THE DRIVER'S TALE
Shortly after I had published details of the forthcoming 4th Marco Turci Memorial Meeting on this web site, I received a phone call from Roger Harrison, a fellow member of the Maserati Club UK, asking if I was attending the meeting in Italy. I told him that I was, at that time I had had the intention of travelling to Italy with another member of the club. Roger informed me that his friend Dave Roberts, had also expressed an interest in attending.
Serious negotiations with my wife would ensue. Following those lengthy, and sometimes heated, discussions, during which I demonstrated the type of negotiating skills the likes of which even Henry Kissinger would have been proud, it was decided; reluctantly I would travel to Italy without her! In fact the only real beneficiary of these long drawn-out negotiations was a certain ladies fashion retailer in Cheltenham specialising in Max Mara; it hurts too much to even mention their name.
It was sorted, my friend and I would travel in the Ghibli MY94 and Roger and Dave in Roger's 222 4v. I was really looking forward to making the trip with the two Maseratis. But, as we all know, even the best laid plans can go amiss! Dave pulled out for work related reasons and my friend also decided not to travel. The trip however was still on, Roger and I would travel to Italy in the Ghibli. It had been four years since the Ghibli had been back home and it was looking forward to a return trip to Modena.
We decided to make Salo, a small town on Lake Garda, our base for the trip. In the past, I have always driven to Italy via Germany, by way of Frankfurt, Munich, Innsbruck and the Brenner Pass. I preferred this longer route as it offered an opportunity to visit the Rosso Bianco Museum in Aschaffenburg and view the excellent Maserati collection on display. Alas, that museum is no more!
Following extensive research by my soon to be navigator Roger, it was decided that travelling via France and Switzerland would be a more direct and therefore, far cheaper route. Everything had been covered, Roger had planned the journey with the aid of the Route Planner on Michelin's excellent website, and my job was to prepare the Ghibli.
I needed to change the Ghibli's headlights for the European roads, so I replaced the right-hand drive lights with my spare set of left-hand drive lights. My next step was to remove the rear seats and re-install my 'luggage rack' conversion (see 'My Grand Tourer' under the Ghibli II section). Tyre pressures were raised to 2.4 bar and the oil and water levels were checked. But, as luck would have it, I did forget a couple of things, more on this later!
I carried out the usual pre-flight checks; passport, tickets, car documents and insurance. Everything seemed to be okay, so I zeroed the tripmeter and set off to Crawley to pick up Roger. I took it easy on this part of the journey, knowing that my Ghibli was in for a non-stop trip to Italy.
Following Roger's precise directions, I duly pulled up outside Roger's home at around 4:00 pm that afternoon.
We were booked on a train set to leave at 10:50pm so we had time to kill. It was time to start as we intended to continue so off we went to the local pub. We didn't know when we would have time to stop and eat, so before leaving, we decided to refuel with two traditional English dishes; 'fish and chips' and 'bangers and mash', along with a pint of English ale for the navigator and a pint of Henry (that's orange juice and lemonade) for the driver.
AND NOW THE NAVIGATOR’S TALE - the driver will be far too busy from now on!
Tuesday and another day at work in the City, but I return home to make ready for the journey to Italy this evening. My friend and driver Enrico pulls into the driveway with the Ghibli straining at the leash after a short hop from the Cotswolds.
Having stuffed ourselves with fish and chips and bangers and mash at the local pub and with the Ghibli fully loaded with our luggage, and a rather large parcel? – aided by Enrico’s installation of a load platform in place of the rear seats we set off at 8pm from Crawley. The only thing that the navigator forgets to check is whether Enrico has installed a sufficient quantity of Bob Dylan CDs in his autochanger; this turns out to have serious implications later on.
An uneventful journey down to Folkestone where we catch a Eurotunnel train an hour ahead of schedule. It's very quiet in Calais, so we decide to fill-up at the nearest petrol station; we had to hand in our passport/credit card before they would switch on the pumps. Whilst there, we chat to some Englishmen on their way to Spain in their sparkling new '07' Bentley Continental. Later they whizz past us on the autoroute – 130kph, I don’t think so! But they no doubt feel good at passing a Maserati! One gets the feeling that the local Gendarmes will soon be profiting from their trip!
The French autoroute past Reims and Metz to Strasbourg is eerily quiet in the dead of night and rapid progress is only impeded by intermittent fog. We drive past the Cotes de Meuse, then over the Plateau Lorrain, but miss the panoramic view. Enrico complains about the relatively high cost of the peage, but I explain that maybe it is helping to leave the autoroute clear for the Ghibli. That makes Enrico feel much better; he even suggest a price increase! At times in the fog we are alone for ten miles or so but then we see a pair of tail lights to act as our trailblazer; careful Enrico, don’t follow those lights over the edge into the Oise or Aisne or Meuse.
Incidentally by this stage the navigator is having grave doubts as to the likelihood of any Bob Dylan in the driver’s CD collection.
At Strasbourg we turn the corner from eastward to southward and head down through the Plaine d’Alsace toward Basel. Day breaks somewhere between Colmar and Mulhouse, and the traffic builds up as the French travel to work.
Across the border into Switzerland and the first thing to do is fill up the tank with some of that nice cheap Swiss petrol. Neither of us can fail to notice the “Sex Shop” thoughtfully sited right next to the pumps, but it is a bit early in the morning …. …. and in any case the driver has to buy a warning triangle, reflective jacket and first aid kit, having forgotten to bring them, and they probably don’t sell the right sort of triangles and jackets in the sex shop. It is a beautiful day in Switzerland although the mist obscures our views of the Berner Alpen and the Alpi Lepontine. We make good progress, never fast in Switzerland with everyone obeying the 110 kph limit and quite a lot of 90 and 80 limits through the roadworks and tunnels.
Through the St Gottard tunnel and Enrico turns up the wick a bit; “Well we’re in Italy now, I can tell! The Ghibli feels it's back home now!” he says. By the time we hit the Italian border at Chiasso another 100 km further on, I think I’ve managed to convince him it was still Switzerland; never mind, no cops about today!
Ah, bella, Italia! We make more good and uneventful progress along the A4 autostrada past Milano and on towards Salo, after stopping for an excellent lunch at 'La Scaiola', a restaurant just outside Brescia – one of Enrico’s recommendations. Polentina con Funghi is followed by Tagliatelle al Ragu, and the Osso Buco con Porcini is washed down with a chilled Lugana.
The next day it's another early start as we travel down the A22, via the A4, to Modena to visit the Candini workshop. Enrico has to deliver a parcel for collection by a Maserati friend from Holland who will be visiting the Candinis later in the month. I learn that the parcel contains Maserati 3200GT Workshop Manuals loaned to him by Dr George Lipperts, a fellow enthusiast. While we're there, the Ghibli benefits from some fresh Selenia Racing oil. Giuseppe discovers a fault with the crankshaft toothed pinion mounted to the crankshaft pulley. Fortunately, this is replaced just before lunch. For lunch we drive to the Ristorante Aeroporto, just inside the perimeter of, you guessed it, Modena airport. We are treated to tagliatelle arrabiata, scaloppine al limone e suppa inglese (that's an English soup of a trifle), all washed down with a decent Lambrusco, Marcello made sure of that! Back to Salo and what's left of the afternoon is spent resting up after Wednesday's long journey and gathering strength for the main event – the fourth Marco Turci memorial meeting, this year to be held over three days.
It’s an early start on Friday as we head down to Mantova to meet up with the other cars; the meeting place is a parking area close to an Agip service station; we worry that we might have chosen the wrong Agip, but as we sample yet another espresso and brioche, to our relief, we soon spot a new Quattroporte Sport GT followed by a trickle of Biturbos. We join them for greetings, a welcoming buffet and the usual tyre-kicking. When all are assembled, we walk over the Lago di Mezzo via a long bridge, now I know why Mantova is known as the city of three lakes (Lago Superiore, Lago di Mezzo and Lago Inferiore), shrouded in thick mist; as the mist clears a little, looming through the haze is the Palazzo Ducale of Mantova gradually appears – quite a spectacle when you haven’t seen it before.
We visit the Palazzo Ducale, then a leisurely stroll around the farmer's market set up in the main square – if you don’t like salami, tough, you’ll starve! Enrico didn't starve, he orders a salami stagionato (seasoned) to take back to England. Then we have time for just a brief visit to the Tazio Nuvolari museum before lunch. I'd like to have spent more time here, but that's No 1 on my next visit to Italy. Lunch is of course the most important meal of the day in Italy, not to be hurried and not to be feeling the least bit hungry afterwards. Into La Massiere restaurant in the Piazza Broletto we go; after the antipasto, pasta, risotto ed arrosto di vitello, a large gateau is produced, splendidly decorated with “Maserati” and il tridente.
After lunch a gentle stroll back to the cars (but some of us, including Enrico, decide to take a bus!) and then a short drive to park up in the giardino surrounding the Palazzo Te, where we have a guided tour to take in the large collection of murals and painted ceilings. Henry adds cultural detail by explaining that one of the loosely robed charioteers flying overhead must be a Scotsman – when viewed from underneath! And there is now a chance to take stock of the cars in the party, plenty of Biturbos and moderns and a good selection of the older classics including Merak, Mistral and 3500 GT; also in our group is a party of five De Tomaso Panteras and a Lamborghini Diablo from Switzerland – anything to do with the cheap petrol there we wonder? There will be more cars turning up over the weekend as not all could make it for all three days.
Early evening and another drive to San Benedetto Po to park up in the huge piazza and visit the Benedictine abbey dating from the twelfth century. But soon it’s time to find our accommodation and get eating again. The cavalcade moves on to Bastiglia where we are to stay and eat in the Hotel Le Cardinal; a somewhat frantic journey as we are under the impression that we are staying in another hotel and we lose sight of the convoy ahead despite organiser Davide Zaccarelli’s splendid traffic control – driving his Lancia Thema in the middle of the road with hazard lights on to keep the convoy together, and leaping out at traffic lights to do impromptu and highly unofficial traffic cop duty!
Safely ensconced in the Hotel Le Cardinal we manfully tackle the onslaught of a six-course meal, vino, and the odd grappa. Our sound sleep is interrupted once again by an early alarm call (“Boot Camp” as Enrico christens it) for an action-packed Saturday. We’re off to Ferrari’s test track at Fiorano for the day. (Incidentally it appears there will be no retail opportunities in the Ferrari gift shop to stock up with Bob Dylan CDs. Enrico is delighted by the prospect!)
Another beautiful day of clear skies and warm sunshine greets us and no doubt helps some good lap times; the morning session is free laps, and in the afternoon it’s regularity running tests; someone should have told Enrico as he takes the Ghibli onto the track for a timed lap that this one is against the clock, not the 70 kph regularity bit. No worries as our man puts in a 'record' time – when he returns his borrowed crash helmet to the track official's office, he is complimented on his 'record' lap with the words: “Do you know that even the Commendatore went round faster on his bicycle”.
Everyone enjoys the day; not all venture onto the track and this is a great chance to meet friends old and new, talk shop, and marvel at the sight and sound of all those Maseratis, with not a single 'F' car in sight! More cars appear today, including two Ghiblis, a Quattroporte III, and a rare Iso Rivolta. A single incident would mar our day, when one of the French party dents the nose of his 3200GT on the armco, no serious damage though, and no one injured. As you would expect, this being Italy, the 'happening' created great interest and all are keen to quote estimates for the damage done. At lunchtime we all move down the road to the famous Il Cavallino restaurant for yet more antipasto, pasta, scaloppine al aceto balsamico e dolci.
Back to Hotel and Restaurant Il Cardinale for the evening’s gala dinner, where we have another chance to meet up with more of the party; people have come from the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Japan, and of course Italy. Once again we were in the company of Nicola and Stefano from Mantova, who arrived in a Quattroporte Sport GT and Mark and Bart from Holland who came with a Shamal. After a delicious seven-course meal with wine, came the prizegiving. Prizes are awarded to the driver posting the fastest laps by class. On the presentation table sits a large cup which cannot have escaped anyone’s attention – over 3 feet in height and made of solid silver, beautifully engraved, with an elegant statuette of Neptune mounted on the top. The cup, donated by the Turci family and Walter Gualdrini, is to be presented the next day to the overall winner of the event – more of this later.
Sunday morning is rudely interrupted by the “Boot Camp” alarm for another early start. Today we set off for Modena for our visit to the Maserati factory; another beautiful sunny day shows off well our cars parked in front of the showroom. Sadly Sig. Cozza is not present but we have an introduction in the showroom from his colleague Sig. Manicardi and other tour guides; we then are taken in small parties around the factory. Maserati has even laid on a tour in English for us! Fascinating to see how the combination of the production line process and hand assembly comes together. We are told that this production line is the most modern of its type in Europe, if it isn't the most modern it must surely be the cleanest, one could eat off the floor - NHS please take note! We learn that every car in the factory is already sold before manufacture starts – so there are no “spare ones” for us to 'borrow' or make low offers on! Our cameras stay silent as photography is forbidden inside the factory.
Time now to drive on to Mirandola, our final destination of the meeting. Mirandola is blessed with a long and wide tree-lined main street which is the perfect venue for displaying the cars and for us and the locals to walk around and admire and discuss. In addition to the cars in the event, the Lamborghini Museum are displaying a Lamborghini Urracco S, a 350GT and the new Gallardo Superleggera. There are other attractions: a Maserati MC12 and the new GranTurismo are being displayed by local dealer Motor SpA of Modena. It is the first time that the Maserati GranTurismo has been displayed in a Piazza in Italy. The Comet Racing Team is displaying a rare De Tomaso Barchetta, that once formed part of Alejandro De Tomaso's private collection, a De Tomaso Pantera GTS 27 and a Maserati Tipo 61 by Droga, Carrozzeria Campana are displaying a Maserati Tipo 4CM, a 250F T2 and the magnificent V12 engine from an MC12, and a superb collection of Maserati motorcycles displayed by Giorgio Cozzoli, a collector from Modena, that included a rare ladies 50cc bike, all in concours condition.
I’m also pleased to see my first 'Racing' in the flesh, as this is the Italian home market 2-litre sister car to my 222 4v. Talking of the 222 4v, I find out later from Enrico, but by now I'm allowed to call him Henry, that my limited knowledge of Italian and Italian car terminology has caused some amusement amongst the locals, as, eager to communicate with them in Italian where possible, but only possessing ten words of Italian, I keep on describing my car as a “due due due quattrovalvole” rather than “due venti due quattrovalvole”. Come to think of it, it's called a two, twenty two, four valve in English! Who cares anyway!!
Not wishing to drop names, but it’s good to catch sight of Santiago De Tomaso, the son of Alejandro, and Fabio Lamborghini, the nephew of Ferruccio. Sig. De Tomaso junior is in fact sat in the engine bay of a Pantera, mending a hose or similar!
Midway through the day we climb aboard a coach that takes us for lunch to Il Montealbano restaurant, for just a light snack of (yes you guessed it) pasta, risotto ed arrosti. Lunch is no hurried affair taking some 3½ hours! Towards the end of lunch comes the presentation of the cup, and, what a lovely surprise, Henry wins it. He has been awarded it for “supporting this meeting from the start having attending all four Marco Turci events, travelling the furthest distance, and for his long-term efforts in bringing together Maseratisti from around the world, particularly the UK and Italy, via his website, and visits and enthusiastic involvement”. A surprised Henry humbly accepts the cup and delivers what is obviously unprepared speech. It's a great result and we’re all very pleased for him.
Back to the piazza in Mirandola for early evening farewells to all the many friends from all over Europe that we’ve made along the way, as the Band of Mantova play us out and the Bersaglieri di Viadana “fanfara” band play their instruments at the run while on parade. Some of the party are staying on another night to make the trip to the Panini museum on Monday; we decide to drive back to Salo, as we have more “work” to do yet with a revisit for Henry to the Bonfanti museum.
Monday is a rest day for us, we didn't have to get up early for the first time on our trip, and is spent on the shores of Lago di Garda, the weather still glorious. In the afternoon, following lunch on the lakeside of, oh! no! not again! pasta ed arrosti we visit the Vittoriale of Gabriele D'Annunzio at Gardone Riviera. After yet another lie-in on the Tuesday morning, we head for Bassano del Grappa on Tuesday where we visit the Bonfanti’s exhibition celebrating the last 50 years of Maserati race cars from 1957 to 2007. The exhibition is soon to close, so this is a rare opportunity not to be missed to see such a collection of cars, and all very well displayed. Our business done we head for home but the navigator gets hopelessly lost and it’s a case not of “every road leads to Rome” but “every road leads to Padova”. Nice as Padova is it’s not where we want to go; the navigator eventually gets things right, but is clearly suffering from a complete lack of Bob Dylan CDs in the car – it’s now been a week without hearing so much as a drop of 'Hard rain's a-gonna fall’ or a 'Lay Lady Lay'.
A leisurely start to the journey back on Wednesday and the Ghibli, which is surprisingly comfortable for a passenger in a relatively small car for 800 miles, performs faultlessly as we cruise through the Swiss Alps in yet more warm sunshine; the driver kindly tries to allay the navigator’s lack of Bob Dylan music with some Sinatra and Roy Orbison which does the trick – there are alternatives then to addictive drugs!
France takes us into and through the night without incident, although we have to do battle with a surly Frenchwoman at Eurotunnel who tries to relieve 'les anglais' of another 140 Euros to go on an earlier train; Henry says “gosh thanks awfully for your kind offer but I’m afraid we have to decline” or words to that effect. Henry has his own unique way of communicating on such matters! In the end, no thanks to her, we do catch an earlier train.
Back on English soil, we drive up the M20 and M25 in early morning fog, hitting Crawley at 6.30am. It's time for the driver to put his feet up for a while before returning to the Cotswolds. In the meantime, the navigator demonstates his limited culinary skills by preparing a full English breakfast – and guess what, no pasta! And during breakfast, the navigator puts Bob on the stereo at full volume. No, not really, only joking – I wouldn’t do that to you Henry, not after taking me to Italy to see all those great cars, meet all those friendly people, and introduce me to all that antipasto, pasta, risotto e carni.
All in all a wonderful (if somewhat exhausting) trip. Thank you driver (but next time a little BOB please!).
And finally a little note of appreciation that was sent to Davide Zaccarelli ...
I am now back in England and reflecting on a very enjoyable experience on the Raduno Marco Turci.
This was only my third visit to Italy, my second to the Modena area, and my first travelling in a Maserati!
You must have put in a lot of hard work in the planning, preparation and organisation of the event, and I am sure that everyone who attended must agree with this; also you did all of this with enthusiasm and passion, for the event, for the people, for Maserati, and of course for your dear friend Marco. All in all it was a great success, for us and all our friends.
I am looking forward to returning to the next event, maybe with one of my cars, and I hope with some more Italian words so that I can have a better conversation with you. I mean a bit more than “due due due quattrovalvole” !!!!!!!
With many thanks.
Sono ora tornato in Inghilterra e riflettere su la mia esperienza molto divertente al Raduno Marco Turci.
E stata la mia terza visita in Italia, il secondo nella zona di Modena e questa la prima viaggiare in un Maserati!
Tu devi avere messo molto lavoro durante questo progetto, nella preparazione e nell'organizzazione dell'evento e sono sicuro che tutto che ha assistito deve essere d'accordo con questo; inoltre hai fatto tutto questo con un entusiasmo e passione incredibile, per l'evento, per gli socii, per Maserati e naturalmente per il tuo caro amico Marco. In tutto e stato un grande successo per noi due, Enrico ed io e tutti gli altri amici!
Sto aspettando con impazienza di rinviare all'evento prossimo, forse con uno dei miei automobili e spero con un po'più di parole in italiano in moda di poter parlare un puo insieme. Spero un puo piu che "due due due quattrovalvole" !!!
Con molti ringraziamenti.