Hitting the rain-drenched road on a totally surreal journalists’ junket

Out of the way folks, woman in Maserati coming through.

Bankers, hedgies, billionaires, dictators and arms dealers, pull over: yachting journalists on the loose.

Yesterday I teamed up with fellow nautical writer and co-driver James Boyd (‘licensed to kill’) to thrash this little beaut, a 4.7 litre v8 Maserati GranCabrio Sport.

A group of us had been invited to sail with Giovanni Soldini on a former Volvo 70 sponsored by Maserati and to drive some of the company’s cars. Of course everyone said yes.

The day was appalling, with torrential rain and high winds, and soon the plans went awry.

Instead of driving from Lyndhurst to Lymington, as originally intended, we were told to head for Gosport. Soldini and crew had retreated there for shelter from the gales.

And with that we were handed the keys to a £110,000 Maserati.

No-one checked we had a driving licence, hadn’t been disqualified or smelt of sweet sherry – a bit like going on a sailing job, come to think of it.

Off we went, James at the helm flooring it straight off and whiplashing me into mute terror. The car roared fabulously. New Forest mares and their small foals scattered.

The M27 was awash with rain and spray. What a waste of a sports car soft top. The GranCabrio Sport ought to be winding through the hills behind Monaco or slinking round St Tropez, not surfing down the motorway to Gosport to cruise the kebab shops and tattoo parlours.

After getting soaked walking down the pontoons to see the yacht – 70ft, big cockpit, couple of coffee grinders, you know the deal – we hotfooted eagerly back our nice, dry cars. Luckily, word hadn’t got round the ‘hood and they weren’t up on bricks.

In a surreal touch, a man in a Maserati jacket appeared out of a minibus and handed out what I took to be spa-issue white towelling bath robes. In fact, they were large bath towels.

James reluctantly handed the keys to me (probably dead nervous. I know I was) and I got stuck in behind the wheel.

If you know Gosport you’ll understand why it’s a pointless place for a sports car. All you ever do is sit in a traffic queue moving at an average of 8mph.

We spent most of the next hour creeping towards Fareham with James videoing the rain, fiddling with the climate control buttons so we alternated between Antarctic, Tropical Rainforest and Channel Fog, and tweeting about how I was a hopeless #slowcoach.

As we reached the motorway, the rain increased to monsoon levels. The windscreen wipers could barely cope on extra-fast speed. Just a thought, Maserati, but you should consider fitting UK models with an additional ‘Diamond Jubilee’ setting.

The water and spray made it pretty hard to get up to sports car speed, though I gave it my best. I think James managed to get video footage of the moment when a white Transit van edged past. He tittered, but I say it just goes to show how quickly we were going.

A friend later asked was I going to write a comparative test of the Maserati GranCabrio Sport.

I had to laugh. Er, like to what? The Ford Focus 1.6 litre diesel estate?

I’m probably the least appropriate person in the world to write about a sports car. The appeal of expensive types has always gone completely over my head.

But I admit, that driving experience was amazing. I surprise myself here, but if I were to win the Euro Millions rollover lottery and had so much cash I could stuff a palace with it, I’d get one of these for the weekend. Definitely.

The GranCabrio Sport sounds wonderful, it’s shockingly comfortable to drive and sit in as a passenger and it looks fantastic. However, I should warn you: the fuel economy is hopeless compared with the Focus and there’s no room in the boot for a dog – not unless you killed it first and then there wouldn’t be space for an overnight bag.


Thought you might like a photo of what’s under the bonnet of the car – see, not much