".....if all of the 435 teams had driven on American or European roads the way they collectively drove in this years' 2014 Mille Miglia...racing past hundreds of stop signs, traffic lights, ignoring speed limits and no passing zone warnings...all while under the watchful guidance, leadership and high-speed supervision of the Italian Road Police outfitted in blazing blue and white BMW motorcycles with flashing blue lights ...each driver would have earned a collective 10 year jail sentence and at least a $70,000 fine apiece."
Now, I don't want you to gain an inaccurate impression about why we all flock to Brescia, Italy once a year for the Mille Miglia or what the event actually represents.
But let’s face it.
The Mille Miglia is the last place on earth where speed and traffic laws are not enforced by the officials sponsoring or policing entrants of the event.
Enzo Ferrari called it: "The Most Beautiful Road Course on Earth".
If Mr. Ferrari were alive today he might well have added:
"The most exciting, fastest and last surviving public road racing course permitted to exist on Earth".
From the standpoint of Alfa Romeo enthusiasm there was much to see and appreciate. The race week started out inside the cavernous Brescia Fairgrounds indoor staging area...where technical checks, authenticity inspections, police review of driver’s licenses and insurance documents and scrutineering was conducted over a three day period. Each driver team and automobile passed through this procedure one at a time for photography of vehicle identification numbers, chassis number verification, application of race numbers and distribution of road-books.
On the day of departure, Thursday May 15th, all of the participating cars were transferred to the Piazza della Vittoria in downtown Brescia for the mandatory completion of the technical checks and for the all important "Sealing Ceremony" where the cars’ steering wheels and steering columns are sealed with a lead and wire authenticity locket, and the "ritual" of the “punzonatura”,... the punching of all the competitors’ cards, with their vehicles immersed in the crowds of fans, onlookers and journalists.
The departure of the first car from downtown Brescia was at 6:00 p.m. with each car/driver team facing a meandering five hour drive to the mountains north of Venice before heading south to Padova for the night. As is the tradition, the first cars released from the starting ramp were nine O.M. vehicles of the 1927-1939 vintage… the make of car that won the first Mille Miglia in 1927.
The high speed driving excitement started at that point and did not subside until Sunday afternoon with the arrival of the cars back to the city center of Brescia...1100 miles and a collective 17 hours of sleep later. Only on the evening of Friday had a period of rain and lightning occurred in the general area of southern L'Aquila. The rest of the event was filled with sunshine, moonlit nights and warm ambient temperatures. Sunscreen was advised. The American Alfa Romeo Owners Club was represented at the MIlle Miglia for the third year in four by the writer and this time by Alfa Romeo 'newbie' Steve Jain who, in the process of restoring his recently-acquired GTV 1750.
We drove a 1983 Alfa Romeo Aerodinamico, a Weber-equipped 1600… rented by me for the third year from SlowDrive.It in nearby Lake Garda and sponsored by well-known Highwood Alfa.com the international Alfa parts specialist from the UK.
Our Spider ran flawlessly despite unrelenting wide-open throttling of those DCOE40’s, hard braking and the relentless chasing of some of the most fantastic and historic automobiles ever created by Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Maserati, Aston Martin, Jaguar, BMW, Lancia and Mercedes-Benz.
In most cases it was all we could do to barely keep up with them! It was indeed a thrill to see, hear and smell these museum cars unleashed once a year as they roar to the thrill of millions lining the circuit.
All in all it took about 46 hours of driving time for us to navigate the 1100 mile course....including a monumental (read: dead stop for nearly one hour) traffic jam in Pisa, veering off the course being lost several times and the time we took to pull over and enjoy photographing the event itself.
Lunch and dinner was served at approximately 50 miles per hour.
This was the first year where an extra 100 miles was added to the official route to allow several Italian geographically-isolated communities who had never previously hosted the travelling Mille Miglia circus of 435 entrants, 90 support vehicles, 8 pathfinders, 7 pace cars, 4 official press cars, 4 medical cars, 6 route support vehicles, 4 staff-competitor liaison vehicles, 14 official marshal cars, 2 street sweepers, and 2 official video cars...to witness the event…not to mention the 1500 accredited media personal.... a helicopter filming the team of Jay Leno and Jaguar Design Chief Ian Callum driving their 1951 Jaguar "Ecurie Ecosse" XK 120, dozens of Alfa Romeo police cars and a virtual swarm of daredevil "Evil Knievel" policemen on motorcycles leading our way.
Did I mention the 300 or so Ferrari Tribute cars who blasted through the course as a 'lead-in act' to the main attraction? Quite a spectacle to say the least!
The most exciting single car from our standpoint was the 1921 G1 Alfa Romeo 6 cylinder 6330 cc (384 cu. in.) roadster owned by Tony Shooshani of Los Angeles and London, the only surviving one of 52 cars originally built by ALFA as Nicolo Romeo began taking control of the company and began series production after World War I.
Photo by Julian Mahiels below.
The original G1s were built for competitive use for the Australian continent and represented the beginning of the rich racing heritage we all enjoy talking about. The Alfa Romeo G1 was the first all-new post-war design from Alfa Romeo after the end of the A.L.F.A. brand. Giuseppe Merosi designed this car from his home updating the prewar 24HP into this new luxury G1. The new engine produced 70 bhp and achieved a top speed of 86 miles per hour. Gasoline prices were rising and it was found to be impossible to sell a car with such a big engine in Italy, so total production was halted after only 52 copies.
Shooshani's G1 is the oldest surviving and racing Alfa Romeo branded car in existence and was last seen hitting all of the high notes of the Mille Miglia circuit at top speed.
The winning car based on a varied selection of special stages and economy runs was a 1928 Lancia Tipo 221 spider followed by a 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Zagato and a perennial favorite 1933 Aston Martin Le Mans following extremely close behind.
Bugatti T 40s and T 35As swallowed up five of the first ten finishing places while Alfa Romeo cars took two of the first ten finishing spots.
For us in the HighwoodAlfa.com Special the event ended well… reaching the city limits of Brescia on time at noon behind a coughing and sputtering Bentley 4.5 liter that promptly ran out of gas after crossing the finish line.
The team of Andrea Zagato and Marelia Rivolta in their 1957 Alfa Romeo 1900 SSZ Super Sprint Zagato finished 94th, while legendary racing champion Jackie Ickx and his partner, the president of sponsor Chopard watches did not finish in their Porsche Museum-furnished 1956 550 Spyder RS... neither did actor Jeremy Irons whose Jaguar XK failed along the circuit somewhere.
Of the 42 Alfa Romeo vehicles entered all except six finished.
The 1921 Alfa Romeo G1 roared to finish in 293rd place ahead of Jay Leno and Ian Callum who completed the exhausting race in 305th place out of 358 finishers.
The Mille Miglia should appear on your personal "bucket list" as one of the most utterly fantastic events you can ever, as an automobile enthusiast, experience. Ever.
You can start out as I did, renting a car and simply becoming one of the acknowledged 600 or so “followers” who happen to blend in and drive the same public roads at the same time that the Mille Miglia is run...one of the most legal and yet thrilling things you can ever do.