That noise. Good God. It’s a constant braying, brawling cacophony that strangles your senses and sends your sense of bewilderment ricocheting against a rock face. And it’s some rock face. We’re deep in the mountains near Bologna in an Aventador Roadster with a special police escort, and, somewhat ironically, the spirit of Ferruccio Lamborghini is being celebrated along the Futa Pass in a sadistic exhibition of joy. Oh, and noise.
Why ironic? Let’s step back into the 1950s. Mr Lamborghini himself, Ferruccio, famously wanted a quiet word in Enzo Ferrari’s ear to talk shop. Ferruccio is not impressed with the build quality and sound proofing on his Ferrari 250, and wanted something quieter, and more comfortable. Enzo is having none of it, thus provoking Ferruccio to use his own mechanical expertise and considerable self-made wealth to pursue his passion for exotic motoring. He starts his own company. He builds his own supercars. And today, his spirit survives through a pantheon of loud, raucous, uncomfortable and gloriously punky supercars. Italians, eh?
This year marks 50 years since Ferruccio’s break with Enzo Ferrari; 50 years since he pooled his considerable talent, wealth, and poured heart and soul into creating Automobili Lamborghini, the company bearing his name that would go on to build some of the world’s most iconic supercars.
Current Lamborghini president Stephan Winkelmann, a unimpeachably cool man, decided that an appropriate tribute would be a 350-gun salute of Lambo customer cars parading through historic Italy, through the winding roads and mountain passes and the villages to the people, reminding the home crowd that this is all the work of a farmer. The Giro began in Milan, driving down through to Rome, then back up to Bologna and finally to the factory in Sant’Agata.
“It was simply an idea to have our cars and our people in our home country,” boss Winkelmann told TG.com. “We didn’t want to do a small event for the 50th because we are growing in numbers, growing in fans, in owners, so there is a need to do something big.” It certainly was big. It attracted Lamborghini clientele from all corners of the globe, including a tiny TG contingent joining in with an Aventador Roadster. We weren’t going to miss this.
On the morning of the Rome to Bologna stretch, TG bumped into Japanese soy biscuit manufacturer Masahiro, who had spent three months shipping his Gallardo to Italy to join the parade. He even died his hair in the Italian tricolore and shaved in a ‘50’ sign on the side. His English wasn’t too good, but his enthusiasm – and friendliness – was bubbling over. He even wanted his picture taken with our Aventador and us. Then there’s the Japanese chap with a pink Lamborghini Diablo GT – complete with the Godfather theme tune as the horn – who opened up his doors for all to see. Mark, from the Lamborghini Club Australia, shipped his beautiful green Miura from Oz to take part, and you can tell what being part of this community meant to him from the smile on his face.
Fate, it would seem then, intertwines like-minded souls, because with Top Gear’s eternal search for speed, two more affable chaps from Wales – Robin and Rhodri – came galloping forward in a jet black Murcielago SV bringing good tidings of oversteer.
And that set the scene within minutes. Every single owner we bumped into – including Kris Singh, an American who actually owns one of the three Lamborghini Venenos, is a lifelong Lamborghini fan (“I remember having the posters on my wall as a kid”) and even named his two-week old daughter Miura – opened up their cars and their enthusiasm to the hundreds of other owners and thousands watching.
Far from bragging about their own cars – Kris rocked up in an Aventador coupe with a colour scheme mirroring the Veneno (he had it first, mind) – each was more interested in what everyone else had brought along. “I’d be driving in a parade,” Kris told TG.com, “and I wasn’t sure which one I wanted more – the Lamborghini in front of me or the Lamborghini behind me.”
Londoner Simon travelled up from Blighty with his wife, stopped off in Reims for the Porsche RS festival and ended up in the parade in Italy. He didn’t ship his precious 6.0-litre V12 Diablo over though, he just topped it up with fuel, sorted out his music selection and got on the road. “Look at it,” he told us, “does it look like I’m precious about it? I don’t even wash it, I just drive it.” I ask if the Diablo had given him any problems on the drive down, and he responds with a look to suggest I had better ask him something else.
“This event has just been fantastic,” he enthuses. “Part of the route took in the Mille Miglia, and I now have total respect for those guys who averaged 90mph back in the 50s – how the **** did they do that with old cars and **** roads?”
A point proved most unfortunately by poor old Austrian Rich Albert and his yellow Countach. He was in a five-car Countach parade when suddenly, the car leading was forced to turn left, panicked, slammed on the brakes and sent the four behind, including Rich, slamming into the back. He makes a gesture suggesting the tyres on his Countach aren’t as wide as modern cars. “It was like skiing,” he told us. I ask him if the damage is terminal, and he shrugs his shoulders, smiling. “Oh well.” [How’s this for spirit, though? Later, rumour has it he got an overnight train back to Austria, picked up a Diablo and finished the tour.]
Still, all along the route we were treated to a demonstration of just what Lamborghini means to Italy. Police escorts (who would later get a standing ovation in the Piazza) led us out from the centre of Rome – with nary a complaint from drivers forced to move out of the way for us – through to Orvieto and Arezzo, where it was practically a ticker tape parade. Locals herded out in their hundreds to see 350 Lamborghinis cruising through their locale, cheering and waving us on, shouting, hollering and waving flags in celebration. A sight we will remember for some time is that of an elderly lady being pushed along in her wheelchair to the side of the kerb just so she could wave her arms at the cars. They like their Lamborghinis in this part of the world.
From Arezzo, it was on through to San Giustino Valdarno, then to the famous Passo Della Raticosa and a winding, twisting route that will remain in the memory for a long, long time. The morning’s sunshine had given way to a moody, thickening grey and light greasing of rain, but it only intensified the sheer hammer’s blow of horsepower on display. Michael Mann – director of Heat – couldn’t have scripted this scene better.
Suffice to say, the Aventador beasted those mountain roads like every single poorly executed and overused motoring analogy you can think of. The sound of TG’s V12 echoing in unison with a Miura, Countach, Diablo, Gallardo, Murcielago, 400GT, Espada and about a dozen other Aventadors meant anyone within oh, about ten miles, would have thought Thyrus itself, the mythical Italian dragon from the Middle Ages, had descended once again to terrorise Terni. Did we mention the noise?
“I think Ferruccio would be proud of the company we have built today,” boss Winkelmann tells TG.com, “especially after this drive,” he says with a giggle. “We followed his initial idea of being courageous, emotional, extraordinary and,” he says with a cheeky smile, “being the bad boy.”
A very distinguished Lamborghini alumnus is inclined to agree: none other than test driver Valentino Balboni, a man who served under Ferruccio and is currently overcome with emotion at the event. The man is literally being mobbed in the Piazza by adoring fans, he stops and takes time with everyone, including TG. “I am not so sure it was in Ferruccio’s mentality for Lamborghini to become so big,” he tells us, “but I am sure he is happy in his grave. It was a huge honour to work – and walk – with the man.
“For me, still here representing Lamborghini is a big honour. Don’t forget, Ferruccio was a real genuine farmer, he had a lot of charisma but also had a lot of motivation, so I hope the future of Lamborghini keeps the spirit and tradition of the old Lamborghini.” Balboni, aside from being an absolute gentleman, is an old school warrior, a man who has drifted every single Lamborghini for the last 40 years. “I hope it keeps the old roots alive – this is very important, ok? We are here today, with these beautiful cars – you know, like this Aventador – with lots of high technology, but everybody should remember the roots of Lamborghini. He was a farmer, a poor man who started with nothing. His life was a big challenge.”
None is more aware of this than Winkelmann, who provides a fitting conclusion to Balboni’s request for respecting roots. Speaking to us on the morning of the concours event – won by a ludicrously desirable (and loud) Miura Jota – he said: “We have only one bullet to use for a third model. The Estoque was an absolutely outstanding car and got an outstanding reaction, but in the last few years the development of the SUV segment made incredible steps.” The Urus hovers into conversation, and Stephan laughs.
“Anyway, look over there [pointing to a jet black Lamborghini LM 002]. In our DNA there is not only super sports cars, we have other things. Yes, the Miura is the car that absolutely made the difference for Lamborghini, but I personally like the LM.”
So it was fitting that later that night, at a gala dinner for the parade, Winkelmann officially announced that yes, Lamborghini will put the Urus SUV into production, to appear on your streets at some point in 2017.
Looking back on the history of Lamborghini, the enthusiasm of this punky community and the spirit of Ferruccio, we’d like to think the headstrong Italian would be smiling up there. Happy 50th, Lambo.
Pictures: Rowan Horncastle