There are car races born a long time ago to which we are used because they are still running today, such as the Formula One Grand Prix, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Then, there are races that have existed in the past and now forgotten and finally, there are races that, despite they existed a few years, have left their mark. This is the case of the 1000 Miglia, certainly tone of the most beautiful car race of all time. There is something exciting in the air of this spring Sunday, something that touch the hearts of everyone in the love with cars.
Wonderful sounds, produced by discharges of fascinating creatures with four wheels that leave behind a particular trail of perfume, a pungent odor, a mixture of oil and gasoline burned. Some of the most beautiful cars ever built parade with the elegance of a beautiful woman, such as real treasures on wheels. Difficult to remain lucid in this situation, mostly charmed as children watching the cars passing by, but that’s not our role, or rather, not only.
We take strategic positions in Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa and by some nice hairpin near Cascina. Since it’s the first time fot us at this event, it seems fair to tell the story of what was this intrepid race. Everything has started in 1926 when four car enthusiasts thought up this car race. They were the Count of Aymo Maggi Gardella, Count Franco Mazzotti, the former pilot Renzo Castagneto and the journalist John Canestrini.
All from Brescia, almost on a whim, they invented this competition in response to the failure of setting the Grand Prix of Italy in the city of Brescia. Their idea included a path that went from Brescia to Rome and back, a total of 1,600 km, the equivalent of 1,000 miles, from where the name of the race. March 26, 1927 kicks off the first edition, which sees as winner Ferdinando Minoia and Giuseppe Morandi on a OM, who completed the race in 21 hours.
The record of the competition is up to Sir Stirling Moss in 1955, he completed the race in 10 hours and 8 minutes on board of a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR, the legendary number 722. Twenty-four editions of the race, during which intertwined stories of brave men, ace drivers like Tazio Nuvolari, Achille Varzi, Nino Farina, Alberto Ascari, Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio and many others, who have challenged the human limits on roads open to traffic.
It wasn’t a walk, they ran without stopping, always pushing to the maximum for all those kilometers through countrysides and cities, mountains and coastal roads, both day and night, sometimes on asphalt and even on dirt roads, relying on coffee to remain lucid and on the skills of the co-driver to avoid the constant dangers. It was in the 1957 edition, that happened the tragic event which marked the end of the race. In the city of Guidizzolo, the Spanish driver Alfonso de Portago, following the outbreak of a tire, lost control of his Ferrari launched at about 300 km / h, which crashed on the crowd, killing nine spectators, including five children, the same pilot and the co-driver.
The Italian government decreed the end of the Mille Miglia. What remains today is a regularity race, the average speed does not exceed 50 km / h, the competitors must comply with road traffic regulations. The excitement and adrenaline that were at the core of the competition at the time are certainly distant but they remain in the overall atmosphere. Competitors are completely immersed in their part, many of them driving their cars wearing, overalls and gloves of the period.
The scenario of Piazza del Duomo is very impressive, the same drivers, especially the foreign ones, are fascinated by the passage in the world famous square, most of them taking a souvenir photo with their smartphone. The contact with the public is strong, almost all of the drivers go through the open glass and beat five to the public on the roadside.
There are even beautiful modern super cars in the parade. Ferrari 458 Speciale, LaFerrari, the Enzo, the Mercedes-AMG GT, the Mercedes SLS, Mercedes SLR and other jewels of this magnitude pass along the way.
This atmosphere may inspire someone to take part and participate to this event, let’s say that the requirements for participation are owning a car produced from 1927 to 1957 and paying the enrollment fee of around 7000 euro! The circle of the possible lucky candidates narrows!
It’s late afternoon, the last few of the more than 450 registered cars are leaving, bringing with them the old trail we talked about before, direction Brescia. The fantastic show came at the end for us, and for the crowd. A dive into the past of this glorious and spectacular car race.
By: Leonardo Stefani
Photos: Edoardo Mascalchi, Marco Dellisanti