Romans have had another fantastic summer featuring some truly outstanding cars, business developments and events. Alongside this, members of the Romans ‘family’ have taken their annual summer vacations for some well-earned rest and relaxation. The passion and appetite of our team for new automotive experiences is boundless and extends well beyond the Romans International showroom and this is reflected in some of the incredible holidays they take. Below is an insight into three of those highlight experiences; firstly, Paul our Chairman’s Ferrari hospitality outing to the Singapore Grand-Prix, secondly, Nesbert our Marketing Manager’s Italian tour including the Italian Grand-Prix plus all the major Italian car marques and finally, Ollie our photographer’s all-access VIP trip to the Belgium Grand-Prix.
Paul’s Trip to the Marina Bay Street Circuit – Singapore
Paul Jaconelli the founder and Chairman of Romans International was invited by a customer connection and friend to a Ferrari VIP Hospitality weekend to watch the Singapore Grand Prix. Paul loves his Ferrari’s and has a fair few in his private collection both old and new. So naturally when this opportunity presented itself it was not a difficult decision for him to make. The weekend included full pitlane and Ferrari garage access, where he was able to see the team working on the cars and watch the sessions with the team themselves to experience the behind the scenes atmosphere. Other highlights of the weekend included talks from the drivers Sebastian Vettel & Kimi Raikkonen and dinner with the team, drivers and team principles. Paul was hugely impressed to see the level of detail and organisation of the team but also the loyalty and passion of the Ferrari customers to the brand.
Nesbert’s Trip to Autodromo Nazionale Monza – Italy (with Italian Car Factory Tours)
Nesbert, currently in his 5th year with Romans, has risen to his current position of Marketing Manager. He is quite possibly one of the most knowledgeable and passionate members of the team when it comes to performance cars and cars in general for that matter. Italian cars are a particular interest of his and he hatched a plan this summer to do a tour of Italy which would include the spiritual homes of the most famous Italian car marques and also coincide with the Italian Grand Prix at Monza to top off what was sure to be a dream Italian road trip. Below is his account of a petrolheads ultimate Italian pilgrimage.
Growing up as a child in Africa, seeing a supercar on the road was a distant dream and something unheard of. Cars have been a strong passion of mine from the young age of 5 and ever since my late uncle came to visit our family home in Zimbabwe with his car. My grandmother told me, I would ask to go for a ride to the end of the street and then happily walk back home such was my love and appreciation for cars. Fast forward 19 years and working for one of the best supercar dealers in the country, it certainly is a dream come true and a fairy tale story. My love for cars always seems to evolve every day and when the opportunity came up to travel to Italy and visit all the main supercar manufacturers, it was another bucket list adventure I couldn’t miss.
My journey started at 4am in the morning going to Stanstead Airport. Hugely excited about the adventure ahead, the flight only took 2 hours and I was at Bergamo airport in Italy. From the airport, I went straight to the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese. Step inside and I was immediately greeted by Alfa Romeo’s M3 conquering Giulia Quadrifoglio and the test car still in its camouflage. This was a timely reminder of just how far Alfa Romeo has come, especially now with their Formula One involvement and being at the forefront of the performance car world with their latest creations such as the Giulia and Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
There were some incredible cars in the Museum from the Alfa Romeo 8C test mule made from wood, where craftsman had carved out the lines and exact shapes they wanted. It just makes you appreciate the amount of work involved in the design of a car. From the jaw dropping 1952 C52 Disco Volante, to the quirky 1935 P Bimotore which had a Ferrari engine at the front and an Alfa Romeo engine at the back; it just made me realise the rich history a brand like Alfa Romeo has to offer. It’s easy to forget when you see Alfa Romeo diesel hatchbacks and saloon cars that this is one of the best automotive brands in the world with a strong racing history and heritage.
Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix – Monza
La Pista Magica – The Magic Track, the 3 words synonymous with Monza. Monza is the fastest F1 track on the calendar and a true temple of speed. With evocative and famous corner names such as Parabolica, Ascari and Lesmo, the prospect of witnessing the F1 race here sends shivers down one’s spine. Being the homeland of Ferrari and the Tifosi, it was only fitting for this grand prix to be part of my adventure across Italy. The build up to the race was spectacular with the Tricolore fighter jets flying across the start/finish straight trailing smoke in the Italian flags colours. The noise and the atmosphere certainly gave me goose bumps as you appreciate just how passionate the Italians are about Formula One. Before the race started, I took the opportunity to visit the old banked oval circuit which was awe-inspiring sight on realising quite how steep the corners are.
The driver’s parade started with the Ferrari’s starting 1 and 2 after a solid qualifying performance from the home team on Saturday for which they received a hero’s welcome. Lewis Hamilton was poised in 3rd place in the Mercedes Silver Arrow ready to swiftly punish any mistakes or slip-ups from the Ferrari team and was booed as expected at Ferrari’s home track. The race began, and straight away Vettel spun sending him right to the back. Kimi Raikkonen put up a strong show but with a fantastic strategy, it was Lewis Hamilton who drove incredibly to win the race. The Tofosi were certainly upset, booing the Mercedes team and both their drivers on the podium. Getting access to the pitlane was something hugely special. Seeing the team working away and where the cars are prepared, just makes you realise the amount of team work involved in this incredible and constantly evolving sport.
Pagani Factory Tour
From seeing documentaries on TV about Horacio Pagani and how their hypercars are made, it was only fitting to stop by their factory in Modena. Pagani is one of the most exclusive supercar brands in the world, with exquisite attention to detail and craftsmanship. Arguably, they are one of the few car manufacturers left still making bedroom pinup wall cars that are totally wild in design and aesthetics. It is one of the few automotive company’s remaining that is still a family run business and is a vision and a dream of one man turned into reality who is still heavily involved in the day to day running of the business.
Pagani started his career working for Lamborghini and worked his way up. At 20 years old, Pagani designed and built his very own Formula 3000 race car. Soon he was the chief engineer at Lamborghini and built his own Countach Evoluzione concept. In the process, he tried to convince Lamborghini to purchase an autoclave to help build the carbon fibre parts needed for the Evoluzione but Lamborghini refused. Consequently, Horacio bought his own autoclave and later left the company in 1991. He founded his own company called Modena Design which to this day still makes carbon fibre composites for various car manufacturers and Formula One teams. In 1992, Pagani founded Pagani Automobili Modena and a few years later went on to build his very own Pagani Zonda.
On our way to the factory, we were shown the Pagani models starting with the Pagani Zonda La Nonna. This was a very significant and special car as it was Pagani’s test car which has over 500,000 miles on it. They have tested every variant of the Zonda on this chassis. Other cars included a C12 Zonda, Zonda F and Cinque Roadster. With only 5 Cinque Roadsters ever made, as the name suggests, the Pagani representative stated it was worth in the region of 10 million dollars. Next to the Cinque was the track only Zonda R and further down, the Zonda’s successor the Huayra.
Following this, we then entered the factory to which no mobile phones were allowed in. It was certainly a surreal and special experience seeing all the autoclave machines, where the carbon fibre components are baked and hardened. Following that, the carbon fibre parts would go through a quality control check to make sure that the carbon fibre weave matches on different panels and is up to the highest of standards. The cars are then taken to a station where the workers would put the car together. No robots here, everything is built by hand. Even the bolts are branded with the Pagani Logo. The work stations are immaculate, and the floor clean enough to eat your dinner off. Everything is spotlessly kept and even the workers wear Pagani branded clothing and special shoes, no trainers. Horacio Pagani’s own office is just above the production work station and he is still heavily involved with every customer when helping them to spec their car and enjoying the overall experience. They want customers to feel like they are joining a family rather than just an individual buying a car. At the time of my visit, Pagani were building Huayra Roadsters. Just before we left, ex Formula One driver Adrian Sutil came in with his Pagani Huayra and it was a great opportunity to meet him.
Maranello, the home of Ferrari. There is something truly magical about this place. Now and again, a brand-new Ferrari drives past the factory gates all covered up in plastics as the Ferrari test drivers give it a shake down before they are delivered to the lucky new owners. The factory workers are all dressed in red and everywhere you look, there are shops selling Ferrari merchandise. You can tell this is a region proud of this incredible worldwide brand. We then visited the Ferrari Maranello museum and some incredible cars were on display from the new Ferrari 812 Superfast aluminium spaceframe, to the engine and the pre-production model car of Eric Clapton’s custom Ferrari SP12 EC. Other highlight cars included the Ferrari F12 TDF and their dominant Formula One cars. It was also the first time I got to see the new 488 Pista up close. Moving on we visited the Enzo Ferrari museum. Here, you get to appreciate the rich history of Ferrari. From the Ferrari 250 GTO to the modern-day specials like the 458 Speciale Aperta, this was certainly a dream come true. From Enzo’s very own office to seeing all the engines, it just makes you appreciate the amount of work involved and what makes these cars so special and hugely desirable.
Lamborghini, Sant’Agata Bolognese
With the imminent arrival of the new Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, it was no surprise that upon arrival a customer car was already being test driven before delivery. Immediately, inside the museum one of the stand out cars was the Veneno, one of the most aggressive looking road cars ever made. From the Diablo, Espada, Murcielago SV, Centenario, Sesto Elemento, LM002, Miura, Huracan Performante and the all new 4X4 Urus; again like Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, it’s was humbling to see the rich history behind this brand. Fun fact, did you know Lamborghini were once in Formula 1? I certainly didn’t.
Overall, this trip was a dream come true. In between my stay in Milan I got the opportunity to visit Zagato, Touring Superleggera and even travelled an hour to Monaco to see the F1 circuit. Pagani was certainly one of my favourites as the experience felt very personal. I urge you to visit these places as it really makes you appreciate the workmanship involved in building the cars we love.
Ollie’s trip to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps – Belgium
Ollie is our in-house professional photographer and the genius behind our consistently razor-sharp website photos and highly aesthetic social media profiles. He is also a massive Formula 1 fan and petrolhead, so when the opportunity came up for a VIP all-access trip to the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, needless to say they didn’t have to ask twice. Below is his account of the weekend giving a fascinating insight into behind the scenes access at this iconic race track.
Friday – Free Practice 1 & 2
Friday got started with a misty and cold, yet sunny day and turning off the motorway we soon entered The Ardennes Forest with the road instantly narrowing, and the trees growing higher as we ventured deeper into the forest to find the track. Entering the track via the main entrance through the tunnel under turn 1, the La Source hairpin and paddock came into view and on arrival our VIP passes were scanned, and I was instantly overwhelmed by the grandeur of it all. The towering team trucks, the lavish hospitality buildings, which are transported to all 21 races around the world, and the sheer number of famous faces that I recognised. Within 5 minutes of entering the paddock, I had met Daniel Ricciardo, who had recently announced his move from Red Bull Racing to Renault for the 2019 season, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, so not a bad start. There were photographers running around grabbing photos left, right and centre as drivers and team principals entered the paddock for the first full day of action.
During the morning before the cars were unleashed we were invited on a track walk, the highlight of which was of course Eau Rouge, before making the climb up to Raidillon. This steep incline rises by 21m and is widely regarded by drivers as one of the best and most challenging corners on the F1 calendar. From the top of Raidillon, we could see the bus stop chicane, La Source, Eau Rouge, the Kemmel Straight and the beginning of the Les Combes Chicane, an amazing and rare sight to behold, considering most of the current F1 tracks are flat or corners are blocked by grandstands.
The first session of the day was the first practice session for the GP3 series. Loud and fast, but nothing compared to the speed of the F1 cars. We watched the GP3 practice session from the exit of turn 1, knowing they would be exiting the pitlane and joining the track only feet from where we were standing. As the first of the cars took to the track, they pulled over against the wall to practice their start for the race on the next day. This would also give them a chance to warm up the tires for the following laps. The speed and noise were incredible, considering these were 2 categories below F1 and gave us a taste of what was to come! Making our way back to the Paddock, I bumped into Brendon Hartley, Nico Hulkenberg, Max Verstappen, Martin Brundle, Ted Kravitz and Johnny Herbert picking up photos and handshakes from all of them!
GP2 cars were even louder, echoing through the hills of the surrounding forest. What I loved about these was that on downshift the engine spits a large flame out of the exhaust along with crackles and a whining sound from the gearbox. Watching these cars turning into La Source (Turn 1) with a flame trailing from the rear was an amazing sight to see.
Then it was the turn of the F1 Cars, the main event, Free Practice 1 and 2. We stood at the exit of the pitlane as the cars rumbled into view. This was the first time I had heard the new 1.6L Turbocharged Hybrid V6 in a current Formula One car in person. They sound far louder and rawer than they do on TV, up close and personal is the only true way to experience these cars. Pulling out of the pitlane at a steady speed, I was naively unaware that they would practice their start procedure about a meter away from where I was standing. They would pull up, change their settings via the buttons on their steering wheel, pull the clutch paddles in before releasing them and accelerating away. The smell of burning rubber filled the air as the cars joined the track. Standing at the end of the pitlane we could see the top of Eau Rouge in the distance as the cars sped up the famous hill. You have got to appreciate the engineering behind these cars, especially considering they were going through Eau Rouge – a left, right, left kink up a hill at close to 200mph! During the FP2 we sat on the grass alongside the Kemmel Straight with the cars this time, passing us in excess of 200mph!
Saturday – Qualifying
Saturday began with the first race of the weekend (GP3). We sat in the grandstands enjoying the noise of the cars piling into turn 1 with some running wide before re-joining the track and screaming past us on the run down to turn 2 and 3 which was breath-taking. The noise of 20+ cars was deafening with the echo passing around the packed grandstand. This was early in the morning when Spa is known for its ever-changing weather conditions – to our left was thick early morning fog, to our right was blazing sun. Within 20 minutes the fog had been burnt off and the sun was beaming down giving perfect racing conditions. The Porsche Supercup Qualifying was up next and was great fun to watch as they are based upon the Porsche 911 GT3 RS road car. With the drivers being given the same car and the teams being able to only fine tune a few things such as the setup and tyre choice, the drivers were all closely matched which made for close lap times in the hot midday sun.
After this we made our way back to the paddock where we found a wood hut café which was filled with Racing memorabilia from Spa, from the bonnet of a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 car to an early 2000s formula ford hanging upside down over the bar. The bar was steeped in track history and reminded us that it is not just the Formula One circus that race here. Spa plays host to many other racing series, including the 24 Hours of Spa which see the likes of mainstream manufacturers battle it out through day, night and the ever-changing weather conditions for 24 hours straight. A real testament to the durability of these racing cars as well as the mental and physical strength of the teams and drivers. Following on from this we made our way up Eau Rouge to the grandstand at the top of the hill. From here you could see the start of the track as well as the turn 1 hairpin as the cars came towards us. The first part of qualifying (Q1) was sunny and hot. The cars began making their way out of the pitlane and onto the track, we could see them weaving from side to side and braking heavily to get some warmth into their tyres and brakes before they started their flying laps. As the laps went on, the track became warmer and ultimately the lap times came tumbling down. Q1 finished with Raikkonen P1, Bottas P2 and Hamilton P3.
Q2 was much the same weather wise. Towards the end of the session Brendon Hartley had a big lock-up into turn 1 and span his Toro, missing out on an opportunity to progress to the final stages of qualifying. Q2 finished with Vettel P1, Raikkonen P2 and Hamilton P3.
Q3 was where things got interesting as the remaining 10 cars left the pitlane on slick dry tyres. It started to rain heavily causing Valtteri Bottas to spin at high speed through Blanchimont. Other drivers were caught out too as Sergio Perez almost put his Force India into the barriers at the top of Eau Rouge after aquaplaning off the track but managing to catch the slide at the last second. All drivers rushed back to the pitlane in the closing minutes of the session desperate for intermediate wet tyres before heading out in a last-ditch attempt to set the fastest lap. As the session progressed, the rain eased off and the track began to dry meaning the lap times dropped like a stone. The two Ferraris set provisional pole with Lewis Hamilton finally setting the fastest time with a 1.58.179 ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Esteban Ocon. The atmosphere was incredible as the crowd started cheering as the Mercedes AMG of Lewis Hamilton came past on his cool down lap. This was one of the most exciting qualifying sessions I have witnessed as we experienced the speed of the F1 cars in the dry as well as the typical Spa rain.
The day wasn’t over just yet as we had been invited into the back of some of the garages of Force India, Red Bull and Mercedes AMG. This is an experience I will never forget as it was unbelievable to watch 25+ people work around a car, especially considering there are two cars in each team! My favourite was Red Bull and even though they didn’t qualify first, they still had music blaring keeping the moral and spirits of the team high. I did not realise that the chassis, engine and gearbox are broken up into three pieces, providing easy access and better workflow as people can work on the 3 areas separately.
Sunday – Race Day
Spa was packed on the Sunday, with all of the tickets sold out. We knew it would be a good race. There was a light mist, but the rain had cleared from the day before and the skies were bright blue. The day started by entering the paddock, seeing a vast number of cameras and TV companies all arriving to get their exclusive early access with the drivers and their thoughts on the day ahead. We saw Channel 4 and Sky Sports presenters warming up and practicing their lines ahead of their live broadcast later that day as well as both Williams Drivers Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin doing interviews for social media. A big flash of cameras started going off and a large crowd gathering as 4-time world champion Sebastian Vettel entered the Paddock and ran straight into the Ferrari Hospitality.
The often-unnecessary criticism portrayed in the media of these sports stars being rushed and occasionally rude was untrue. I met Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel that weekend and at no point were they these superstars, they felt like normal people. Another opportunity that I was lucky enough to have was the experience of walking through the pitlane before the start of the race. It was incredible to see the preparation that is put into running 2 cars for a 2 hour race. It simply isn’t as easy as turning up to a track, doing a few laps and going home again. It takes over 12 people to change 4 tyres in a pitstop and that lasts for 2.5 seconds on average. Luckily we got the chance to see both Force India and McLaren doing practice pit stops which was mind blowing to see. As we approached the end of the pitlane, all of the drivers started to walk out on to the track where they would take part in their parade lap.
For the beginning of the race we were watching from the start line which turned out to be the best place to watch from as Nico Hulkenberg locked up going into the first corner, making contact with the McLaren of Fernando Alonso. This sent him spectacularly flying over Charles Leclerc’s Sauber and putting all three of them out of the race. The rest of the drivers carried on jostling for position on the first lap as Vettel made a pass on Lewis Hamilton after slipstreaming him on the Kemmel Straight. As the race progressed the fight got progressively harder for Lewis Hamilton to fight back. Watching it on the big screen there were fans shouting for Hamilton to get back the lead and shouts for Max Verstappen to take it. It was an exciting race which proved gainful for teams who thought about their strategy. Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo were unlucky and retired from the race following damage from the first corner incident.
The race finished with Sebastian Vettel P1, Lewis Hamilton P2 and Max Verstappen P3. The champagne celebrations were possibly the highlight of the weekend as I was looking up at the podium with Ferrari Team Principal, Maurizio Arrivabene to my left and Christian Horner, Red Bull Team Principal on my right! Something I will never forget. Overall this was a truly once in a life experience for me that was unforgettable. From meeting some of my F1 heroes to standing in the garages, pitlane and under the podium next to the Team Principals for Ferrari and Red Bull, it was amazing. Next stop… plan for the next one!