By Carter Kozminski
SEBRING, Fl. — Maybe I was just lucky. Or maybe I made my luck.
Either way, I recently found myself roaring around the storied track here in the passenger seat of a Pagani, the Italian supercar that’s rarer than a Lamborghini, faster than a Ferrari, and five times more expensive than both of them combined.
The ride was exhilarating for an auto-obsessed college student from Naples, Fl. — where I’m a volunteer guide at The Revs Institute — who normally cruises around in a (gulp) Ford Fiesta. At one point, flying out of turn 17 down the front straight with the Pagani fast approaching 165 MPH before braking for the turn into our second lap, I couldn’t even screech in delight. The car accelerated faster than sound could leave my mouth.
The road to this high-speed, hypercar joyride began when my father paid the $400 price for a “track day” to drive a Mazda Miata at Sebring. Then a friend told me that on our track day, one of the only 20 Pagani Huayra BC’s in existence also would be at Sebring too.
I did what any 18-year-old would: took to social media. On Instagram I found the page of the Pagani’s owner, Pablo Perez Companc of Miami, and messaged him: “I’ll be there at 7 a.m. with my dad. I’d love to meet you. I’m bringing my camera so I can take action shots of the car.” Pablo responded with a “like.” The door was open.
At 5:15 a.m. on May 6 we hit the road with our Ford Super Duty pickup towing the Miata for the two-hour trek from Naples to Sebring. Ten minutes after we arrived, I left the Miata and dad (he understood) and headed for Pablo and the Pagani.
Pagani has been building dream machines since 1992, when Horacio Pagani left Lamborghini to start his own company in San Cesario sul Panero, a hamlet near Modena, Italy. Seven years later he launched the Zonda, his first model, at the Geneva Motor Show.
In 2011 Pagani launched the Huayra, its second model, named for
a South-American god of wind. That car begat the special-edition Huayra BC, named for Italian-American car collector Benny Caiola, who had been Pagani’s first customer.
The BC’s twin turbo V12 engine packs 790 horsepower and a zero-to-60 of below three seconds. It also sports active aero flaps, a more aggressive front splitter than the “base” Huayra and a new rear spoiler. Just 20 BCs will be produced. At $2.5 million each, all 20 are spoken for. Only a few other automotive marques, such as Sweden’s Koenigsegg, are so hyper-exotically exclusive and expensive.
To my surprise, I found Pablo easy to approach. An Argentine enthusiast, he races in his home country and on the Pirelli World Challenge, in North America, a top circuit for production cars. Despite imperfect English, he speaks the universal language called “car.” Pablo came to Sebring that day with two cars: his Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3, which he had trucked to the track, and his Pagani Huayra BC, which he drove on state highways.
The car was stunning, even standing still. The way the sunlight danced off the carbon fiber gave it an almost orange hue. The blues and purples of the titanium exhaust contrasted the weave of the carbon. I started shooting pictures while talking with Pablo. “It’s a beast,” he said simply, but also a beauty.
Then suddenly I blurted out: “Can I join you for a ride in the BC?” Pablo quickly replied, “Sure.” All I had to do was sign with the track as a passenger, pay the $20 fee, and he’d take me later in the day. YESSS!
I waited for a couple hours, fiddling with my GoPro. The last cars to run would finish at 5 p.m., and at 4:30 I got worried. Pablo had put his race suit away so I thought he had forgot. I put my helmet in our truck and was ready to head home.
But at 4:45 Pablo walked out of his RV and yelled “LET’S GO!” I grabbed my helmet, threw the GoPro in the mount and ran to the Pagani. Without the GoPro, no one back home would believe this. I opened the gullwing door and climbed in.
At the first throttle input my hands were gripping the bottom of the seat. But after the first half-lap I got more comfortable, trusting Pablo’s racing background and starting to enjoy myself. Still, I was shaking like a broken motor mount as we rounded turn 16 to begin our 170 MPH blast down the back straight.
After two breathless laps it was over. I thanked Pablo profusely and promised to send him pictures. He invited me to stay in touch and come see his garage in Miami. He won’t have to ask twice.
Carter Kozminski, a journalism student at Florida Gulf Coast University, is a volunteer guide at The Revs Institute in Naples, Florida. His passion is, well, you know.