The middle of May sees much excitement for vintage car lovers. What used to be a pure endurance race between two competing automobile clubs has become one of the most cherished road races in Italy. The Mille Miglia Road Race has been called the “world’s greatest road race” by none other than Enzo Ferrari, the founding father of the sleek race car that bears his name.
The race began in 1927 to settle a feud between two competing automobile clubs. The automobile clubs of Brescia and Milan were at odds, and the one hundred mile endurance test was created to settle their differences. What is created was more competition for years to come. The endurance race lasted until 1957. In that year, a fatal crash occurred that caused a shift in the direction the race would take.
Since that time, the Mille Miglia Road Race has been more of a car parade than an actual race. Every year hundreds of cars line up to be driven somewhat less than the advertised one hundred miles. Citizens and fans line the streets of villages to enjoy the spectacle as 375 vintage race cars cruise through town. All cars in the race were built before 1950 and have been lovingly maintained by enthusiasts and car clubs for decades.
Racing the Mille Migilia
The annual race stretches over three days. The action begins in Brescia in 2009 and a different city in subsequent years. On May 14, the cars line up to receive a papal blessing administered by a delegate. The drivers and other participants partake in a holy mass before the race officially begins the day before.
Once the cars have been blessed and the drivers are in place, the race officially begins. The cars drive through the streets and cobbled squares of Brescia and then on to Ferrara, Sansepolcro, Rome, and Monteriggioni. Along the way the cars and drivers are met by cheering fans, and when the cars cross the finish line in Brescia, there is a multitude waiting to greet them.
What began as a local race has blossomed into a global phenomenon with racers bringing antique race cars from all over the world. With a steep entry fee and lineage required on every car, the drama of the candidates is as interesting as the race itself.