Taking control of the Edo Competition Maserati MC12 R was a moment deserving of more majesty than the side of a nondescript German road could offer. This car, after all, was the automotive equivalent of a Hattori Hanzo sword--the most finely balanced weapon in the four-wheeled world, and there wasn't even a stereo in the car to crank out some excessive mood music.
I had been granted 100 miles of running, as much seat time as any journalist in the world has enjoyed in any of the 50 Maserati supercars. Most went directly to museums or private collections anyway, but this one has more than 5000km on its clock after three months on the road and serves as a daily driver to a man with a supercar collection that would make J-Lo jealous. And this one felt better, keener than the original, because it is. This one has been tricked up by a chassis engineer at the top of his game and given more horses than the all-conquering Ferrari Enzo.
Even in damp conditions, with the rear wheels banging headlong into the traction control, it was still special. This is car that accelerates to 60 mph in less than 3.7 seconds and will keep reeling in the horizon up to and beyond 245 mph. Considering this car weighs less than 3,500 pounds and the Bugatti Veyron considerably more, this car here might just be the fastest on Earth.
Steering is telepathic and the acceleration is an intense, emotional, spiritual journey. Just as the hackles raise in the 6.0-liter V12 engine beyond the burbling 2000-rpm level, the world is already melting into fast-moving streaks through the window. The rev counter flickers around from tickover to the point the pistons meet the rings in the blink of an eye, and the high-tech gearbox is the only thing that could keep up with the hard-charging powerplant. Keep it nailed, flatshift to the next gear, and the MC12 will scramble senses with its pure unabated speed. The Enzo was good; this is slightly better.
That weight disappears on the open road and at speed this car won't be touched thanks to aerodynamic grip pushing the tires to the road. It felt single-seater light thanks to assisted steering and zero body roll. When the ballast slops around atop the wheels you've got issues; when it's pressed to the ground it provides deep-rooted stability.
Inevitably it felt wondrously balanced, easy to handle, confidence inspiring, just about everything else you'd expect from a car built around the mechanically supreme carbon-fiber monocoque of the Ferrari Enzo, Le Mans-tuned aerodynamics and the racing know-how of the ultimate Porsche specialist. It boggles the mind that a guy with a backstreet garage can take on Maserati's wares and turn a mild disappointment into a world-beater. But he has. Winner of the Tuner Grand Prix with a 550-bhp Porsche GT2, Edo Karabegovic then took the same car on a 7-minute, 15-second lap of the Nordschleife--faster than the works Carrera GT effort. He has since been inundated with requests to sort glamour cars including Lamborghinis, Ferraris and this Maserati.
He was less inspired than I was by its reputation. "Only the doors and the windows were right; everything else was absolute shit," was his colorful assessment. The roadgoing versions, he argued, are thrown-together facsimiles of a racing car, a legal requirement before the MC12 can conquer all in the FIA GT Championship. It's a rough approximation of the rules, with steel brakes, long bodywork that only starts working at 150 mph and Pirelli P Zeros in a deferential nod to the Trident's on-track partner. The Enzo was better equipped in every way. "Steel brakes on a car like this are absolutely ridiculous," Karabegovic continued with passion. "And the fixed suspension on this car is just horrible, it feels very nervous beyond 300 km/h [186 mph]. It didn't feel comfortable to drive this car fast."
The racing legacies weren't the only handicaps. While Ferrari donated the Enzo's underpinnings, there was always one great unwritten clause in the deal, too. Despite costing more, the Maserati would never be allowed to outdo the Enzo as a road car. Politics run deep within Italian car companies; disgruntled Enzo buyers just wouldn't do. So the V12 was bridled at 623 bhp, the rev ceiling pegged at 7700 rpm. This is the automotive equivalent of doping a horse, or giving it a very fat jockey. Paying punters believed they were getting the best that money can buy. But this was an overweight, overpriced Enzo-lite with none of the Scuderia's finesse. It did, however, have the potential to improve beyond recognition.
Edo swiftly persuaded one unnamed company to produce the 15.6-inch ceramic brake discs that work with the standard calipers that now sit just 3mm off the 19-inch alloy wheels. That's when the tires' inept performance under hard braking came to light, and a set of Enzo's Bridgestones found themselves smeared onto the rims. The Bridgestones were developed specifically for this chassis; whereas the O.E. Pirellis on the MC12 are mighty tires in normal circumstances, they proved the root cause of the car's handling imbalance.
"Without a doubt this was the biggest change I made to the car," Karabegovic explained. A fully adjustable suspension, again from a mystery supplier, was an integral part of the process, as the fixed Boge dampers that found their way onto the factory car replicated a Japanese earthquake at speed. It was an afterthought for a marque more interested in sorting a racing car. Karabegovic created a comfortable and confidence inspiring car at speed that would undoubtedly attract live TV coverage over here. The Maserati now works at speeds so far removed from the usual road car remit most customers would never have found them anyway.
And this car will evolve, if Karabegovic gets his way and strips 440 pounds of excess baggage. The car doesn't need more power, he says, weight is the big factor now. And the interior certainly won't miss the poorly constructed dashboard with a clock that barely fits, carbon-fiber-look cloth and leather cladding. His other plans include a racing rear wing, but he'll have to make his own after his request to buy one from the motorsport arm was politely declined. He already constructed the front headlight fairings, molding them directly to the front section. One slip, one burn, and Karabegovic would have personally ended up with a hellish bill to replace that elegant mass of aerodynamically-tuned vanes and bulges. Typically, he told me its value as I removed it from the scene for pictures. Never have I been so careful with a piece of carbon-fiber.
An extra 70 bhp that brings the MC12 conveniently up to and beyond Enzo spec was all too easy to find. A mild ram air effect helped raise the horsepower at high revs, and the rest came from the exhaust and a local electronics whiz coming up with a new 8500-rpm redline and a new gearbox program to cope with the extra torque throughout the range. Our amiable, if slightly eccentric, German friend was planning a 400-km/h run by winding the revs up to unhealthy levels for a 10-minute stint, too; with a headwind this could actually beat the Veyron.
And the noise at its upper reaches is the food of the gods. It may have a trident badge, but the engine note is pure Ferrari as the revs raise and the flat burbling exhaust note hardens to a high-pitched scream. Maserati's stock exhaust was a monumental 60-pound piece of kit, packed with so much insulation that this machine "sounded like a Nissan Primera." A new unit of Edo's own design weighs in at a much more spritely 15 pounds and comes with a neat trick attached.
On the key fob are two buttons which operate the "quiet" and "loud" modes by a pair of electronically controlled flaps in the back box. In quiet mode the MC12 R will pass any inspection, support conversation and creep as quietly down the street as any 6-liter V12 ever will. Hit the loud button, though, and every rev suddenly permeates the cabin, the engine sings as the decibels reach a level the local police would not be so happy with. It's fantastic. "I don't make cars for the disco, I make cars faster and I also like fun things like this," Karabegovic said. He is also not into bulk selling wheels. He likes complete projects and I get the feeling more of his work will grace these pages in the coming months.
Edo Karabegovic's MC12 is one of the most spectacular cars on the road today--and just maybe the fastest supercar on Earth. He has built an Enzo beater and then some. That scribble on the door, by the way, belongs to Michael Schumacher, who warmed this particular car up round Fiorano. Given a second crack, he'd like this car a lot more.
Edo Competition Maserati MC12 R
Longitudinal mid-engine, rear-wheel drive.
6.0-liter V12, dohc, four valves per cylinder Edo Competition software, ram air intakes, sport exhaust
Fully adjustable coilover suspension from anonymous supplier
Ceramic discs, 15.6-inch front, 14.2-inch rear
Bridgestone Potenza Scuderias, 245/35-19 (f) 345/35-19 (r)
Headlight fairings, Edo livery
Peak power: 700 bhp @ 8200 rpm
Peak Torque: 527 lb-ft @ 4830 rpm
0-60mph: 3.7 sec.
Top speed: 248 mph (est.)