For decades, the most extreme cars you could buy from Italy came from two companies: Ferrari and Lamborghini. And they're still incredible, no doubt. But these days one upstart automaker makes cars so insane they make the old guard look like they're cranking out economy cars. Welcome to a rally for Pagani owners.
This customer event is held every year in Italy. The Pagani Raduno was first introduced in 2004 and since then there have been Radunos held in Europe, America, and Asia. Around a dozen customer cars showed up this year, as well as a few factory cars.
The Raduno is a way for Pagani's customers from all over the world to bring their cars to Italy for a chance to drive on some of the best roads the country has to offer, as well as spend time with fellow Pagani owners and friends.
Going on one of these rallies is an experience and a half. I was fortunate enough to join the first Pagani Raduno in Asia held in Japan last year. However, a Raduno in Italy is the creme de la creme (or whatever that is in Italian) of Radunos.
I had images of twisty mountain roads, empty Italian country lanes, and adoring crowds everywhere. As this was reality, none of that happened. But the Italian Raduno was still a great experience despite my high expectations. Over four days the car would do a tour around Tuscany, the theme for this year, starting from the factory.
Now, it should be noted that despite following the Pagani Raduno I didn't actually have a Pagani to use. They don't exactly hand those out like candy. Instead we had a Peugeot 508 rental car.
Not quite the same thing but both start with P, and are probably equally as reliable.
Immediately there was a problem with one of the Italian exotics. Not even 15 minutes into the rally and one of the factory's Huayra BC broke down. Not really something you'd want a dozen of your customers to see but I guess that's something you'd expect for a handmade supercar costing a few million dollars.
The turnout was less than the previous year's. I'm not going to say I was disappointed because that would be inappropriate when there were five Zondas, five Huayra coupes, three Huayra BC (minus the broken silver car), and the new Huayra Roadster.
To be fair, the two Huayra BCs that were left on the rally were newly released cars. One was a blue carbon BC dubbed "Macchina Volante" owned by the famous collector "LamborghiniKS." The car takes inspiration from several great Zondas of the past.
The second was the "Kingtasma," a car that took inspiration from the Zonda Fantasama. The red carbon body, the interior, and the name pay homage to one of the most most beautiful Zondas ever made.
However, at the Raduno last year the Fantasma had a few issues. After that it was sent to the factory to be redone and this year it was completed and the owner took delivery of it just before taking it on the Raduno. The Fantasma Evo is a lighter, more powerful (now with 800 HP up from 760 HP) and more manual version of the the original car. It was by far my favourite car from this Raduno.
The first day consisted mainly of motorway driving to the Castello del Nero hotel in Tuscany, 145 kilometers south of the factory. It was quite an uneventful drive until we reached the motorway toll gates. I'm still not sure whether the owners were confused by the signs or the route instructions but some went south towards Florence (the correct way) and some went north towards Milan (the incorrect way.)
Luckily everyone managed to regroup at their coffee stop near Lake. From there it was yet another messy drive towards the hotel. For some reason the lead crew car and Horacio Pagani himself in the Huayra Roadster got separated from the pack. We were with the Roadster and everyone else took a different route to the hotel.
Everyone managed to arrive to the hotel in one piece and we were greeted by the presence of a white Zonda F coupe to take the place of the silver Huayra BC that had broken down earlier. The sun was setting by the time everyone had parked up and checked into the hotel giving everyone a nice warm welcome to Tuscany.
Day Two was definitely the best day of the rally, not just because everyone followed the route properly. The cars left their hotel at around 9 a.m. going towards their first coffee break of the day. It wasn't too far from the hotel that it would be an exhausting journey but it wasn't too near that it was a waste of time.
The coffee stop was at a hotel at the top of a hill overlooking a typically small Italian village. As the rally of over a dozen Paganis, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, and Bentleys drove by the unassuming village, the locals all stopped their daily routines and went out to have a look at the cars driving by. I loved this about Italy; everyone had a laid back attitude towards these cars.
After the coffee break the rally drove on some sweeping and relatively empty country roads with fields on one side and hills on the other. The roads were definitely not in the favour of our 1.6-litre diesel Peugeot. The Paganis were too far into the horizon for us to keep up.
Eventually we got to their lunch stop at a golf resort. It was a beautiful area with large gates, well kept greens, and a large clubhouse. But in typical fashion the grey clouds looming overhead throughout most of the morning soon gave way to some heavy rain.
I'd like to say people were prepared for the sudden downpour but some of the customers, staff, and even Horacio had to take shelter under a gazebo by the hotel car park for a few minutes while the rain passed. That said, once it had cleared and everyone else went inside for lunch, it was a great opportunity to get some wet shots of the Paganis.
The lunch stop took longer than expected due to the surprise weather change but once the rain had gone it was back to sweltering Italian heat. After the lunch stop there were two routes to go back to the hotel; the first was a more direct route and the second was a scenic route taking the cars on twisty hill roads.
Of course most people chose the latter. Only one car went the direct route, a blue Zonda C12S, and because we knew we can't keep up with the Paganis, we decided to take this route too and wait for the rest of the rally closer to the hotel.
It helped having the route in advance to plan where to intercept the cars and shorter unnecessary driving. The same can't be said for some of the "spotters" that tagged along with the Raduno as well who were tailgating the customer and crew cars throughout the rally.
We waited on a hill along the route back to the hotel with a quintessential Tuscan view. Rolling hills with golden fields, wide open spaces, and farm houses scattered in the distance, it was about as Tuscan as it could get. The rally eventually made their way past us on an uphill straight bringing life to the hills with V12 echoes.
A shame, though, that for the most part of the Raduno the owners didn't drive as hard as they could have. With some of the best roads Italy has to offer and some of the best cars Italy has ever made, why would you not want to go a little harder sometimes?
Day Three was slightly less exciting. It was a drive on some more hill roads to yet another vineyard for lunch, except there wasn't much action to be had because the mood had changed.
Apparently there was an incident with some of the spotters the day before where they tried to sneak into the hotel where the Raduno were staying at and when they were asked to leave they refused. Basically after that, the support crew and hired security were less friendly.
The owners themselves were fine and friendly, but the staff were more aggressive and closed things off. At the coffee and lunch stops they had barricaded the car park with their vans and gated them off.
In previous Radunos, apparently there was never an issue. Certainly during the one in Japan, which is the only one I can base my prior experiences on, both the staff and owners were friendly and welcoming towards the fans that had come out to see them.
I understand Pagani's point of view though; the spotters that refused to leave the hotel did take it a step too far but it's unfair to paint everyone with the same brush. A shame that a few ruined it for everyone really as it was going well up to that point.
After lunch the Raduno headed back to their hotel for a couple hours rest before dinner. Their dinner was at a vineyard that had been owned by the same family for more than 600 years. It was also very modern and highly secure meaning no one outside the Pagani customers and staff were allowed in. A shame as the owners said it was like something a Bond villain's lair.
The fourth and last day was a drive from the hotel back to the factory via a lunch stop along the way. For most of the Raduno the last day would start at 11am, however for us the owners of the Zonda Fantasma Evo and Huayra BC Kingtasma kindly agreed to a sunrise photoshoot at 4:30am.
We took the matching pair of dark red carbon Paganis on yet another very Tuscan hill with vineyards and more hills in the background as the bright Italian sun rose over them. When the sun hit the paint on the two cars it really brought out their true beauty.
On the way back to the hotel we stumbled upon a sleeping Italian village that was too good of a photo opportunity to skip. With the stone archway, cobbled streets, and the smell of fresh baked morning bread it was quite possibly the most Italian town in Italy.
By the time we got there it was around 6:30 a.m. and people were starting their days. If they weren't already awake they definitely were when the Zonda started up. I can't imagine many people get to start their days by walking out of their homes and seeing two Paganis getting photographed from every angle on their town square.
Without the other spotters, without the aggressive crew, and in one of the friendliest towns in the world, this sunrise shoot with these two cars and their amazing owners was by far the highlight of the Raduno for me.
The last time we saw the cars together was their final fuel stop before heading towards their lunch stop in Bologna. Seeing the Raduno take over an entire gas station was quite a sight to behold. Certainly the staff at the gas station, the people in the cafe next door, and the other customers there thought the same thing as they whipped their phones out.
That really summed up my first visit to Italy and the Italian Raduno for me. The locals were friendly and welcoming and their attitude towards cars is something other countries could learn a thing or two from. Despite a hiccup in the later half of the Raduno, it was a great experience seeing these cars driving on roads near where they were made.