Long term tests

Pagani Zonda C12 S

A factory service for the Zonda gave Harry the excuse for a fun trip back home

I reckon the Pagani factory is an excellent place to have a Zonda serviced each year. Not only do they know this supercar better than anyone else (obviously), but once the work is complete there’s the fun of bringing your car back home.

Now, the lazy way to do it is to book a truck (for around £1200) and three days later a pristine Zonda would be sitting outside your house. But where’s the fun in that? Another 1000 miles or so added to the already heady mileage of my car isn’t going to hurt, so I book a flight to Bologna, pack a European map and board a bus bound for Gatwick. Ah, the glamour of it all…

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A few hours later my taxi arrives at the Pagani factory and Horacio Pagani himself ushers me over to my recently serviced C12 S. It was all relatively straightforward – the oils in the gearbox, diff and engine were changed, all the belts were renewed and a replacement battery cut-off switch was fitted in a more accessible position. Total cost? £2331.45.

Upon leaving the factory I head straight for the Rechigi Park Hotel on Modena’s Via Emilia, which I’ve chosen because it’s easy to get to from Pagani and will enable me to be straight on the ring road in the morning, making the most of an anticipated early start. I’ll need one too, as instead of heading back to the UK via the usual route through the Mont Blanc Tunnel, I’m planning to give Germany a go. It’s further by some 200 miles, but with a bit of luck on the autobahns it shouldn’t take that much longer. Well, that’s the theory anyway.

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Next morning I’m away by 8am, pointing the Zonda up the A10 autostrada towards Austria. It’s not long before I’m jockeying for position with endless Scandinavian caravans whose owners have decided today is the day to leave Italy and travel back home, so progress isn’t as quick as I’d like, but eventually I reach the Austrian border some two-and-a-half hours after leaving the hotel.

Looking at the map I reckon I can soon dive off the Austrian motorway and scoot along the B177 that cuts through the Tirol before picking up the A95 autobahn for Munich, but before I get chance to make my move things take a turn for the worse. I’d become suspicious of a silver van that I’d been sharing the road with for the last few miles. It kept overtaking me then slowing again, forcing me to overtake. The final time it cruises by, a ‘FOLLOW ME’ sign lights up in the back window. Oh great. But surely I haven’t done anything wrong, have I? Seems I have. Apparently you need a permit to use Austria’s major roads, just as you do for Swiss motorways, and it costs 80 euros. The guys in the van are in no mood to sell me one, though, so they fine me 120 euros instead. No negotiation. They even have the cheek to admit they’ve been nabbing Brits constantly since the law came in back in 1997. Strange that; I’ve travelled Europe extensively but have never heard about this permit before.

On the move again, I join the train of traffic snaking along the B177 towards Germany. It’s stupefyingly dull, but little do I know what’s around the next corner. Shortly after crossing into Germany the road suddenly switches from a single-track A-road into an empty, derestricted autobahn. This is nuts! From utter boredom to full attack mode in a matter of yards!

Up to 160-170mph is always just a squirt away in the Zonda, but beyond that the mighty engine really gets to work. Full chat in fifth is around 185mph, then it’s time to grab top: 185 becomes 190 as the engine screams its loud raaaar! This is a serious rush. Bizarrely there’s no wind noise, but quiet it certainly isn’t – sitting in the cabin is like being in the middle of a war zone as 7.3 litres of AMG does battle with aerodynamics. I’m very thankful the car feels absolutely pinned to the tarmac as the motorway sweeps its way through the countryside.

I never quite make it past the magic 200mph marker – even though the road is deserted it isn’t quite straight enough for a full-out attack – but I’m at the outskirts of Munich in no time at all. The roads are now uncomfortably busy and it doesn’t get much better all the way to Stuttgart. In fact most of the journey across Germany is one giant traffic jam, with road works littering the entire route. Travelling via the autobahns doesn’t look like such a bright idea now, and I’ve been on the road for some 8 hours and 32 minutes (and 609 miles) before I reach the French border.

Typically, the French autoroutes are deserted, but I settle into a 95mph cruise (with a fistful of euros at the ready), hoping to claw back some time. With a transponder unit stuck to the Zonda’s windscreen meaning I don’t need to stop at the péages and with a 260-mile range between fill-ups, I start making serious progress. Eventually, 13 hours, 26 minutes and 953 miles after leaving Modena I’m waiting in the queue for the Eurotunnel.

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That’s not a great time, especially as I’ve still got 130 miles to do on the other side of the Channel, but even once that last leg of the journey is over I still haven’t had enough of this Zonda. But then such journeys are what cars like this are made for. Now, when’s the next service due?

Running Costs

Date acquiredMay 2006
Total mileage33,170
Costs this month£2331.45 (service)
Servicing costs£2331.45 (service)
Mileage this month1385
MPG this month17.2
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