Michael Schumacher’s 250 MPH Le Mans race car may be turning 20 this year, but you can still see it on well-endowed public roads. Only now it’s a street car.
In the spring of 2006, I sat down for an interview with Horacio Pagani, founder of the eponymous Modenese hypercar shop and designer of the delightfully garish 25th Anniversary Countach. Talk at one point turned to Pagani’s sources for inspiration:
My Zonda was inspired by race cars, not road cars! Mainly from the late Eighties. From back when race cars were still quite elegant and romantic, and not designed through aerodynamics like they are now. There have been other sources of inspiration outside of cars, like Patek Philippe watches, Riva speedboats and fighter jets. All these components have combined to make the Zonda as it stands today.
Although he didn’t refer specifially to Group C cars during our conversation, he has mentioned them in other interviews. Four years later, his comment got me thinking as I was researching my piece on the Mercedes–Benz C11, which happens to be the only official Group C car from the manufacturer who supplies the V12 engines for the Zonda. Even though the C11 is very much a car of aerodynamics, the resemblance is uncanny, most evident from a lateral view of blueprints.
Two decades after the C11 reigned supreme on the race tracks of Europe, America and Japan, the crazier iterations of the Zonda are right on par with it in horsepower if not in top speed.
If your driving needs do not call for top speeds of 250 MPH and you can live with a big V12 instead of a smaller turbocharged V8, the Zonda might be the better option to pursue. Getting your hands on a C11 would require nothing less than a raid on Mercedes–Benz’s factory museum:
A feat perhaps more expensive to execute than the $1-2 million you’ll have to come up with to drive off in a Zonda.