History of the Mille Miglia

On a rainy Italian afternoon, exotic super cars align the streets of the country for the Mille Miglia.

Via Corsa Magazine Issue 7 Exclusive!

Throwback to the creation and history of the Mille Miglia, a.k.a the 1000 Miglia; a.k.a. the Mille Miglia Cup. What started out as a dream for four Italians has blossomed into one of the greatest spectacles in motorsports.

The Mille Miglia, or 1000 Miglia as it is so aesthetically depicted with its logo of a red arrow pointing to the right, is viewed as one of the finest motorsports events in the world. Starting in the cradle of Italian automotive ingenuity and passion, the original race began in Brescia where drivers conquered the Italian countryside and roads, expelling speeds to upwards of 100 mph, down to Rome and then back to Brescia in a “figure-8” pattern. The exhilaration and sport of the event grew infamous, almost to a fault in itself after the 1957 race. But the idea stemmed from four Italian car enthusiasts wanting to challenge the status quo of motor racing in the country.

Italians had long been enamored with motorcars even before the 1920s. There is an old adage that says, “in place of blood, fuel runs in the veins in Brescians.” By the turn of the 20th century, the area surrounding Brescia had housed over 20 motor racing competitions. Society had become enamored with pushing the envelope of man: explorations to the Poles and attempts at land, air and water speed records. This type of thinking would cultivate in the minds of Franco Mazzotti and Aymo Maggi.

Maggi and Mazzotti were two Brescians from well-off Italian families that exhibited a passion and desire for sport and challenge. They were among the first Italians to ever make the trek from Brescia to Milan and back in a car. Milan had always been a place for innovation, and it has always been considered an important point of reference for cultural movements. Maggi and Mazzotti were able to meet Renzo Castagneto and motorsports journalist, Giovanni Canestrini, in Milan. These four became fast friends amid the political and social upheaval exhibited in Italy at the time. The group thought more about sport than politics, and in particular motorsports racing.

F40 crossing one of the time trials set forth in Rome.

Brescia had already served as the home of the 1921 and 1923 Italian Gran Prix. Brescian tradition became synonymous with major motorsports and widely considered to be the home of automobile racing. Castagneto, Canestrini, Maggi and Mazzotti created an Automobile Club in Brescia with the efforts of creating a major motorsports event, to organize, “a long-distance race open to traffic using the latest model cars, not racecars. A race with a practical purpose and immediate significance from both a technical and sports standpoint.”

With the first installment slated for 1927, the quartet had hoped for 30 participants to compete in the “Mille Miglia Cup,” as it was donned in the beginning. Instead, over 77 entrants christened the first Mille Miglia to much the surprise of Canestrini: “The 77 cars that left Brescia encountered a crowd of enthusiastic people lined on either side of the street, cheering for the entire 1600 km. Not one stretch of road was left unmonitored, not one act of indiscipline, not one accident.”

The first race was a huge success: the organization, the adoption, the acceptance and the sheer beauty of the race was and would forever be unparalleled. Canestrini had more to say about the initial running, “Thirty thousand military troops, numerous sportsmen, with a moving passion and self-sacrifice, had made this miracle of organization possible, pride the constitutes one of the expressions of the new spirit that cheers on the Italian people.”

After the initial races had claimed huge accolades, the race became regarded as a modern pleasure. Drivers and Italian motorists would take Italian manufactured automobiles and parade them through the streets of the country with pure freedom. At the time, the success of these mechanical feats was regarded as spectacular. But yet, there was still more opportunity and chance to push the envelope of the race.

You can read more about the history of the race and an exclusive perspective from the 2016 Ferrari Tribute to the Mille Miglia in Via Corsa Magazine’s 7th issue, which hits newsstands on March 14th!