Now that I think of it…I was spoiled this weekend. I need to adjust my race expectations back to reality. Maserati really put this weekend over the top for me. Let me start by saying I'm not a car girl – I prefer my rides to be a bit higher, my last 3 have been a Touareg, Jeep JK and a Ford Explorer, combined with my off-road dirt tendencies, I haven't paid too much attention to luxury performance cars. I admire them, understand them and appreciate them for their engineering and style – from afar. Maserati changed that for me. Along with awesome hospitality, they asked me to experience the GranTurismo MC for the weekend. Yeah, I'm a convert.
I got over the seat position really fast. The front, mid engine placement means I see the road just fine. I'm always annoyed by my line of sight being broken up by a hood the length of a football field. That was not the case in this Maserati. The seats were very, very comfy, the interior styling was elegant and simple. Cup holders were convenient, the seats warm and the old school key in the ignition was a nice touch. I never figured out the radio/GPS component – no patience and since the top was down and the polarized sunglasses on, I couldn't read the screen. In general, it made my picky self, happy.
The driving part won me over. My conversion is complete. I want. Top down, in a red convertible, cruising the winding roads of Sonoma County in a fast car that sticks to the road, can do that to you. The sound of the Maserati adds to the experience. The exhaust note is power and sophistication tuned in perfect harmony. They even employ sound engineers to make sure the Maserati is properly represented in looks and sound.
Then there's the performance…since I don't do this, like...ever...my report is simple. I was confident and comfortable driving through tight corners in the Sonoma area, winding, mountain roads and appreciated the sport mode changes. The braking was great fun, too. That thought surprised me, and now I have a new appreciation for brakes.
Did I mention that I did this driving on my way to a wine tasting in Sonoma? [Not to worry, I followed Sonoma wine tasting protocol and after swishing the wine over my palette...well, I spit.] Just getting around in a Maserati is an experience. You get looks. BIG eyed, deer in the headlights, envious, “I wonder what she does to have a car like that?” kind of looks. People smile and are more curious since you don't see many Maseratis on the road. It just looks great, in a classy, understated way. And only I know it's a loaner…
Total package and balance is what gets me excited about vehicles and driving them. The Maserati is all that for me. We all have our opinions about cars but in the end it comes down to what balance of performance, looks, style and brand works for you. Maserati is a great brand with solid heritage in racing and style. They take care of you beyond the purchase. I met a few Maserati owners being entertained at the race and their stories spoke of the total Maserati experience. They are happy people, as am I.
My initial resistance to experiencing a car like the Maserati is probably because I knew I'd get the bug. Maybe I can't take on the trails but I've officially discovered the need for another kind of adventure in my life. Driving school here I come…
Back to the Maserati Trofeo World Series races… The Sonoma weekend arrive and race program was a field of 23 cars with gentlemen drivers and professionals as well – Alex Popow and Johannes van Overbeek competed. GranTurismo MC Trofeo series cars are derived from production road Maseratis and prepped by a reputable bunch of engineers. The paddock was full of the Italians who run the series as well as racers from over a dozen countries. It's pretty impressive given the size of the field. The series races around the world, from Europe, to the U.S., to China. The final race is in Shanghai, November 4.
I learned a few things about working with a European-based race series. I was in charge of Patrick and Greg's entry paperwork and a couple items were missing – their racing license numbers. I knew this – no big deal, I thought. I called the appropriate persons, jotted down the numbers and gave it to the man in charge. No bueno. I needed something physical to give them. Thankfully, after another ten phone calls, and just minutes before the first practice, I was able to get scans of the actual licenses to the Italian paperwork guru. Whew.
Patrick qualified P10 and finished P6 in the first race, while Greg qualified P11 and finished P10 in the second. Even though the races are only 30 minutes long, they took on an endurance attitude. It paid off for Patrick but not as much for Greg as the attrition of the first race just didn't happen in the second. Greg took on the third, 50-minute race solo but he didn't get far. At the start, in Turn 1, he was taken out with a hard hit and push into the wall. The car didn't survive. After everyone knew that Greg exited the car safely, the announcer said, “It is always difficult to see a wrecked race car, but a wrecked Maserati race car...”. That's racing. I think Greg learned some Italian hand gestures…
Greg wrapped up his weekend in his usual big-picture style, "It felt great getting back on the race track. I get to do amazing, fun stuff in cars all the time, but it isn't the same. I'm competitive. I think the itch to race is officially back."
After the weekend finally came to a close, we all counted the experience a success. For all of us involved, including Maserati, the race weekend was put together for the adventure of it all. Patrick got more seat time, Greg got back in a racecar, we mingled with new friends from around the globe, drove incredible Maseratis in a beautiful setting and woke up dreams and passions new and dormant.
Photo Contributors: Melissa Eickhoff, Nate Napierala, Pattie Meyer, My Life at Speed