The epic car race, the Mille Miglia, passed through Desenzano on Thursday 18 May, bringing the world’s most precious cars to the shores of Lake Garda. The Mille Miglia is an iconic classic car race between Brescia and Rome (and back). It takes place every year and is a genuine spectacle, causing a great deal of excitement.
The Mille Miglia began after World War I. The people of Italy wanted to forget the hardships of the war and begin enjoying life again. Four close friends keen on cars, Franco Mazzotti, Aimo Maggi, Renzo Castagneto and Giovanni Canestrini agreed to race from Brescia to Rome and back, just for fun.
At this time, this was no easy feat. Roads were mainly dirt tracks and they would have to pass through three Apennine passes. The route covered over 1,600kms (1,000 miles).
The friends’ enthusiasm mounted as they debated what to call the race. They bantered around names such as Grand Prix Brescia, GP of the Resistance and Gran Tourism Criterium. But nothing seemed right.
Mazzotti, who didn’t seem to be participating in the name selection, suddenly exclaimed: “The Mille Miglia Cup” (The 1,000 Miles Cup) and the name stuck!
The four friends could never have imagined their idea would rock the foundations of the racing world. As news of the race mounted, more and more people wanted to join the fun.
On the 26 March 1927, the first car, a stylish Isotta Fraschinni, departed Brescia. It marked the very beginning of the legendary car race. The Mille Miglia was born!
Villages, towns and roads were lined with people waiting to see this historic race pass by. It was such a roaring success that the four friends set about organising more races for future years.
World War II put a brief halt to the Mille Miglia, but the country’s enthusiasm for the race had not waned. Overcoming bridges and roads destroyed by war, and to boost the morale of the Italian people, the Mille Miglia soon continued.
Unfortunately, cars had become too fast, the desire to win too great and a major accident occurred that stunned the world. This resulted in the cancellation of the Mille Miglia in 1957.
Worldwide, people knew of the Mille Miglia as “the most beautiful race in the world”. Its loss was keenly felt. In 1980 several fans from Brescia planned to renew the Mille Miglia. This resulted in the present day rules and regulations.
For a car to be eligible to race today it must have taken part in one of the speed trials between 1927-1957. The cars must also be entirely original without any modern parts. These rules have made the Mille Miglia one of the most exotic spectacles in the modern racing world.
I felt privileged to be able to witness such an amazing sight. The Mille Miglia defiantly has a new fan.