Partrick Dempsey and rare Porsches tackle the Ennstal Classic

No less than twelve vehicles tackle the Ennstal Classic for the Porsche squad from 16 to 18 July in the mountainous Styria region.

Taking on the challenge is actor and race car driver Patrick Dempsey. The American recently notched up the greatest achievement of his racing career scoring second place in the GTE-Am class at the Le Mans 24 Hours with his Dempsey Proton Racing squad. Also joining the action is Richard Lietz, who signed on as a Porsche works driver in 2007 and has to date claimed three Le Mans class wins. Lietz teams up with co-driver Angelique Kerber for the three-day event, Germany’s current number one tennis player.
Impressive scenery. Porsche 550 Spyder at Ennstal-Classic.

The Porsche grid lineup is not only unique in terms of the drivers: the vehicles that will tackle this important car racing event are extraordinary classics that represented the benchmark of development and technology in their day.

Several rarities are amongst the vehicles from the Porsche Museum. Dr Wolfgang Porsche takes the wheel of a 356 B Carrera 2 Cabriolet of which only 34 were built. The 550 Spyder that Patrick Dempsey and Bernhard Maier will navigate through the Alpine region secured a class victory at the Carrera Panamericana in the year 1954. Up until it tackles the Ennstal Classic, the vehicle is an integral part of the exhibition of the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. Walter Röhrl contests the Racecar Trophy at the wheel of the “Grandmother”. In the past, the 718 W-RS Spyder competed in the Targa Florio four times, raced at the 1000 km on the Nürburgring three times and crossed the finish line at Le Mans twice.

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Octogenarian wins Peking-Paris Rally Classics division

Octogenarian Gerry Crown is celebrating after winning the fifth Peking to Paris Rally with navigator Matt Bryson in a 1973 Leyland P76 – just as the vehicle is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Australians Gerry, aged 81, triumphed in the Classics division for the second Peking to Paris running with navigator Matt after a relentless battle with British duo of Peter Lovett and Tim Smith in the 1965 Porsche 911, who had to settle for second place. However Peter and Tim still had cause to celebrate after winning the new European Trophy for the classics.

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“I’ve competed in the Peking to Paris four times and this one was the most demanding and the most competitive”, said Gerry with a bottle of champagne in his hand as he crossed the Paris finish line. “The victory is all down to the car. Every night Matt got under the car, checking and fixing everything to make sure we kept going hard. It’s the best rally car I’ve ever driven!”

The ex-1974 World Cup Rally winning Citroen DS23, crewed by Robbie Sherrard and Peter Washington, came third in a car that Peter described as “continually punching above its weight.”

Out of the 96 cars that left the Great Wall of China on 28th May, 86 cars crossed the finish line in Place Vendome, Paris today, with thousands waiting, including friends and family wanting to see their loved ones after 33 days on the road.

The crews have travelled around 8,000 miles, driving almost half way around the globe, crossing two Continents and the biggest single land-mass between two capital cities that has seen a full east to west crossing of the World’s greatest wilderness. Its too early to ask them if they’d do it all again even though most would jump back in their cars at the chance.

The next Peking to Paris Motor Challenge takes place in 2016 and organisers the Endurance Rally Association are promising a route through Nepal and Tibet, retracing the wheel tracks of the Himalaya Rally.

For the full Peking to Paris results and information on future Endurance Rally Association events, visit

Classic Extras Historic

The Mille Miglia Museum, Brescia

The original Mille Miglia car race ran from 1927 to 1957. The cars that took part in these races are celebrated in the Mille Miglia museum in Brescia, along with Italian culture and costume from the period. A ticket will set you back €7 and gives you access to a well laid out display that snakes through the old monastery of Sant’Eufemia della Fonte. That’s right, the museum is housed in a restored monastic complex, the oldest parts of which were built in 1008.

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Although the Mille Miglia is one of the oldest car races in the world, the museum has only existed since 2004. It aims to not only show the history of the race but to convey something of the changes in Italian culture and customs over the years.

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The museum starts by introducing the four men who first had the idea of ‘creating something sensational which will wake the automobile world from its slumbers.’ They were Giovanni Canestrini, Franco Mazzotti, Aymo Maggi and Renzo Castegneto. They were quick workers – they first discussed the idea in December 1926 and on 27th March 1927 the first Coppa della Mille Miglia got underway!

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Cars from local Brescian manufacturers Officine Mecchaniche (OM) came first, second and third in the first race. Ferdinando Minoia and Giuseppe Morandi won in their OM 665 Superba, averaging 48 mph for over 21 hours and finishing 15 minutes ahead of their nearest rivals. The greatest problems were not mechanical, but – like modern F1 – tyre degradation. The museum has examples of the tyres and of the quality of the roads in each decade of the race – perfect asphalt they were not.

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The first race followed a figure of eight route that circled northern Italy, crossing in Bologna. There were 18 controls in different towns along the way where teams had to get a stamp to prove they had not cut any of the course. Of the 77 starters, a remarkable 70% finished the race. The original plan had not been for the race to be repeated every year. But Mussolini is reported to have heard about the Mille Miglia and said, ‘It is to be repeated.’ So it was.

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The pathway through the museum follows the history of the race chronologically. Cars that took part in each edition of the Mille Miglia are displayed on either side of the long wings of the Monastery of Saint Eufemia. Large windows allow the cars to sparkle in the sunlight. As you progress through the museum the cars get more modern, and displays show artefacts from the period, including dresses, petrol pumps and motorbikes. There is also a section showing clips from Amacord, the Fellini film that includes shots of the Mille Milgia.

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There are stunning cars everywhere you look, and many of them sport modern Mille Milgia stickers, showing that they have been raced in recent years. The display does change as the cars are not just museum pieces. All are restored to great condition and many are used in classic car events such as the Mille Miglia.

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When I visited the museum it also had a Formula One simulator and a well-stocked book shop. I bought a DVD and the girl behind the till handed me my receipt with a breezy Grazie Mille. With all the Mille Miglia signs around I half expected her to say Grazie Mille Miglia, but she restrained herself. Outside I saw this sign and thought hang on, I don’t remember seeing that.

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Museum, yes. Book shop, yes. Office, yes. Beatles Museum? That was unexpected, like going to St Paul’s Cathedral and seeing a sign for the swimming pool. I went back in to investigate.

‘Didn’t you see it?’ said the girl.

I shook my head. I would have remembered a Beatles museum.

‘It’s at the end of the museum,’ she paused and then added, ‘Oh, now it’s shut.’

I don’t know whether it’s shut for good or if it was just shut that day. If anyone has seen the Mille Miglia Beatles Museum can you tell me what it is like? As for the main Mille Miglia museum, if you’re in Brescia and can see the beauty in vintage cars, get down to Viale della Bornata, 123 – S Eufemia. You won’t be disappointed.

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Classic Extras Historic Other

Ferrari tribute to the Mille Miglia

The Ferrari Tribute to Mille Miglia is a re-enactment for Prancing Horse owners of the world’s most famous endurance road race. The drivers aboard post-1957 Ferraris paraded their cars down Brescia’s Viale Venezia to open the 2013 edition of the historic event. The competitors then continued along some of Italy’s most beautiful roads, following the traditional route to Rome and back to cross the finish-line at Brescia on the night of Saturday, May 18th.

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The Ferraris taking part came from more than twenty different nations and were divided into two separate categories: Classic for cars built between 1958 and 1984, and those built between 1984 and the present. The cars represent a marvellous compendium of Ferrari’s extraordinary production from every era and were selected by a special committee chaired by Ferrari’s Vice Chairman, Piero Ferrari.

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The Ferrari Tribute to 1000 Miglia followed exactly the same 1500km route as the main race, starting from Brescia, with regularity trial stages in Desenzano del Garda, the Autodromo di Imola, Rome, Florence and the Fiorano Circuit before finishing back at Brescia once more.

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The Ferrari Tribute to 1000 Miglia cars left a few minutes ahead of their historic counterparts. They drove through Assisi, Sienna and Florence to name but a few of the towns that provided stunning backdrops to this year’s Ferrari Tribute. The thousands of enthusiasts that thronged the route were provided with an absolutely unmissable spectacle.

Classic Historic

The Mille Miglia part 3 Rome back to Brescia

For the final day of the Mille Miglia the cars raced from the Villa Borghese in Rome back to Viale Venezia in Brescia. Leaving at 6.15am meant a long day’s drive, highlights of which were driving through the centres of Sienna and Florence. At last the rain stopped and the sun came out. Golfer Colin Montgomerie, co-driver aboard a 1937 BMW 328 said that ‘racing the Mille Miglia is as thrilling as a hole-in-one’. About the BMW he commented, ‘It is a noble car, but it is tiring. It is tiny and therefore not easy to handle when traveling with two. The major obstacle is the rain. The car is open, so it is difficult to read the road-book and be the navigator when it rains, or at night or due to the sun.’

The cars left from the Villa Borghese, crossing the centre of Rome, before heading out towards Cassia. In Campagnano di Roma, where the Vallelunga Autodrome is located, the first Regularity Trial of the day took place. Then, leaving Lazio behind them, participants made their entrance into Tuscany with the breathtaking scenery of the Sienese hills and the tiny picturesque villages of the region giving an unbelievable backdrop to the vintage cars.

In a small town in the Val D’Orcia, known as Radicofani, the crews were subjected to a Time Control and underwent a further Regularity Trial. Time Controls give a time in which the competitors need to reach pre-established points: they serve in uniting groups of cars, and are placed on long-distance stretches of several hours. Vehicles receive penalty points based on the minutes of error over or under the established time.The route was accompanied by the enthusiasm of all the onlookers awaiting along the roadside to greet the magnificent cars. A Regularity Trial in Pieve a Salti followed, then a Time Control in Buonconvento and participants entered breathtaking Siena, for a Passage Control. This prevents competitors from cutting the route short as they are obliged to get stamps at the passage controls. In the Piazza del Campo in Siena, the cars actually had to struggle in order to get through the masses of people who had turned out to watch.

There was a short lunch break at San Casciano Val di Pesa and then cars followed on towards Florence for a further Passage Control, the last one prior to the two Apennine Mountain passes. Even the two mountain passes Fuga and Raticosa, so beautiful yet tough, have become a part of the Mille Miglia legend.

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Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport of Steven Adler and Jakob Greisen in Florence

In the only real deviation from the traditional Mille Miglia race route the cars visited the towns that suffered from the earthquake last year. The race not only brings press attention to the municipalities affected. The Mille Miglia has set up a charity called Drying Little Tears,  that helps children affected by the earthquake. A centre for traumatized children affected by disasters will be built using the proceeds from the project. Every single penny will be used towards the project known as “The Firefly” which is a therapy center for children between 3 and 18 with different types of disabilities.

With only 7 regularity stages to go the Argentinian Juan Tonconogy was still in the lead, behind the wheel of his 1927 Bugatti T 40. He was followed by Giordano Mozzi in a 1933 Alfa Romeo Gran Sport. In third place was Giordano Moceri in his 1933 Aston Martin Le Mans.

In Brescia the crowds were out to see the cars return home. First the Ferrari Tribute cars drove over the finishing ramp on Viale Venezia, led by the Dutch team of Cees and Hans Visser.

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The Ferrari 512 B/B of C & H Visser

Then the vintage Mille Miglia cars started arriving. The overall winners, who had led consistently through out the race were Argentinians Juan Tonconogy and Guillermo Berisso in their 1927 Bugatti T 40. They celebrated winning the 2013 Mille Miglia with a spray of Champagne that left the air smelling sweet. For a moment the rain tasted of Champagne, although not enough to distinguish the exact blend of Pinot noir, Chardonnay and PInot Meunier in the wine.

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In a cloud of Champagne spray – winners Juan Tonconogy and Guillermo Berisso

So the Mille Miglia was over for another year. It is a tremendous meeting of beautiful vintage cars and beautiful scenery. All that was left to do was give the winners their prizes, which took place at a ceremony the next day in the impressive neo-baroque Teatro Grande.


Winners Juan Tonconogy and Guillermo Berisso

The Mille Miglia is a unique event that celebrates the beauty of both vintage cars and the Italian landscape. Enzo Ferrari described it as the most beautiful race in the world and that is a description that still stands today.

Classic Historic

The Mille Miglia part 2 – Ferrara to Rome

The Mille Miglia part 2 – Ferrara to Rome

The first cars in the 2013 Mille Miglia had only reached Ferrara around 00.30 on Thursday evening, having left Brescia and passed through some of the breathtaking towns around Lake Garda. The drivers of the open cars had got a soaking, but they still paraded through Verona’s Arena and many fans braved the inclement weather to get a glimpse of the vintage cars as they completed the first stage of the race.

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Cooper Jaguar of Derek Hood and Steve Riedling

However it was an earlier start for the drivers than the day before as the race to Rome began at 7.45am on Friday morning. Today’s route went through Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio where thousands of spectators would see the passage of this unique traveling museum. The morning saw the cars take the breathtaking drive around the roads of Mount Titano and the Republic of San Marino

German actress Hannah Herzsprung, the co-driver of a Jaguar C-Type said this was the best moment of the race so far. ‘It was amazing to go through those streets and the countryside between Romagna and Tuscany, on the road towards Sansepolcro. Despite the rain…I’m glad to be here, above all for the warmth of the people.’ However previous winner Giuliano Cane said that ‘Without a doubt, the passage through San Marino has been the most challenging one so far – especially because we had to stick to a very steep and tortuous part of the route.’ Car #1, the OM 665 SS from 1930 actually had to stop and let the engine cool down as the road was so steep!

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Ciisitalia 202 SC driven by Fabrizio Rossi and Fabio Teti

The Mille Miglia is about taking part and coaxing the machinery to the end of the course. However it is also a regularity race, with points scored everyday and Argentinian driver, Juan Tonconogy in his 1927 Bugatti T40, was in the lead after the first regularity trials. He maintained his lead ahead of Giordano Mozzi in a 1933 Alfa Romeo Grand Sport and Giovanni Moceri in his 1933 Aston Martin Le Mans.

Friday was a  hectic day for the crews who faced four regularity trials: San Marino, Pieve Santo Stefano in the Province of Arezzo, Province Umbertide in the Province of Perugia and Arrone, in the Province of Terni. Regularity trials require cars to race along a segment of a route – normally either closed or distant from traffic – maintaining a target pace. For example, a Regularity Stage of 3km could have a given time of three minutes and thirty seconds. For every hundredth of a second error, above or below the precise “target” time, the competitor receives a penalty.

This phase of the race led the cars through some of the most fascinating and beautiful Italian landscapes. One town that stood out was Gambettola, for its extraordinary welcome.

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The Mille Miglia has visited Gambettola for almost twenty years and the reception is fantastic. Each crew is received with the laughter, waving and an abundance of treats. These include a basket of fresh strawberries that the farmers’ cooperatives provide for every crewmember.

After Emilia, the Mille Miglia route wound through the splendid hills of Tuscany and scenic Umbria. It then continued towards the picturesque landscapes of Sansepolcro, Assisi and Spoleto before arriving in Rome along the Via Flaminia Nuova at around 8.30pm. At the Castel Sant’Angelo the cars were presented to a great throng of spectators. The rarest cars were displayed on the podium today, including the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR driven by David Coulthard. This car, which took part in the 1955 edition was driven by to Juan Manuel Fangio, winner of five Formula One titles. It is perhaps the most beautiful vehicle ever produced by Mercedes- Benz. Ferrari’s 375 MM Berlinetta Pininfarina followed, which was built in 1954 and commissioned by film director Roberto Rossellini as a gift to his wife, actress Ingrid Bergman.

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Aston Martin Le Mans, 1933 driven by Jan Ten Cate and Rob Pors

After reaching Rome the Mille Miglia cars toured the centre of the Eternal City, passing through some of the most beautiful corners of the Italian capital, including the Circus Maximus, the Colosseum, Piazza Venezia and Via Veneto. Then the drivers got a few hours sleep before departing for the final day’s drive back to Brescia at a rather early 6.15am.

Classic Historic

The start of the Mille Miglia – the most beautiful race in the world

Enzo Ferrari called the Mille Miglia the most beautiful race in the world. Unless there are a bevy of Botticelli’s Venuses training for next year’s London Marathon he is probably right. 400 vintage cars built in the years from 1927 to 1957 take part in the race from Brescia to Rome and back. These range from a 1925 Bugatti T35A to a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL300. Don’t ask the value of these unique machines, just enjoy seeing museum-quality cars being driven on the open roads of Italy. 11 bugatti flaneur 1925 Bugatti T35A on the starting ramp in Viale Venezia The streets of Brescia are not just lined with the cars taking part in the official race. For one weekend at the end of May the northern Italian town is filled with exotic machinery, including over 70 Ferraris that drive in front of the race in an official Ferrari tribute. IMG 0877 flaneur The Ferrari Enzo driven by Giovanni Recordati and Massimo Soffritti   There are not many places where a 70-strong gang of Ferraris can be upstaged, but if there is one it is Brescia during the Mille Miglia. On Thursday the modern Ferraris were all parked on Via Goffredo Mamelli, looking shiny and potent amongst the small boutiques and cafes. But the roads around Piazza Loggia were filled with the participants in the actual Mille Miglia. Parking space after parking space was filled with exquisite vintage machinery. An Austin Healey here, a Bugatti there, a Frazer Nash over the road. The rest of the centro was filled with amazing cars whose drivers had come to watch, or media cars that were going to follow the race. These were often Ferraris, the owners happy to slap a MEDIA sticker on the doors and the bonnet. Even the vintage cars were covered with race number stickers. I hope they all come off OK, or there will be a lot of exotic cars needing resprays next week. The current Mille Miglia is a recreation of the original pedal-to-the-metal race that took place between 1927 and 1957. Only cars that date from that period are allowed to enter. Each has a driver and a co-driver given the task of driving from Brescia to Rome and back via cities such as Ferrara, Siena and Florence. Celebrities are attracted to the fun and this year’s race included Daniel Day Lewis and David Coulthard. Day Lewis was co-driver with Jim Gianopulos, CEO of Fox Entertainment and they had the hood up on their black Jaguar XK 120. This was probably sensible given the British-like drizzle at the start, but many others were braving the elements. IMG 0948 flaneur Loes Van De Velde preparing for a wet Mille Miglia in an Austin Healy Silverstone Most of the cars taking part were open, and the raingear worn by many of the drivers looked impressive. David Coulthard was driving the Mercedes 300 SLR that Juan Manuel Fangio drove in the 1955 Mille Miglia and which Sterling Moss described as the ‘greatest sports car ever built.’ Coulthard flaneur David Coulthard and Thomas Rommerskirchen in the 1955 300 SLR It was the perfect car in all respects, except one – on a wet day like today. It lacked a roof. David Coulthard’s wet weather gear appeared to consist of a blue cap. Maybe as an ex-F1 driver he had access to more accurate weather forecasts than the rest of us, but I feared he was in for a soaking. The cars start from a ramp in Via Venezia to the west of the city, before racing around Brescia and out towards Desanzano. The numbering system gives the oldest cars that competed in the original 1927-1957 races the earliest starting times. So the more modern, faster cars leave last, giving everyone a chance to arrive at the first night’s stop at Ferrara at a similar hour. On the ramp the rain held off for the starting ceremony as Simon Kidson introduced the drivers to the crowds and wished them well before sending them on their way. It is amazing that these cars still exist, let alone that they can be driven to Rome. Nowadays speed is not of the essence and the participants are limited to 40 or 50kph, depending on the road. The participants have come from all over the world to compete in this premier competition for vintage cars. The drivers come from 31 different countries and 76 different marques are represented. The sight of these vintage cars weaving their way through the narrow streets of an Italian centro storico is stunning. Engines boomed round the centre of Brescia as car after car drove past the cafes and bars. Everyone waved at everyone, driver, co-drivers, cafe habitues, Campari drinkers and tourists. Being in Brescia for the Mille Miglia lets you see cars being driven that would normally only be seen in history books. There is plenty of room along the route for everyone to get a good view and the police presence, though high, is relaxed and allows the fans to get close to the cars and drivers. The first car left Brescia at 18.45, an OM 665 driven by Marcus Brennecke and Wolff Schimiegel. They led the race out towards Desenzano and a night’s stop at Ferrara. After that the route headed to Rome on Friday and back to Brescia on Saturday. Cars set off in batches continually until after 21.00. They started off with police escorts, but by the time they left Brescia they had merged with the normal traffic, giving the Italian commuters an attractive mobile automotive museum to look at as they drove home. ‘Motoring Royalty! Have a good one!’ Simon Kidson’s voice boomed out over the PA. Another car descended the ramp and headed off for a lap of Brescia before heading to the open road. People having dinner in a pizzeria on Corso Magenta suddenly found themselves in the best seats for a world-class vintage car rally. IMG 1258 flaneur That is one of the great things about the Mille Miglia. Anyone can turn up in Brescia and watch the action. There is no need to buy expensive tickets, you can wander around and see hundreds of amazing cars close up. You can admire the cars and talk to the drivers. They tend to be repeat performers in the race. Once bitten by the Mille Migla bug drivers need their annual fix of motoring through the beautiful Italian countryside. I think I’ve been bitten. I just have to buy a car that was made between 1927 and 1957. around and see hundreds of amazing cars close up. You can admire the cars and talk to the drivers. They tend to be repeat performers in the race. Once bitten by the Mille Migla bug drivers need their annual fix of motoring  through the beautiful Italian countryside. I think I’ve been bitten. I just have to buy a car that was made between 1927 and 1957.

Classic Historic

Preview of the Mille Miglia – a museum in motion

What is the Mille Miglia?

In order to better understand this legendary Italian race, it helps to hear two of its most famous descriptions. In the 50s, Enzo Ferrari called the Mille Miglia the “most beautiful race in the world”. It was also Ferrari, otherwise known as the “Drake di Maranello,” who came up with a beautiful description of “a museum in motion, unique and charming, in a beautiful framework of jubilant visitors” while assisting in the race revival in the ’80s in Modena.

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Mille Miglia Roma photo: Mille Miglia

The original race ran from 1927 to 1957, with drivers racing on public roads from Brescia to Rome and back again. The first winner took 21 hours to complete the course. The race was cancelled after two bad accidents in the 1957 edition. The worst took the lives of the driver and co-driver Portago and Nelson, as well as nine spectators, including five children. However since the eighties the Mille Miglia has run as a celebration of vintage cars from the era of the original race.


Footage of the original race

The special “race recipe” that was created in 1982 is a lively and bubbly mix of sport, culture, tourism, performances, and international friendships, held in locations that are among Italy’s most artistic and historical gems. It is these places, along with their architectural and natural beauty that made the Mille Miglia become much more than a simple revival.

In the past, the mere passage of the Mille Miglia was more than enough to make it famous. Since 1927, half of Italy has been able to simply go to their doorsteps and watch it first hand. There was no need for advertising. Mille Miglia’s acclaim came about with the beautiful passage of great drivers and brilliant automotive creations. And the nicest part of all is that no one needed to buy a ticket in order to take part.

Nowadays the Mille Miglia is a joyous event, not only for those who live and work along its 1,600 km route. It is a spectacularly unique and popular celebration that takes places in some of the most striking regions in Italy and attracts millions of individuals to watch.

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Alfa Romeo 6c 1750 gs Photo: Mille Miglia

Who competes? Which cars are allowed?

Every year around 380 crews from over 30 countries participate in the reenactment of the historical race. Over the years, individuals from 50 different countries around the world have participated. Only cars that were produced during the dates of the original speed race from 1927 to 1957 are allowed to depart from the famous ramp on Viale Venezia.

Under no circumstances are automobiles built after 1957 considered for entry. However, some special vehicles, produced in the early twenties and participants in early races, may be considered for entry. All vehicles admitted are rigorously checked to ensure that every single part of the automobile is authentic.

The rating/handicap system

Cars are attributed a coefficient which takes into consideration the period of the car’s design and construction as well as the diverse technical characteristics and capabilities of the varieties of sport and classic cars in the race.

The coefficient acknowledges that there are profound differences between a car built in the twenties and one from the late fifties, and between a racecar and a comfortable Grand Touring vehicle. It also takes into account the various differences in driving the actual car. Consider, for example, the difference between drum brakes with external levers from the twenties and disc pedal-controlled brakes from 1956/1957. The basic principle behind the coefficient is that the older cars and cars that are more of sports cars are assigned the highest coefficients.

Moreover, the coefficient can be increased in the event that a car has a historical relevance, such as those cars that have won a Mille Miglia historical race. A bonus will be assigned to cars that participated in one of the twenty-four editions of the Mille Miglia speed races. The crew with the highest number of points will win. In practical terms, the ranking is the sum of points obtained by each crew during the regularity race multiplied by the coefficient assigned to the vehicle. Therefore, the higher the ratio, the more likely one is to win. Let’s bear in mind, however, that it takes much more than just the car itself to win…

How do you win the Mille Miglia?

It used to a straight speed race –  Brescia to Rome and back, quick as you can. As it is held on public roads it has now become a regularity race. If the fastest car doesn’t win, what exactly does it take to win the Mille Miglia? It is a little bit complicated. Drivers must respect pre-established “target” times rather than finishing the race as quickly as possible; arriving at the finish line earlier or later does not make a difference. In fact in both cases the competitor will be penalized.

In a regularity races, cars are normally classified according to three criteria: Time Controls, otherwise known as “C.O.”, Passage Controls, known as “C.T.” “Regularity Stages”, otherwise called “P.C.”, which are the same as what is known as “special stages” in a rally.

The Time Controls or “C.O.” indicates the times in which the competitors need to reach pre-established points: they serve in uniting groups of cars, and are placed on long-distances stretches of several hours. Vehicles receive penalty points based on the minutes of error over or under the established time.

The Passage Controls or “C.T.” serve the purpose of preventing competitors from cutting the route short. Competitors are obliged to get stamps at the passage controls indicated by the race organizers.

There are approximately seventy regularity stages in the Mille Miglia, which serve as determiners of how cars are later ranked in the race. Race regulations require cars to race along a segment of a route – normally either closed or distant from traffic – maintaining a “target” pace. For example, a “Regularity” Stage or “PC” of 3km could have a given time of 0:3 ’36 “, that is, three minutes and thirty seconds. For every hundredth of a second error, above or below the precise “target” time, the competitor receives a penalty. The winner of the regularity stage is the one with the least penalties.

In Mille Miglia, but not in other races, the result of each regularity stage is given a point value: the winner is the one with the highest score (after the appropriate coefficient has been applied).

How do drivers maintain the correct pace?

In order to meet the target times imposed, drivers and co-drivers use an apparatus, which is in fact a small computer, equipped with all the necessary timers. During the race, at a given checkpoint or at the “pressure check” prior to a regularity stage, the driver merely presses a button that starts or stops the time. To ease the transition, these devices emit a countdown “beep”, which every driver sets as he wishes for the last ten, five or three seconds, of a stage. If you should see a driver with earphones, it is not because he is listening to music on his iPod, but gauging the seconds remaining to the end of his regularity stage.

These time gauges count down the seconds remaining and serve to assist the driver in seeing whether he is maintaining the proper speed on the stretch of the road he is traversing.

One of the most important rules of the regularity race is the maintenance of a steady speed along the route. The C.S.A.I. (Commissione Sportiva Automobilistica Italiana) that oversees all of the Italian automotive races, imposes a speed of no more than 40 km/h, or 50 km/h on flat stretches for races involving classic cars.

To a layman these speeds may seem rather slow and not particularly appropriate for a race. Yet these speeds are everything but that, as we need to take into consideration that with the exception of speed trials, the entire route is open to traffic, time is lost while traversing historical city centers, as well as for refueling and maintenance. Bear in mind that the most recent car in the race is at least fifty years old, so we can certainly define these speeds as “racing speeds.” The important thing is to never stop, or at least to stop as little as possible.

It’s the taking part that counts

So in addition to having natural talent and the right car,  one needs lots of dedication and commitment. Just as all of those who have raced the Mille Miglia can confirm, what is more important than the victories, or let’s say one of the most profound joys one can feel – is to see the crowds that await you after 1600 km – all of them cheering at the finish line in Viale Venezia, Brescia

When is it?

In 2013 the Mille Miglia leaves Brescia on Thursday 16th May and returns on Saturday 18th. The Flaneur will be there to capture all the excitement of this vintage, mobile museum – stay tuned for updates from the world’s most beautiful race.

Classic Historic vintage

Automotive masterpieces from yesteryear – raced at Silverstone by Vintage Car Club

You might think that it is fairly amazing just to see pre-war cars being driven on the roads. After all, these are vehicles that are over seventy years old. However there is a group of enthusiasts who not only drive pre-war cars, they race them – at various circuits around the country and the world. The Vintage Sports-Car Club has existed since 1934 and organises a whole season of races for pre-war and historic cars. The ‘Spring Start’ was their first meeting of the year. Held at Silverstone it gave the cars a chance to blow off the dust of a long winter under wraps.

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Ben Fidler in an ERA AJM1, race 3

On the weekend of 20th – 21st April hundreds of vintage cars in superb condition filled the Silverstone paddock, arriving on trailers, inside lorries and even under their own steam (Not that I saw any that were actually steam-powered…) Everywhere you looked there were superb examples of old marques and models, with the public able to get close to the machinery and talk to the drivers. The weather was unusually fantastic in that unexpected way that England can suddenly hand out. Months of frost and drizzle were suddenly forgiven as Silverstone basked under bright blue skies.

Saturday had eleven races scheduled in the afternoon, with the morning devoted to practice sessions and qualifying.  It is astounding to see these beautiful cars being taken to – and occasionally beyond – their limits by drivers who are taking part for the love of the sport and the cars. There was also a Bonhams stand showcasing several fantastic cars that they will be selling later in the year at Goodwood. These included a 1934 Alfa Romeo BC2300 and an ex-John Wallinger Brooklands Special 1934 MG NA Magnette. Both were in the check-with-your-bank-manager-first price category but were great examples for aficionados to examine and photograph.

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NOJ 392, Austin Healey 100 Special Test Car for sale by Bonhams

This year the Spring Start lasted two days and had a special race celebrating the racing career of George Abecassis. This was an invitation event that brought together as many as possible of the cars that Abecassis had driven, along with cars of the same model to race against them. The race would last for forty minutes and had a pit-stop so that each car could be driven by two drivers. But that was not until race 10 – there were nine more events to enjoy before the Sports Altas, Aston Martins, HWMs and Healey Silverstones hit the track.

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Terry Crabb driving an ERA R12C, race 3

The first race was a short five lapper for pre-war racing and sports-cars to get everyone in the mood. After that was the Commander Yorke Trophy Race for F3 (500) Racing Cars – a twenty-five minute race for 500cc F3 cars. With 36 cars starting the race, pole sitter Steve Jones said it was the biggest grid since the Goodwood Revival.  With entrants from Europe and the USA this was eagerly anticipated and provided entertaining racing for the drivers and the spectators. Steve Jones took the honours in his Cooper Mk10 from Nigel Ashman in a Mk11.

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Charles McCabe in his Cooper Mk3

The 20th running of the Patrick Lindsay Memorial for pre-1961 front-engined racing cars attracted a cast of beautiful machines which fought the 12-lap race in glorious conditions. Last year’s winner Philip Walker in his Lotus 16 was always the man to beat, and nobody managed to catch him as he won from pole over a second ahead of Julian Bronson’s Scarab. At an average speed over 80 miles an hour these cars provided a magnificent spectacle as they slowed for Luffield before opening the throttle down the National Pit Straight.

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David Lamb (Riley Brooklands) and Neil Twyman (Alfa Romeo 8C), Race 4

The Historic Grand Prix Cars Association organised the grid for race 8, along with race 4 on Sunday afternoon. Set up to preserve and race the Grand Prix cars of 1920s – 1965 the HSPCA grid was made up of over cars with impeccable heritage. John Harper started in second position but fought his way to take the chequered flag. With an average speed of 91mph these cars still provide exciting wheel-to-wheel action and can be seen at circuits around the UK and Europe all season.

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Steve Hart in a Cooper T43 from 1959, HGPCA race

Handicap racing is an exciting way to allow very different cars to race together. Raced over five laps the entrants are given staggered start times, with the last to get away starting 70 seconds behind the pole sitter. If the handicappers have got their maths right all 34 cars in the field should be crossing the finish line 34 abreast! Such a format is a fun alternative to a normal race and allows spectators to see many different cars out on track at the same time. Marshals are kept busy showing blue flags to warn drivers that a faster car is about to overtake.

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David Saxl (Riley 12/4 Special) Handicap race 6

Race 10 was the much anticipated George Abecassis Centenary Trophy. Invited cars were allowed one or two drivers, but all cars had to make a pit stop of a minute’s length, even if they were not changing drivers. Five classes of cars took part which represented the different types of cars that Abecassis himself drove. Lasting forty minutes this was a test of the cars endurance as well as speed.

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Andrew Sharp in his Aston Martin DB2, 1953, Race 10

Won by Mark Midgeley and Chris Martin in a green Aston Martin DB3, Midgeley survived a scare at the start when having to swerve around a stalled car on the grid. The rear of the car touched the pit wall, but this didn’t prevent it from averaging 75mph and winning by almost 2.5 seconds. Winners of all classes were presented with laurels – for the cars – and decanters – for the drivers!

The final race of the day – race 11 – included an unusual twist. All drivers had to complete a pit stop, in which they had to change a spark plug with the help of their two-man pit crew! Not actually a race in the strictest of terms, each class of car entered competed against the clock to try and complete a set number of laps. This Regularity Trial was designed to give inexperienced drivers time on the track without full wheel-to-wheel racing.

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Paul Baker in a 1938 Frazer Nash Sport, race 11

The change-a-spark-plug requirement was a reminder that the Spring Start is a celebration of historic motoring and that it is definitely the taking part that counts. That these cars are still able to hurtle around Silverstone at high speed is amazing. The fact that very few cars left the track at undesignated exit points shows that their handling abilities can still cope well with the Silverstone circuit.

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The pit crew perform a mid-race spark plug change on David Johnson’s 1928 Lea Francis P Type Avon Tourer

If you are interested in vintage cars then a VSCC event might just be the ticket. Every year they organise over 40 social and competitive events, including races, hill climbs, sprints, road rallies, trials and driving tests. If you’d like to watch an event (or if you’re not sure of the difference between a race , a sprint and a trial), then you can get more details from the VSCC website.