L.A.’s Rally For Kid’s With Cancer
Los Angeles is a flavor that lingers on the palate long after the main course is finished. On this particular day, the sights and sounds of a classic California morning are in full swing as we approach West Hollywood from The Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica. There are many things to do in Los Angeles that will keep you busy till you leave. Like it or not, you never leave this town with anything less than a full plate of memories.
Our home away from home is located one block from the beach and Third Street Promenade shopping district in Santa Monica. Here, The Huntley Hotel reigns as a tour de force of stylish design in the city of angels. Featuring 209 guest rooms including 20 suites, all showcase amenities such as 42” plasma TV’s, pillow-top beds with 100% Egyptian Cotton Matteo Linens and wireless internet access.
The view from my 11th floor suite looks out towards Santa Monica beach and the Pacific Ocean. Outside, surfers, rollerbladers and people watchers are in full force. Decorated in muted tones reflective of the So Cal setting, a dark chocolate framed king-size bed dazzles center stage. Separated by a short entrance hall, a simplistic marble countertop and over-sized glass shower add a touch of class to an already bright and airy bathroom.
Arriving on one of three elevators to the top floor, we enjoy a truly unique experience at The Penthouse restaurant. Here chic is the order of the day and night. For those who prefer something a little more casual, a spectacular circular bar seats guests’ content with their favorite drink and conversation. For those seeking first-class dining, seating cubicles surrounded with sheer curtains or tables for two or four are available with excellent views in all directions. The evening passes quickly as city lights glistened below and we anticipate tomorrow’s events.
Up with the rising sun, I peer out from behind the wheel of the Maserati GranTurismo S. Brilliant sunshine reflects from the lens of my Serengeti sunglasses, but what would you expect, it’s California after all. Sporting a black Ed Hardy T-shirt by Christian Audigier, I casually rest my left arm on the open-windowed door sill allowing this “James Dean” moment to sink in.
Placing two hands firmly on the 3-spoke steering wheel, the 4.7L V8 underfoot assures us an incredible day of driving is ahead. The hottest version yet in a series of wet-sump engines developed by Ferrari, it produces 433 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 361 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,750 rpm. Bore and stroke are increased significantly as compared to the GranTurismo. The front mid-engine “S” model takes full advantage of the added power by mating it to a 6-speed electro-actuated gearbox.
Weight distribution is exemplary; 47-53% front to rear. Housed in a rigid tube, the driveshaft transfers power to the rear located transmission and drive wheels. Within the transmission lies the secret strength of the GranTurismo S and one of the reasons why it is so easy to drive fast.
Steering wheel mounted paddle-shifters activate the race-ready transmission. In normal driving, each gear change is accomplished sequentially in minimal time. Pressing buttons on the dash allows the driver to toggle between Auto and Sport.
A second push of the Auto button reveals the true beast hidden beneath. What Maserati refers to as MC-Shift causes every gear change to slightly overlap. Above 5,500 rpm, shift time are reduced to an astonishing 100 milliseconds, with single gearshifts achieved in a scant 40 ms.
The overall effect affords performance previously attainable only on selected Ferrari models and Formula One race cars. Pull the paddle shifter towards you and the resplendent “pop bang” sound of a new gear was sure to send a chill down your spine. Featured in rich Blue Nettuno with creamy Sabbia leather and Alcantara interior accents, this is one Hollywood hero destined for glory.
Topping off the experience, Jacob Vargas, star of Death Race 2008, Jarhead and numerous other movies and TV episodes sits next to me as my celebrity co-pilot in the “Rally For Kids With Cancer”. A previous gala event the evening before has us paired together in support of this important cause.
Our mission today is to finish the rally, finding each checkpoint, completing a series of challenges and answering various skill-testing questions. The first place prize offers no financial reward for driver and passenger, but does ensure bragging rights for a year.
Celebrity events such as this require red carpets, expensive cars, willing A-Listers and a dedicated team to put it all together. Here in Los Angeles, Eva Longoria-Parker, Roselyn Sanchez, Adam Rodriguez, Gene Simmons and my aforementioned co-pilot are just some of the celebrated attendees to work alongside a host of volunteers.
Checkered flags wave as we exit the parking lot at full speed only to meet the other reality of driving in Los Angeles - traffic. Sitting impatiently at a stoplight, a casual blip of the throttle turns the head of a nearby police officer. Finding his target, he returns my impromptu performance with a slight scowl as if to say “Quiet on the set!” I wave awkwardly, remembering just how loud a Ferrari-built engine can be.
The Maserati GranTurismo S embodies all that is beautiful about Italian made automobiles. So much so, I find numerous other celebrities inquiring to ride along or take it for a spin as the rally continues through the day. It seems even the most glamor star can’t resist the magical powers of a Maserati coupe.
Possessing sufficient space for up to four people, the GranTurismo S impresses with excellent seats, superb dash layout, a comfortable yet sporty ride and sexy exterior shape. Zero to 60 mph is achieved in a mere 4.8 seconds with top speed rated at 183 mph. Acceleration is heart pounding and the temptation to step on it can be overwhelming. Stops are equally rapid and controlled thanks to 6-piston caliper front, 4-piston caliper rear disc brakes.
Returning late in the day to The Huntley Hotel, our task complete and exhausted from solving the challenge of a seven stage car rally, the full force of what we have just experienced hits me anew. Driving a magnificent sports coupe is certainly a thrill to be savored for many years to come. So too is living the life of a celebrity, even if only for a day. But having the chance to participate in the fight against cancer, especially as it impacts the lives of children, is indeed the sweetest taste of all.
The Huntley Hotel
1111 Second Street
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Original story published by Sun Media and on www.autonet.ca