La Mille Miglia, steeped in history and nostalgia. The 31st re-enactment of the 1,000 mile Italian road race that travels from Brescia to Rome via the east of Italy, then from Rome to Brescia via the west of Italy, ie one lap of Italy took place over the period 16-19 May 2013.
The scribe has long dreamed about traveling to Italy to see this extravaganza, and finally it has happened. There are just over 400 competing cars in this year’s event, chosen from the 1,400 odd applicants. The list included four Australian entrants.
There is a difference when you look at the pictures, to when you look at something in the flesh, and the scribe was somewhat moved (almost requiring resuscitation from a nice Italian bird) when I walked into the Brixia Expo building on Wednesday afternoon. This visit was to check out the scrutineering and technical checks, but it was more than that as most of the competitors vehicles were on display, either pending inspection or putting the number decals on.
The Red Arrow is promoted as the “the most beautiful race in the world”, and when you see cars like the Fangio 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR, along with a number of Gullwing models, one of which piloted by Scottish golfer, Colin Montgomerie, 15 BMW 328s – including the 1940 Mille Miglia winner, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Maserati, Cisitalia, OM, Lancia, Fiat, MG, Studebaker, Volkswagen, Ford, Citroen, and others, it’s quite quite an amazing sight.
I caught up here with Australians (Melbournians) Brendan Quinn and Peter Strauss who are competing in Brendan’s Aston Martin DB2 Vantage, and admired the MG K3 Magnette of Peter & Robyn Briggs of WA. The following day at the ‘Punching Ceremony’ at Piazza della Loggia I came across the Fiat BV Zagato of another Melbournian, David Reedy. A stunning example, which has been housed in Europe for two years.
The downpour of rain caught most people out at the Piazza della Loggia, including yours truly. The rain was steady and constant, and did not let up from 9:00am to 1:00pm. Wind tunnels were present in parts of the Piazza, causing umbrellas to break. Echoing through the air was the sounds of music, including many English speaking songs; broad range from The Beatles to AC/DC.
There are a large number of photos from this event in the photo gallery, including shots of the Fangio 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR (No. 658), with David Coultard at the wheel. Scottish golfer, Colin Montgomorie was seen co-piloting the BMW factory’s 1937 BMW 328 ‘Berlin Born’ tourer.
The European car manufacturers get involved in a large way, releasing many cars from their private collections (including the two mentioned above). Mercedes-Benz entered 13 cars in total, BMW Classic, 5, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar also with 5 and Porsche with RS 550 Spyder models. Of the over 400 entries, 63 are of those that have participated in at least one of the original Mille Miglia events held between 1927-1957.
The following fact paragraph is taken from an official Mille Miglia press release: – quite staggering.
2,000 people have been involved in the race organization process as well as 1,000 accredited journalists and photographers. Along the route 300 timekeepers and commissioners, as well as 20 clerks of course, 50 circulating Police Officials and 1,000 police officers from the various municipalities crossed.
At 6:45pm on Thursday evening, the event was officially started on the Viale Venezia in front of a large crowd, and yes, a huge down pour of rain. The entire Mille Miglia week in the northern Italy part experienced a large front of rain that crossed this part of Europe. The route between Brescia and the night stop at Ferrara was altered at the last minute due to the flooding of the Bacchigione river. After watching the first 80 vehicles off, the scribe chose to head for the hire car and make the three hour journey to Ferrara. Initial thought was to follow part of the route, then divert off to Ferrara, but with the torrential rain, decided it was best to power directly toward Ferrara. This was short-lived as a tunnel on the A22 (from memory) was flooded up to above the door sill, and it took 40 minutes to get through a 2 km tunnel. Not a particularly enjoyable experience, but the hire car got through without internal water entry!
Upon arrival into Ferrara at 11:30pm, there was no rain in sight, and looked like none had arrived there. The cars started arriving at 12:10am, and there are a few pictures of this arrival. I had heard of no incidents at this point.
Later that morning, after a short sleep, the scribe waved goodbye to Ferrara and the MM entrants and headed toward Dosso. The Mille Miglia was heading through to Rome. The journey to Dosso was to visit the family-owned Ferruicio Lamborghini Museum (write-up on this visit to appear through the overseas trip page shortly).
News from the Quinn/Strauss camp was that Strauss is a better driver than navigator, particularly when he thought they were on the outskirts of Rome, but in fact they were three hours away from reaching Rome! The only issue they experienced with the Aston was over-heating coming into Rome. They relayed that the Italian Police have to be thanked in the organisation of the MM as they drive ahead of the vehicles through the towns literally pushing people out of the way so that the entrants can continue through without unnecessary delay.
After three weeks of continuing non-stop days, tiredness finally hit the scribe on return to Brescia Friday night, and a visit to the Museo Mille Miglia was all that was managed on the Saturday. A lot of research was done prior to departure for this event, but clearly not enough as the scribe had positioned himself in Brescia whereas to be close to getting to roadside position in the hill pass stages of Saturday afternoon, the Friday night stay should have being in Bologna.
For the most part of Saturday in Brescia the weather was fine, but toward mid-afternoon the cloud took over, and as it was approaching the expected arrival time of entrants – another down pour! As evening arrived, it was back to Viale Venezia for roadside viewing of the arrival of the cars. The first to arrive were the Ferrari tribute event (not a huge fan as it is all modern cars, and cannot see how it fits in with the MM, apart from association with Enzo). The first car to arrive in was the sole Brescia Bugatti in the event, quite fitting.
The media area assigned at this spot was quite poorly arranged, as it was not angled toward the finish – so all us photographers were cramming for a decent shot, and in front of the area were a constant stream of people, security and TV crews wandering past, and frequently stopping in front of the ‘shot’. Many of the photographers, including the scribe, were extremely disappointed with this treatment.
The Argentinian entered Bugatti T40, number 49 was swamped on arrival to the vehicle ramp, being declared the winner of the 2013 Mille Miglia. From the photos in the gallery, you’ll see the car has disappeared behind the see of press & people. Just before midnight the first Australian crossed the line, the West Australian entry of Peter and Robyn Briggs. The MG K3 Magnette looked to have survived the drive well.
The following morning it was dress-up and head to the Theatro Grande for the Awards Ceremony. To say the word grand is an understatement. Earlier in the week the scribe attended an Opera at the La Scala theatre in Milan, reputed to be the best in the world. Attendance to Theatro Grande was viewed with event more opulence. You will see quite a number of photos of this building, the intricate detail of the finishes inside. No Australian received awards; these were mainly taken by Italians, Argentinians and Germans.
The Mille Miglia remains a must event to attend, and if one has an eligible vehicle and the funds to ship it and enter, suggestion is to do it this way instead of spectate from the roadside. Still the scribe’s 2013 visit was not a loss, but more of a recognisance mission for future return visit(s). Suggestion if you are wishing to attend as a spectator is to review the route for that year (alters most years) and map your stays according to where you can see the start and finish, but also see one, two or more ‘on road’ passes.