The Passo della Futa has a fascinating history. Just a few kilometres from the Ferrari-owned Mugello race circuit it winds a route through the high ground between Bologna and Florence. It is best known by motor racing fans as a section of the Mille Miglia road race, but to motoring journalists it holds a deeper significance. This is the spot where, in 1990, our then-European editor Peter Robinson suffered a slight hiccup in a brand new Diablo. I quite fancied trying to find the corner where Robbo nudged a Fiat Panda in what was then the world’s fastest car.
But is that wise in a Roadster, on slushy roads? Given the number of HGVs creeping about and generally getting in the way, on balance, no. I don’t know if the situation changes in the summer, but if it doesn’t then this is a road to be avoided at all costs.
Twice the terrifying spectre of a Scania badge looms into view and I literally stop in the road, praying that it doesn’t skim the lower air intakes clean off the side of the car. At this rate we’ll be taking a taxi back to Sant’Agata and leaving them a bin-liner full of parts. We stop to take photos in front of a bar and an old couple shimmy out onto the street to look at the car. The woman notes to hubby that we appear to have wet ourselves, but clearly our shivering has a greater effect than any potential soiling, so she invites us in for an espresso.
Inside the café is a wall plastered full of wonderful monochrome racing-car images, newspaper cuttings and memorabilia. The only words we can all understand are Ferrari and Lamborghini, so we say them repeatedly with some intense hand gestures and beaming smiles before climbing back into the Lambo and sliding off to the next village.
If the past 18 months have taught me anything, it’s that despite trying better, more efficient and more powerful supercar drivetrains than this V12 and its Ceema six-speed gearbox, none is quite as endearing. The noise is spectacular – the Roadster’s exhaust box is slightly different to the coupé’s. If a wet crotch isn’t an incentive to drive it with the roof off, then the extra noise certainly is. It’s not a dramatic shift: more like a good tape recording switched from muffling Dolby to normal clarity.
Torque is immense from idle to limiter, and the gearshift is just exemplary. Lamborghini will sell you an e-Gear paddle-shift ’box as an option, but don’t bother, as you’ll miss out on one of motoring’s better experiences: nailing a 6192cc V12 to the naughty end of 7000rpm in second and then, despite thinking that nothing could possibly be audible above such a gnashing of chain gear, clearly hearing the lever chink as it fires from second to third. Yummy.
Daylight fades at about 5.00pm, by which time we’re freezing cold from standing about and the Roadster’s cabin suddenly appears much cosier than before. Cool green dash lighting and a legs-stretched driving position make you forget the odd puddle of liquid and besides, the heater is a blinder.
We won’t get the chance to try any roof-down cruising on the way back, so the best report on buffeting I can give you is from about 80mph, when the cabin was nearly still. But being on the teeny side, you’d best ask someone a bit bigger for an honest appraisal. At 200mph you’ll be concentrating on the road hard enough not to worry about the odd misplaced follicle.
Lamborghini knows very well that this is probably the most compromised convertible on sale today. It leaks, it can’t be driven above 100mph with the hood in place and, when erected, the car bears a striking resemblance to a Murciélago coupé with a manta ray stapled to its roof. Naturally none of this will matter to prospective owners. The forthcoming Ferrari 575M Superamerica will doubtless have the Lambo licked for practicality, but anyone in the market to look good this summer knows there’s only one car to be seen in. Just hope John Ketley gives accurate forecasts in 2005.