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 drawn 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 official track and participating at one of the most sought-after and renowned classic car rallies.
The Mille Miglia´s turbulent history should be familiar to every classic car fan. Did you know, for example, that a racer became a knight for his success at the Mille Miglia, or how the Mile Miglia came to a tragic end in 1957? Below you will find two compelling stories .
Today´s Mille Miglia
Since its relaunch as a classic car rally in 1977, the “Mille Miglia storica” has been held annually with special stages since its tragic end in 1957. Today, showcasing unique race cars means more than speed at one of the most important and beautiful stages in the history of motorsports. ‚La corsa più bella del mondo‘ – the most beautiful race in the world – takes place every year around mid-May and 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 be invited to the big stage?
Participation in the Mille Miglia: The Application Process
To start with, it’s almost impossible to join the Mille Miglia as a race team.
However, basically everyone can apply. The Mille Miglia committee chooses which classic cars and teams are allowed to participate. Although objective criteria plays a role in the selection process, meeting this criteria does noct guarantee a spot by a long shot.
- An estimated 1,500 applications will be recieved per year.
- From that, less than 400 teams are typically admitted to the race.
- Including the spots reserved to sponsors, approximately 250 starting numbers will remain.
Below we will reveal details on how you can still get involved!
Which Classic Cars Are Allowed at The Mille Miglia?
Only car models that were used at the ‘original’ Mille Miglia between 1927 and 1957 qualify for admission into the race. Information on the different types of vehicles allowed can be found on the organizer’s website: www.millemiglia.it
After that, there is nothing standing in the way of applying.
Applications should be submitted to the organizer by December of the previous year at the latest. Unfortunately, sending your application in on time does not guarantee a spot.
Only a fraction of the applications will be considered.
Important Additional Qualifications That Can Help
Unless you are an Academy Award winner, hold an important political office (being a member of a national parliament will not do), have recently won an Olympic gold medal or even a pop star, only your the classic car you enter can score.
If you are serious about participating at the Mille Miglia, consider the following tips:
Look for a vehicle that is on the Mille Miglia list and less sought-after among classic car enthusiasts. You do not have to spend a fortune on such a vehicle, but you should concentrate on finding a vehicle with a special history. For example, a vehicle previously owned by someone famous significantly increases the probability of admission. The Mille Miglia committee is endeavouring to create a diverse set of cars at the start line. Keeping this in mind, your chances increase with more exotic cars.
If you are one of the lucky ones, you only have to pay the entry fee of approximately € 6,000 – and you’re in, despite all of the hurdles during the application process.
The Route of The Mille Miglia
Every year, the route of the Mille Miglia slightly changes. However, some key points will remain the same:
- The start of the race always takes place in Brescia, where the founding fathers founded the ‚Mille Miglia‘ in 1927 apparently in response to its neighboring city of Milan being selected as the first grand-pix course in 1922, the year of Autodromo di Monza´s inaguration. The technical car inspection in downtown Brecia is the first of many rally highlights, and offers a great opportunity to view a fine line-up of pre-war race cars up close and personal.
2. The apex of the Mille Miglia has, according to tradition, remained in Rome. The vehicle parade there is another highlight of the rally.
3. The route leads back to the North from Rome. The stop at Siena’s Piazza Il Campo, home to the Palio horserace, is one of the most spectacular highlights to experience every year.
4. The finish line is also set in Brescia – at least for those who belong to the sports and classic car scene and make it to the finish line!
Roadblocks and Drills at The Mille Miglia
If you have somehow managed to secure one of the coveted spots at 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 the same either way.
There is a roadbook, however. The entire route is marked with the famous red arrow, the logo of the Mille Miglia.
Althoug there are time controls and stamp points, the Mille Miglia can only be won through section control: You have to cover given sections at a certain time. The smaller the deviation, the more points you earn.
When, where and how the tests work exactly, can be found in the roadbook.
Experience The Mille Miglia with Nostalgic
The thrill of the Mille Miglia can also be experienced in a stylish and more relaxed way: with Nostalgic. Here, we will spare you the trouble of going through the application process, while promising 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 luxurious country resort and privately enjoy the most beautiful landscapes of Tuscany, while at the same time experience first-hand the wonder of Mille Miglia, including driving with Mille Miglia´s classic cars across southern Tuscany, and getting in touch with pilots and race cars on Piazza Il Campo.
We are the experts and have been offering this unique travel experience for many years. It therefore makes sense that this date is typically the first to be fully booked among all classic car tours offered by Nostalgic.
Get a head start behind the wheel of a Nostalgic classic car at the next Mille Miglia!Check availability
A Show Featuring The Rich and Famous
Over time, the modern Mille Miglia has quickly become a showcase of celebrities: from sport personalities, major figures in politics and economics, to actors and musicians regurlarly participate in the event.
The media interest in the Mille Miglia is fittingly high: no other classic car rally draws so much attention, far beyond that of the true vintage car scene. Many celebrities eagerly collect classical cars, some to such an extent that their collections have become famous over time.
Prominent classic car collections
The collections from Ralph Lauren and Jay Leno have achieved worldwide notoriety:
- The fashion icon Ralph Lauren has built one of the most prestigious car collections worth an estimated value of $200 million dollars.
- Late Night presenter Jay Leno owns more than 200 classic cars.
- Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr. Bean, is a passionate collector of classic English-style cars.
- Nicolas Cage and Eric Clapton share a mutual enthusiasm for early model Ferraris.
- The Panini family, who have made their fortune from teenager soccer collection stickers, proudly owns the largest Maserati collection.
Celebritiy Drivers at The Mille Miglia
The Mille Miglia is the perfect stage for renowned collectors to showcase their valuable vintage cars.
DID YOU KNOW?
Let’s take a look at which drivers registered before 2016. The list contains musicians, actors, politicians, and former Formula 1 drivers:
Cesare Fiorio: teammanager Ferrari F1; Car: Lancia Aurelia B20 GT 2000 Berlinetta – 1951
Javier Zanetti: soccer star from Inter Mailand; Car: Alfa Romeo 1900 Sport Spider
Karl Wendlinger: formula 1 driver; Car: Mercedes 300 SL Coupé W 198 – 1955
Wolfgang und Ferdinand Porsche from the Porsche family; Car: Porsche 356 1500 Speedster – 1955
Martin Brundle: formula 1 driver; Car: Jaguar D-Type – 1956
Jeremy Irons: actor and academy award winner; Car: Jaguar XK 120 Lightweight – 1950
Jay Leno: late night talk-show host; Car: Jaguar XK 120 Sports “Ecurie Ecosse” – 1951
Brian Johnson: singer of the rockband AC/DC; Car: Jaguar C-Type – 1953
Adrien Brody: actor and academy award winner; Car: Mercedes 300 SL W 198 – 1956
Amy Macdonald: singer; Car: Jaguar XK120
Milow: pop icon; Car: Jaguar D-Type
Herbert Grönemeyer: famous german musician; Car: Bentley BJ 1927
Hannah Herzsprung: german actress; Car: Jaguar C-TYPE BJ 1953
David Coulthard: formual 1 Pilot; Car: Mercedes 300 SL W 198
Karl Wendlinger: formula 1 pilot; Car: Mercedes 300 SL W 198
Jochen Mass: race driver; Car: Mercedes 300 SL W 198
Hans-Joachim Stuck: race driver; Car: Porsche 356 1500).
Christian Geistdörfer: rally world champion; Car(with Walter Röhrl): BMW 328 Coupé Touring
The Turbulent History of The Mille Miglia
Join us on a journey through the great moments: learn more about the rapid rise of manufacturer Alfa Romeo and the making of Ferrari, or learn about the spirit of the original Mille Miglia race by reading two classic stories that every Mille Miglia fan should know.
From its founding in 1927 up until the 1950s, the Mille Miglia remained the most famous and perhaps most important race car event in the world. The circuit, spanning from Brescia to Rome and back to Brescia, measured exactly 1597 kilometers (that is approximately 992 miles).One had to race this entire loop 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.
The Golden Years for Alfa Romeo and Ferrari
For 20 years – starting from the event´s founding 1927 to 1947 – the race cars from Alfa Romeo were virtually invincible. With a total of 11 victories, they dominated the Mille Miglia. Afterwards however, Alfa Romeo temporarily withdrew from the motorsport scene. This is when Enzo Ferrari stepped up and took over: He won a total of 8 victories with his own sports cars. Mercedes-Benz was the only other team that managed to beat Alfa Romeo twice during the early decades. The heroic Rudolf Caracciola managed to defeat the then superior Alfa Romeos in 1932. Meanwhile, Stirling Moss dominated the Ferraris in 1954.
Moss´s victory became a defining moment in motorsports history: With the Mercedes-Benz SLR, the Englishman set a speed record that remains unsurpassed to this day. Moss became a driving hero and was granted knighthood by Prince Charles himself.
All Winners of The Mille Miglia: 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 having modest success behind the wheel of race cars, Enzo Ferrari became team manager of the official Alfa Romeo racing team. He not only succeeded in continuing Alfa Romeo´s success every year at the Mille Miglia. He also made Alfa Romeo the most successful racing team ever. For a while, Alfa Romeo was invincible on the track.
The exit of Alfa Romeo from motor sports
The worldwide economic turmoil of the early 1930s made it difficult for car makers. Unable to cope with the mounting problems, Alfa Romeo suffered a dramatic decrease in demand for its technologically superior sports and luxury cars and subsequently bid farewell from the motorsports scene. In the same year, the car manufacturer became a part of the Italian Institute for Industrial Recovery (IRI) in 1932. However, thanks to Alfa Romeo’s motorsports director Enzo Ferrari, Alfa Romeo´s sports cars remained on the track – under Ferrari’s own ‚Scuderia‘, long before his own cars were built.
The ‚Scuderia Ferrari‘ is born
Despite having a very successful start with Alfa Romeo race cars, Enzo decided to branch out and develop his own vehicles. After the end of the Second World War, his time finally arrived: the first fleet of street cars left the Ferrari factory in Maranello, and with that, a unique history and winning legacy began.
From then on, Ferrari race cars would dominate Mille Miglia and continue their success story even after the event´s end in 1957. No other Formula 1 race team has been able to compete with Ferrari for a long time. 16 constructors and 15 driver victories in Formula 1 world championships serve as a testament to the company´s success and makes Ferrari the world’s most unique myth.
Mille Miglia up close – 1st story
The Record Run of 1955: Hussar Ride and Racing Milestones
Every Mille Miglia fan should know about the incredible story about the race with Stirling Moss behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz SLR at the 1955 Mille Miglia. The racing team Moss and Jenkinson mastered the 992-mile circuit in just 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds, which corresponds to an average speed of little less than 160 km/ h. With their victory, history had been written.
Completing a race in such a short amount of time is hard to imagine, given the fact that the entire route included country roads that had not been previously closed off to local traffic. The race team had to be ready for unexpected obstacles on the road at any given time. To this day, the ride of Stirling Moss is considered a “hussar” ride and a milestone in motorsports history. Juan Manuel Fangio, one of the best ever behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz race car, crossed the finish line a half an hour later.
Chapter 1 – The Top Favorites for Victory In 1955
Ferrari, Maserati and Aston Martin were poised for a podium finish along with the race cars from Stuttgart. When it came to racers however, the Mercedes-Benz team was superior to its rivals: Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio, Hans Herrmann and Karl Kling were known as world class drivers. Each of them had what it took to win at the Mille Miglia. Nevertheless, their opponents were not to be underestimated: Paolo Marzotto, Piero Taruffi, Peter Collins, Count Trips and Umberto Maglioli were top drivers in their own right.
Chapter 2 – The Perfect Start: Ferrari Takes The Lead Early Against Mercedes-Benz
Stirling Moss got off to a slow start as the race began. Barely off the starting line, Moss had already found himself behind three Ferraris who took an early lead. There was nothing to suggest that the British duo in the Mercedes-Benz would go on to break the biggest record in the history of the Mille Miglia. Castelotti, who was behind the wheel of a Ferrari, was also lucky enough to get off to a head start. Although he was unbeatable on the first leg of the Mille Miglia, his driving style was too much for his Ferrari: his car broke down close to Pescara. His teammate Marzotto, who was the driver of the second Ferrari, unfortunately had to drop out of the race due to a flat tire. A spare tire was mounted on the wrong rim and did not fit properly on the race car.
Chapter 3 – Stirling Moss Strikes Back With His Mercedes-Benz
Due to car trouble, The two toughest rivals were forced to drop out of the race. Faster refueling enabled Moss to lead the race for the first time as he overtook Taruffi’s third Ferrari. Upon entering Rome, Moss´s lead over second-placed Taruffi continued for more than a minute. Suddenly, Fangio´s car began to have engine problems, resulting in a crash just outside the gates of Rome. Given that Rome was the apex of the race, a team leading at half-time in Rome and subsequently winning the Mille Miglia was a first in the event´s history.
Chapter 4 – A Huge Triumph
The return journey to Brescia from Rome became a veritable triumph for the top two. At the Siena control point, Moss and Jenkings were in the lead by five minutes. After passing Florence, the infamous Passo della Futa awaited them. However, Moss and Jenkinson cleared the area brilliantly. The flat fields leading past Bologna helped them secure the lead. The dream duo led eventual runner-up Fangio by an impressive 27 minutes in the area of Modena, which is btw home to Enzo Ferrari. Unfortunately, Karl Herrmann was forced to withdraw from the race due to an accident. At that moment, all potential rivals for the title were either out of the race or were too far behind to catch up. By the time they reached the finish line 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, which was in third place.
Chapter 5 – The Secret of The Record-Breaking Run
How could such a groundbreaking triumph be possible given the circumstances? Well for one, Stirling Moss was a gifted racer. Before the Mille Miglia, he never won the World Cup. In fact, he was runner-up four times and won a total of 16 races throughout his career. Although the Mercedes-Benz SLR was a winning car, it did not match up to the Ferraris in the World Cup. The combination of Fangio and the Mercedes-Benz SLR was considered stronger and therefore a top favorite for winning the race. Moss and Jenkinson succeeded because they did something no one had done before. Today, it is considered a standard procedure while preparing for a race: they conducted a detailed route inspection which ensured success for all endurance races.
What is standard in today’s rally sport races had been invented by the British´s success story at the Mille Miglia: a detailed written logbook that described roadways in painstaking detail, allowing the driver to drive at maximum speed in confusing areas.
Chapter 6 – Moss´s Trump Card Against The Legend Fangio
Co-driver and motorsport journalist Dennis Jenkinson spent months visiting the track of the Mille Miglia before the start of the race to gather info and record it to a logbook. Moss blindly trusted his co-pilot’s notes and used it to his advantage over his competitors. Of course, the great weather conditions and a bit of luck on the track also played a role in helping Moss write racing history and create an all-time record.
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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 an adrenaline rush and a joy for all in the racing world, but it all came to an abrupt end. Read on about how a tragedy ended the original Mille Miglia back in 1957.
Chapter 1 – Folk Celebration at The Mille Miglia
In the villages and small towns of the Mantua province, which belongs to the Italian region of Lombardy, the modern age had not arrived yet for all. There was hardly any industry, and the people still worked in agriculture and small businesses. People here therefore earned a modest living. At the same time, the economic boom in the industrial triangle cities of Milan, Turin, and Genoa was responsible for creating a middle class that could afford essentials such as a washing machine, a car, and later a television.
However, this economic upturn did not reach the sleepy nests of the countryside. The more exciting events were welcomed in this community, because they promised them a small relief from the everyday field work and church services. So, it is no wonder that the people of the community were always electrified by the futuristic-looking cars racing by during the Mille Miglia every year in May and could hardly wait to hear the roaring engines.
Chapter 2 – 1957: The Fateful Year and The 24th Mille Miglia
It was a warm and sunny Sunday in the municipality of Cavriana. Hundreds of people came on foot, by bicycle and by bus to attend the Mille Miglia. They all came together in the isloated homesteads which lined the Strada Statale 236 Goitese – a narrow paved strip of road with irrigation ditches. Once a year, several hundred sports cars raced like lightning through the desolate Campagna. From here, 50km remained before reaching the finish line Brescia after more than 1500 kilometers. Victory was within reach.
The 24th edition of the Mille Miglia, a thousand-mile race across the Italian peninsula, turned the fields and villages along the route into a huge modern folk festival. The heroes in their loud sports cars, the smell of gasoline and the screeching of tires was so different from the bleak everyday life.
Chapter 3 – The Red Ferraris Dominate at The Mille Miglia
Eight-year-old Giovanni Conzato passed the time before the start of the race by playing with his playmates in the homestead ‚Corte Colomba‘. They were happy that church activities were canceled on this particular Sunday due to the ‚Mille Miglia‘. With him were his two siblings Virginio and Valentina Rigon, ten and six years old respectively. The race took place on public roads with almost no protective barriers and staff to control them.
The audience trusted the drivers and their race cars. Experiencing this type of action up close and personal gave an adrenalin rush and thrill which made men, children and women wave enthusiastically from the roadside. On this fateful race day in May, Enzo Ferrari‘s cars, which were built in nearby Modena, were far ahead of the competition. 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 enjoyed a succesful career as a jockey and bobsleigh athlete before he was recruited by Le Mans winner Luigi Chinetti to be a co-driver for the Carrera Panamericana. In 1956, Enzo Ferrari offered the newcomer a spot on his production team. A short time afterwards, on May 12, 1957, he was driving a Ferrari 335 S and had learned at the last service stop that he was on the way to finishing fourth place. Earlier this morning, the Spaniard had spilled some milk at breakfast, which is a bad omen. Before the start of the race, he handed the race director of the ‚Scuderia Ferrari‘ a note with his wife´s contact information.
On Sunday at 2.30pm, Enzo Ferrari saw his drivers pass through Bologna. He ordered: ‚Vinca Taruffi!‘ (Taruffi should win!). For Ferrari, a magnificent victory was achieved: after the failure of team drivers Peter Collins, Piero Taruffi and Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips were in first and second places, respectively, followed by Gendebien, albeit behind the wheel of a less-powerful racing car, the 250 GT Scaglietti.
Meanwhile, Alfonso de Portago was unhappy. Perhaps the ambitious aristocratic bon vivant thought that fourth place was a humiliating. Because he secretly knew that he had a chance with his larger-capacity, 4.1-liter twelve-cylinder engine – 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 impending danger … I like the feeling of fear. In the end, you get used to it and need it more and more of it‘.
Chapter 5 – A Stroke of Misfortune
What exactly happened shortly after 4.00 pm on this Sunday in the northern Italian province remained controversial even in later court hearings. What appears to be certain is that Portago’s car on the long straight, the Strada Statale 236 Goitese near Santa Colomba – was traveling at a speed of at least 200 km/ h. Some sources say that the speed was 250 km/ h. And then tragedy struck..
According to contemporary sources, a damaged fender which had not been repaired in order to save time caused a flat tire, which subsequently caused the driver to lose control of the Ferrari, crashing into a telegraph pole, flying into an adjacent moat from which it catapulted out and finally crashed right into the audience. The destroyed vehicle came to a stop only a hundred meters away. Alfonso de Portago and his co-driver, the American journalist Edvard Gurner Nelson, as well as Roberto, Virginio, Valentina, two more children and four adults died from the crash. Twenty people were seriously injured.
The dead were laid out on homestead kitchen tables. Priest Pio came and identified the bodies and provided comfort the injured. Bystanders creaded makeshift stretchers from nearby argicultural equipment. News of the tragedy was broadcasted by the official Italian news agency ANSA.
Chapter 6 – Enzo Ferrari, The Scapegoat
Enzo Ferrari had previously lost several race car drivers due to fatal accidents. But the events of May 12, 1957 shook him deeply. After the catastrophe of Le Mans, with 84 deaths just two years ago, the opposers of public car racing voiced their opinion in Italy as well. Even from his own ranks, one can speculate that de Portago reluctantly signed up for this edition of the Mille Miglia, realizing the danger of open street racing. He was probably persuaded by Enzo Ferrari to race. It could not be determined whether or not Enzo Ferrari persuaded his driver de Portago in Bologna, fearing a breakdown of Gendebia.
The victory at 24th annual Mille Miglia was overshadowed by the nationwide outpour of grief and criticism that placed the blame in large part on Enzo Ferrari. The Mille Miglia became known as the – Cemetery for Men and Children – Stop It‘—the local press publically criticized the man from Modena. With powerful support from the church and state, most people believed that races such as Mille Miglia should be banned. Although several lawsuits against the tire manufacturer as well as the ‚Commendatore‘ did not result in convictions, people believed that Enzo Ferrari was morally responsible for the tragedy. Ferrari struggled with all of the criticism, eventually contemplating whether or not he should completely retire from racing. In the end, he decided to stay, but stood away from all future racing events unless special circumstances arose.
Photo credits: © Daimler AG