The Mille Miglia (Italian pronunciation: [ˈmille ˈmiʎʎa], Thousand Miles) was an open-road, motorsport endurance race established in 1927 by the young Counts Francesco Mazzotti and Aymo Maggi. It took place in Italy 24 times from 1927 to 1957 (13 times before World War II, and 11 times from 1947).[1]

Mille Miglia
First race26–27 March 1927
Last race11–12 May 1957
Distance1,000 miles (approximately)
Most wins (driver)Italy Clemente Biondetti
Most wins (manufacturer)Italy Alfa Romeo

Like the older Targa Florio and later the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico, the MM made grand tourers like Alfa Romeo, BMW, Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche famous.[2] The race brought out an estimated 5 million spectators.[3]

From 1953 until 1957, the Mille Miglia was also a round of the World Sports Car Championship.

Since 1977, the "Mille Miglia" has been reborn as a regularity race for classic and vintage cars. Participation is limited to cars, produced no later than 1957, which had attended (or were registered to) the original race. The route (BresciaRome round trip) is similar to that of the original race, maintaining the point of departure/arrival in Viale Venezia in Brescia.

Car numbering Edit

Unlike modern day rallying, where cars are released with larger professional-class cars going before slower cars, in the Mille Miglia the smaller, slower, lower displacement cars started first. This made organisation simpler as marshals did not have to be on duty for as long a period and it minimised the period that roads had to be closed. From 1949, cars were assigned numbers according to their start time. For example, the 1955 Moss/Jenkinson car, #722, left Brescia at 07:22 (see below), while the first cars had started at 21:00 the previous day. In the early days of the race, even winners needed 16 hours or more, so most competitors had to start before midnight and arrived after dusk—if at all.

History Edit

Before World War II Edit

Some of the founders posing together in Brescia, here pictured in the 1940s. From left to right: Giulio Binda, Aymo Maggi, Filippo Tassara, Giovanni Canestrini and Renzo Castagneto.

The race was established by the young Counts Aymo Maggi and Franco Mazzotti, sports manager Renzo Castagneto and motoring journalist Giovanni Canestrini, apparently in response to the Italian Grand Prix being moved from their home town of Brescia to Monza. Together with a group of wealthy associates, they chose a race from Brescia to Rome and back, a figure-eight shaped course of roughly 1500 km—or a thousand Roman miles. Later races followed twelve other routes of varying total lengths.

The first race started on 26 March 1927 with seventy-seven starters[4]—all Italian—of which fifty-one had reached the finishing post at Brescia by the end of the race.[4] The first Mille Miglia covered 1,618 km, corresponding to just over 1,005 modern miles.[4] Entry was strictly restricted to unmodified production cars, and the entrance fee was set at a nominal 1 lira.[4] The winner, Giuseppe Morandi,[4] completed the course in just under 21 hours 5 minutes, averaging nearly 78 km/h (48 mph) in his 2-litre OM;[4] Brescia based OM swept the top three places.

Tazio Nuvolari won the 1930 Mille Miglia in an Alfa Romeo 6C. Having started after his teammate and rival Achille Varzi, Nuvolari was leading the race but was still behind Varzi (holder of provisional second position) on the road. In the dim half-light of early dawn, Nuvolari tailed Varzi with his headlights off, thereby not being visible in the latter's rear-view mirrors. He then overtook Varzi on the straight roads approaching the finish at Brescia, by pulling alongside and flicking his headlights on.

The event was usually dominated by local Italian drivers and marques, but three races were won by foreign cars. The first one was in 1931, when German driver Rudolf Caracciola (famous in Grand Prix racing) and riding mechanic Wilhelm Sebastian won with their big supercharged Mercedes-Benz SSKL, averaging for the first time more than 100 km/h (63 mph)[4] in a Mille Miglia. Caracciola had received very little support from the factory due to the economic crisis at that time. He did not have enough mechanics to man all necessary service points. After performing a pit stop, they had to hurry across Italy, cutting the triangle-shaped course short in order to arrive in time before the race car.

The race was briefly stopped by Italian leader Benito Mussolini after an accident in 1938 killed a number of spectators. This race saw 11 spectator fatalities; a Lancia Aprilla being driven by Angelo Mignanego and Dr. Luigi Bruzzo just before they entered Bologna went off the road and crashed into a whole group of spectators lining the road to watch the race. Ten people were killed—five of whom were children—and 26 were injured; both competitors survived. This accident caused such an uproar in Italian society that Mussolini was forced to act. Earlier in the race, another accident took the life of a 12-year-old girl in Padova.[5] The race was not run in 1939, and when it resumed in April 1940 shortly before Italy entered World War II, it was dubbed the Grand Prix of Brescia, and held on a 100 km (62 mi) short course in the plains of northern Italy that was lapped nine times.

This event saw the debut of the first Enzo Ferrari-owned marque AAC (Auto Avio Costruzioni) (with the Tipo 815). Despite being populated (due to the circumstances even more than usual) mainly by Italian makers, it was the aerodynamically improved BMW 328 driven by Germans Huschke von Hanstein/Walter Bäumer that won the high-speed race with an all-time high average of 166 km/h (103 mph), even though the 1940 event was run on a much shorter and localised 100 km (62.5 mi) circuit.

After World War II Edit

The Italians continued to dominate their race after the war, now again on a single big lap through Italy. Mercedes made another good effort in 1952 with the underpowered Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, scoring second with the German crew Karl Kling/Hans Klenk that later in the year would win the Carrera Panamericana. Caracciola, in a comeback attempt, was fourth.

Few other non-Italians managed podium finishes in the 1950s, among them Juan Manuel Fangio, Peter Collins and Wolfgang von Trips.

Stirling Moss at the Mille Miglia Edit

Cars in Brescia before departure at 1955 Mille Miglia.

In 1955, Mercedes made another attempt at winning the MM, this time with careful preparation and a more powerful car, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR which was based on the Formula One car (Mercedes-Benz W196), entirely different from their sports cars carrying the 300 SL name.

Both young German Hans Herrmann (who had had remarkable previous efforts with Porsche) and Briton Stirling Moss relied on the support of navigators while Juan Manuel Fangio (car #658) preferred to drive alone as usual, as he considered open road races dangerous after his co-pilot and friend was killed during a race across South America. Karl Kling also drove alone, in the fourth Mercedes, #701.

Similar to his teammates, Moss and his navigator, motor race journalist Denis Jenkinson, ran a total of six reconnaissance laps beforehand, enabling "Jenks" to make course notes (pace notes) on a scroll of paper 18 ft (540 cm) long that he read from and gave directions to Moss during the race by a coded system of 15 hand signals. Although this undoubtedly helped them, Moss's innate ability and the 300 SLR's exceptional build quality were clearly the predominant factors. Moss was competing against drivers with a large amount of local knowledge of the route, so the reconnaissance laps were considered an equaliser, rather than an advantage.

Car #704 with Hans Herrmann and Hermann Eger was said to be fastest in the early stages, though. Herrmann had already had a remarkable race in 1954, when the gate on a railroad crossing was lowered in the last moment before the fast train to Rome passed. Driving a very low Porsche 550 Spyder, Herrmann decided it was too late for a brake attempt anyway, knocked on the back of the helmet of his navigator Herbert Linge to make him duck, and they barely passed below the gates and before the train, to the surprise of the spectators. Herrmann was less lucky in 1955, having to abandon the race after a brake failure on the Futa Pass between Florence and Bologna, while Kling crashed just outside Rome.

After 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds, Moss/Jenkinson arrived in Brescia in their Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR with the now famous #722, setting the event record at an average of 157.650 km/h (97.96 mph) which was fastest ever on this 1,597 km (992 mi) variant of the course, not to be beaten in the remaining two years. Fangio arrived a few minutes later in the #658 car, but having started 24 min earlier, it actually took him about 30 minutes longer, having engine problems at Pescara, through Rome and by the time Fangio reached Florence, a fuel injection pipe had broken and he was running on seven cylinders. This race was unusual in that it didn't rain at all anywhere near the route; it always rained at least once somewhere during this race.[6]

The end Edit

The race was known for its danger not only to drivers but also to spectators. Over its 30-year history, a total of 56 people died. The deaths involved 24 drivers/co-drivers and 32 spectators. Most of these fatal accidents occurred on the fastest parts of the route and almost always involved spectator fatalities. The most notorious part of the circuit was the very fast 200 miles between Brescia and Ravenna, where more than half the fatalities during the 1950s happened.[7] With the exception of 1927, 1931–1934 and 1936–1937, there was at least one fatal accident every year, and of the 56 total known fatalities during this race, 35 of them occurred between 1948 and 1957—an average of nearly four per race.[8]

Memorial in Guidizzolo for the nine victims of the fatal crash during the 1957 Mille Miglia.

Racing the Mille Miglia ended after two fatal crashes involving multiple people occurred during the 1957 race. The first crash involved the factory-entered 4.0-litre Ferrari 335 S. Eleven people were killed at the village of Guidizzolo: Spanish driver Alfonso de Portago, American co-driver/navigator Edmund Nelson, and nine spectators.[4] Five of the spectators killed were children who were standing along the race course. Portago was called in as a last-minute replacement, and was already unsettled by a race he felt was too dangerous. The crash was caused by a worn tire. The second crash took the life of Netherlands driver Joseph Göttgens at Brescia. He was driving a Triumph TR3.

From 1958 to 1961, the Mille Miglia resumed as a rally-like event limited to legal speeds with a few special stages that were driven at racing speed. After 1961, this once-prestigious race was no more.

Circuit variants Edit

The original route from 1927 to 1930 was run anti-clockwise and headed down to Rome via Piadena, Parma, Modena, Bologna, Florence, Siena and Viterbo, then it headed north up a mountainous route through Perugia and Gubbio, then would join the Adriatic sea route at Porto Recanti, then through Pesaro, Rimini, Forli, Bologna, Ferrara, Padova and Treviso. This variant used to use a route that went into the Dolomite town of Feltre then headed south towards Vincenza, Verona and then finally towards Brescia.[9] The first part of the circuit was changed in 1931 where it bypassed the Piadena route and went directly south towards Cremona, and then went east and rejoined the existing route at Parma; this was used until 1933. The next route, used from 1934 to 1936 saw Feltre and the Dolomites section bypassed and a route that ran near Venice was added, but the rest of the route was the same.[10] From 1937 to 1938, the route was substantially modified. Although the top half remained more or less the same the bottom half was rerouted at Florence to run west towards Lucca and Pisa, and then ran along the Tyrrehennian West Coast down through Livorno, Grosseto and Vetralla before reaching Rome. The circuit then went up and cut through the mountainous range, bypassing Perugia right up to Pesaro, and joining the existing route. This was the last of the pre-WWII Mille Miglia circuits that ran through Bologna twice.[11] The 1940 event was called the "Grand Prix of Brescia" and was run on a very fast 100 km (62 mi) course in northern Italy, that went from Brescia, went west at the village of Le Grazie and then went north from Cremona back to Brescia.

In 1947, the race was run clockwise for the first time, and the circuit route was modified. This was the longest of all the Mille Miglia routes, at 1,132 mi (1,822 km). Treviso and Venice were bypassed, and the route from the 1937 variant remained the same but from Piacenza the route went further west towards Alessandra and then went north and east from Turin to Novara, Milan, Bergamo and finally ending at Brescia.[12] In 1949 the race was reverted to being run anti-clockwise, and was also rerouted. This was perhaps the fastest variant of the Mille Miglia circuit route- Bologna, Modena, Florence, and the Futa and Raticosa Passes were all bypassed as this variant ran largely along the Italian coasts. Also bypassed was the whole northwestern section which included Turin and Milan, with a new route going through Cremona and rejoining at Piacenza, and shortened the route down to its intended length at 1,000 mi (1,600 km). At Parma, the circuit ran south through another route through the Apennine mountains towards La Spezia and Massa, before rejoining the 1947 variant at Pisa. The circuit was then rerouted to go through the mountain towns of Rieti and L'Aquila, and then went further east towards Pescara, where it went along the Adriatic coast before rejoining the 1947 circuit at Pesaro. The circuit then cut past Forli and went through Ravenna before rejoining the previous route at Ferrara.[13]

The 1950 variant saw the race being switched back to being run clockwise permanently. The circuit remained largely the same up until Pisa, as the route that went east to Florence that was first introduced in 1937 was re-introduced, and then part of the original route up through the Futa and Raticosa Passes to Bologna, then going west towards Modena and Piacenza was also re-introduced. For the 1951 event the direct route between Ravenna and Rimini was bypassed, and the circuit was diverted from Ravenna to Forli and back to Rimini again. But more significantly the Tyhrennian coast section first introduced in 1937 was eliminated and part of the original route that ran from Rome to Florence via Viterbo and Siena was re-introduced.[14] The route was not changed until 1954, when a new section was introduced to pay tribute to Tazio Nuvolari that diverted from Cremona and ran through his home province of Mantua, which was the final iteration of the circuit used for the original race.

Mille Miglia winners Edit

Year Drivers Car Picture of winners & cars
1927   Ferdinando Minoia
  Giuseppe Morandi
OM 665 S   
1928   Giuseppe Campari
  Giulio Ramponi
Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 Super Sport Spider Zagato  
1929   Giuseppe Campari
  Giulio Ramponi
Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Super Sport Spider Zagato  
1930   Tazio Nuvolari
  Battista Guidotti
Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport Spider Zagato    
1931   Rudolf Caracciola
  Wilhelm Sebastian
Mercedes-Benz SSKL  
1932   Baconin Borzacchini
  Amedeo Bignami
Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Spider Touring  
1933   Tazio Nuvolari
  Decimo Compagnoni
Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Spider Zagato  
1934   Achille Varzi
  Amedeo Bignami
Alfa Romeo 8C 2600 Monza Spider Brianza  
1935   Carlo Maria Pintacuda
  Alessandro Della Stufa
Alfa Romeo Tipo B  
1936   Antonio Brivio
  Carlo Ongaro
Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 A  
1937   Carlo Maria Pintacuda
  Paride Mambelli
Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 A  
1938   Clemente Biondetti
  Aldo Stefani
Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Spider MM Touring    
1939 No race held
1940   Huschke von Hanstein
  Walter Bäumer
BMW 328 Berlinetta Touring  
1941–46 No races held
1947   Clemente Biondetti
  Emilio Romano
Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Berlinetta Touring  
1948   Clemente Biondetti
  Giuseppe Navone
Ferrari 166 S Coupé Allemano  
1949   Clemente Biondetti
  Ettore Salani
Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta Touring  
1950   Giannino Marzotto
  Marco Crosara
Ferrari 195 S Berlinetta Touring  
1951   Luigi Villoresi
  Pasquale Cassani
Ferrari 340 America Berlinetta Vignale  
1952   Giovanni Bracco
  Alfonso Rolfo
Ferrari 250 S Berlinetta Vignale  
1953   Giannino Marzotto
  Marco Crosara
Ferrari 340 MM Spyder Vignale  
1954   Alberto Ascari Lancia D24 Spider  
1955   Stirling Moss
  Denis Jenkinson
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR    
1956   Eugenio Castellotti Ferrari 290 MM Spyder Scaglietti  
1957   Piero Taruffi Ferrari 315 S  

Mille Miglia Storica Edit

Mille Miglia Storica
First race17–19 June 1977
Last race13–17 June 2023
Distance1,000 miles (approximately)
Most wins (driver)  Giuliano Canè (10)
Most wins (team)  Giuliano Canè / Lucia Galliani (9)
Most wins (manufacturer)  Alfa Romeo (11)

Since 1977, the race was revived as the Mille Miglia Storica, a parade for pre-1957 cars that takes several days, which also spawned the 2007 documentary film Mille Miglia – The Spirit of a Legend.

Mika Häkkinen and Juan Manuel Fangio II at 2011 Mille Miglia
Jeremy Irons at 2014 Mille Miglia

Mille Miglia Storica winners Edit

Gallery Edit

Mille Miglia Museum Edit

The Mille Miglia Museum in Brescia

Since November 2004, the former Monastery of Sant'Eufemia in Brescia houses the Mille Miglia Museum, which illustrates the history of this car race with films, memorabilia, dresses, posters, and a number of classic cars that are periodically replaced by other in case of participation in events.

Name usage Edit

Owner of the trademark logo of Mille Miglia is the Automobile Club Brescia.

Mille Miglia is also the name of Alitalia's frequent flyer program.

Mille Miglia is also the name of a jacket, named after the race, inspired by the 1920s racewear and designed by Massimo Osti for his CP Company clothing label.[citation needed] The garment features goggles built into the hood and originally had a small circular window in the sleeve enabling the wearer to see their watch. The jackets have been produced for a long period and are still popular with British football casuals.

As a sponsor and timekeeper of the Storica event, the event has lent its name and its trademark logo to Chopard for a series of sports watches.[citation needed] For promotions, Chopard uses photographs from the event by photographer Giacomo Bretzel.

Mille Miglia Red is the name for a colour used by Chevrolet on its Corvette models. The colour was offered between 1972 and 1975.[16]

In 1982 the Mille Miglia endurance race was revived as a road rally event.[17]

"Mille Miglia" is also the title of a song from Lucio Dalla's album Automobili (1976). The song describes anecdotes about the 1947 edition of the race.

Kaneko released two arcade games based on the race in 1994 (1000 Miglia: Great 1000 Miles Rally) and 1995 (Mille Miglia 2: Great 1000 Miles Rally). SCi Games released a PlayStation game simply named Mille Miglia and endorsed by Stirling Moss in 2000 in PAL regions.

In 2008, Alfa Romeo created a limited-edition version of its Tipo 939 Spider called the "Mille Miglia". Only 11 cars were built—eight left-hand drive and three right-hand drive—with each numbered car corresponding to one of the marque's Mille Miglia victories. Each car carried a small metal plate with details of the race.[18]

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ "Mille Miglia". November 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  2. ^ Marcus, Ted. "The Most Beautiful Race in the World – Mille Miglia". Retrieved 23 August 2023.
  3. ^ MacKenzie, Angus (February 2013). "The Most Epic Drive. Ever". Motor Trend. 65 (2): 88. With an estimated 5 million Italians out watching the race, crowd control was another cause for concern.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Tausen Meilen Nostalgie". Auto Motor u. Sport. Heft 16 1977: Seite 18–19. 3 August 1977.
  5. ^ "Motorsport Memorial –".
  6. ^ fp46racing. "Juan Manuel Fangio – Tribute by Stirling Moss pt 2". YouTube. Retrieved 3 December 2011.[dead YouTube link]
  7. ^ "Motorsport Memorial –".
  8. ^ The Motorsport Memorial Team. "Car and truck fatalities by circuit". Motorsport Memorial. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  9. ^ "1933 Mille Miglia". 19 August 2010.
  10. ^ "1934 Mille Miglia". 20 August 2010.
  11. ^ "1937 Mille Miglia". 23 August 2010.
  12. ^ "1947 Mille Miglia". 26 August 2010.
  13. ^ "1949 Mille Miglia". 28 August 2010.
  14. ^ "1951 Mille Miglia". 30 August 2010.
  15. ^ Garrett, Jerry (21 May 2013). "Argentines Win the 2013 Mille Miglia".
  16. ^ Binnie Langley. "Corvette C3 Colors and Paint Color Codes for Corvettes". Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  17. ^ Cheer, Louise (15 June 2022). "1000 Miglia: Your guide to the ultimate race for classic car enthusiasts". Supercar Blondie – Automotive, Gaming, Tech, Lifestyle, Watches. Retrieved 15 June 2022.
  18. ^ James Martinez. "Alfa Romeo builds special-edition Mille Miglia Spider – Motor Authority 16th May 2008". Retrieved 2 May 2021.

External links Edit