You will always need to trust a factory test driver when he says “come with me, I know a road somewhere”. If he tells you this, you do not need to think: you just have to hop in, buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Sometimes the passenger seat can be thrilling as the driver one. It does not happen very often to experience a fast car in the hands of a professional. For a those seeking to learn more about driving techniques and learn how to handle 600+ horsepower, it’s a highly recommended course. No questions need to be asked: just sit and watch the professional at work.
It doesn’t happen very often to be offered a ride around Modena by nonother than Pagani Automobili. Like everything they do, even a regular escape towards the hills has to be top notch: at my left was driving professor Andrea Palma and headmaster Luca Venturi, PR magager.
I don’t remember a cooler lesson than this one we had: upon our arrival at the Factory we were greeted by coffee, a Zonda and a Porsche Carrera GT. “unfortunately no Huayra is avaliable today” pointed out Luca with a sad tone. How could we complain anyways when we could experience 1162 combined horses of Italian and teutonic performance?
Both cars are in Horacio Pagani’s private collection and being offered a ride in one is an utter privilege: the sheer difference between each other is remarkable but both share some interesting features. First and foremost, they’re proper old school supercars: three pedals, lots of analogic power, minimum electronics and they both require some serious skill to be driven properly. No one can take the driver’s seat, select the sport button and drive away pretending to be a decent driver.
The hills outside the town of Modena are the ideal driving roads for many motoring enthusiasts and provide the perfect playground for anyone who wants to spot the testing prototypes from Pagani, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati. Driving these two here is outrageously awesome!
They’re an odd couple for any car enthusiasts and they’re not your typical encounter on the road. They’re two opposite worlds in the supercar making meeting and sharing the same strip of tarmac. From one side, we have the Italian, dripping with character, arrogant yet elegant and full of details; from the other we have a perfect German, with a sober design, painted in silver and with plenty of power.
While both exemplify the term “extreme” for performance and styling, they share very few similarities. The Zonda is the aesthete’s car dedicated to the gentleman driver or an elegant young chap who loves to go fast; the Carrera GT is something that only Porsche could have built: it’s entirely dedicated to driving and its styling is typically German. It is minimalistic yet refined in its lines, has a more potent engine and it is the one “race car with a license plate”.
There could not have been a more different comparison. The Zonda is comfortable, rarer and incredibly refined in its ride. It plays the part of the under-7-minutes-at-the-Ring supercar than can carry luggage while the GT is the real track day monster, harsh ride and rocketship acceleration. It is what can be easily defined as a “race car with a license plate” and demands to be driven consciously.
Both are eye pleasing: they beg you for that one more look when you park them in your garage. The Italian is a perfect equilibrium between aggression and style, while the Porsche is all about clean lines and being almost stealth looking.
The roads we drove that day were part of a common test route by Pagani test drivers, and were among the most awesome roads I have ever been on. They were a perfect combination of fast and narrow turns, surrounded by the most beautiful landscape.
On the road, the Zonda behaved like a true GT: it was comfortable, easy to drive and with a go kart suspension set up. Despite the massive inch wheels, you could tell that it was well damped and suitable for longer rides.
It was a joy to sit in, you barely felt any roll of the car during cornering and there was the precious, cream white leather to brighten up your mood. The balance between the damping during normal driving and the anti roll effect of high speed cornering was wonderful: very few cars have the ability to do this without computer aid.
The power was immense and the delivery was incredibly smooth and consistent thanks to the torque building up through the entire rev range. The engine felt like a proper Mercedes Benz V12 on steroids: refined and very fast.
The Zonda was a C12 and starred in the film “Michel Vaillant” and It was one of three painted in that particular blue, which was obtained by spraying layers of blue finish over a white base. It was also one of only two Zondas delivered with the high mounted rear view mirrors.
It was bought by Horacio Pagani from one of his customers a few years ago and it remained a treasured piece of his collection. It’s his special one: the one with his favorite music in it and the one suitable for his vacations. What a jewel!
The Carrera GT was the real surprise: if it could be defined with two words, they could be aggression and sharpness. The GT is a wonderful and magical mix of different sounds: from the inside, the noise that dominates the cabin is by the grinding gears of the distribution, while from the outside is pure Formula 1 high pitched noise. The car was set up by Horacio and so was the clutch. It was an easy and rigid version of a regular GT, and Andrea didn’t have any problems in handling it flawlessly.
This car is pure magic: I hardly believed that it came from the past generation of supercas. It had a very analogical feel and it demands serious driving knowledge. Not everybody who gets inside it for the first time can drive off easily. It’s a proper driving machine, made for those who prefer twisty roads to roadside supercar shows.
If you think German cars have no soul, think again: the GT is a rolling masterpiece of driving enjoyment. The combination of an “F1 style” clutch with an incredible short pedal travel and a manual gear lever make you feel like riding a two seat Formula 1 car.
Andre Palma kew well how to master the car both through traffic and the twisty turns of the hills around Modena. He’s a racing and test driver: one just only has to watch and learn the professionals at work.
I still try to understand this day what kind of privilege and unique experience we had that day. Sometimes the passenger seat offers you even a better perspective.