The Myth of the Mille Miglia
- The Myth of the Mille Miglia
The ‚Mille Miglia‘, named after its 1,000 mile long track when founded back in 1927, has kept drawing millions of enthusiasts from all over the world to Italy ever since its rebirth in 1977. On this page you will find useful information about the participation and route of one of the most sought-after, and renowned, classic car rallies.
The Mille Miglia thrilled with a turbulent history that every classic car fan should know. Two compelling stories are told below. Did you know that a racer was knighted for his success at the Mille Miglia? Or how it came to the tragic end of the Mille Miglia in 1957?
Todays Mille Miglia
Since its relaunch in 1977, the “Mille Miglia storica” has been held annually as a classic car rally with special stages after its tragic end in 1957. Today, less for speed than for showcasing unique race cars on one of the most important and beautiful stages in motorsports‘ history. ‚La corsa più bella del mondo‘ – the most beautiful race in the world – is taking place every year around mid-May. It attracts celebrities as well as gear heads from all over the world.
The Mille Miglia is a bucket-list experience. So, what does it take to get on the starting grid?
Participation in the Mille Miglia: The application process
To start with, it’s almost impossible to join the Mille Miglia as a race team.
Basically everyone can apply. However, the Mille Miglia committee decides which classic cars and teams are allowed to participate. There are of course objective criteria for approval. If you have met these, you still are not there for a long time.
- There are an estimated 1,500 valid applications per year.
- Less than 400 teams are admitted.
- Deducting those places reserved to sponsors, some 250 starting numbers remain.
We will reveal how you can still get involved!
Which classic cars are allowed at the Mille Miglia?
Mille Miglia may only be entered by models that have taken part in the ‘original’ Mille Miglia between 1927 and 1957. The lists of vehicle types can be found on the organizer’s website: www.millemiglia.it
Then there is nothing standing in the way of an application.
These should be submitted to the organizer by december of the previous year at the latest. Unfortunately, that does not guarantee your participation.
Only a fraction of the applications can be considered.
Important additional qualifications that can help
Unless you are an Academy Award winner, have an important political office – member of a national parliament will not do – or have recently won Olympic gold, o are a pop star, then only your classic car entered can score.
If you want to be really serious about the Mille Miglia, you have the following options:
Look for a vehicle that is on the Mille Miglia list, but of little prestige among classic car enthusiasts. You do not have to spend a fortune on such a vehicle. You should concentrate on finding a vehicle with a special history. A famous previous owner significantly increase the probability of admission. The Mille Miglia committee is endeavouring to create a varied starting field. That's why you have the best odds with exotics.
If you are one of the lucky ones, despite all hurdles with the application works, you only have to pay the entry fee of approximately € 6,000 – and you’re there!
The route of the Mille Miglia
Every year, the route of the Mille Miglia changes slightly. However, some key points are certain:
1. . The start always takes place in Brescia, where the founding fathers had given birth to ‚Mille Miglia‘ in 1927, apparently as a response to its neighbouring city of Milan, an eternal rival, being selected as a first grand-prix course in 1922 when Autodromo di Monza had been inaugurated. The technical car inspection in downtown Brecia is the first of many rally highlights and a real wonderful opportunity to seeing a fine line-up of pre-war race cars up close and personal.
2. The apex of the Mille Miglia has by tradition remained in Rome. The vehicle parade there is another highlight of the rally.
3. From Rome the route leads back north. The stop-over on Siena’s Piazza Il Campo, home to the Palio horserace, is one of the most spectacular highlights set every year.
4. The finish line in Brescia is also set – at least for those among the sports‘ and classic car pool who make it to the finish line!
The roadbook and the drills at the Mille Miglia
If you have actually managed to get one of the coveted spots on the Mille Miglia, please familiarize yourself with the rules of the rally. You’ve probably already raced at one of the existing classic car rallies. The Mille Miglia works in the same way.
There is a roadbook, in addition, the entire route is marked with the famous red arrow, the logo of the Mille Miglia.
There are time controls and stamp points, but the Mille Miglia is being won over section control: You have to cover given sections in a certain time. The smaller the deviation, the more points to be earned.
When, where and how exactly the tests work, is all explained by the roadbook.
Experience the Mille Miglia with Nostalgic
Yet, there is a stylish and much more relaxed way to experience the Mille Miglia thrill – with Nostalgic. Here, we will spare you the troubled application process. There will be red carpet treatmont along the way (for all those who are not Academy Award or Olympic athletes!).
You will be able to relax in a luxury country resort and enjoy the most beautiful landscapes of Tuscany away from the crowds. Nevertheless, you will experience first-hand the fascination of Mille Miglia, drive in-between the Mille Miglia classic cars when stampeding across Southern Tuscany, and get in touch with pilots and race cars on Piazza Il Campo.
We are the experts and have been offering this really unique travel experience for many years. It is not by chance that this date is always the first fully-booked among all classic car tours offered by Nostalgic.
Give it a head start at the wheel of a Nostalgic classic car at the next Mille Miglia!Check availability
A show of the rich and famous
The modern Mille Miglia has quickly become a showcase of celebrities: personalities from sports, politics and economics, actors and musicians keep joining the event.
The media interest in the Mille Miglia is correspondingly high: no other classic car rally is so in the limelight of the public, far beyond the sworn vintage car scene. Many celebrities eagerly collect classics and some of them so seriously that famous collections have become of it.
Prominent classic car collections
Ralph Lauren and Jay Leno set standards worldwide with their classic car collections:
- The fashion icon Ralph Lauren has built one of the most prestigious collections, estimated in excess of 200 million $ value.
- Late Night presenter Jay Leno owns more than 200 classics
- Rowan Atkinson aka Mr. Bean is a passionate collector of English classic cars.
- Nicolas Cage and Eric Clapton share the enthusiasm for early Ferraris.
- The Panini family, who have made their fortune with teenager soccer collection stickers, proudly own the largest Maserati collection.
Celebritiy drivers at Mille Miglia
The Mille Miglia is the perfect stage for renowned collectors to showcase their valuable vintage cars.
DID YOU KNOW?
For safety reasons, no celebrity driver names have been published since 2016. But whenever a driver enrolled is not named, one can assume him or her to be either a celebrity, or very wealthy, or both.
Let’s take a look at who had enrolled before then. It is a list of musicians, actors, politicians, former Formula 1 drivers:
Cesare Fiorio Teammanager Ferrari F1 on a Lancia Aurelia B20 GT 2000 Berlinetta – 1951
Javier Zanetti soccer star from Inter Mailand on a Alfa Romeo 1900 Sport Spider
Karl Wendlinger Formula 1 driver on a Mercedes 300 SL Coupé W 198 – 1955
Wolfgang und Ferdinand Porsche from the Porsche family on a Porsche 356 1500 Speedster – 1955
Martin Brundle Formula 1 driver on a Jaguar D-Type – 1956
Jeremy Irons actor and academy award winner on a Jaguar XK 120 Lightweight – 1950
Jay Leno Late Night talker on a Jaguar XK 120 Sports “Ecurie Ecosse” – 1951
Brian Johnson Singer of the Rockband AC/DC on a Jaguar C-Type – 1953
Adrien Brody Actor and academy award winner on a Mercedes 300 SL W 198 – 1956
Amy Macdonald Singer on a Jaguar XK120
Milow, pop icon on a Jaguar D-Type
Herbert Grönemeyer, famous german musician on a Bentley BJ 1927
Hannah Herzsprung, german actress on a Jaguar C-TYPE BJ 1953
David Coulthard, Formual 1 Pilot on a Mercedes 300 SL W 198
Karl Wendlinger, Formula 1 pilot on Mercedes 300 SL W 198
Jochen Mass, race driver on a Mercedes 300 SL W 198
Hans-Joachim Stuck, race driver on a Porsche 356 1500).
Christian Geistdörfer, rallye world champion with Walter Röhrl on a BMW 328 Coupé Touring
The turbulent history of the Mille Miglia
Join us on a journey through the great moments: learn more about the meteoric rise of Alfa Romeo and the making of Ferrari. Or feel the spirit of the original Mille Miglia in two engrossing stories that every Mille Miglia fan should know.
From its foundation in 1927 to the 1950s, the Mille Miglia remained the most famous and perhaps most important car race in the world. The circuit from Brescia to Rome and back to Brescia measured exactly 1597 kms, this loop had to be covered completely to finish the race.
There was one start per minute. The results from the Mille Miglia were scored for the World Cup and the Cup Franco Marzotti.
Golden years for Alfa Romeo and Ferrari
For 20 years – from the founding of 1927 to 1947 – the almost invincible Alfa Romeo‘s with a total of 11 victories were the great dominators of the Mille Miglia.
After that, Alfa Romeo withdrew temporarily from motorsports and Enzo Ferrari took over the scepter – with 8 victories on his own sports cars. Only Mercedes-Benz made it to win twice during the early decades, giving headaches to Alfa Romeo. Heroic Rudolf Caracciola managed to defeat the then superior Alfa Romeo‘s in 1932, followed in 1954 by Stirling Moss dominating the Ferraris.
This victory was a glittering moment in motor sports: Mercedes-Benz SLR let the Englishman set a speed record forever, driver hero Moss would become lather knighted by Prince Charles.
All Mille Miglia winner from 1927 – 1957
|Ferdinando Minoia/ Giuseppe Morandi||O.M. Superba 665S|
|Giuseppe Campari/ Giulio Ramponi||Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Spider Zagato|
|Giuseppe Campari/ Giulio Ramponi||Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Spider Zagato|
|Tazio Nuvolari/ Giovanni Battista Guidotti||Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Spider Zagato|
|Rudolf Caracciola/ Wilhelm Sebastian||Mercedes-Benz SSKL|
|Baconin Borzacchini/ Amedeo Bignami||Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Spider Touring|
|Tazio Nuvolari/ Decimo Compagnoni||Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Spider Zagato|
|Achille Varzi/ Amedeo Bignami||Alfa Romeo 8C 2600 „Monza” Spider Brianza|
|Carlo Pintacuda/ Alessandro Della Stufa||Alfa Romeo 2900 Tipo B|
|Antonio Brivio/ Carlo Ongaro||Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 A Spider|
|Carlo Pintacuda/ Paride Mambelli||Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 A|
|Clemente Biondetti/ Aldo Stefani||Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Spider Touring|
|Huschke von Hanstein/ Walter Bäumer||BMW 328 Coupé Touring|
|Clemente Biondetti/ Emilio Romano||Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Coupé Touring|
|Clemente Biondetti/ Giuseppe Navoni||Ferrari 166S Coupé Allemano|
|Clemente Biondetti/ Ettore Salani||Ferrari 166 MM Spider Touring|
|Giannino Marzotto/ Marco Crosara||Ferrari 195S Coupé Touring|
|Luigi Villoresi/ Pasquale Cassani||Ferrari 340 America Coupé Vignale|
|Giovanni Bracco/ Alfonso Rolfo||Ferrari 250S Coupé Vignale|
|Giannino Marzotto/ Marco Crosara||Ferrari 340 America Spider Vignale|
|Alberto Ascari||Lancia D24 Carrera Pininfarina|
|Stirling Moss/ Denis Jenkinson||Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR|
|Eugenio Castelotti||Ferrari 290 MM Spider Scaglietti|
|Piero Taruffi||Ferrari 315S Spider|
Enzo Ferrari makes Alfa Romeo invincible
After modest successes at the wheel of racing cars, Enzo Ferrari became team manager of the official Alfa Romeo racing team. He not only succeeded in keeping Alfa Romeo on the road to success at the Mille Miglia, but also made Alfa Romeo the most successful racing team ever. For a while, nobody could beat Alfa Romeo.
The exit of Alfa Romeo from motor sports
Worldwide economic turmoil in the early 1930s would not spare car makers. Struggling with massive problems, manufacturer Alfa Romeo saw dramatically decrease demand for its technologically superior sports and luxury cars and bid farewell to motor sports in the same year it would become integrated into Italian Institute for Industrial Recovery (IRI), 1932. It was thanks to Alfa Romeo’s motor sports director Enzo Ferrari that the Alfa Romeo sports cars would keep racing – under Ferrari’s own ‚Scuderia‘, long before his own cars were constructed.
The ‚Scuderia Ferrari‘ is born
Despite the very successful start with Alfa Romeo racing cars, Enzo decided to develop his own racing cars. After the end of WWII time had come: the first racing and street cars left the Ferrari factory in Maranello and a unique history and winning streak began.
From then on, Ferrari‘s would dominate Mille Miglia, and continue their success story even after the end of the Mille Miglia race. No other Formula 1 team has been able to compete with Ferrari in the long run: 16 constructors and 15 drivers victories in the Formula 1 World Championships testify to this and make Ferrari the world’s most unique myth.
Mille Miglia up close – 1st story
The record run of 1955: hussar ride and milestone in racing
Every Mille Miglia fan should know about the incredible story of the race of Stirling Moss at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz SLR at the 1955 Mille Miglia. Then, an unforgottable racing history had been written. The racing team Moss and Jenkinson mastered the 992-mile circuit in 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds, which corresponds to an average speed of little less than 160 km/ h.
Such a drive is hard to imagine, considering that the entire itinerary followed country roads that had not previously been closed to thru traffic. The race team had to expect obstacles on the road at any time. To this day, the ride of Stirling Moss is considered a hussar ride and a milestone in motorsports. Second-placed Mercedes-Benz race car – driven by one of the best driver ever Juan Manuel Fangio – hit the finish half an hour later.
Chapter 1 – The top favorites for the 1955 victory
Ferrari, Maserati and Aston Martin were on pole position together with the race cars from Stuttgart. When it came to race drivers, the Mercedes-Benz team was superior to its rivals: Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio, Hans Herrmann and Karl Kling were reckoned world class drivers. Each of them had what it took to become a Mille Miglia winner. Nevertheless, the opponents were not to be underestimated: Paolo Marzotto, Piero Taruffi, Peter Collins, Count Trips and Umberto Maglioli.
Chapter 2 – Dream Start: Ferrari rushes off the Mercedes-Benz team
The start of the race was less good for Moss. Three Ferraris were in the race after the start in front of Moss. There was nothing to suggest that the British duo in the Mercedes-Benz was on the way to an unbeatable fabulous record. Castelotti on Ferrari made a dream start. He was unbeatably fast on the first leg of the Mille Miglia. But his driving style was so much to the limit that the Ferrari remained stopped around Pescara. His teammate Marzotto on the second Ferrari unfortunately had to give up because he had a flat tire, and the spare was mounted on the wrong rim, which did not fit on the race car.
Chapter 3 – Stirling Moss on Mercedes-Benz strikes back
The two toughest rivals were out of the race. Faster refueling enabled Moss to head the race for the first time as he took over Taruffi’s third Ferrari in the lead. Until entering Rome, Moss extended his lead over second-placed Taruffi to more than a minute. Fangio had engine problems, Kling a crash outside the gates of Rome. Rome was the apex of the race. Never before had a team leading half-time in Rome been able to win the Mille Miglia.
Chapter 4 – The triumph unveils
The return journey from Rome to Brescia became a veritable triumph for the top two. At the Siena control, Moss and Jenkings were in the lead by five minutes. After Florence came the infamous Passo della Futa, mastered brilliantly by Moss and Jenkinson. The flat fields past Bologna helped fostering the lead. In the Modena area, home to Enzo Ferrari, the dream team was an impressive 27 minutes ahead of the runner-up Fangio. Unfortunately, Karl Herrmann was out after an accident. At that moment, all potential rivals for the title were either out of the race or had fallen back by far. By the time they reached the finish in Brescia, team Moss-Jenkinson was more than half an hour ahead of second-placed Fangio and just under 45 minutes ahead of Umberto Maglioli’s best Ferrari in third place.
Chapter 5 – The Secret of the Record Run
How could such a groundbreaking triumph comec? Stirling Moss was a gifted racer, true. But he never won the World Cup, was runner-up four times and won a total of 16 races. The Mercedes-Benz SLR was a winning car, although not up to the Ferraris in the World Cup. The combination Fangio and Mercedes-Benz SLR was estimated stronger and considered a top favorite. Moss-Jenkinson succeeded because they did what noboday did then. Today, it is a standard: the elaborate route inspection, considered the secret of success for all endurance races.
What is standard in today’s rally sport has been invented by the British Mille Miglia success story: a detailed, written logbook that painstakingly describes the course of the route and allows the pilot to drive at maximum speed in confusing areas.
Kapitel 6 – The trump card of Moss excels the legend Fangio
Co-driver and motorsport journalist Dennis Jenkinson spent months before the start of the race to visit the track of the Mille Miglia and transfer it to a logbook. Moss blindly trusted his co-pilot’s notes and played that advantage over his competitors. Of course, the great weather conditions and a bit of racing luck were also part of what let Moss wrote racing history and create an all-time record.
Do you want to experience the Mille Miglia yourself?Check availability
Mille Miglia close up and personal – 2nd story
The tragedy that marked the end of the Mille Miglia
In its 30-year-history, the Mille Miglia was not just adrenaline and joy. Read on how a tragedy ended the original race back in 1957.
Chapter 1 – Folk celebration at the Mille Miglia
In the villages and small towns of the province of Mantua, which belongs to the Italian region of Lombardy, modern times had not arrived for all yet. There was hardly any industry, and people worked in agriculture and small businesses; it was just enough for a modest living. At the same time, the economic boom in the triangle of the industrial cities of Milan-Turin-Genoa ensured that a middle class was formed, who could afford a washing machine, a car, and later a television.
However, this boom did not make it into the sleepy nests of the countryside. All the more joyous extraordinary events were greeted in this community, because the promised a little relief from painstaking routine between field, work and church. Every year in May, when the racing heroes of the Mille Miglia passed by with their futuristic racing cars, everyone was electrified and could hardly wait for the roar of the engines to ring.
Chapter 2 – Fateful Year 1957 and the 24th edition of the Mille Miglia
May 12, 1957 was a warm, bright Sunday in the municipality of Cavriana. Hundreds of people came: on foot, by bicycle or by bus. They joined together in the isolated homesteads that lined the Strada Statale 236 Goitese – a narrow paved strip framed by irrigation ditches. Once a year, several hundred sports cars shed a light of the future, like a thunderstorm of progress, through the desolate Campagna. From here it was only about 50 km to the finish line in Brescia after more than 1500 kilometers. Here, victory was almost within reach.
This same 24th edition of the Mille Miglia, the thousand-mile race across the Italian peninsula, turned the fields and villages along the route back into a powder keg of folk festival and modern times. The heroes sat in their loud roaring cars, the smell of gasoline and tires was so different from the bleak everyday life.
Chapter 3 – The red Ferraris dominate the Mille Miglia
Eight-year-old Giovanni Conzato dispensed the waiting time with his playmates in the homestead ‚Corte Colomba‘. They were happy that church activities were canceled on this Sunday because of the passage of the ‚Mille Miglia‘. With him were the siblings Virginio and Valentina Rigon, ten and six years old. The race took place on public roads, almost no protective barriers. And much less staff to control them.
The audience trusted the foolhardy drivers and even more their racing cars. To experience this as close as possible was the adrenalin rush and thrill that made men, children and women alike waving enthusiastic on the roadside. On this sorrowless racing day in May, Enzo Ferrari‘s cars built in nearby Modena were far ahead. It was him who had looked after the Alfa Romeo racing cars two decades earlier at the Mille Miglia, before starting his own automobile company.
Chapter 4 – „Vinca Taruffi!“ – Enzo Ferrari’s fatal demand
29-year-old Spanish aristocrat Alfonso de Portago already had a succesful career as a jockey and bobsleigh athlete behind him, when recruited by Le Mans winner Luigi Chinetti as a co-driver for the Carrera Panamericana. In 1956, Enzo Ferrari offered the newcomer a seat in his works team. And a short time later, on this May 12, 1957, he was piloting a Ferrari 335 S and had learned at the last service stop that he was on the way to fourth place. Earlier this morning, the Spaniard had spilled some milk at breakfast. A bad omen. Before the start of the race, he handed the race director of the ‚Scuderia Ferrari‘ a note with the contact details of his wife.
At 2.30 pm this Sunday, Enzo Ferrari saw his drivers pass through Bologna. He ordered: ‚Vinca Taruffi!‘ (Taruffi should win). For Ferrari, a magnificent victory emerged: after the failure of works driver Peter Collins, Piero Taruffi and Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips were in first and second places, followed by Gendebien, but on a less-powerfull racing car, the 250 GT Scaglietti.
Meanwhile, Alfonso de Portago was grieving. Perhaps the prospect of fourth place for the ambitious aristocratic bon vivant was a humiliation. Because he knew secretly that he had a chance with his larger-capacity 4.1-liter twelve-cylinder – on the 5 km long straight behind Goito towards Guidizzolo. In a previous interview, de Portago had talked about fear: ‚Fear is the knowledge of the danger … I like the feeling of fear. In the end you are getting used to it and need it in ever higher doses‘.
Chapter 5 – The misfortune takes its course
What exactly happened shortly after 4.00 pm on this Sunday in the northern Italian province remained controversial even in later courtroom retrospective. What appears to be certain is the speed of de Portago’s car on the long straight, the Strada Statale 236 Goitese near Santa Colomba – at least 200 km/ h, according to other sources 250 km/ h. And then tragedy unfolded.
According to contemporary sources, a damaged fender that had not been repaired to save time caused a flat tire, subsequently the driver lost control of the Ferrari which first crashed into a telegraph pole, flew into an adjacent moat, was catapulted out and flew right into the audience. Only a hundred meters further on, the completely destroyed vehicle came to a standstill. With Alfonso de Portago and his co-driver, the American journalist Edvard Gurner Nelson, Roberto, Virginio and Valentina, two more children and four adults died. Twenty people were seriously injured.
While the dead were laid out on kitchen tables in the homesteads and priest Pio cycled around to comfort the injured, bystanders improvised carrying stretchers from agricultural equipment. Italian official news agency ANSA spread the news of the tragedy.
Chapter 6 – Enzo Ferrari, the scapegoat
Enzo Ferrari had already lost several race drivers because of fatal accidents. But the events of May 12, 1957 shook him deeply. After the catastrophe of Le Mans with 84 deaths only two years ago, the opponents of public car racing had formed in Italy as well. Even from his own ranks one speculates that de Portago had only reluctantly participated in this Mille Miglia, knowing the danger from open street racing. He was probably persuaded by Enzo Ferrari. It could not be cleared whether Enzo Ferrari was still inciting his driver de Portago in Bologna, fearing a breakdown of Gendebia.
The victory at this 24th edition of the Mille Miglia went under in the nationwide outcry, which made up the culprit mainly in the person of Enzo Ferrari. ‚Mille Miglia – Cemetery for Men and Children – Stop It‘ the Gazettes scourged the man from Modena. Powerfully supported by church and state, it became a notorious fact that races such as Mille Miglia to be banned. Although several lawsuits against the tire manufacturer as well as the ‚Commendatore‘ did not end in convictions, Enzo Ferrari was envisaged the morally responsible for the tragedy. Ferrari struggled and eventually contemplated completely retiring from racing. In the end, he decided against it, but remained away from all race events in future, with very few exceptions.
Photo credits: © Daimler AG