ 3000rpm (the latter vectored to peak in 7th gear only). No other production road car turbo engine spools up so rapidly, Ferrari claimed at the model’s release.
What speeds up must slow down, and the six-calliper front and rear brakes provide linear bite and sustained stopping power. Grip and traction are prodigious – fat 20-inch quality rubber and quantum amounts of aero downforce see to that, along with a formidable armoury of F1-Trac (traction control), E-diff (electronic differential) and SSC2 (Side Slip Control 2).
You accept that the inevitable trade-off for such track-focused handling is a spine-hammering, rigid ride, but no. Simply dial up the ‘smarts’ to suit the occasion and your whim. When the hot-mix falls away to coarse-chip, as is the default position of most Australian rural roads, just enable the appropriately-named ‘Bumpy Road’ setting and agreeable compliance is yours.
What we have here, is the power – and the glory.
2017 Ferrari 488 GTB
Basic price: $479,000
Engine: 3.9-litre DOHC 32v twin-turbo V8
Power: 492kW @ 8000 rpm
Torque: 760Nm @ 3000 rpm
Transmission: 7-spd DSG
0-100km/h: 3.0 secs
Car: Honda Civic Type-R
Drive: Bellthorpe Range (32km)
Every year, from December 27 to January 1, the Kilcoy-Beerwah Road goes from less travelled to carrying tens of thousands of vehicles. During that time, Queensland State Route 6 is the gateway to one of Australia’s most enduring and popular gigs, the Woodford Folk Festival, now well into its third decade.
But, how many of the vast crowd would know that, just up SR6 a few kilometres, there’s a turn-off to one of the best driver’s roads within easy reach of Brisbane. To gearheads, it’s called simply, ‘Bellthorpe Range’.
‘Nonmus Road’ is the sign to look for. It starts out as a patchwork of narrow, coarse-chip asphalt with barely enough room for oncoming traffic to pass. Then the road undulates and wriggles as it climbs through tall timber into a tight, narrow Gabion and Armco canyon, installed to guard against landslides.
The ascent continues comparatively straight after a tricky right-hander, and you’re soon in 3rd and 4th gliding through cleared grazing country, before coming to a fork. Veer right onto Campbell Road, the bush closes in again and the blacktop writhes.
Then, another fork appears, and it’s right onto Gap Road where the tempo picks up riding the ridgeline. But beware of camber falling away and radii tightening, before continuing on to meet the Maleny-Stanley River Road.
To complete the loop, hook right and get ready to plunge downhill into a quick-fire succession of twists and turns. At just 32km, there’s always time for another lap. Or two.
As always, to max out a drive like this you need the right set of wheels. Something like Honda’s fifth-gen (FK8) Civic Type R. Here we have a five-door hot hatch that fuses track-honed dynamism with real-world driveability and practicality. At a tad over $A50k, it’s a ripper.
For a start, that bane of front-wheel-drive performance cars, torque steer, is near non-existent. That’s some feat, given the 2.0-litre VTEC turbo, four-cylinder’s bountiful numbers. At the rear, a new multi-link suspension enhances ride comfort as well as high speed stability. What a contrast said compliance is compared with the last Type R to come to Australia, the chronically-brittle FN2 (we skipped the FK2).
After running the Honda back and forward over Bellthorpe,. I concluded that here was a bona fide contender for top dog on the hot hatch porch. It’s certainly the best all-rounder.
Ford’s much-anticipated Mk2 Focus RS was late to the party arriving Down Under, but when it did, all 315 units were snapped up before you could say ‘RevoKnuckle’.
‘Rev’ what?! The name might sound nonsensical, but as a piece of engineering to extract optimum performance out of a front-wheel-drive, it borders on alchemy. The formula – take a World Rally Championship-influenced front suspension with lower scrub radius and kingpin offset, and combine with a Quaife automatic torque-biasing limited-slip diff. Result – the capability to put 224kW and 440Nm, coursing through the front wheels, to the ground with near-zilch torque steer.
With Surfers Paradise’s glitter strip a speck in the rear-vision mirror, we ascend the winding, twisting Henri Roberts Drive towards Mt Tamborine, taking time out to stop and look out over the towering coastal skyline to a hazy, blue Pacific beyond. We’ll check out the charming mountain village and its boutique brewery, distillery and gallery walk later, but first up, the Canungra ‘Goat Track’.
Carved out of the hillside, this bumpy, narrow stretch of roadway twists, dips and climbs. Controlled by traffic lights to regulate one-way traffic only at a time, the Goat Track identifies itself immediately as a natural hillclimb.
At just a kilometre in length, it’s a prelude to the longer game ahead. Back to two lanes, Tamborine Mountain Road serves up a quality selection of undulating, on and off-camber hairpins and curves on the 10km run to Canungra. Turning left onto Beechmont Road, the fun ramps up and continues all the way through Upper and Lower Beechmont, onto SR 90 and 97 and, ultimately, a return to Henri Roberts Drive. Loop completed.
All the way, the RS is in its rally-bred element, the RevoKnuckle/Quaife genius partnership enabling gob-smacking grip, traction and drive into, through and out of the many corners. But this is only part of it – the 2.5-litre Volvo-derived five-pot shows an ever-willingness to race to redline, pulling away at any revs and in any gear.
For me, the Focus RS Mk 2 raised the benchmark for a front-wheel-drive hot hatch. And the magic mountain roads of the hinterland provided the ideal wherewithal to enjoy it.