Photo by WayUp Media.
Author Louis L’Amour, famous for his classic tales of the old west, once noted that “a journey is time suspended.” As the modern-day wagon train of supercars and exotics comprising Robb Report’s 2021 California Coastal road rally sets off from Northern California’s Bodega Bay, the continually unfurling vista of coastline—with spires of rock jutting from the sea like aberrant teeth—is indeed timeless. So too are the redwood stands flanking the paved ribbon being traversed, all part of a landscape that seems to measures out infinity.
Rally participants skirt the Pacific Ocean while tracing through Northern California. Photo by WayUp Media.
The final leg of this three-day journey is a 98-mile route that turns inland as drivers navigate through swaths of lushly carpeted hillsides that slowly transition to the carefully tended vineyards—the bloodline for one of the world’s premier wine-producing regions, Napa Valley. The mostly empty road also offers the high-performance vehicles and their pilots the greatest test in automotive agility found on the trip, as hundreds of tight curves trace around precipitous terrain that leaves little room for error.
An Aston Martin leads the way with a Prancing Horse close on its heels. Photo by WayUp Media.
Driving a 2021 Bentley Continental GTC, Robb Report’s RR1 club member Stan Idzi described the latter part of the stretch as “Difficult and challenging.” Behind the wheel of a Rolls-Royce Ghost, Russell Potee found the morning’s section to be “a wonderful way to test the car, it was just the right length. And you all did a great job of turning off the traffic.”
The Montage Healdsburg. Photo by Christian Horan Photography, courtesy of Montage Healdsburg.
The focus required, however, is immediately diverted and relaxed upon entering the 258-acre grounds of the Montage Healdsburg, home to an 11,500-square-foot spa, three dining venues and two separate pools to help detune the senses after nearly 600 miles of stimulation. Also restorative in nature is the welcome cocktail reception complemented with pop-up boutiques from Lugano Diamonds and the bespoke tailors of Isaia.
The rally’s closing dinner at Montage Healdsburg. Photo by WayUp Media.
Car of the Day
If everyone had foreknowledge about the onslaught of narrow and technical turns that defined the last drive-portion of the rally, most would have opted for the car that Craig and Karen Stull of Scottsdale, Ariz., brought for the event, a Porsche 911 GT3. Born from motorsport, the model saw its first iteration in 1999 as the street-purposed version of the German marque’s entry in the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) GT3 Cup racing series.
The Stull’s 2018 example carries a 4.0-liter, naturally aspirated flat-six engine responsible for 500 hp and 339 ft lbs of torque. Managing the power plant is Porsche’s seven-speed PDK transmission, and the combination allows for a top speed of 197 mph and a zero-to-60 mph time of 3.2 seconds. Although the coupe’s straight-line acceleration impresses, it’s the car’s Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system and rear-axle steering that make it a canyon-carver perfectly suited to the day’s constant twists.
Robb Report RR1 club members Russell and Deborah Potee in their 2018 Porsche 911 GT3. Photo by WayUp Media.
“It’s a nice combination of everyday driver and track car,” says Craig. “You still get a lot of noise with gravel hitting the fenders and that sort of thing, because they don’t overdo the sound insulation, but I love that it has the 18-way seats and lift kit that we ordered.” For Karen, who, along with her husband, recently earned a racing license, it was all about “becoming one with the car.” Looking back on its performance through the rally, she adds: “It never let me down. If I could drive these roads two or three more times, I could really tear it up.”
The gala dinner features pairings from Penfolds, Australia’s 177-year old wine institution. The starter of grilled asparagus with prosciutto de parma is complemented with the 2018 Bin 704 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, while the next dish of braised short rib ragu finds a match in the 2018 Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon. The evening’s headliner, however, is the 2018 Penfolds Bin 98 Quantum, a blend of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz from South Australia, paired with honey-and-rosemary-glazed lamb loin. A pouring of the winemaker’s 2018 Grandfather 20 Year Rare Tawny serves as dessert.
Penfolds wines poured for the final evening’s celebratory dinner. Photo by WayUp Media.
The Road Ahead
The 2021 California Coastal rally officially ends with the departure brunch on June 10, but the impression made by the Golden State’s natural beauty continues strong on all who participated, as will the connections made. For Shery Zarnegin, the new tribe she found has been her favorite part of the last few days, mentioning, “We have met at least five people that will be lifelong friends.”
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