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8/4/2017, 11:01:24 PM cet

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A dream came true
Once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity
Everyone who drives over the start ramp in Brescia is a winner!…
Everyone who reaches Rome is a winner…
Everyone who arrives in Brescia in time is a winner…


A dream came true
You might argue that everyone whose entry is accepted for the famous Mille Miglia retrospective can be called a winner already. Well, you’re absolutely right !

In the following passages I’ll tell you my personal Mille Miglia trip, and my own personal relationship with this race:

Today I’m almost 27 years old and since 1992 I have travelled to Italy each May, to visit the Mille Miglia race. While my father was never interested enough in old cars to stay away from business for a few days to travel with his son to Brescia (which I always regretted very much), Oke Moebus, a close friend of my family and as passionate about cars as me, asked me exactly 10 years ago to travel with him and some other friends to Italy – of course I said ‘yes’ and so this would become my first Mille Miglia experience !

I can remember that the weather was very bad that year – almost all the time it was raining cats and dogs. But nevertheless I was fascinated by all these special cars,  some of which I had never even heard of – let alone seen  - like Ermini, Stanga, Cisitalia etc.. I’ll never forget standing in the Piazza della Vittoria and watching the Mille Miglia cars go by for the first time. There and then I said to Oke that I’d only have one wish in life: To take part in the Mille Miglia in the future, and so we swore that we would drive it one day – no matter in which car. If someone would have told us then that we would get the chance to drive it in a Ferrari we would have called him a dreamer.

Every May since then we have stood in the Piazza della Vittoria repeating our oath

By the way, on that first visit in 1992 there was a certain German Ferrari team with the pilotes ‘Mergard/Mergard’ who drove a very special small red Ferrari Berlinetta with black roof, chassis # 0170ET, one of only six 225 Sport Berlinettas built by Vignale and one of only two cars with the special tuboscocca chassis style.

Once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity

Ten years later the owners of that car, which they call ”The Lady”, asked me if Oke and I would like to drive her in the Mille Miglia on her 50th anniversary.

Immediately I realized that the biggest dream I had in my short life was going to come true ! Not only that they had the generosity to offer us the opportunity to take part in the Mille Miglia, but to entrust us such a special and rare Ferrari, which had competed in the ‘real’ Mille Miglia exactly 50 years ago, was and is a great honour for Oke and me. When I told Oke that we’re going to drive the Mille Miglia he just said: This is so unbelievable that I’ll not believe it until I’m driving over the start ramp, and I agreed…

After the Geneva Salon in March 2002, when Oke and I could read our entry ”Moebus/Schmidt – race-no. 215” for the first time on the official Mille Miglia website, I have to admit that I felt very proud and of course I told all my friends to have a look on this website.

Everyone who drives over the start ramp in Brescia is a winner!…

Two days before scrutineering, on Tuesday 29th of April, Oke and I arrived at Lake Garda, where we had booked our lakeside hotel, where the car was awaiting us after its journey from England, the feeling of pride on seeing our charge for the event was wonderful.

Scrutineering on Thursday took place in the Piazza della Vittoria, our 10:30 a.m. arrival was far too late to have a quick passage through the procedures. It was 3:00 p.m. before we were scrutineered , and the clouds were becoming ominous warning us of a rainy start – so the Mille Miglia 2002 in advance seemed that it would not break with tradition….
As previously planned we went back to Lake Garda after scrutineering to learn the road book and to have some dinner – not a good idea, because it started to rain cats and dogs from 6:00 p.m. onwards. Our departure time with start number ”215” was fixed at 9:26,20 p.m. but again we needed too much time to get back to Brescia with heavy torrential rain and so we arrived at the start area just five minutes before our start. Not a problem so ? – Not if there hadn’t already been competitors with startnumber ”300” or even higher barring our way to the starting ramp! We eventually made the ramp exactly half a minute before our fixed departure time. But… the car in front of us – an Alfa 1900 C SS -  slid back down the ramp before reaching the top so that we could not drive over on time – our first delay !

Again all this happened while it was raining heavily and it took not long until I recognized that having a closed  Ferrari Berlinetta isn’t much better in the rain than – let’s say – a 250 Testa Rossa ! Not only did some drops of rain come through the wiper spindle holes but streams of cold water flooded in from under the dashboard onto my trousers, shoes, beloved stop watches etc. etc..  But this all didn’t matter anymore because we had driven over the Mille Miglia starting ramp at Viale Venezia in a Ferrari !!! For approximately half an hour Oke and I could not speak one word to eachother, we were just too overwhelmed.

Everyone who reaches Rome is a winner…

Much is written about competing in the ‘modern’  Mille Miglia storico and therefore I decided not to bore you with the same old stories, but to limit myself to the ‘specalities’ of our trip.

Some ‘old Mille Miglia foxes’ promised me before that this event was much more special in the early years with a lot of more spectators standing and waving beside the road with only a few service cars etc..
Since this was my first Mille Miglia as a competitor I cannot compare it with earlier editions but – believe me – what we saw and what we experienced during those days would be very hard to top! Thousands of fascinated spectators in cities like Brescia, Ferrara, Mantova, Gambettola, Roma, Sansepolcro, Siena and Firenze are proof enough that the spirit of this event is still alive !

The first stage: From Brescia to Ferrara

It was already darkest night when we started from Brescia for the next 235.57 km to Ferrara with only three special stages included and I have to admit, due to my lack of proficiency in reading our road book properly, we took the wrong route more than once!

However, we eventually found Marmirolo though and completed the special time stages (very badly…). Right after Marmirolo we passed Jack Croul and Mr. Viaro (the chief of Digitech, the stop watch manufacturer and a professional in reading stop watches), who had parked their Ferrari 340 America (s/n 0082A, the 1951 MM winner) due to the simple fact that even a Ferrari needs oil in the gearbox. Mr. Viaro told me in Ferrara later that their mechanics had forgotten to put the oil in. For a moment I was glad not be this mechanic….

We reached Ferrara at 1:00 a.m. without the slightest problem and parked together with all the others in the Ferrara pedestrian zone to get to our hotel by cab for a short nights rest. The next morning, having slept for exactly 3 hours, hurried for breakfast not to miss our taxi back to Ferrara. Oke and I shared the taxi with two other competitors, an obviously married couple from Spain. On the way, we started a conversation, and they asked me in which car we were competing. Proudly I answered that we’re driving a Ferrari 225 Sport Berlinetta and I told him the history of ‘our’ car. He just said: Oh well, I Iove these cars as well having owned a lot of them for years. Later I realised that this couple were actually driving a Ferrari 166 MM Touring barchetta and then I recognized him, it was Juan Quintano…. The Spanish Ferrari importer ........

The second stage: From Ferrara to Roma

Rain, rain, nothing but rain welcomed us at the start in Ferrara but even this could not spoil our good mood. Just before Gambettola the sun came out and for the next three hours we were able to experience the Millle Miglia in sunlight (the last sun we would see for a while….). Driving through the narrow streets in San Marino is an event on its own and in some curves even our short wheel base Ferrari had problems with the tight turns.

That day I’m sure that it was the sun which helped us to do some good special stages. Temporalily we were listed in 35th position overall and if we hadn’t made so many mistakes afterwards (in the rain, of course), a position within the top 20 competitors would have been more than possible.

A Lotus Super Seven driver following the event had a huge accident near Montealtavelio, Monte Osteriaccia.  The road was closed for one and a half hours and this meant we would reach Rome very late. Even worse we had lost our service car in the chaos and so we drove alone all the way to Rome, arriving there after midnight.

According to the road book we had to drive there on the Via Veneto but just when we reached the pedestrian zone our ”Lady” had a technical problem for the first time….What had happened ? Nothing special, the battery was flat, not a big thing, but the spare battery was in our service car which we had lost in the traffic. Can you imagine the traffic jam in Rome on a Friday night ? Forget London, L.A. or Frankfurt.

It took 2 hours before we could guide our mechanics to the place where we were stranded. But for a lot of young Italians we were THE Friday night attraction. Yes, we were not the typical Ferrari drivers they expected, I could see it in their faces. Our faces and our clothes were dirty from stage 2, my trousers were still wet, my shirt was tattered and my jacket was covered with  ice cream we got in Sansepolcro (whilst eating it, Oke hit the throttle too quickly for me…).

In bed at 3:00 a.m. I thought about the next morning and for the first time I asked myself just : Why …?

Everyone who arrives in Brescia in time is a winner…

In Rome the next morning, having a car as a means of transport was not a good situation, a power boat would have been much more suitable. It was raining so much that even the autostrada was under 5 inches of water !
This didn’t prevent Oke from driving our ”Lady” like a Ferrari should be driven and I forgot to programme my stop watches for a while just to admire his driving expertise.
Before the Mille Miglia I was often asked if it wouldn’t be better to be the driver than the co-driver.  Then, I always answered: No, it’s just fine. And often enough, people didn’t believe me but it is true. Being the co-driver, especially in such hairy situations, is the best possible experience one could have !

Our problems with the battery continued, and without our mechanics Stuart and Dave we wouldn’t have made it. At Siena, Oke’s daughter Lea awaited us at the Campo providing us with two glasses of Prosecco. Driving through Siena remains my personal route highlight. So many people, so much enthusiasm and such a great city !

The Passo Raticosa was closed due to the rain and fog and so we drove an alternate route through the hills to Bologna. We had been told before that the traffic jam in Bologna would be horrific, but we were fortunate to latch on to an emergency ambulance which guided us through the city very quickly.  After we had left Bologna behind us, our only goal was to get the car back to Brescia. Neither Oke nor I were speaking to each other anymore, we were just listening for any untoward mechanical noise that would thwart our efforts at the last moment.

But we made it ! We drove over the ramp in Brescia without any major problems in 132nd overall position, 76th in class E. Even more important, we achieved 5th position in the ‘very prestigous’ Ferrari ranking, as the best non-Italian Ferrari team !

Our dream was now fulfilled, and we got back to our hotel at Lake Garda for a small party together with team Busch/Huenerth but we were all so tired that it was a very short party…

Now I have a feel of what it is like to drive a Ferrari for 1000 miles in a race, and my respect for all the drivers who competed in the real race is even greater. And we gave justice to the ”Lady”, compensating for her retirement with Dr. Augusto Caraceni before reaching Ravenna 50 years ago.

You really have to do it once in your life, it is quite an experience, which can not be described.



Bjoern Schmidt

A dream came true for Oke & Bjoern
The Lady at the Start in Ferrara
Ferrari 225 S Vignale Berlinetta s/n 0170ET
Ferrari 225 Sport Vignale Berlinetta, s/n 0170ET
Pienza
San Marino
Ferrari 225 S Vignale Berlinetta s/n 0170ET
Two Ferraris & a Stanga
Rain impressions
Mille Miglia impressions
Ferrari 225 Sport Vignale Berlinetta, s/n 0170ET
Ferrari 225 S Vignale Berlinetta s/n 0170ET
The Lady in Radicofani
We did it...
Ferrari 225 Sport Vignale Berlinetta, s/n 0170ET
Ferrari & Maserati - always crowd pleasers
Gambettola impressions
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