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Pagani Week: The Ultimate Zonda Experience Happens On The Track

"Limits are made to be overcome." - Horacio Pagani

There are reasons why certain things happen in this world, and track-only Pagani Zondas are perhaps some of the best examples. Now, we’ve already covered everything from Pagani’s origins, to the birth of the Zonda, and the many one-off specials ordered by wealthy enthusiasts. But what about the Zonda track animals that aren’t street legal? That’s what we’re here for today. Be glad you woke up this morning. It was at the 2007 Geneva Motor Show that the track-tastic Zonda arrived.

The Zonda R was powered by a 6.0-liter V12 that was actually sourced from the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR, itself an endurance racing machine that required a road-going version for homologation standards. All told, that V12 produced 750 hp at 8,000 rpm and 524 lb-ft of torque. What was interesting about this engine was its dry sump that allowed for a lowered center of gravity. Other ingenious features included a lightweight carbon fiber high-performance intake system, a racing multiple disc sintered clutch and a Formula 1 style exhaust system. Oh, and the V12 was even ceramic coated for optimal heat dissipation. Power was sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed sequential synchronized gearbox.

But don’t assume the Zonda R was a regular, street-legal Zonda with a different engine. It wasn’t. Designed from scratch, the Zonda R contained only 10 percent of the Zonda F’s components. Its carbon chassis incorporates a roll cage and a rubber fuel tank with four fuel pumps and a quick refuel filler found on other GT cars. The wheelbase was stretched by 47mm for better stability. Even the front and rear subframes were all-new, as was the bodywork. It was designed for elevated downforce even in low speed at the corners. Aerodynamic advances included a longer front hood with flaps, a closed underbody, a new rear overhang with an adjustable rear wing, and a race-derived diffuser.

Essentially, downforce, aerodynamic efficiency, and lightness were the key goals. Heck, it has a dry weight of 2,359 lbs. Unlike previous Paganis, the Zonda R has an extremely basic interior, but the seats were customized to the driver for maximum support. Drivers can fully adjust the car’s settings, thanks to 12-way Bosch Motorsport traction control and an ABS system. Performance? Incredible, as can be expected. The Zonda R set a new Nurburgring lap time of 6:47.48. It also makes the sprint from 0-62 mph in less than 2.7 seconds while Brembo carbon ceramic brakes return it to a standstill. All told, just 15 examples were built at a price of 1.2 million euros each, plus taxes.

Ever the perfectionist, Pagani later launched the Zonda R Evolution, an updated version of the R. Improvements? Power was upped to an even 800 hp, while a larger air splitter and smaller spoiler placed below the rear unit enhanced aerodynamics and downforce. Not only were the Zonda R and R Evolution successful attempts at the track, but also served as test beds for the Zonda’s eventual replacement. But not long after that car premiered in 2012, Pagani offered up one final version of the Zonda, and it was called the Revolucion. In 2013, the Zonda Revolucion came into this world and, well, essentially defied the laws of physics.

It could even make Einstein blush. Described as the "apex of the celebration of performance, technology and art applied to a track car," the Zonda Revolucion is Mr. Pagani’s stunning final version of his first model. It weighs exactly the same as the Zonda R (2,359 lbs). Power comes from that familiar 6.0-liter AMG-built V12 now rated out 800 hp and 538 lb-ft of torque. That all results in a power-to-weight ratio of 748 hp per ton. Power is routed to the rear wheels through a six-speed magnesium reversal and sequential gearbox that changes gears in only 20 milliseconds. The Bosch-developed traction control system has 12 unique settings and a renewed ABS system.

The Zonda Revolucion allows the driver to adapt it to their own particular driving style. Aerodynamic improvements include what’s called a Drag-Reduction-System (DRS) on the rear wing, and works like this: two operating modes can be activated at any time by the driver via a button the steering wheel. The rear wing "changes between maximum and minimum downforce settings at the occurrence of a lateral acceleration of + / - 0.8 g and a minimum speed of 62 mph." Holding down the DRS button for more than two seconds instructs the system to work automatically according to in-house developed algorithms.

An F1-derived Brembo braking system with new discs, which weigh 15 percent less than the previously used discs, also offer higher stiffness and lower operating temperatures. That allows for not only extreme track use, but also increases by four times the disc life without any significant sign of fading while still providing an increase in braking power. We know we’re not alone in thinking everything about the Zonda Revolucion sounds perfect. Perhaps it is the perfect car, but its asking price, at the time of launch, was a cool 2.2 million euros, not including taxes. Expect that figure to be even higher today. Only five examples were built.

And so the end of the Zonda era has come. In the span of only 12 years, the Pagani Zonda, one-offs and track-only versions included, not only managed to put Pagani Automobili on the map, but also demonstrated time and again that this boutique supercar company is the real deal. While Ferrari and Lamborghini are now huge corporations (or part of one), Pagani is family-owned and run – the way its Italian counterparts once were. And everything that was learned during the Zonda years was applied to Pagani’s next creation, the Huayra.

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