I'm talking to a Jeep representative when, over my left shoulder, a Grand Cherokee heaves over the crest of a hill – and solidly embeds itself in a hidden ditch.

There's lots of off-roading going on at the Camp Jeep event we're at, but it's usually confined to the trails surrounding the centre and not its car park.

The Grand Cherokee spins its wheels, throttle pinned to the floor and undertrays complaining at the abuse, before clambering its way to freedom and into its proper parking space.

An enthusiastic-looking fellow clambers out of the Jeep's cabin, shuts the door and bounds over to join us. He realises our glance is transferring to him, to the Jeep, and back again, trying to compute his somewhat unusual entrance.

"A shortcut," he says, grinning. The press officers introduce us; this is Massimo 'Miki' Biasion, the Italian two-time World Rally Champion. The man who drove legendary cars such as the Lancia 037, Delta Integrale and S4. The man who dominated Group A rallying in the late 1980s.

I'm somewhat overcome, but also slightly confused as to why he's at a Jeep event. He tells me it's because of the region's fantastic wine, cheese and prosciutto, and laughs.

"It's actually my first event with Jeep," he says. "I love off-road events, and have been a rally driver for many years and campaigned many cars. To be here and stay with off-road enthusiasts is a great opportunity."

Biasion, who lives in the north-east of Italy, appears impressed by the Grand Cherokee. "It's a limousine but it can go everywhere; the comfort and capability is unbelievable," he says.

He does a quick head count and, realising that there are only two journalists and one Jeep representative, asks if we'd like to come along for a ride. I can't say "yes" fast enough.

We jump into a Wrangler that's just returned from a lap of the trails around Camp Jeep. Biasion gets comfortable in his seat, fires up the engine and drives the Jeep briskly out of the parking area, wheels already scrabbling on the loose surface.

A marshal guides us into the trail's entrance – a sharp corner that leads down a steep hill. The surface is rocky, with lots of loose gravel and sand, and deep ditches loom either side of it. Put a wheel wrong at speed and you'd probably regret it. Even the instructors drive very sedately here, though, so I'm not expecting any drama.

Biasion, however, clearly has other ideas. We clear the marshal, the nose swings down, pointing into the valley, and he pins the throttle to the floor. The Jeep surges forwards, body weaving left and right, axles swinging wildly; I realise very quickly I'm going to have to brace myself against the roll cage a little more firmly.