The Mille Miglia Race, explained

The famous Mille Miglia (meaning a thousand miles) is a very popular open road race in Italy, which had originally taken place 24 times, from 1927 till 1957. Much like the earlier Italian races of Carrera Panamericana and the Targa Florio, Mille Miglia has made many sports car makers world-famous such as Porsche, Maserati, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo

The cars waiting for the sealing ceremonie
The Race Details

First, the slower cars started first. This has made the race much simpler for the organizers since the marshals did not have to be on duty for a very log time and the roads only remained closed for a short time.

In the earlier days, the cars that participated in the race took a very long time to finish the race. Even the winners used to take sixteen hours or more to finish the race.

Siata Daina driving through the streets of Rome
History of The Mille Miglia

The race was first started by Franco Mazzotti and Aymo Maggi when the city of Brescia lost the Italian Grand Prix to the town of Monza. Along with a few wealthy families and friends they decided to start a race from Brescia to the city of Rome and then back again. The race course had figure-eight shape. And it was 1500 km or around 1000 Roman miles long. In the later years of the race, more routes developed. All featuring different lengths.

Our Balila at the finish line
The first race took place in 1927 on 26th March with 51 of the over 70 starters reaching Brescia, the finishing post by the end of race. The first covered a distance of 1618 km. Only unmodified cars could enter the race for the fee of one lira. Giuseppe Morandi was the winner of the first Mille Miglia, and he completed the race in 21 hours and five minutes. In 1930, Tazio Nuvolari won the race in his Alfa Romeo by defeating teammate and rival Achille Varzi.
Abarth 1400 Touring Superleggera (1950), Mille Miglia eligible car
During the years, Italian drivers dominated the race. Of course, onboard Italian cars. However, German driver Rudolf Caracciola won in 1931 in a Mercedes. After a deadly accident in 1938, Mussolini suspended it. To later resume in in 1940. In the same year, Enzo Ferrari debuted his first design, the AAC tipo 815.
Mille Miglia after the War

After the war, the race resumed. In 1952 Mercedes made a good effort, finishing second with Karl Kling and Hans Klenk in the original Gullwing 300SL

Once again Italians won, but Peter Collins, Wolfgang von Trips and Juan Manuel Fangio did manage to win the Mille Miglia during the 1950s. The team of Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson ran reconnaissance laps before the race with Jenkinson used as a navigator. Though this strategy using a variety of coded hand signals helped them, it was Moss’s innate driving ability which was most useful.

In 1954 Hans Herrman was in a remarkable race when he barely managed to pass below a set of lowering railroad crossing gates, just before a speeding train. This definitely took all the spectators by surprise. However, in the next race in 1955, Herrman was not so lucky and had to quit the race because of brake failure. The Moss and Jenkinson team set an event record of 159.65 km/h when they arrived in Brescia. This record would stand for two years.

back of the Fiat 508 CS Balilla during the Mille Miglia
Mille Miglia Ban and Today’s Version

The Mille Miglia was banned in 1957 after a fatal crash. This crash took the lives of Alfonso, Marquis of Portago, and Edmund Nelson who was his navigator and thirteen spectators. The crash took place at the small village of Guidizzolo, probably caused by a blown tire. The Ferrari team had not changed the tires. They took the blame, along with the tire manufacturer

From 1958 till 1961, the race resumed for a short time as a rally type round trip race mainly run at street legal speeds, but it was quickly discontinued.

From 1977, Mille Miglia Storica began. In this race, which is a dream for classic car lovers, course time, not speed, is most important, showcasing the vintage cars, dating from the 1927 to 1957 races.

Source: Life in Italy,