Cruising around northern Italy
Off the ferry and, flagrantly disregarding road signs and shouty men in uniform, we plonk our beautiful brace in the middle of Bellagio’s waterfront square, park ourselves in a nearby cafe with a plentiful supply of unctuous espressi, slip on the sunglasses and sit back to witness the madness unfolding. In Italy, parking up a pair of supercars in a town square isn’t considered an ostentatious display of wealth but an act of public service. Potbellied men bellow appreciatively, grandmothers demand to stroke the Zonda’s carbon-fibre bits. Fifty boys, 13 or thereabouts, stream round the corner. Honestly, if we’d lined up a dozen Playboy bunnies dressed in nothing but nipple tassels, we couldn’t have hoped to elicit such a frenzied reaction. Italians have a curious hand-wiggling gesture – not seen anywhere else in the world – that mimes either touching a scalding hotplate or shaking one’s hands dry after a visit to the gents. Our gaggle of schoolboys turn it into a synchronised dance. “Quanti cavalli?” they chorus, hands gyrating furiously. “Quanto costa’?”
Such is the draw of the Zonda that it renders the FF almost anonymous. Christopher – who, incidentally, is both Horacio Pagani’s son and one of the nicest, most unassuming guys you could ever have the pleasure to meet, the swine – says there are only five Zondas in Italy. Spotting a Pagani in even a resort as exclusive as Bellagio is like stumbling on a Siberian tiger in Chipping Norton.
We’re onto our fourth coffee (at least 18 times one’s recommended daily caffeine limit) when I receive a text from Art Director Norris, driving the Atom Mugen in the Team Britain convoy. “700 miles down, 600 to go,” it reads. “Sunburnt. Knackered. Bees in my eyes.” “Tough here too,” I text back, sipping an espresso as a gorgeous 20-year-old Italian girl – wearing a near-transparent summer dress – pleads with me for a quick sit in the passenger seat of the Zonda. “Photography’s taking ages. We might be late...”
But as afternoon melts into to early evening, we must leave beautiful Bellagio. Scuderia Italia must convene with Gruppe Deutschland and Team Britain at the base of the Stelvio. We head north, into the Alps, onto some of our very favourite roads. The previous day, the papers reported Italy could be the next Eurozone country to require a bailout. If you’re strapped for cash, guys, we’ll buy your mountain roads. How does £20.50 and a lifetime supply of Stig bubble bath sound?
The weather is fine, and the mountain passes are clear. Forget Flüela – this is petrol heaven. Ollie in the Zonda, me in the FF, high up in the hills, diving from hairpin to hairpin, V12 duet recoiling off the cliffs. Credit to the FF: it isn’t left in the dust by the Zonda, a former Nürburgring record holder. Though the Ferrari’s extra half-tonne of mass means it can’t quite match the Z for outright acceleration, its four-wheel-drive means you can attack even the most gravelly bends with the full 660bhp while the Zonda searches for grip. The FF is far more lithe than its SUV footprint and kerb weight suggest, with a taut chassis and bemusing agility for a big four-seater. It’s only when you really pummel on the brakes at the end of a long straight that you notice its sheer mass, those carbon-ceramic discs working hard to haul the Ferrari’s 1,800kg under control.