Founded by Giovanni Canestrini, Franco Mazzotti, Renzo Castagneto, and Aymo Maggi in 1927, the Mille Miglia is known as the most beautiful race in the world. Over the years, this open-road, motorsport endurance race slowly became an icon of Italian racing. In the present day, the Mille Miglia is an annual race for historic cars that takes place in Italy's most beautiful regions.
The race route is surrounded by stunning scenery, a journey marked by the enthusiasm of drivers and the warmth of the public. A 1,618km course, the equivalent of 1,005 Roman miles, begins and ends in Brescia, with Rome as its turning point. Participation in the Mille Miglia can only be obtained by entering cars that participated or completed one of the Mille Miglia editions (1927 to 1957) and have been registered with the Registro Mille Miglia. The race was envisioned as a way for manufacturers to showcase their cars, as well as an opportunity for everyone to participate – not just the wealthy, but anyone who was skilled and brave enough to navigate the rough and winding roads of the Mille Miglia at speed.
The first edition of the Mille Miglia ran from 1927 to 1957, with the winner of the first race in 1927, Giuseppe Morandi, averaging nearly 78km/h in a 2.0 liter OM. In 1938, due to an accident, then-leader Mussolini canceled the 1939 edition and the 1940 edition returned as the “Brescia Grand Prix of the Mille Miglia”, lapped nine times around a 100km course between Brescia, Cremona, and Mantua.
World War II stopped the race once again until 1947 when it was restarted with much difficulty due to the damage of the war. However, from 1950 onwards, things got better and there was the increased participation of bigger teams and more professional drivers. For example, the 1952 edition saw the participation of Mercedes-Benz with their 300 SL Gullwing and the German crew of Karl Kling and Hans Klenk that managed to achieve second place.
More notably, the 1955 edition saw the attendance of the legendary Sir Stirling Moss with the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR, which was based on the W196 F1 car. With the help of his trusty navigator Denis Jenkinsin, they managed to win the Mille Miglia that year. It was Sir Stirling Moss’s fifth attempt at the race. They also broke the speed record, averaging 99 mph (158 km/h).
Their car number of 722 later inspired the naming of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz Mclaren SLR Roadster 722 S.
Sadly, after two fatal crashes in 1957, the race was stopped again. Undeterred, the race organizers reinvented the race as a rallying-like round trip with legal speeds for the most part of the race. This however was not as successful and the race was once again discontinued in 1961.
The Mille Miglia as we know it today was revived in 1982 as a moving exhibition and re-enactment of the previous editions. Since 1987, it has been a yearly event in which we get to see some of the finest, rarest, and most valuable cars of the era on the roads, passing through the same towns and villages where the original Mille Miglia was celebrated.
Throughout its history, the Mille Miglia has symbolized courage and innovation. As a result, the brand continues to grow and reinvent itself, driven by the goal to protect the 1000 Miglia heritage.
A piece written in collaboration with LBSS Bocconi
by Isabel Reynoso Valencia and Cleve Lim Han