Brescia-Rome-Brescia, 22nd - 25th of October, 2020
Looking around in Brescia is was obvious that a lot of locals had other concerns rather than looking cars
but the main difference was the complete lack of tourists. Normally the Piazzas are crowded by mainly
German and Dutch people looking at cars, enjoying am Aperol Spritz and having dinner in the countless
pizzerias. Leaving the scrutineering area one was barely aware that this is the Mille Miglia weekend.
More people were driving on invitation in works car giving them the unique experience, people who sometimes
never sat in a classic car before. This also changed the program as from the former start on Thursday evening
and the full drive to Rome and back on the following days the timing was extended to almost 4 full days to
keep the drive reasonable. Especially the introduction of the split of the Rome-Brescia leg into two days held
a lot of controversy within the regular drivers. On one side is was argued that this took away some of the
challenge that was part of the rally, on the other side safety reasons could be brought forward as the last 100
kilometres before Brescia were usually driven in a doze when only adrenalin and the will to finish prevented
the drivers from falling asleep. But with the prolonged program and the new sort of participants the MM also
became more of an event than just pure driving. Laps in Monza, numerous drives through crowded city
centres like the passing of the Duomo in Milan were added just as visits to the Alfa Museum, all this adding
up to even longer days stuck in traffic.
Furthermore more and more new classic cars following the Mille Miglia in addition of the numerous service,
organization and media cars as well as the Ferrari or Mercedes tribute in advance made this an avalanche
rolling through the region. The date around the Whitsun weekend also made this a welcome touristic
destination, especially around the Lago di Garda and so the MM is not just a business for the organizers
but also not a small economic factor for the region.
Over the next days one could see that (although less than usual) the locals were still standing roadside to
see the cars but the usual touristic spots like San Marino or Radicofani were deserted. Also visible was the
different timing compared to the normal May date with the sun going down as early as 6 pm leaving the cars
driving through the night even longer than usual. Around midnight the cars were welcomed in Cervia before the
cars were parked at the numerous hotels for the first short night.
Although held as a rally in the following years it should take 20 years until the cars from the original era would
take the Italian countryside roads under their wheels when a group of enthusiasts came together in 1977 to
celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first edition.
After the cars were checked the sealing also took place in the Fiera leaving only the verification stamp to be
taken at the Piazza Vittoria in the city centre. With the Piazza fully set up for the sealing ceremony it was a
minimum requirement to at least show the cars once to the sponsors and the local enthusiasts although the
cars were only seen for a few minutes before leaving back to the Fiera as they were not allowed to park on the
nearby Piazzas as usual.
Entering the Fiera the first thing was a temperature check, something that should be repeated countless
times all throughout the event. The setup in the Fiera itself did not differ too much from the previous years with
the separation of the Ferrari tribute and the original MM, the area of scrutineering as well as the sponsor
displays of Chopard and others. But what was very easily seen was the absence of all museum and
factory cars, be it the usual fleet of Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwings, the works BMW 328 or the Alfa
Romeo. In recent years also Bentley and Jaguar used the Mille Miglia for some works appearances, this year
none of them could be seen. It certainly did not match the company’s philosophies to send out cars for
pleasure of invited guest when the car industry is struggling. This left more room for the private entries and
although this certainly did not increase the overall quality of the cars most likely a few got the chance of their
lifetime to participate and probably the entire reserve list was taken into the race as at the end there were still
numbers untaken, about 350 cars were listed instead of the intended 410.
Not only did the cars drive into the night but due to the later date they also left well before sunrise and so the
pre-war cars with their less than suitable headlights had to deal with the darkness as well. Furthermore there
was a lot of early morning fog on the way to Rome that day.
What was intended as a unique event soon should become a tradition in May and the years certainly
changed the MM just as they changed the entire classic car scene. When in the beginning the “dated” race
cars were only a hobby for a few selected connoisseurs over the next few decades the classic cars became
a more common expression of a life style, a status symbol as well as an investment and so not only the
owners changed but also the entire atmosphere. Whereas the first editions were like a great adventure the
later editions became very much a must on the bucket list, cars were bought purely for the event or even
rented, values were affected by the eligibility to take part just like for the pre-1904 cars for the
Enzo Ferrari called it “the most beautiful race in the world” and the MM had such an importance for the
young company from Maranello that several of the early race models were named after it. After winning the
thousand miles with his Scuderia Ferrari team both for Alfa Romeo before the war and then with his own cars
after the war the increasing speed of the race forced it to an end when several accidents ended the final
edition in 1957.
Some say that the Mille Miglia without rain is not a MM but the Saturday certainly was a little bit too much,
especially for those lacking any weather protection. Just as the first cars drove up to Radicofani the rain got
torrential and over the next hours several showers should make the drive unpleasant. Normally this leg is
considered a highlight of the entire thousand miles but unfortunately the visibility was reduced and the thick
rain combined with fogged windscreens made the regularity trials very difficult. Especially when looking at the
usual front runners in their pre-war Alfa Romeo with minimal weather protection leaving the road book to
papier-maché it was still remarkable how competitive they could be. Most likely that day a lot of crews
found out whether their hood is leak proof or not.
Like last year the lunch break was in the historic city centre of Siena were the cars were parked at the Piazza
del Campo, a spectacular background for the cars. Very unexpected was the short sunset at Lucca when the
cars were driving on the old city wall, the rest of the way up to Parma was a long drive in the dark with more
rain making this very uncomfortable conditions. Still in the dark one could see a lot of locals waiting for the
cars to arrive on Saturday evening.
Weather can change fast on the 1000 miles and when the cars left on Sunday morning the sun was out
again, the fact that the time changed back to winter time the night before made sure that the cars left in bright
daylight. The first time trial was held on the Autodromo Riccardo Paletti before climbing several lovely country
roads into the Piacenza area. After avoiding traffic the days before some might have thought that they might
get home with an almost new clutch but that was before they faced the climb up to Castell´Arquato, the
starting point of the annual Vernasca Silver Flag hill climb. Certainly not in the tradition of the original race
the cars had to make up their way through the very narrow and steep alleys to the church and the smell of
burnt clutches was in the air.
As mentioned before the experience in San Marino was a very different from the previous years. Just after
sunrise the first cars made their way up to the historic town centre where the regular participants might have
been surprised to barely see a soul on the streets compared to the previous years when people were sitting at
the café to wait for the cars. The next historic city centre was Urbino and unlike normally there was much
less traffic jam on the early morning leg around Rimini so the drivers seem to arrive a little bit more relaxed
and less police escorts were needed to get them through traffic while as usual thousands of volunteers were
standing at the roundabout to keep the convoy rolling. After the lunch break in Fabriano the tour led to Ascoli
Piceno before entering Rome for the turning point.
A last lunch stop in Treviglio before concluding the MM where it started, on the Viale Venezia.
Report & images ... Peter Singhof