Quill & Pad At The Mythic Mille Miglia
by Ian Skellern
Only a few sporting events are fortunate enough to transcend the confines of their sports. But for these special few, their name and reputation evoke powerful associations, even among those who care little for the sport itself. Examples include
- Wimbledon: tennis
- Saint Andrews: golf
- Ascot: horse racing
- Sydney-Hobart: sailing
These mythical events are very rare. A sport is lucky to have one such iconic event, and the majority of sports have none.
Motor racing is an exception. If you love cars then you are spoilt for choice for legendary events:
- Paris-Dakar: rally
- Indianapolis: fast open-wheel circuit
- Le Mans 24 hours: endurance racing
- Pikes Peak: hill climb
The Mille Miglia
And when it comes to endurance racing in historic cars, one name stands above all others: the Mille Miglia in Italy.
Mille Miglia (pronounced millay millyeea) is Italian for “1,000 miles” (1,600 kilometers). It was originally an open-road endurance race that was held 24 times from 1927 to 1957.
It was the Mille Miglia that made the Gran Turismo/Grand Touring sports cars from brands like Alfa Romeo, BMW, Ferrari, Maserati and Porsche the household names they are today.
In 1957, the race was discontinued after two fatal crashes: the first crash took the lives of Spanish driver Alfonso de Portago, his navigator Edmund Nelson and nine spectators; the second crash claimed Dutch driver Joseph Göttens.
The Mille Miglia reborn
In 1977, the Mille Miglia was reincarnated as a timing regularity race, exclusively limited to cars/models that were registered in the original 1927−1957 events.
There are two different types of competition in the modern Mille Miglia:
1. Time trials, where the aim is to get from Point A (departure) to Point B (arrival) in a specified time. The target time requires a fast pace, but there are timing points and even hidden check points to ensure that competitors are following the route and not speeding. There are also sections (usually near the end) where you cannot stop so that competitors cannot just drive like crazy then wait in front of the finish to cross at the target time.
2. Regularity trials, where the aim is to get from Point A to Point B at an exact average speed. Sounds easy, but if, for instance, the average speed demanded is 60 km/h (35 mph), you have to factor in the time it took from zero to 60 km/h and work out how how much faster you have to drive for how long to bring up your average. And, naturally, the regularity trials are conducted where it is difficult driving at a consistent speed.
The 2014 Mille Miglia runs for four days from 15 through 18 May 2014.
Day 1 (Thursday): Brescia to Padua – 251 kilometers / 156 miles
Day 2 (Friday): Abano Montegrotto to Rome – 757 kilometers / 470 miles
Day 3 (Saturday): Rome to Bologna – 505 kilometers / 314 miles
Day 4 (Sunday): Bologna to Brescia – 256 kilometers / 159 miles
The days are long, the cars are old and the competition is intense. But there are 451 cars registered for the 2014 Mille Miglia, and everything is shaping up for it to be a vintage year in every sense.
Here are just a few of the names I recognize in the 2014 Mille Miglia driver’s list: Jeremy Iron (British actor), Jay Leno (U.S. TV host) with Ian Callum (Jaguar’s design director), Marc Newson (designer), Brian Johnson (lead singer AC/DC), Amy Macdonald (Scottish singer), Jodie Kidd (actress), Martin Brundle (ex-F1 driver) with Bruno Senna (ex-F1 driver), Adrien Brody (actor), Andrea Zagato and Marella Rivolta (owners of Zagato) and Rupert Prince of Bavaria.
Chopard, Roland Iten and Quill & Pad
And one of the best things about the 2014 Mille Miglia is that Quill & Pad will be covering the race from start to finish.
Longtime sponsors of the event, Chopard has invited Elizabeth Doerr to join, while a main sponsor of this year’s competition, Roland Iten, has invited yours truly. And we will be doing our utmost to share as much of this historic race with you as we can, day by day.
Roland Iten, a main sponsor of the event, is co-piloting a historic 1953 Porsche 356 Pre A Coupé 1500 with Dutch driver Joop de Hoogh.
Roland Iten himself has a long history with and love of beautiful cars. He studied car design at the Swiss campus of the renowned California-based Art Center College of Design. He also designs and engineers his belt buckles so as to capture the shapes and curves of svelte sports cars.
To commemorate the iconic event, Roland Iten has created a limited edition of four buckles that launch a new collection called The Driver. Each of the Padova, Roma and Mille Miglia buckles is engraved with one of the four main cities on the route: Brescia, Padova, Roma or Bologna.
There are five Roland Iten-branded cars in the Mille Miglia:
Porsche 356 Pre A: Joop de Hoogh and Roland Iten
Porsche 550 Spyder: Wim van Gierdegom and Achile van Gierdegom
Lotus Eleven: Tom De Gres and Jurgen Bresser
Fiat 750 Abarth Zagato: Bruno van Ballaert and Stefaan Tavenier
Alfa 1900: Lou Jedeloo and Hette Mollema
Chopard is the official timekeeper of the Mille Miglia, which is essentially a “regularity” competition, in which participants compete to pass checkpoints within a given time as accurately as possible. Timing is much more demanding for the Mille Miglia than most car competitions as there are so many cars, across so many stages, over so many days that have to be timed and controlled.
The Chopard Mille Miglia Chronograph is one of the brand’s most popular watches and with looks like these and competitive pricing to match, that’s no surprise.
Chopard co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele will be co-driving a Porsche 550 Spyder RS alongside his friend, the legendary Belgian driver Jacky Ickx. Ickx has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans six times; Formula 1 races eight times in addition to 25 podium finishes; and he has also won the Dakar Rally.
Here are a couple of things I overhead mentioned during the day.
Caution: There are many spectators along the route waving and encouraging the drivers. In places where the spectators seem particularly enthusiastic in chanting and waving, “Faster, Faster, Faster” there is likely to be a very sharp curve ahead. They are apparently hoping to encourage the drivers to overextend themselves and go off – the spectators are looking for entertainment.
Technical term: At the pre-race technical, the examiner asked the driver to turn on his headlights (“check”), brake lights (“check”), indicators . . . the driver explained that the car didn’t have indicators and waved both arms like a bird to demonstrate how he used his arm to indicate. “Indicators automatic,” wrote the official.
Addendum: Throughout the course of the race, we updated Quill & Pad with (near) live Mille Miglia coverage. For more, please read Snapshots from the 2014 Mille Miglia and The 2014 Mille Miglia Day-by-Day.