It's a motoring fantasy. Take a mean machine for a spin around the countryside and pull up at a genteel hotel. Did Mary Novakovich dare push the accelerator?

It's a wonderfully nostalgic idea, isn't it, driving through country lanes in a vintage car, admiring the autumnal landscape of brilliantly coloured leaves. Perhaps you'd be in a Mark II Jaguar like Inspector Morse, a Mozart opera on the stereo as you contemplate stopping by a thatched village pub, just enjoying the Englishness of it all. Or you could throw British reserve to the winds and hurtle through sleepy hamlets in a 1977 red Ferrari 308 GTB, its V8 engine raising a right old ruckus in the well-ordered Suffolk countryside. What a choice to have to make.

It's a wonderfully nostalgic idea, isn't it, driving through country lanes in a vintage car, admiring the autumnal landscape of brilliantly coloured leaves. Perhaps you'd be in a Mark II Jaguar like Inspector Morse, a Mozart opera on the stereo as you contemplate stopping by a thatched village pub, just enjoying the Englishness of it all. Or you could throw British reserve to the winds and hurtle through sleepy hamlets in a 1977 red Ferrari 308 GTB, its V8 engine raising a right old ruckus in the well-ordered Suffolk countryside. What a choice to have to make.

The Grand Touring Club has a rich selection of classic cars to choose from which you can combine with a few nights in various hotels in East Anglia. Once we had seen the different MGs, Triumphs, Porsches and Jags on offer, we realised that the only car we were never likely to find ourselves in was a Ferrari. We had to go for the 308 GTB, even if it conjured up memories of Tom Selleck's tash in Magnum PI. It was so low it barely reached my waist. As I struggled in I wished I'd had some Lucie Clayton-style lessons in boarding sports cars gracefully.

When I saw the car's controls and heard the complicated instructions from the club's Tom Brimblecombe, I was relieved that I wasn't going to be its main driver. That responsibility fell to my partner Adam, who has been driving for more than 20 years and even did the Advanced Driving Test. Then we were told that the security deposit required by the insurance company was £1,500 and we both turned a bit pale. No pressure there, then. Just as well we didn't go for the Aston Martin DB6, which could have dented our credit card by £2,000.

The initial idea was that I would take the car for a spin at some point, but the thought left me quaking. I didn't think my considerable years of driving experience would be enough to control the power exuding from the Ferrari. Putting worries aside, we left the company's rural headquarters near Stowmarket.

The first thing to strike us - apart from the fact that we were practically lying horizontally - was the engine's roar. It was as if the car were having trouble holding itself back, waiting impatiently until it could let rip and show what it can really do. So we floored it. My God, what a noise, what a sensation of speed, what raw power. Then I looked at the speedometer and discovered we were doing only 60mph, rather than the 100mph it felt. Now I know how people on a luge feel: you're so close to the ground that any speed feels extraordinary.

The A1120 from Stowmarket towards the Suffolk coast is an officially designated tourist route, and it was a delight to drive through one attractive village after another. By that time we had rather got used to driving the Ferrari - until we parked in sedate Southwold and noticed everyone staring at both the audacious piece of machinery and the people driving it. That's when you think that everyone will assume you're a pair of plonkers for having such an ostentatious car. They probably weren't, but we increased the plonker factor by not knowing how to lock the doors. Very embarrassing. Even more embarrassing was returning to the car and not knowing which key to put in the lock. We soothed our spirits, however, by taking the coast road from Thorpeness to Aldeburgh, where the comfortable Wentworth Hotel awaited. Then we broke the mood by trying to park without pranging it. Phew. Dent count so far: zero.

A celebratory drink was in order, so it was off to the Cross Keys pub where we could down a pint or two and I could try not to giggle too excitedly in case the locals thought I'd lost my mind. I couldn't quite lose the self-conscious feeling that came with being a temporary owner of a Ferrari - that combination of pride, wonder and oh my God everyone will think I'm a prat. We certainly raised a few eyebrows at the Wentworth. I overheard guests talking about this amazing Ferrari and wondering whom it could possibly belong to. Considering we were by far the youngest people there, they soon twigged. Still, a dinner of venison and fillet steak and a particularly good wine list took the edge off any disquiet.

Until the next morning, that is, when I realised that I really must drive the thing myself. Adam drove the two miles up to Thorpeness and I was to drive back. Two miles. That was it. There were a few curvy bits but, on the whole, it was a straightforward bit of road. Surely nothing to get alarmed about. Of course I stalled it at once. The clutch action was like trying to push your foot through a wall. And second gear didn't really work until the car was thoroughly warmed up, which it wasn't. There was no power steering, so the handling required brute strength. First gear was downwards, rather than up. The accelerator was almost as unyielding as the clutch. I felt as if I were having my first driving lesson. Eventually I got going - and going. Into fifth gear and yelling in exhilarated fear. "I'm driving a Ferrari!" All right, I was going only 60, but you try keeping control of a pent-up monster that was made to be redlined. It was probably in shock to find itself on a small country road rather than on a race track.

That was enough of imitating Jodie Kidd. I was content to turn into Laura Bush and let the man take over. We had time for a visit to the galleries and shops at Snape Maltings before the drive back to Grand Touring Club, where we were happy to hand the Ferrari back to Tom. He was equally happy to see that the dent count remained zero.

It was an experience not to be refused, and possibly never to be repeated, but deep down I realised I was more Morse than Magnum. Pass me the Mozart CD.

GIVE ME THE FACTS

How to get there

Mary Novakovich travelled courtesy of the Grand Touring Club (01449 737774; www.grandtouringclub.co.uk), which offers a selection of cars and hotel breaks. Car hire alone starts at £159 for 24 hours, and three-day hotel breaks start at £366, including breakfast and information pack with customised maps. The Wentworth Hotel is featured among the choice of places to stay. Gift vouchers available.

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