Rare Italian stallions are rounded up for a day at Hopetoun House
E-coli is not something you’d instantly associate with a gathering of some of the most glamourous and expensive automotive machinery ever built.
But the food poisoning bug that claimed more than 20 lives in Lanarkshire 16 years ago, and the ongoing implications of the outbreak, are the inspiration for a stunning event in the splendid grounds of Hopetoun House at South Queensferry.
Everything from million-pound Ferraris and Lamborghinis to Lambretta and Vespa scooters will line up alongside the sexiest motorbikes such as Ducatis and Aprilias for the fourth annual Italian Car and Bike Day. More than 3,000 people are expected to turn up on Sunday to gaze at, touch and feel some of the rarest examples of engineering and design from our southern European friends on the Mediterranean.
The driving force behind it is self-confessed “dyed-in-the-wool petrolhead” Paul Santoni, a Lanarkshire lawyer who leads a team of Italian automotive enthusiasts who want others to share their passion – and at the same time raise money for HUSH, the charity that helps victims of E-Coli.
Santoni represented many of those affected by the outbreak in the late Nineties and is now chairman of the charity which provides support and education to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. He’s so far managed to combine his two interests by bringing his collection of six classic Italian cars to Hopetoun and along with other fans raise some valuable cash for his charity.
It’s the fourth year the event has been run and it is expected to be the biggest yet, with around 400 cars and bikes and their enthusiast owners from the Ferrari clubs in Scotland, Ireland and the north of England, along with their counterparts who are fans of Lamborghini, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Lancia. The highlights are expected to be the appearance of two, maybe three, examples of the rare Ferrari 250, which are worth around a million pounds each, plus the chance to see a Ferrari 599 GTB Alonso F1 (see below), one of only five in the UK. Paul will personally be taking his own set of cars including his Ferrari 328 GTS and his 1986 Lamborghini Countach, one of only four in Scotland. Two of the others will also be there. He’ll also have his Lamborghini Espada and rare Maserati Khamsin and the only two Khamsins in Scotland will be on display.
Completing his collection is the cheeky little sportscar, his Fiat Barchetta and a very rare Fiat X19 Lido.
Paul, 54, can trace his family back to northern Italy around Barga and Montecassino but his name is best known through his parents’ ice cream business in Motherwell and Wishaw. He regrets his father not holding on to the firm’s old Bedford ice cream vans. “The number plates alone would be worth quite a bit now,” he says.
So what is the attraction of Italian cars? “It’s all about their style, their panache, the joy of driving them,” he says. “Some people put it another way. They’re designed by eccentrics and driven by lunatics”. And he admits that some of his friends and colleagues don’t quite understand his passion.
Even his own children joke that he never drives them fast because he has to keep stopping to pick up the bits that have fallen off.
This weekend’s event, which is also being supported by Scottish car dealers, is open to all with an entry fee of only £5 per car or motorbike, including passengers, and you don’t have to be an Italian car or bike owner to be there.
Paul’s confident of a big turnout but he’s already working on next year’s event when he’s hoping the centrepiece will be one of only 38 models ever made of the Ferrari 250 GTO, one of which sold recently for £22 million.
Italian Car & Bike Day, Hopetoun House, Sunday, 12 August, 10.30am-3pm. Adults £4.25, children £2.50
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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