- Credit: GCPrive.com

The race of a thousand miles

The most legendary Italian race that was fatal for both drivers and the spectators

7w ago
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This race was held only 24 times, between 1927 and 1957, and it was one of the most beautiful races in history. The competitors would drive 1.000 miles from Brescia to Rome and back, feeling the ultimate adrenaline rush in their hearts while driving through some of the most beautiful places of the Italian Peninsula.

Every year, up to 5 million spectators gathered around to witness many incredible cars attacking incredible roads.

Ferraris, Maseratis, Mercs, BMWs, Alfa Romeos, Lancias, Porsches...all of these names appeared on this race trying to prove who is better.

1955 Mille Miglia route

1955 Mille Miglia route

The Mille Miglia was an idea of 4 mad men: Count Aymo Maggi, Count Franco Mazzotti, motoring journalist Giovanni Canestrini and sports manager Renzo Castagneto. The reason they started this is because the Italian GP was moved from their hometown Brescia to Monza. So, they gathered some of their wealthy associates to race from Brescia to Rome and back. The length of the course was around 1.500 km (which is equal to 1.000 Roman miles).

The first race was held on 26th March 1927 with 77 cars on the grid. The entrance was only for unmodified production cars, and the first winner was Giuseppe Morandi. With his 2.0-litre OM 665 Superba SS, he finished the race in just 21 hours and 4 minutes, averaging around 77 km/h.

OM 665 Superba SS that won the 1927 Mille Miglia

OM 665 Superba SS that won the 1927 Mille Miglia

During the race, the cars with less powerful engines would start first, followed by more powerful cars (all went in a 1-minute interval between). This resulted in minimizing the time that roads had to be closed. In 1949, a new rule was issued, stating that cars should be numbered by the time they leave Brescia (for example, Stirling Moss' Mercedes left Brescia at 7:22 am, giving it the number 722).

Ferrari 340 MM Spyder by Touring

Ferrari 340 MM Spyder by Touring

Apart from Moss, one of the most prominent drivers was Tazio Nuvolari, who won the 1930 Mille Miglia with his Alfa Romeo 6C. He started the race after his teammate Achille Varzi, and he was getting really close to him by the end of the race. When approaching the final section of the stage, Nuvolari turned his headlights off, making him invisible in Varzi's rear-view mirror. Nuvolari overtook his teammate on a straight part just a few miles from the finish line, and won the race thanks to his tactic.

Tazio Nuvolari in his Alfa Romeo 6C

Tazio Nuvolari in his Alfa Romeo 6C

Since then, this incredible race started to attract more and more people, and since cars were becoming faster (some of them had top speeds of 260 km/h), the race became very dangerous. In 1938, the race was stopped by Benito Mussolini due to an accident that took lives of several spectators. When the race continued in 1940, it was named Grand Prix of Brescia, and was held on a 100 km stage that had to be lapped 9 times.

BMW at the 1940 Grand Prix of Brescia

BMW at the 1940 Grand Prix of Brescia

After the WWII, the race was once again dubbed as Mille Miglia, and the stage went back to its former shape. Between 1947 and 1954, Italian manufacturers were simply dominating the race, and winners were either Alfa Romeos, Ferraris or Lancias. But, in 1955, Mercedes decided to try to win the race with the famous 300 SLR and Stirling Moss behind the wheel. The car was based on another iconic machine-the Mercedes-Benz W196 Formula One car.

Sir Stirling Moss and his co-driver Denis Jenkinson ready for the race

Sir Stirling Moss and his co-driver Denis Jenkinson ready for the race

It took Moss 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds to complete the stage with his #722 SLR. He even set the record for the highest average speed recorded on this stage (157.65 km/h), which hasn't been broken.

Sir Stirling Moss in his iconic SLR 722

Sir Stirling Moss in his iconic SLR 722

In 1957, the very last Mille Miglia was held. Due to two horrific crashes, the race was banned forever. The first crash happened near the village of Guidizzolo, when a Ferrari 335 S went off the road and into the crowd. The crash took nine lives, and five of them were children. The driver Alfonso de Portago and his co-driver Edmund Nelson also lost their lives in this crash. Apparently, Portago waited too long to make a tire change and, at one point, a tire exploded which caused him to lose control.

Portago's crash in 1957

Portago's crash in 1957

The seconds crash took place near Florence, when Joseph Göttgens lost control of his Triumph TR3 and crashed into a barrier. From 1927 to 1957, the Mille Miglia race claimed 56 lives.

Between 1958 and 1961, the event continued as a rally-styled road trip at legal speeds, but that was also cancelled. But, in 1977, the event was resurrected as Mille Miglia Storica, and in 1986, the race took a new shape and became a 4-day rally trip of car pornography. Now, basically a parade of pre-1957 cars, the Mille Miglia is a must-see event for all petrolheads.

Mille Miglia 2019

Mille Miglia 2019

SOME INTERESTING DETAILS:

- the most successful manufacturer at Mille Miglia was Alfa Romeo (11 victories in total)

- the most successful driver was Clemente Biondetti with 4 victories in: Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Spider MM Touring (1938), Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Berlinetta Touring (1947), Ferrari 166 S Coupé Allemano (1948), Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta Touring (1949)

Credit: racehistory.gallery

Credit: racehistory.gallery

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Comments (8)

  • There is so much good content being written that I can hardly keep up with it all. This is excellent. I’m amazed the four founders were even allowed to have such a race on public roads, especially with a total lack of regard to safety.

    I realize that all forms of racing were unsafe in those days, but this race had the worst of conditions: cars with high driving positions, no seat belts or significant roll bars, drivers with no protective gear for fire or impact, public roads with no speed limits, no spectator control or readily available emergency services... the list goes on and on.

    It’s true that some forms of racing carry on with some of these traits today, but at least the drivers and cars are equipped with safety devices unheard of even a decade ago.

    Sir Stirling Moss was fearless; he would drive anything presented to him.

    Good work Alen.

      1 month ago
    • Thank you so much! Moss was simply a racing legend.

      Unfortunately, in the growing age of safety and restraints, forms of racing like this were simply too much for some people. The racing today is still dangerous, but still not as dangerous...

      Read more
        1 month ago
  • One of the better “nutshell” writeups I’ve seen on the Mille yet. This is quite good, mate.

    Take: the Mille Miglia would probably work better as a rally that loops into itself. And IIRC the Targa Florio (its equal) is run as a stage rally these days. Given that the WRC has a class that allows GT cars in tarmac events, I reckon it’s possible to run the Mille in parts that constitute the original route, though that’d mean cutting Sardegna.

      1 month ago
    • Thank you!

      Well, I reckon that, if some parts of the former stage were improved for modern civilian safety standards, it may also fulfill some racing safety standards. I mean, if the current Isle of Man TT hasn't had any issues from...

      Read more
        1 month ago
  • The greatest article . . IN THE WORLD!!! ❤️❤️❤️#UnitedForIndia🇮🇳

      1 month ago
  • Very interesting read. Nice written too. Good job mate.

      1 month ago
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