June 21, 2006

Today In Automotive History

1947 Mille Miglia is reborn

The first postwar Mille Miglia began in Brescia, Italy. The Mille Miglia was originally conceived by Aymo Maggi in 1927, who gained the approval of the Fascist government in Rome to run a road race from Brescia to Rome and back, over Italian roads. The course was plotted for 1,000 miles. Italian drivers, racing primarily for Alfa Romeo, dominated the early years of the Mille Miglia. Tazio Nuvolari was the race's first great champion. In 1929, Mercedes, haunted by racing accidents, chose not to field a team at the Mille Miglia. Their star driver, Rudolf Caracciola, was crestfallen at the prospect of missing such an important race in his racing prime. Mercedes told him they would give him a car if he wanted to enter the race as a private entry. Caracciola, one of the greatest racers in the world, took a four-man crew to Italy. In contrast, the Alfa team employed over 90 mechanics for its Mille Miglia campaign. Nevertheless, the undermanned Caracciola took the victory in dramatic fashion, passing three Alfa cars near the finish line and proving the adage "He who leads at Rome is never first home." The race was halted by World War II. After the war, a new generation of racers and teams took the forefront at the Mille Miglia. Moss and Fangio replaced Taruffi and Caracciola, and Ferrari succeeded Alpha. The last Mille Miglia was run in 1958. The race was discontinued after a horrible accident killed Alfonso de Portago and 10 spectators. Enzo Ferrari best describes the importance of the Brescia to Rome classic, noting, "The Mille Miglia was an epoch-making event, which told a wonderful lesson. The Mille Miglia created our cars and the Italian automobile industry. The Mille Miglia permitted the birth of GT cars, or grand touring cars, which are now sold all over the world...and proved that by racing over open roads for 1,000 miles, there were technical lessons to be learned by the petrol and oil companies, by the brake, clutch, transmission, and electrical and lighting component manufacturers."

Posted by Quality Weenie at June 21, 2006 06:58 AM | TrackBack