The History of the Mille Miglia Race – 90 Years and Counting [Infographic]
In 1927, the original Mille Miglia race is created to challenge the sports car elite in a 24-hour endurance test through 1,000 miles of beautiful Italian countryside. This year, the legendary event celebrates its 90th anniversary. To commemorate, we put together some fun facts you can share with fellow race fans. Comment below with your favorite Millie Miglia moment!
Race fans consider the Mille Miglia the premier sports car endurance race in the world. It thunders through small Italian towns on a grueling circuit from Brescia to Rome and back again. The original race was an all-out thrill ride through crowded city streets and dangerous mountain curves. It elevated sports cars from carmakers like Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz to rock star status.
Why is the Mille Miglia so important in sports car history? Enzo Ferrari says it best. “The Mille Miglia created our modern automobiles. It enabled us to produce the sports cars that we now see all over the world.” The automotive advances that resulted from these race cars push the envelope of car design. All cars benefit from their innovations.
This race is the ultimate test of man and machine. Drivers push themselves and their cars to the limits. There are many stories of race cars smashing into houses or missing a curve on a mountain road. Sterling Moss, the only British driver to win the Mille Miglia, notes, “If you saw an enormous crowd, you knew it was a really bad corner.”
Tragedy is what brings the original race to an end. In 1957, the Marquis de Portago, while driving his 4.1L Ferrari at 180 mph, blows a tire and flips his car into the crowd gathered to watch. Portago, his co-driver and 10 spectators are killed. With cars now reaching incredible speeds and more spectators crowding the roadways, organizers have no choice but to call an end to the famous race.
You can’t keep a good race down. In 1977, the rally is resurrected as a regularity race for antique and vintage sports cars. Cars built before 1957 and that raced in the original are the only ones that can compete. The circuit follows the same 1,000-mile route as the original, except this time classic sports cars cruise through towns at a more reasonable speed. It is still a competition, just not a death-defying one.
Today, the Mille Miglia Storica is considered one of the greatest antique car rallies in the world. Fans still fill every vantage point along the roads to cheer their favorite classic sports cars. It is estimated that five million street spectators watched the race in 2013. Why not? How many times do you get to see a piece of history roll by? Congratulations Mille Miglia! Here’s to another 90 years.
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