Supporting the solitary VW Beetle in the Mille Miglia 2016!
I just got back from Brescia in northern Italy, where I’ve been supporting the 1954 VW Beetle that took part in the famous Mille Miglia race. Here’s how I got on and some insights into the race.
The ultra cool 1954 VW Beetle was the only Volkswagen taking part in the epic 1,000-mile race this year, and so we felt we had to go and show our support for the plucky little Bug as it crossed the finish line!
As the only VW among over 400 entrants the Beetle definitely stood out, so congratulations and well done to Wolfgang Schlinkert and Juergen Rang who drove and navigated the 1200 ‘Maggiolino’!
While we were there we also spotted this amazing T2 Bay ambulance, which, although not an official racer in the event, did make it briefly onto the podium and entertained the crowds with it’s lights and siren!
The Mille Miglia is a huge event which takes place each year, with a range of pre-1957 vehicles completing a 1,000-mile circuit around Italy, taking them from Brescia through to Rimini, then down to Rome before heading back up to Parma and finishing back at Brescia.
It’s a truly iconic event, and I’ve wanted to go for years, so it was great to finally be able to head over for the day with my son, Josh – even if it was just to catch the very end!
We stopped off at the Mille Miglia museum on the way to Brescia’s town centre, and saw some of the previous entrants and winning vehicles up close, which was fantastic.
There was loads of information everywhere about the event, but as neither Josh or I are any good at Italian (or any other language than passable German!) we settled with just starring at all of the vehicles on display.
When we made our way to the finishing in line, the atmosphere in the town was just amazing. People of all ages were gathered around to watch the cars come in, and everyone was waving their 1000 Miglia flags and cheering the cars as they drove up to the little podium to receive their medals and champagne.
Josh and I managed to find a great spot under some trees right by the podium, so we snapped these photos to share with you. We’d definitely recommend going along to check out the race if you have the chance, you definitely won’t regret it!
There was a real sense camaraderie between the racers, and of families coming together for the race. We saw a number of father and son teams, and little kids hopping in their parents’ race cars for the podium finish, which was great to see.
Several couples took part, with their kids and friends cheering them on as they passed. Every time a V8 revved along the strip kids would ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ like it was bonfire night, and it was really great to see so many different generations coming together to see these vehicles in their natural habitat.
It was also great to see so many all-female teams, as events like this are often considered to be the domain of men of a certain age, but this certainly wasn’t the case at the 1000 Miglia. A number of female teams and female drivers completed the epic race and were met with enthusiastic cheers at the podium, which was really cool.
The family enjoyment and involvement has always been a great part of the VW scene, and it was lovely to see it in a different context.
I’ve always had a lot of respect for anyone who’s brave enough to take such valuable classics out for a race like this. Some of these vehicles must have been worth millions, but their drivers handled them with expert care around 1,000 miles of road at speed, and, judging by their smiles at the podium, definitely enjoyed doing so.
The race wasn’t without it’s accidents for some of the vehicles involved, though, and we did see a few nasty bangs and scrapes that must have put a bit of a damper on things for those involved!
Other vehicles were at risk of overheating as they waited for their turn on the podium, creeping along the main road in Brescia in the 28°C heat. At least one that we saw conked out before they made it up to collect their medals.
This couple had come all the way from Japan to compete, and even though they had to be pushed along to make it to the podium, they looked like they’d had an amazing time, and got a huge cheer and applause from the crowd.
Some of the vehicles that took part in the race were worth millions of pounds, while others were ‘just’ £15,000 - £20,000, so it was a really inclusive event as far as classic car races go, which was another really nice thing about the event.
History of the Mille Miglia
The Mille Miglia was started in 1927 by Count Aymo Maggi. Annoyed that the Italian Grand Prix had been moved from his hometown of Brescia, he and his friend drew up a roughly 1,000-mile track which lead in a figure 8 around Italy, starting and ending in Brescia, and charged just 1 lira for entry!
77 cars entered that first race, and 51 reached the finish by the end, which took at least 16 hours to complete. During that initial race, all cars who entered were Italian, but there was a great selection of vehicles when I saw the end of race yesterday, as well as competitors from as far away as the USA and Japan.
As an out and out competition between early race cars heading through all sorts of towns, cities and villages around Italy, the race in it’s original format was dangerous for both participants and the huge crowds who gathered to watch the cars fly past.
In total, from 1927 to 1957, the race claimed the lives to 56 people, and so was ended in 1957 to prevent any further tragedies.
The name and spirit of the competition live on, though. 1977 was the first year that the 1,000 Miglia took place, and it was the 40th of these rallies that I was able to see the end of yesterday.
The race now takes place exclusively on ‘proper’ asphalt roads, with much improved safety precautions, but is no longer a flat-out race, but rather a time trial, which eliminates some of the adrenaline-fuelled risk-taking that lead to accidents in the original races.
Having said that, all of the entrants are pre-1957, original specification vehicles. These are the same vehicles who were entered into the original races before 1957, and so it was an opportunity to see a whole load of amazing vehicles doing what classic cars should be doing – hitting the road and making drivers and spectators smile!
Two rounds of intense scrutineering take place before cars can enter the race, and only original, period correct parts and accessories are allowed (although there were a few Go Pro cameras mounted to different vehicles to capture the race!). I was particularly interested in the race this year as there was a VW Beetle taking part, which was really cool.
It was great to see the ‘people’s car’ getting stuck in and racing alongside Bugatti’s, Aston Martin’s and Mercedes!
We spotted over 20 Porsche’s taking part in the race, as well as the Bug. Four were gorgeous 550s, and the rest were the iconic 356.
The spirit of camaraderie and family involvement was so infectious that I may be tempted to compete myself in future!