Last week Geneva played host to the start of the third Supercar Rally destined for Biarritz and billed as Automotive Art in Motion. No spectators could have been disappointed at the array of supercars lined up at the Eaux Vives Park for the pre start cocktail party. No one was left under any illusions that this was to be an event for those that like to drive and party in style.
The entry list read like the shopping list of a multi millionaire, and included numerous Maseratis, Ferraris and Lamborghinis. The run prides itself in being able to attract concept cars from major manufactures that are as rare as hen’s teeth on the roads. This year Peugeot obliged with two of their ultra sexy RC Coupes and the unusual off road buggy the Hoggar.
I had been invited to take part in the run in the spectacular 230mph Pagani Zonda by the British importers Euro Sports Cars, and its fair to say that this unusual Italian machine, of which there are already 7 in the UK looked quite at home with its more famous counterparts.
We left for a quick jaunt into the mountains for our first nights halt in the skiing village of Megeve a mere 70km away; a gentle awakening which in no way prepared us for what was to come. The 48 participants streamed out of Geneva and headed for the hills, a truly awe inspiring sight.
British participation in the run is limited at present, mainly as this is the brainchild of FIA Sports Car supremeo Stephane Ratel and his team and began as a few days away for some friends. Veloqx motorsport however with their connections to Ferrari racing in the FIA GT had sent the stunning Aston Martin Vanquish with John Newman at the wheel, navigated by wife Rianne.
The run prides itself on not being a “Gumball” style run and as such the route takes in the best drivers roads as well as some interesting checkpoints, which you are invited to photograph artistically over the run with a disposable camera. The first full day was held through the mountains and covered 555km to Monaco, challenging certainly - spectacular, you bet your throttle pedal it was.
There is only one way into Monaco if what you want is the most challenging driving roads – the infamous rally stage the Col du Turini. Hairpin bends wind you up the mountain until you reach the village square were many people will remember seeing Rally Cars being pelted with snow balls during WRC events and on down the other side. The decent into Monaco is of course stunning for those of us who have never before been to the principality, however there was one odd occurrence. Everywhere we had been so far with the Zonda and the rest of the supercars, we had been stared at, cheered, and revered; in Monaco we were just run of the mill. The organisers tried to wave many local residents into rally bays before realising that their Lamborghini had just popped out for a pint of milk.
Casino Square packed with millions of pounds worth of supercars in the evening is the ultimate view for any self-respecting cocktail party – this just summed up the atmosphere of the rally for me. Gazing drink in hand at the Ferrari F50 and being shown round the incredibly rare Bugatti EB 110S, I would say is a once in a lifetime experience; but I hope it won’t be.
Saturday morning we left Monaco in a light drizzle and headed on a mammoth 620km to the mediaeval town of Carcassonne. As we headed on out of town it was soon time for me to take to the wheel of the Pagani Zonda. Many supercars have the reputation of being a handful and difficult to drive but the Zonda S slams this notion into the ground. The handling is light and defined and you have excellent visibility in the airplane like cockpit.
The acceleration is breathtaking, as you would expect from a car with a 7.3 litre engine, but what you might not expect is the bags and bags of torque you get from the Mercedes AMG power unit. We idled down mountains, in perfect control in 5th and 6th gears pulling anything from just 500 to 1500 revs, and then pulled the power out of no where to zip down the straights. Stunning looks on the outside you may expect for the £350,000 price tag, but the attention to detail on the inside is stunning. No borrowed switch gear for the Zonda (take note other manufacturers),just beautifully fashioned stainless steal, carbon fibre and leather.
Sunday was to be the last day of our rally but defiantly not the least challenging. We left the walls of Carcassonne and headed the 262km to the Nagaro circuit for lunch and to allow these cars to really show us what they could do. Nobody took much convincing to give it a go, Toine Hezeman's Vanquish proving that he could have a go even with little or no brakes left. But it was a Diablo circuit, with Jean Pierre Boccara’s Lamborghini eventually taking the spoils.
All that was left was the last 160km to beautiful Biarritz for the prize giving. As for the Pagani we were classified 21st out of the field. I can only guess that it was the artistic photography that saved us! As for next year will I be back for another go? You bet your life – if they’ll have me!
Pictures copyright © Vincent Curutchet/DPPI