Thursday 1st October

| BY Garth Spencer

Welcome to The New Era of Maserati: A Diary Account of the MC20 Launch

“You are flying out of Farnborough Airport today?“ asked the Addison Lee driver. Farnborough is a private airport located just South of Heathrow. I and fellow members of the British style press, were taking a specially chartered plane as a way of avoiding commercial airports during a global pandemic. We were heading to the Maserati HQ. Located in Modena, northern Italy, the region is known for its fast cars and delicious Balsamic vinegar.

Maserati was gathering a global audience for the launch of its new MCXX (or MC20 if you know your Roman numerals). It stands for Maserati, Corsa and the year 2020, and it represents the next big milestone in Maserati legacy of luxury sports cars. The Maserati heritage dates back to 1914, but it wasn’t until 1926, when Maserati won the Tara Florio car race in Sicily, that the Maserati brothers stamped their engineering excellence on the motor industry. Neptune’s trident became the legendary company’s logo, inspired by the Fountain of Neptune, at the centre of Piazza Maggiore in the heart of Bologna.

Landing in Bologna, we took a short bus journey to Modena, the home of Maserati now. After checking into our hotel we changed into “Business elegance” as specified by the event invite. As the temperature was still lingering at around 30 degrees, this meant no jacket for me. Instead, I wore a white look (and felt like a Kardashian).

We arrived at the Modena racetrack, which was already full of guests. A sea of navy suits, milling track-side, sipping prosecco and nibbling on parmesan drizzled in that legendary balsamic vinegar. The British press quickly filtered straight to the bar.

After serval minutes of chat, punctuated by the boom of high-speed cars racing around the track, we took our socially distanced seats in the stadium. We looked out on a 25 metre LED screen, which loomed over 44 historic Maserati cars, lined up like an old-style American drive-in, all facing the stage. They looked like proud family members all waiting for the big reveal of the new edition to the Maserati clan. After serval videos and performances with music artists including Sandro Mussida, Lorenzo Senni and the tenor Bjorn Thorarensan, it was finally time to see the new car.

A purring, marble-white sports car entered the arena, so low it seemed to hover. Moving slowly up the ramp it parked centre stage and unfolded both its butterfly wing doors, before revolving like a supermodel at a Chanel show.

The car was quite splendid. It was as “audacious” as this lavish global event dictated. The MC20 is as far from a functional family sedan as you can get. Normal considerations don’t apply to sports cars. Gazing upon its low slung curves and angles, you find yourself asking; what is practical anyway? After several speeches, we were headed back to Modena for dinner.

The next day we travelled to the newly refurbished, Viale Ciro Menotti plant, where the new MC20 will be manufactured along with the future convertible and electric version. This is the first time in 16 years that a Maserati will be totally manufactured in Modena. Post-pandemic, Italy is focused on celebrating its design and manufacturing prowess. It’s a way of bolstering national pride as well as the economy, so this moment is something of a triumph.

We entered the plant, where we were handed headsets for the plant tour. An Italian voice speaking English, guided her flock of visitors around the building to the plant assembly line. We passed a 2004 MC12 in the courtyard. The legendary predecessor to the MC20, this car was intended for the track rather than the road.

Entering the assembly line space, the room was abuzz with about 70 men and woman. They all use swivel hooks and team trolley systems to transport the cars through the six stages of production. There’s a bodyshell line with a metrological area, painting, engine assembly then finally a testing and finish station.

A pristine MC20 was sitting in the space and we were met by Head of Design at Maserati, Klaus Busse. The car’s lead designer was Andrea Bruno and the first thing you notice is how aerodynamic he has made it. The giant wing on the back diverts the air under the car rather than over. This causes it to hug the road and makes for cleaner lines around the body. The carbon fibre exterior body is matched by carbon fibre gearshift paddles, behind the steering wheel, making it super light. The car weighs in at just 1400kg. The engine has special pre-chamber combustion technology, this gives the vehicle a massive 620 horse-power out of a V6 Engine, equalling the output of the formidable MC12. Add a twin-clutch gearbox, wishbone chassis and ceramic brakes and you have all elements of a modern supercar. It is the first Maserati to have butterfly doors, which, on an entirely personal note, makes it easier for tall people like me to get in and out.

This is a true race car for the road. Inside there were two display units. The transmission tunnel in the centre of the car only has 3 buttons: Reverse, Automatic or Manual. It is designed to be simple to navigate because when you’re going fast, you don’t want to be confused about which button to press.

After a few hours of exploring the different divisions of the plant, we made our way to lunch with the effervescent Massimo Bottura at the Casa Maria Luigia. He has been crowned the world’s best chef and is an excellent story-teller too. He mesmerised the press, retelling the history of Maria Luigia, whilst beautiful vintage Maseratis, each with their own fascinating life story, gleamed in the courtyard.

Massimo and his wife Lara treated us to an incredible 11-course meal in the garden. Figs, ricotta and honey, maple pepper pork belly, smoked veal: the best of the Italian countryside. Everything was so delicious and totally indulgent. It was hard to leave. We’d experienced the best that Italy had to offer, in terms of design and hospitality. We headed back to the airport, giddy on dessert wine and happy.