From its earliest competitive era in 1927 to today’s more gentlemanly and heavily-branded approach to auto adventures, the legendary Mille Miglia, or ‘Thousand Miles’ race is more open to lovers of motorcars than ever before and rolls through some of the most beautiful cities in Italy.
Held originally as the ultimate endurance race based on its hometown of Brescia, in Northern Italy, an high attrition rate ended its open road, annual competitive run just thirty years later.
Yet, standing in the race-booted footsteps of famous names like Alberto Ascari and Stirling Moss, whose average speed for the 1,000-mile route was a record-setting 97.96mph, a precedent was set and a flame ignited that was enough for it to be resurrected as a legal speed (regularity) event since 1977.
Highly prestigious, while the main event driving route held traditionally in late-May has changed to incorporate Swiss, German, Austrian and other border crossings, which means high passes and often challenging Alpine and Dolomite weather conditions, the overall Mille Miglia proposition is now a broad portfolio of different events that allow electric and modern entries, as well as the classic cars of the original event’s heyday, spread across an annual calendar.
The organisation has also grown to international status, with replicated events taking place on stunning driving routes around the world.
Mille Miglia – Chophard Boutique St Moritz
One of the offshoots, the Copa delle Alpi 2023, was held in early-March, which guaranteed snow and ice for its 72 entries. Over the first leg of the four day trek that started in Tirano, the crews faced average speed time trials on the hairpin bended route that led them across the beautiful Bernina Pass, where, at the end of a near 34km climb, they could admire the glaciers of Pizzo Palù, Bellavista and Bernina, not forgetting the famous white lake.
Driving through the Engadin, the cars reached the outskirts of Saint-Moritz and, on the road that runs alongside the Horse Shoe (a renowned section of the Olympia Bobrun, the oldest bobsleigh track in the world and the only one with natural refrigeration), they competed in the first block of Time Trials to decide the winner of the ‘City of Saint Moritz’ Trophy. The welcome in St Moritz is always enthusiastic and eminently classy and a gala dinner before spending a night on the town has to be enjoyed as part of the experience.
The second race day kicked off from the centre of Saint Moritz, to skirt the city’s famous frozen lake under a crystal clear sky and glorious sunshine, more than justifying the all-inclusive Euros4,200 entry fee. It was followed by the Vredestein Trophy (one of the sponsors), a series of Time Trials on snow held at the Montebello Quarry. This particular and spectacular spot proved hugely popular with the event participants, all the more so in a winter with little snowfall.
After the Average Speed Trials on the Fuorn Pass, which are intentionally competitor testing but not car damaging, the race returned to Italian territory from the Vinschgau Valley, first passing through the quaint town of Glorenza and then heading to the eastern shore of Lake Resia for the Passage and Regrouping Control, from where a view of the submerged bell tower provided an ideal selfie opportunity.
Mille Miglia – Resia Lake
After the Average Trials in Falpaus and a delightful gourmet lunch stop in Tarrenz, the cars crossed the Fernpass, the last one before entering Germany, the fourth nation crossed by this year’s event. Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Mittenwald hosted this year’s German Passage Controls. At each scheduled stop, whether refuelling the car, or the competitors, enthusiastic crowds gather to get as close as they can to the cars and to grab competitors’ autographs and take screeds of photographs. It is always friendly and unthreatening and the local police ensure that everyone is safe.
The Average Trials held among the dense trees of the Leutasch Valley inaugurated the return to Austrian soil before reaching Innsbruck, the capital of North Tyrol and the second city leg, with the cars entering from the Innbrüke, the bridge over the Inn River that provides the city with its name. The Time Controls at the end of the race were held in front of the imposing Imperial Palace, in the square, in front of the City theatre.
On the third day, the ‘rally’ departed Innsbruck at 8.30am before a timely lunch stop at Misurina Lake and returning to Italy to tackle the lovely Valparola Pass by mid-afternoon. The first cars arrived in Bressanone in the early evening, the competitors comparing notes and experiences over a much needed and relaxing supper. The final day would take the entries to Sarnonico, with a refreshments break in Ponte di Legno, en route to Bormio and the end of proceedings. Within two hours of arrival, the prize-giving, aperitifs and dinner followed in close order, the tired but happy crews heading homewards after breakfast next day.
Italy’s Mille Miglia – Bernina Pass
Conclusion: Log onto 1000miglia.it for the full range of Mille Miglia events. All official activities are supported by the all-inclusive and sponsored entry fee and a full range of services available to entrants is provided by the organisers.
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