There is a reason people drive on the right side of the road, if they didn’t, passengers would be shoulder to shoulder with oncoming traffic. Until the moment I was careening around a hairpin turn on a single-lane, two-way country road in Tuscany in a left-side from seat, this had never occurred to me.
“Oh, you’re on the traffic side, aren’t you, dear,” says my pilot, supermodel Yasmin Le Bon, sympathetically. “I hadn’t thought about that.”
With her right hand Le Bon guides the worn wooden steering wheel around a particularly concave curve while her left hand jiggles the metal gearshift protruding from the floor of the 1928 Bugatti T40 we are sharing for a ladies’ vintage-car rally.
The event, called It’s All About the Girls, was organized by four wives of avid car collectors tired of the grueling, no-play schedule of traditional rallies in which they always rode shotgun. Now they would be in the driver’s seat.
Over four days, 20 pairs of women (best friends, sister, grandmother, and granddaughter, and one mother and daughter in law) from six countries in $30 million worth of cars took off from home base, the putty, colored Villa La Massa on the banks of the Arno, and drove convoy style through Tuscany and the Chianti region, with tourist destination pit stops and lengthy lunches in between.
“Compared with the men’s rallies, this one is low on stress and mileage and high on pleasure!” says Sarah Moody, a marketing consultant from San Francisco who drove a 1973 Ferrari Daytona.
While the nearby Loro Piana outlet did elicit excitement, so did the Bugatti Veyron, the brand’s newest automobile. That was the thing about these women. Underneath the Céline bags and pavé diamonds was in sincere love of cars.
“Usually it’s the husbands schlepping their wives around, and the women just pretend to be interested,” says Eve Patton, who came from Hong Kong to drive a sea-green Ford Thunderbird, “but these women all love it! They’re all Danica Patricks!”
Melani Walton, who races Ferraris and Alfa Romeos with her Phoenix-based Walmart CEO husband, Rob Walton, is always either the only woman racing or one of two. “The men are so judgmental when they’re racing,” she says. “I make them want to drive better because they don’t want a female in front of them in a race.”
The cars have been transported by truck or freighter, and the prized on of the group is the Ferrari 250 GTO belonging to Nick Mason, the drummer of Pink Floyd. The $20 million car, considered one of the great feats of automobile engineering, has arrived with its own personal mechanic and its to be driven by Mason’s wife, Annete.
“Annete Mason is an amazing drivers,” says Franco Majno, president of 2Fast4You, the company that planned the logistic of the event. “She was a head of me in a Bugatti race once. She really knows how to drive.”