This past week took me to Top Marques in Monaco, the ostentatious home of pure money yet consistent proof money does not buy class. Monaco is populated by rich, orange women well into their 50s who still believe they can carry off miniskirts. But it is also home to the world's most glamorous car show, with passenger rides round the Grand Prix track thrown into the bargain. And faced with such hot metal it is only natural to revert to the child within and go begging rides in the best of the bunch. The fact that the press were limited to one passenger ride per show made it all the more fun, the pits area turned into a black market of promised coverage, favors cashed in and backs rubbed, figuratively anyway...
The circuit was clogged with traffic, the cops almost put FIA GT star Wolfgang Kaufmann in jail by the end of day two due to him daring to accelerate up to the 50 kph (31 mph) limit in the Gemballa Mirage GT, all 650bhp of it, and Ariel also attracted a little trouble with the Atom's tendency to cut through traffic.
A closed road would have made it a lot better, but the drivers still found the odd hole in the gridlock for a blast of pure acceleration.
Gumpert's Apollo looked like the star of the show from where we stood, in a spectacular shade of lurid orange. This car is a relative bargain when compared to the Ferrari Enzo and LP640 and has the brute looks to force its way in to the supercar market. With a 650 bhp+ 4.2-liter Audi twin-turbo engine it's a borderline racing car, with a traditional six-speed manual gearbox, and it's going to be a star.
The German marque also went along with our bizarre photographic respects and many thanks to Ann-Caitrin for playing the role of Cannonball girl. With a degree in International Business on the way, she's smarter than we'll ever be, too...
Lamborghini bought legendary test driver Valentino Balboni for the occasion. He must have felt vaguely ridiculous providing a supercar taxi service for punters at pedestrian speeds round Casino Square and Rascasse. But as a chance to get up close and personal with this the most beautiful car on this Earth one more time and meet one of the heroes of the driving world on one of the legendary tracks, well it was cool at the time.
Tours of the circuit in the sledgehammer Koenigsegg CCX with its nonsensical door action, inimitable phone dial centre console and ear-splitting tones, a Fisker Tramonto that looks like a difficult choice to justify next to the Aston Martin AMV8 and the Leblanc Mirabeau, a Le Mans-style beast with licence plates, the practicality of a chocolate fireguard and the kind of pace to set your hair on fire helped the day go with a bang.
Refined breaks inside the Bentley Arnage Turbo and the perfectly composed 599 GTB Fiorano helped round out our $5 million hitch hiking adventure in Monaco. It was cheesy, it was hectic and with the Gumpert it was also mildly degrading to women. It was also a pretty impressive way to spend a day.
Car Hack's Notebook: The Dakar [internal]