IS AUSTRALIA really the lucky country? The land Down Under certainly has it pretty good in quality of life terms, but one thing our roads have always been short on is the presence of truly elite hypercars.
It’s a miniscule criticism in the scheme of things, but it’s a fact that grates with some Australian car enthusiasts, especially those who have watched the changing of the guard at the top of the automotive pyramid and the change in terminology from supercar to hypercar.
Top tier supercars are thin on the ground for a variety of reasons including limited supply, strict ADR requirements and sheer prohibitive expense, especially once local taxes are taken into account. These factors and others have meant that exotic machinery from car makers like Pagani and Koenigsegg have never cut through in number, but that could be about to change with both manufacturers securing local distribution through dealerships in Melbourne over the past few months.
To coincide with the Australian launch of Pagani in partnership with Zagame Automotive, the Modena-based factory planned a visit to Australia for a group of Pagani owners and their cars. It’s called a Pagani Raduno and it took place in the week after the Australian Grand Prix.
These Radunos, or rallies, are usually held overseas in places like Tuscany, Tokyo and certain cities in the United States, but the timing of the dealership opening and the start of the Grand Prix season in Melbourne was too good an opportunity to pass up.
So Melbourne played host to seven Paganis over the course of a week, with the owners of these multi-million dollar Zondas and Huayras flying in to see what Australia has to offer by way of a road trip.
A social media rumour mill fuelled by clandestine images of Zondas arriving via air freight, was fizzing with theories about why the cars were arriving on our soil.
The first to land was the Zonda Viola 760RS all the way from the UK, followed in quick succession by a Zonda Cinque Roadster from Dubai, two bespoke Huayras, the famously crashed and reimagined Zonda Fantasma Evo and a stock-standard original Zonda S 7.3, which had just been restored by Pagani Rinascimento to original specification.
Turns out a pretty epic route was planned, encapsulating a variety of Victoria’s (and Australia’s) most stunning scenery.
Beginning in the southwest of the state at the iconic Twelve Apostles, Pagani guests were flown to the Great Ocean Road, conveniently skipping the three-hour long boredom-inducing freeway jaunt down the A1.
After seeing what is left of the Apostles, the convoy fired up its sextet of V12s ready to embark on the rally.
The group’s first experience of Victoria played out in almost comical fashion. Wind and rain threatened to discourage owners throughout the morning, and if that wasn’t enough to deter – roadworks slowed progress within the first few kilometres of the drive route.
The convoy was forced to precariously navigate gravel roads, keeping a sizeable distance from one another so as not to send any loose stones through windscreens or painstakingly handcrafted carbon bodywork.
On the other side of the roadworks the group dropped hammer, taking full advantage of the quiet Monday morning roads. Expansive valley landscapes offered lush green views, even in Autumn, before the tarmac tightened into the Otways with the forest’s canopy whizzing by overhead.
Apollo Bay was the first major town on the route. A fuel stop gave station attendants the surprise of their lives, with more than $25m worth of cars rolling through nonchalantly.
The amount of attention one Pagani receives is wild, let alone an entire convoy. It’s not uncommon to see people whip out their camera phone whenever an exotic car is spotted, but rarely do you see cars doubling back after passing one to actively chase it down.
With the cars fuelled up, it was time to hustle back up the coast, with the convoy taking in the picturesque ocean views and bouncing exhaust noises off the cliff faces.
Lorne was the next stop on the route as the convoy ventured inland to experience Australian history first-hand with a display of Aboriginal song and dance.
From there, the group passed through Bells Beach during the Rip Curl Pro surf competition for a photo opportunity then onwards to a self-serve car wash to spray off dust and grime from the day. The cars were then tucked away in Torquay for the night, ahead of another action-packed day.
At the same time many of Torquay’s locals were waking up for an early-morning surf, a breakaway group comprised of the Zonda Fantasma Evo, Huayra Dinastia and the Zonda Viola 760RS gathered at the boat ramp for an impromptu sunrise photoshoot.
Normally on such occasions you’d attract the unwanted attention of park rangers or security, but the locals milling about were thankfully more than happy to oblige.
Having the Huayra side by side with the fan-favourite Zonda was an eye-opener, showing just how far the hypercar world has developed in recent years. Gone are the naturally aspirated Mercedes-AMG V12s from the Zondas, replaced by bi-turbo 6.0-litre units from the same company in the Huayra. Aerodynamics have also moved on, and lightweight composite materials like carbonfibre are used exclusively for the bodywork of the Huayra.
The game moves quickly, but even so there are still plenty who will stump up big bucks to order a special one-off Zonda. Just last year at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours, Pagani unveiled the Zonda HP Barchetta – a $20m lightweight artwork of which they will sell only two. Company founder Horacio Pagani will keep a third one as a 60th birthday present to himself.
The possibilities are endless – as long as the bank account is too.
After a coffee stop, the Raduno group rolled out and headed towards Queenscliff to catch a ferry across to the Mornington Peninsula.
Catching the boat across Port Phillip Bay was one of the first moments where it seemed everyone could let their hair down a little. Although it was a brief one-hour sail, the Raduno crew relaxed and enjoyed letting someone else do the driving for the first time on the trip.
Grey nomads left their caravans on the lower deck to investigate what the fuss was all about, and kids were allowed to get up close and take some photos of the cars. While Pagani staff minded the cars, a few owners were on the open-air top deck checking out the dolphins that can often be seen when coming into Sorrento.
Once the ferry set-down, the run was back on. The next stop was the top of Arthur’s Seat and while some took the route going in-land – a couple of cars took the hairpin-laden climb up to the top, letting loose with a cacophony of V12 music.
A common theme of a Raduno is the fact that it’ll always end up running behind time. It’s not a criticism of Pagani staff who ran the show – but it’s just a given that things won’t always go to plan on itineraries like this.
As such, the group ended up passing through Arthur’s Seat onto a quick lunch at a winery. From there, the convoy set into a long drive back up the Eastlink freeway toward the Yarra Valley – the playground of the final day of the Raduno.
As luck would have it, Australia’s only resident Pagani – a yellow Zonda S – joined the Raduno on the final day. Not wanting to miss out on the absurdity of these hypercars roaming around Australia, the owner brought the more traditional looking Zonda down from Sydney to get involved in the final leg of the tour.
But before the entire group set off, we once again found ourselves tagging along to another sunrise video shoot along one of Victoria’s famed driving routes, the Black Spur. And as a subject to film, the recently restored silver Zonda S from Hong Kong was absolutely stunning.
The owner of the silver Zonda also brought along the Zonda Fantasma Evo (two of his four Paganis in total) to the Australian Raduno but funnily enough ended up driving the original car more to give it a proper shakedown after the ‘Rinascimento’ restoration program. He said he enjoyed the older style, finer looks and raw power of the earlier cars.
A quick blast along the fern-lined roads above Healesville and some car-to-car camera work resulted in us holding up the rest of the Raduno, so the getaway group hightailed it back to the accommodation to set off for the third day.
The planned route for the day had the owners driving up towards Narbethong and Buxton to stretch the legs of their cars along some of Victoria’s best driving roads, before making their way back down via Lake Mountain for a photo op and back to the valley for lunch.
The tourists couldn’t resist a pit stop to see some native wildlife at Healesville Sanctuary on the way out, however, and even Horacio Pagani got involved in patting a kangaroo.
The loop was completed as quickly as you’d expect with V12 hypercars in play – and with that the group set off back to Melbourne for the launch of the Zagame Pagani showroom later that night.
The upstairs section of the Zagame dealership was cleared out to make way for the Raduno cars to be put on display, and loyal Zagame customers were treated to the showroom launch with Horacio Pagani himself being the guest of honour.
The following days involved the logistical nightmare of shipping the cars back to their respective locations and the owners who had to leave quickly jetted off back home while others stayed on to experience more of Australia.
With the whirlwind Pagani Raduno over, where does that leave us? Well, Australia has had its first real taste of the hypercar en masse and it seems to have been received well. Not only with the enthusiasts who cried out to see these machines in the metal, but also the authorities (who never once bothered the Pagani staff or owners) and the general public too.
We’re now seeing a Koenigsegg dealership opening up in Melbourne to rival Zagame’s Pagani, and with the introduction of the bonkers Aussie-built Brabham BT62 that’ll arrive later this year – hopefully the ultra-exotic hypercar is here to stay.
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