La dolce vita – a driving experience with Stratstone Manchester

Maserati Gran Turismo S with MC Sport Line Personalisation



My family have purchased several vehicles from various dealerships within the Stratstone organisation over the years and clearly this is for a reason.


Stratstone is part of Pendragon PLC which is the largest chain of franchised dealerships in the UK.


Whilst Stratstone may be part of a large organisation it still provides a personal, attentive service which I have enjoyed for a long period.


Recently I visited Le Mans with Stratstone Club to attend “24 Heures du Mans”. A large collection of loyal Stratstone customers, myself included, drove to France in our own liveried cars. The array of automotive exotica included numerous; Aston Martins, Jaguars, Ferraris, Porsche, Maserati and other prestigious brands.


Staying in the grounds of a nearby Chateau, we were looked after attentively by the Stratstone team. We ate delicious food and thanks to the fleet of shuttle cars, sampling fine wines and Champagne was executed responsibly.


An invite from Stratstone Manchester

An email from Stratstone Manchester invited me to attend a driving event in picturesque Alderley Edge, meeting at the wonderful Panacea. How could I refuse?


Maserati Gran Turismo S with MC Sport Line Personalisation


Maserati has an illustrious history; Fangio, Moss, Hawthorn are evocative names I have read about on many occasions with amazement, wistfully dreaming of myself stepping out of a 250F with a winner’s garland draped around my neck.


Maserati Gran Turismo S MC Sport Line

A selection of different models were available to drive, but the Maserati Gran Turismo S MC Sport Line in “Blu Mediterraneo” beaconed in the car park outside Panacea.


Maserati Gran Turismo S with MC Sport Line Personalisation


Carbon fibre featured on the door mirrors, door handles, rear spoiler and front splitter. The grey and black fibres glinting in the light were just some of the exquisite external adornments that captured my heart.


Maserati Gran Turismo S with MC Sport Line Personalisation


The aesthetics of this car are evident for all to see, with wonderful details and a sinuous form that has an alluring appeal.


Maserati Gran Turismo S with MC Sport Line Personalisation


Opening the door, the enchantment continued with Alcantara covered seats in “nero” with contrasting “giallo” stitching enticing me closer.


Maserati Gran Turismo S with MC Sport Line Personalisation


I was amazed at the roomy interior and found that my considerable frame was accommodated with ease, with sufficient room for another adult to sit behind me on the rear seat.


James Pickford was my Co-Pilot again – fantastic!

The day improved still further when introduced to my Co-Pilot and Instructor, James Pickford, a racing driver who has previously navigated me around the Millbrook Hill Routes.


Maserati Gran Turismo S with MC Sport Line Personalisation


I immediately recalled how James navigated the apexes of bends on the Alpine-like track sections at Millbrook with deft control of the wheel and judicious use of the foot pedals.


James is a modest gentleman despite having a successful racing career. Nominated in 1998 for the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award he only lost out at the finals to Jenson Button. Later he was very successful with Seat, winning the Seat Cupra Championship in 2004 before competing in the British Touring Car Championship in 2005, driving for the Seat factory team.


Opportunities to drive with individuals of this calibre do not come around every day and it is thanks to Stratstone Manchester that I was able to enjoy the car with considered instruction emanating from the front passenger seat.


The 4.7 litre engine burst into song

The key was turned with excitement and the 4.7 litre, V8 engine burst into song. The sound of the engine was enthralling and my body shuddered in nervous excitement. There was passion oozing from beneath the bonnet which was Italian in origin and could will never be accused of being bland or soulless.


The car was fitted with a sequential robotic gearbox. I pressed a button labelled “1” on the centre console, pulling on the over-sized and gorgeous carbon fibre paddle to the right of the steering wheel, the car was armed. I cautiously released my foot from the footbrake and the car moved forward effortlessly.


I was expecting the car to pull away liked an angry caged animal, just released from captivity. However, the car was easy to drive, responding smoothly to my handling, with a pleasant ride.


I assumed a gentle driving style as I drove through the centre of Alderley Edge and then on leaving the built up area, increased my velocity and was staggered by the controlled way it flattered my driving style as I effortlessly negotiated bends with great aplomb.


This car could be driven everyday to and from the workplace without causing the driver excessive fatigue due to its marvellous ride and handling.


The viseceral power of the engine

James suggested that he press the “Sport” mode, selected by pressing a button on the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel. The visceral power of the engine suddenly made its presence felt with an aural crescendo, surpassing any musical composer’s work. This symphony will live with me forever.


Maserati Gran Turismo S with MC Sport Line Personalisation


The emotion conveyed by the sound of the engine, resulted in an immediate change to my non-verbal behaviour, with an uncontrollable grin instantly appearing on my face.


A few short bursts of acceleration whilst observing the rules of the road, showed this car can be used not only for mundane journeys with the ability to carry rear seat passengers but for driving on a Sunday morning jaunt or track day adventure.


MC-Shift Function

Another button was pressed by James, slightly out of my view as I focused solely on the road ahead, and then “MC-Shift Function” was enabled. The already super quick gear changes becoming even faster.


I suddenly craved this car and wanted to drive it along the Stelvio Pass, positioning the car perfectly before entering each bend, heal and toe, sounds of Matt Munro singing “On days like these” in Italian (I know it was a Lamborghini in the film, but this is my dream).



In summary, I had an amazing driving experience, enjoying this wonder of Modena, courtesy of the attentive service of Stratstone Manchester. I want this car, I want to join the names of Fangio, Moss and Hawthorne by driving a Maserati and creating my own history as I savour each journey made.


La Dolce Vita.

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