Lamborghini 50: Not for the Faint-Hearted
by Simon Kidston
If I thought my motoring experience was complete I was very wrong. Standing a few days ago in Milan's historic Piazza Castello, overlooked by its foreboding mediaeval battlements, I watched in amazement as an array of over 300 multicoloured Lamborghinis and their equally ebullient drivers jostled for parking positions beneath the city’s ancient walls. The automotive spectrum is broad, varied and vivid- especially if you're a follower of the Raging Bull.
I was awoken from my reverie as a metallic pink flake Diablo, adorned with flashing Christmas tree lights and resembling the illegitimate love child of Santa Claus and Barbie, erupted in an explosion of sound, revved its V12 furiously for a minute for no apparent purpose then raised a scissor door to disgorge a peroxide blond Japanese driver wearing a manic smile and Banzai headband. Welcome to Lamborghini's 50th anniversary 'Grande Giro', a testosterone and attitude charged 800 mile tour around Italy which has attracted the largest gathering of Lamborghinis in history and will culminate in a grand finale party at the marque's factory and birthplace to celebrate its half century.
Pebble Beach it isn't- and for the next four days I'd agreed to act as its master of ceremonies, the perks of which included the bright orange Aventador I was now trying to squeeze my luggage into.
Commentating car events tends to prepare you for the unexpected, and the prospect of keeping the crowds entertained as the umpteenth modern Lamborghini prepared to engulf the poor starter and his flag in a cloud of tyre smoke promised to be a challenge, but I needn't have worried. The crews, a cross between The Cannonball Run and Whacky Races, provided more than enough storytelling material.
Finding adequate words to introduce a couple in another effervescent Lamborghini required a certain dexterity as the gravity defying passenger's ensemble included platform stilettos, metallic green spray-on hot pants and a tight t-shirt whose embroidered Swarovski crystals proclaimed 'No Lamborghini, No Sex'. Her partner appeared to miss no opportunity to point his camera at her derrière- the mind boggles as to the destination of the photographs.
A few cars later an open Gallardo pulls up- cue more revving- driven by two Sikhs with English accents. Quickly christened Team Turban, they disappear in another cloud of smoke to the applause of the Milanese crowds who have flocked in hordes to see what all the commotion is about.
Two hours fly by during which I've presented something approaching 320 Lamborghinis, ranging from elegant early 350GTs through sublime Miuras to a horde of angry sounding road rockets registered in a dizzying array of improbable locations including Lebanon, Tunisia, Qatar, Kuwait, Taiwan, Russia and...Italy. Yes, despite the best efforts of their much feared Financial Police there are still some home citizens brave enough to risk fiscal inquisition by driving the most provocative statement on four wheels. The Taste Police might have identified some suspects too.
And now it's all over. The road stained Aventador has been returned- rather more reluctantly than I expected- and the chiropractor booked. Four hours of sleep haven't dulled the glowing memories of last night's lavish gala where fellow table guests included friends Valentino Balboni and Fabio Lamborghini, plus the much applauded officers in charge of our Polizia Stradale escort (30 motorcycles and one Lamborghini strong) and Don Gabriele, the priest of Sant'Agata- who smiled benignly at some of the more upfront outfits displayed by female guests. Team Turban and I shared a drink and pondered the outcome of tomorrow’s court hearing when an Italian judge (he only works two days a week) will rule if they can have their Lamborghini back after four days riding in taxis. Getting clocked at the take-off speed of a small jet on the autostrada might take some creative explaining.
In between some of the greatest driving roads and most enthusiastic spectators I've ever experienced we managed a world class concours d'elegance in Bologna's packed historic centre, a charity auction to benefit last year’s nearby earthquake victims, lunch with the pilots at an active NATO base, and miraculous running repairs to battle scarred cars of which The A-Team would be proud, including one Miura which took up smoking whilst parked, was promptly deluged by extinguishers, driven all the way home coated in white powder to be fixed and promptly covered the 330km return trip in 2 1/2 hours in time to join us for after-dinner Grappa...
Most memorable moment? Crossing a busy village lined with spectators, I was halted by a mature group pushing a wheelchair bound senior citizen across the road. His work done, one stepped back in front of my car. Trouble? No. Three fingers spread in my windshield like a starter, he made it clear what was expected as he counted me down. Three..two..one…Noise! Smoke! G-force! I can still visualize the old man cheering in the rear view mirror. Happy birthday Lamborghini.
Images courtesy of Bianchi-Piras, text courtesy of Sports Car Market