... Galleries >>>
Over thirty years the MM was a fixed part in the sports car championship alongside Le Mans and the
Nuerburgring but apart from the Targa Florio few races were so unpredictable and winning the MM was not
just a question of honor for the Italian drivers and companies but also others like Mercedes-Benz put in huge
efforts to win. After Rudolf Caracciola winning the 1931 edition for MB as the only foreign manufacturer on the
mighty SSK the legendary 300 SLR was back in 1955 to set an unbeaten record with a young Stirling Moss
joined by Denis Jenkinson. What is common in today’s rally sport was new to road racing when Jenks
introduced the road book telling Stirling the direction well in advance giving them an advantage on the long
way not even the local drivers completely knew. Together with the driving skills of Sir Stirling this unbeatable
combination made history beating their lone team mate Juan Manuel Fangio.
After two more races and more accidents the following years the MM became history in 1957 and it only took
20 years for the first reunion under the red arrow for classic cars. What started as a small meeting of
enthusiasts became the biggest classic car event in the world over the following 40 years and the fact that
people still talk about Moss as one of the best race drivers of his era despite the fact he never won a F1
Championship shows the ongoing respect of the long distance races of the days and although todays
entrants only achieve a fraction of what the original drivers did it is widely considered as the most important
classic car rally in the long seasons calendar. Not just does it bring superb machinery back to the original
roads but also profits from the unmatched enthusiasm of the Italians for all things fast and load so the 450
“bella macchinas” are welcomed in Brescia on Wednesday and Thursday when they are lined up at the
Piazza Vittoria for the sealing ceremony after having completed their technical inspection at the Fiera outside
Thousands of visitors from Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and many more countries flood the
Piazzas to look at the cars, talk with likeminded and enjoy la dolce vita with Espresso, Wine and Pizza
before the cars are lined up in the afternoon to leave Brescia for the trip.
But apart from the food and the enthusiasm there is more people like in Italy: the endearing relaxed dealing
with organizing issues. After the first cars took the ramp to be introduced to the public it was the priceless
Mercedes-Benz SSK of the Louwman collection that took the ramp for the first real load test and unfortunately
the ramp (once again) failed as the wooden construction could not take the weight. As it was unlikely an
extensive lunch by the owner it was simply the weight of the car the ramp was not capable to carry. Over the
next dozens of cars the drama of the repair could be observed but after trying two more cars the rest of the
field had to pass next to the ramp. Unfortunately this was not the first time there were problems with the ramp
but unlike the other two times there was no Ferrari tribute going over before to try as they started in
Finally all the cars left Brescia and took the first stage to Padova for the first overnight. Years ago the first leg
was started in the evening and went to Ferrara but in recent years the tour was split over four legs giving the
participants a little bit more sleep as the following two legs down to Rome and back through Tuscany are still
very long especially as the cars once again entered Rome in heavy rain.
For many the third leg is the favorite one as the landscape and the roads are much more preferable than the
way down to Rome. After passing Radicofani where traditionally many people are waiting to see the cars one
of the highlights is without doubt the passing of Siena were the classic cars are allowed to enter the old town
that is normally closed for cars and entering the famous Piazza of the Siena horse race that is not only
known since it appearance in a James Bond movie.
Just like in the old days the route through Italy is not fixed but changes from edition to edition so Florence
was not on the program as well as the famous Radicosa and Futa passo that normally attract thousands of
visitors giving both the participants and the “followers” in their modern or classic cars a welcome ambience to
drive up the hill quit fast. Instead of the Passo Futa this year’s mountain crossing was the Passo Abertone.
This was also the location of a story symbolizing the current Mille Miglia in a rather sad way as the biggest
plus of the MM is also the biggest minus: passion.
Driven by passion both from the participants and the visitors the behavior in public traffic is very different from
normal as both entered cars, service vehicles and followers are racing rather than cruising. The participants
seem to be carried away from the beginning when escorted by the police over red lights and at speed through
small villages when they open lanes where are none and seem to overtake where overtaking is simply not
possible without risk. Joined by service cars who run the entire 1000 miles with hazard lights as the survival of
mankind depends on their speedy progress and countless “followers” with self-made stickers who seem only
to attend the MM to drive fast through Italy. One can see the same cars every day and with every mile driven
they seem to loose every restrain.
One would think that the spread over four days took away some of the pressure from the entrants but
obviously especially the pre-war cars are still in a hurry. Over the Passo Abertone the early cars were running
late due to rain that reduced their speed so they had to make up time on the way down the pass. Everybody
knowing the location would agree that overtaking is simply impossible due to the twisty narrow road that
leaves no room. Even the modern service cars did not try to overtake the convoy of cars and bike we were
running down the mountain when a trio of pre-war Alfa Romeo, Lancia and OM were coming from the back.
After the first one forced his way through the cars the second on started to argue after overtaking under risk
that he did not think the cars were driving enough on the right. While still arguing he almost took off the two
Swiss tourists on their Harley Davidson who most likely never heard of the MM up to that day. The last one of
the trio was overtaking so close that he smashed his hand out of the car on our fender pointing we should
drive to the right to let him pass but as there were guard rails it remains a mystery were he expected the
other cars to drive. As one could see even while passing the bikes there was not even room for any upcoming
traffic next to the bikes as the street was simply too narrow for overtaking on the center strip. It took them
several corners to overtake all the cars and blast away towards their next check point and it is a miracle that
during all the time not a single car (not to mention a bus or lorry) came up the hill as this would have meant a
certain mass accident involving most of the cars in the convoy.
This was one of the scariest moments of this year Mille Miglia showing that all the cars on the road take way
to much risk and some should recall that it were accidents that ended the original Mille Miglia and most likely
it will be an accident ending the regularity edition when locals are involved who did nothing wrong but driving to
the grocery store during the hot days. One could see many scratches and dents on a lot of cars showing that
most of them had moments during the 1000 miles where things really did not go according to plan and one
should remind himself that a good classification is not worth the risk.
The organizers have to face the fact that some are carried away and instead of helping them though the traffic
it might be better to adjust the time table according the possible speed. It would be a shame if the famous
MM would end in near future.
But at the end of the four days most of the cars make it back to Brescia were they are welcomed at the same
place they left on Thursday and finally they were even able to cross the ramp. They only had to wait 4 days
and drive 1000 miles through the enthusiastic crowd in partly breathtaking landscape. One might forget that
nowadays we had more MM revivals than actual races and the MM still draws fans from all over the world and
with the international coverage in all leading publications in will most likely remain like this for the years to
It will take another year until all come back to four memorable days in Italy seeing interesting cars ranging
from the multi-million dollar premium marques as Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa, Porsche and Mercedes but even
more the countless Etceterini mostly based on Fiat parts that give the MM its face.
Our galleries should give you an impression of the cars as seen last week and some places they were driving
through, unfortunately no coverage can transport the enthusiasm and all the places so there will be something
to experience on your own in the next year.
Report & Images … Peter Singhof