NEWS

Zahir Rana: Driving Ferrari Into Newfoundland River Won't Deter Racer

12/30/2011 09:26 EST | Updated 02/29/2012 05:12 EST
Zahir Rana's need for speed plunged him into the life of an Internet sensation and landed him in financial hot water in 2011, but the experience also motivated him to try making a bigger splash at the car rally where he got his taste of fleeting fame.

The 56-year-old exotic car dealer became a YouTube sensation in September when cameras captured him accidentally driving a $2 million sports car into a river on the south coast of Newfoundland.

The customized V-12 Edo Enzo Ferrari sustained cosmetic and engine damage to the tune of more than $100,000, but Rana himself emerged from the crash with nary a dent in his grand plans for future high speed exploits.

"It gave me another thing to live for," Rana said in a telephone interview from Calgary. "Gee, this was so much fun, I'm going to do it again. Gonna do bigger, better next time."

Rana's passion for exotic cars began 30 years ago when TV detective Magnum PI's dashing vehicles graced his television screen each week. He began accumulating high-end sports cars and has diligently added to the collection each year since then.

Leisure hours were spent testing his acquisitions all over the world and even racing jets in order to savour the thrill of life in the fast lane.

His need to tinker with his high-priced toys prompted him to open his own auto shop where he could tend to his own modifications and service his like-minded clients.

Rana and his cronies have one driving passion — speed.

The vehicle he took to the Targa Newfoundland car rally had been tweaked until it boasted a 860 horsepower engine that could hit speeds of up to 392 kilometres per hour.

Rana was putting the car through its paces on the road near Marystown, N.L. when the accident took place.

Cameras caught Rana and co-driver Roland Linder rounding a corner off a bridge and trying to correct their path as the back end of the car spun out, throwing them through a guard rail and over an embankment into a tidal river.

Rana's initial chagrin in the moments after the accident soon gave way to relief and excitement.

"I realize, I'm happy in the sense that I'm fine, I'm well, I'm alive," he said. "I see the car and I go, 'OK, I will fix it.' We will make a better car and come back."

Rana shipped his car off to Germany, where mechanics touched up the body work and set about installing a 950 horsepower motor.

While his car was being overhauled, so was his reputation.

Video of Rana's crash went viral, garnering more than a million views in its first week online and raising his profile from local dealer to cyber-celebrity.

Rana came under criticism from those who disapproved of his expensive hobby, but he said those comments haven't deterred him in the slightest.

He's already making plans to bring his refurbished Ferrari back to Newfoundland, and said a surprising number of fellow racers want to come along for the ride.

"Next year I'm going back again with 20 cars," he said. "All my friends and clients are now envious. They said, "oh, we should have gone.' It should be great. I'm looking forward to it."