Monday, May 21, 2012

Mille Miglia

From 1927 until 1957 there was a sports car road race in Italy called Mille Miglia (thousand miles).  After a tragic accident killed bystanders and a driving team the race was no longer run.  But for many years there has been a replacement of sorts, a time-trial road rally for cars built before 1958, still called the Mille Miglia (MM) and still roughly following the 1000-mile figure-eight course through Italy from Brescia in the north to Rome and back.  It is no longer a high-speed race but a series of time and distance challenges where the driving teams try to come as close as possible to the average speed between checkpoints designated by the organizers—about 50 km/hr (31 mph), which includes slow passages through historic town centers.  For many of the older cars it is also an endurance test.

Over twenty years ago we happened to see the Mille Miglia as it went through ancient Siena, the throaty exhaust rumblings echoing through the narrow stone-walled streets and the exotic aerodynamic car shapes of the 40s and 50s making an engaging contrast with the medieval surroundings.  So when we found that this year the rally would be going through Florence we were eager to see it.  Of course things change in twenty years, and a difference this time was the intermixing of several other car rally groups with the 387 official vintage cars.  There was a Ferrari Tribute rally with 140 cars (an official part of the MM program), some Mercedes and Porsche club cars, a big gathering of Triumphs, and at least two vintage car touring groups that merged in as well.  Add to that the city buses, taxis, bicycles and hordes of free-range pedestrians and you’ll begin to see the scene.

The rally route ran past the Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace, shown above), very near our apartment.  Although the Ferraris started out ahead of the vintage cars, in the miles and hours en route from Rome some order was lost.  The hot cars started passing by us shortly after mezzogiorno (noon), the old racers about 2 pm, and they didn’t finish until nearly 5 pm, by which time a light rain had arrived.

A few of the Ferrari rally cars.  Above an F40.
Below,  2009 Scudria Spider 16M,  2012 SA Aperta,
  2011 458 Spider, and 2012 FF

The photos below are a small selection of the hundreds of cool cars we saw.  (If you visit the official Mille Miglia site you can see pictures of all 387 old cars and discover lots of rally particulars—such as the registration fee:  €7260.  The list of Ferraris is here.)  

Above, 1930 OM 665 and a 1925 Bugatti Type 35A.
Below, 1933 Fiat 508 S.

Above, 1928 Bugatti Type 43.
Below, 1938 Lancia Astura.

Above, 1926 Bugatti Type 35A.
Below,  1933 Aston Martin Le Mans.

Above, 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300.
Below, 1937 BMW 328.

Above, 1929 Mercedes E 720 SSK.
Below, 1950 Jaguar XK120 OTS.

Above, 1950 Fiat 500C Coupe, front and back.
Below, 1935 Mercedes E 500K.

Above, vintage cars enter Piazza della Signoria.
Below, 1937 BMW 328.

Above,  1951 Bandini 750 Sport.
Below, Gullwing Mercedes, old and new.

Above, 1955 Ferrari 250GT, front and rear.
Below, 1953 Jaguar C-Type.

Above, 1948 Fiat 1100 S.
Below, 1953 Ferrari 250 MM.
Inset shows radio transponder for auto-checkpoint reporting.

I also cobbled together a video to give some sense of the event.  As you will see, crowd control was minimal.  If the the video is missing below or won’t play for you, go to this YouTube link.

In the video after the opening shots with Ferraris going by, the first set of cars viewed at street level are:

#6    1928 OM 665 Superba (an Italian company in Brescia that first made railway cars)
#98    1939 BMW 328, Mille Miglia veteran
#27    1926 Bugatti Type 35 T
#5    1927 OM 665 Superba
#67    1933 Aston Martin Le Mans
#72    1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS
#100  1937 BMW 328, Mille Miglia veteran
#599  2011 Ferrari 458 Spider

After that, you’re on your own, though the #142 car at minute 4:14 is a 1950 Patriarca 750 Sport.

Finally, in the making limonata da limoni tradition, if your 1954 Jaguar is going to break down, it might as well be in front of a gelateria


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