Private Motor Club were recently invited by Maserati to experience their Master Maserati driving course in Italy.
Specifically their Master Premium course at the Varano circuit near Parma. Before we talk too much about the actual driving I would like to mention the calibre of instructors. Ranging from ex WRC rally winning drivers to current GT stars, they help you get the best from the cars and yourself. The key to getting the most out of a driving course like this is to build your speed slowly and listen to the instructors, they are there to help you and if you show you are listening they will soon get you pushing yourself.
Day one starts with a theory lesson where guests are talked through how important it is to make sure you are sat in the optimum driving position. In brief this means, arms bent and hands at a 9.15 position. Your right foot should be resting between the brake and accelerator so that you can quickly move between the two pedals. Timing is everything when driving fast, the distance covered in one second at 120mph is the difference between making the corner and not making the corner!
Next up is the circuit and the optimum racing line. Slow in fast out allows the smoothest driving line and means you will be maximising your speed on the straights. It’s a classic mistake to brake too late or get on the accelerator too early and then have to tidy up your mess losing valuable speed on the straight.
By now we are all itching to get out on track. The first session is three laps in a Gran Turismo Sport with an instructor, this is a opportunity to show the instructor what level your driving is already at. Thankfully the instructor is pleased with my driving style and we move on to a Quattroporte that has been fitted with on-board telemetry. After this session I get to sit down with an instructor and go through my data looking at what elements of my driving I can improve on.
Further sessions on track in a Ghibli Q4, Gran Turismo MC Stradale and Quattrporte GTS help me work on my braking points, in a flash, it’s lunchtime. Already I am very impressed with how the cars are holding up against constant fast lapping, for brute force the Quattroporte GTS is very impressive and feels light enough on track to inspire confidence, impressive given its size.
In the afternoon we head over to the kick plate. This device will randomly ‘kick’ the rear of the car left or right as you drive onto a simulated ice road surface. Using instinct and quick reactions you have to catch the slide before it spins the car. Approaching at 25mph the key is to not think and let your body react, thinking time means you are generally too late to catch the slide, after a few goes I am itching for a bigger challenge…
We head over to the ‘Power Pendulum’ this is a coned off course with a water spray. Using just first gear I provoke the rear of the car with a jab of the throttle and then catch the slide, the rear will then swing back the other way through momentum, another jab and then feathering of the throttle sees the car gracefully sliding out of the turn. I have made it sound easy, it’s not! But when you do master it, it feels great. By now my brain cannot take in anymore information, thankfully that’s it for the first day.
The next morning we are quickly straight back out on track, back to back track sessions with video footage and telemetry are rounded off with hot laps by an instructor in a MC Stradale. This is where you realise that the edge you thought you were approaching is nowhere near. The instructor is very fast, very sideways and always in complete control, while I have learnt a lot in a few days I realise the void that exists between enthusiasts and professionals.
Next up is the GT track challenge, a very tight coned circuit which is driven in second gear, there is a mixture of wet and dry surfaces and we have ten laps to put down our best time. The concentration level of manoeuvring a Maserati quickly and precisely is astounding, after ten laps I am drained. Third place is my reward with a time of 27.80 seconds, the winner scored a time of 27.72 seconds, maybe next year!
Finally to round off the course I head out on track on my own following a pace car driven by one of the instructors, it’s a funny feeling being allowed out on your own after so much time being tutored but I quickly focus on the task in hand and try to keep my set distance from the instructor, i feel like i am not driving as fast as earlier, but its good fun and I easily hang on to the back of his bumper, in a flash my laps are over and that is the end of the course save for presentations and a thank you.
With accommodation the course is €3,700 plus flights. I have come away from the course feeling a lot more confident about driving and understanding handling. Track time was ample with many sessions in a variety of cars from the Maserati range, I am sure if you were interested in a specific model you could perhaps focus in on that car.
To drive supercars hard without the worry of paying for tyres, brakes and servicing is worth the money alone, on top of that you are being taught by world-famous racing drivers who share their knowledge to help you improve and get faster. If you are considering buying a new car I would highly recommend investing in a driving course if they offer one, needless to say I have since been looking through the classifieds for a second-hand Maserati Gran Turismo!