NEW YORK - SAN FRANCISCO IN MASERATI's QUATTROPORTE GTS
Wed, 11/06/2013 - 18:59 — admin
Text: Akis Temperidis
We had a very good reason to make this epic trip; Giovanni Soldini’s world record from New York to San Francisco with a multinational crew of eight sailors in his Maserati yacht.
Exactly two months after Soldini’s historic feat, a spirited Mediterranean team met in New York with a purpose: to drive the new Quattroporte GTS to San Francisco and simulate the Golden Route on an overland, 8,000 kilometers long shortcut.
The blue Quattroporte had arrived by cargo plane from Modena and was expecting us at Maserati North America HQ. Apart from the excitement to drive the fastest ever sedan across the US, our adventure had its own historical value: this was the first Quattroporte model ’13 to kick the American roads, two months before its official launch in the market.
The first night, we parked the Maserati in a lot at West Village. For 50 dollars! Next morning, we met at 6 am for photo shooting in Brooklyn under heavy rain for a picture with Manhattan skyline on the background.
On December 31st, at 11:22 am, Soldini and his crew were departing from New York in great style with one aim: to rewrite sailing history.
Early in the afternoon we were visiting Lancaster, a pleasant town in S\outh Pennsylvania. Nearby is the Dutch Country, where communities of Amish farmers live virtually isolated from the modern world. They deny using modern technology like cars, electricity and internet just three hours away from Manhattan. This country is full of contradictions, isn’t it?
Pittsburgh was a pleasant surprise. We expected a city surrounded by mines and we discovered a cool, lively city with strong art and sports scene.
It felt like summer in Pittsburgh but driving towards Indianapolis we faced strong rains and winter temperatures. Thanks to its systems Quattroporte keeps you calm under these conditions. On I.C.E. mode, the accelerator response is progressive and Maserati Stability Program eliminates wheel spinning.
Next morning we entered the most famous oval track in the world. At the Hall of Fame museum hosted inside the track, there are more than 75 vehicles. One car has a very special history. The fixed head, 8-cylinder Maserati 8CTF (for “8 Cilindri Testa Fissa”) was designed by Ernesto Maserati in 1938 and thanks to its three-liter supercharged engine, produced 365 bhp. Shipped in America she evolved to the Boyle Special, winner of the 1939 and 1940 Indianapolis 500 race, with Wilbur Shaw at the wheel. Since then the car has been one of the Indianapolis legends. In 2002, during the Formula 1 GP, Michael Schumacher proudly drove the Boyle Maserati around “Brickyard” in front of a huge crowd.
Giovanni Soldini and his crew faced dramatic weather change in daily basis. They departed winter time from New York, with strong, 30 knot winds and crossed the southern hemisphere summertime.
Heavy rain in Indianapolis was followed by a snow storm in Chicago. The day after, weather returned to normal, so we could enjoy a sunny ride downtown Chicago.
Weather got milder since we entered Missouri and then Kansas. We were already at the heartland of the US, a huge, wide open region, usually underestimated by Americans from the coast. Cruising at 80 mph we enjoyed endless horizons and fantastic sunsets listening good country music on the Bower & Wilkins audio system. Fuel consumption was surprisingly limited at 11 lt/100 km, which is a feat for a 3.8 liter V8 twin turbo engine.
Colorado is a different, mountainous country. Colorado Springs is the American destination for outdoor activities. We picked up a very alternative one: hill climbing on Pikes Peak in a Maserati!
The hill climb race has been organized since 1916. It is second only to Indy 500 as the oldest motorsport event in America,. Since 2011, the character of the race has changed dramatically when the gravel road got paved. The hill climb race, though, lives up to its myth. This year, Sebastien Loeb’s challenge in a 875 bhp Peugeot was the big attraction of the event.
We partly simulated the hill climb thrill in our Maserati. Selecting the “sport” program, the Quattroporte transforms into a genuine sports car: engine response is improved, the exhaust transmits a deep throat roar, the 8speed automatic gearbox shifts faster and the skyhook suspension is stiffened. There is such depth in the chassis setup that on the limit, the Maserati limo feels one meter shorter and half ton lighter when you drive it to its limits. This is magic, isn’t it?
Bonneville flats are next to Wendover, a casino town on Utah - Nevada border. During summer you can safely drive on the “speedway” where all speed records are attempted.
Hundreds of records were broken at Bonneville in the last century. The Bonneville saga is full of heroic stories about amateur daredevils or space age attempts. In the 60’s the use of jet engines catapulted records to unimaginable levels. In ’65, Spirit of America, a jet engine on wheels driven by Craig Breedlove, first surpassed the 600 mph barrier. Breedlove’s record stood till October 1970, when Gary Gabelich drove the Blue Flame at 622,4 mph, roughly over 1000 kmh! The speed record stood till Richard Noble’s attempt at Black Rock desert in the Thrust2. Till 1983, Bonneville salt flats were the fastest place on earth...
The day we visited the flats, we were completely on our own so we couldn’t resist a try in our Maserati Quattroporte. Without any effort the fastest four door car ever reached comfortably 260 kmh. How does it feel speeding on table salt? Salt is smooth like asphalt or bumpy like a decent gravel road. The traction is similar to wet tarmac but the higher rolling resistance results to lower top speeds. Everything feels under control and weirdly calm on the flats, thanks to the vast horizon and the lack reference points!
The road to the Arches National Park is paved. The shapes of most formations reflect human life. Free standing bridges seem to defy gravity. Incredibly balanced rocks evoke awe to people and phallic shapes test their sense of humor. Most recognizable among all formations is the Delicate Arch, which is the symbol of Utah. Nature was in high spirits when Arches were formed.
Driving south, on Route 160, in three hours you arrive to Flagstaff, from where you can follow the historic Route 66. Before getting your kicks, we would suggest taking a break in Sedona, the New Age Mecca hidden in the Verde valley.
Route 66 was built in 1926 to connect Illinois with California. The road was 2,448 miles long and crossed eight states. In 1984, it was completely by passed by modern highways that connected Chicago to LA. Route 66 was named historic road and transformed into a valuable brand that attracts hordes of travellers from all over the world. Route 66 is actually the most nostalgic stretch of tarmac in the US. It is like a time capsule and a street museum of the postwar period, all in one!
Route 66, during the great depression years served the idea of the American dream represented by California. The “Street of America” was the only way for the “Okies” from the Midwest, to get there. John Steinbeck described Route 66 as “The Mother Road” in his 1939 novel masterpiece “Grapes of Wrath”. After WWII, when America became superpower, Route 66 was the laboratory of the modern American culture. Neon lights, pop adverts, drive in cinemas, drive through restaurants, mom n’ pop diners and motels were all born on Route 66.
The best places to visit for a nostalgic taste of Route 66 coming from LA or Las Vegas, are in Arizona. Williams was already a busy, railway stop before Route 66 was built, thanks to its vicinity to Grand Canyon. In 1946 Williams had already several motels, diners and garages.
Not far away towards LA, we entered Seligman, the town that inspired John Lasseter, director of “Cars”, to create the fictional Radiator Springs town. In real life, Seligman was abandoned when the new highway opened and was revived thanks to Angel Delgadillo, the barber who pushed for the first Route 66 association in the 80‘s. The Snow Cap Drive-in that belonged to his brother is now considered a hilarious roadside attraction.
The first ever Quattroporte model year ’13 to hit the American continent, got her kicks on Route 66. At Hackberry Store, a famous roadside attraction on the road to Kingman, tourists were asking for a picture of the brand new Maserati. At Oatman, a scenic, old cowboy town with free strolling donkeys, a gold miner was running after the car to demonstrate the gold he had retrieved. Wherever we stopped on Route 66, we gained celebrity status.
Next day we drove on roads familiar to supercars like the Quattroporte. We started from the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Blvd. And filmed everything towards Rodeo Drive, the most expensive shop district in the world. The next hours were like this: our photographers hidden under the palm trees looking for the best shot and the Maserati strolling around. From the moment there were no celebrities on the block that day, tourists started asking our “paparazzi”: “who is the guy in the awesome blue car”? The answer was well prepared: “A pretty famous Bollywood star”!
Welcome to San Francisco