With 1,000 Miles done and our sleep deprivation recovered it is time to recap our highlights of the incredible four-day tour through Italy with the Mille Miglia Tribute 2015!
Here is our Top 10 highlights of the Mille Miglia Tribute 2015:
1. The Classic Cars
Where in the world do you get to see so many pre-1957 vehicles in use as at the Mille Miglia? Of course we enjoyed the modern cars of the Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz Tribute too but the real gems of the tour were those classics. And unlike you might expect of multi-million machinery, they were using them properly too.
The Ferrari & Mercedes-Benz Tribute Mille Miglia 2015 also saw some very desirable machines complete the 1,000 Miles through Italy and our highlights in this group included a stunning 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Convertible, Ferrari Enzo, two LaFerraris and two Mercedes-Benz SLR Stirling Moss models.
2. The People
Literally hundreds of thousands of people lined the route from Brescia to Rome and back. Especially in cities like Parma and Bergamo huge crowds gathered to cheer the Mille Miglia participants on. Just a small ‘ciao’ triggered joyful and sometimes even emotional responses by the spectators. Unlike many other motoring events we attended, the Mille Miglia really engages entire Italy from young to old, male and female, children and grandmothers.
Everywhere people also wave and cheer you on to go faster or make more sound. Italy really is a car loving country pur sang. All along the route we passed signs saying ‘Throttle’ or ‘Gas’. Between Lucca and Parma even a checkpoint chief joined the party and told us with a typical Italian accent: “Do you see these people? They want you to give it the gas”. And so we did! Leaving a cheering crowd behind in the rearview mirror.
In Rome we picked up a bunch of Mille Miglia flags to hand out to fans on the rest of the tour. At many of the main checkpoints and towns the route passed organizers had placed and handed out dozens of flags but at smaller towns and rural areas in between fans didn’t have any. Just seeing the looks on the faces of kids and fans along the route who we handed a flag was filling us with joy!
3. The Legends
The 2015 Edition of the Mille Miglia Tribute was pretty unique. Exactly 60 years ago Sir Stirling Moss set the Mille Miglia record at 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds, and an average speed of 98.53 mph (159 km/h) on the 992.332 mile course that year. The course record still stand today.
The route that year went from Brescia via Padova, Ravenna, Ancona and Pescara to Rome. From Rome it went back to Brescia via Siena, Bologna, Piacenca and Mantova. Stirling Moss drove one of four factory-entered Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR sports-racing cars. Based on the W196 Grand Prix car, they had a spaceframe chassis and magnesium-alloy bodies, and their modified W196 engines ran on a mixture of petrol, benzene, and alcohol.
This year, 60 years after the record race, Stirling Moss driver of the legendary #722 300 SLR and Hans Hermann driver of the #704 300 SLR were both back at the Mille Miglia with their cars. In addition Fangio’s 300 SLR with #658 was also present. Together with their cars Stirling Moss and Hans Hermann made appearances at major checkpoints along this years route. We saw them prior to the start at the Mille Miglia Museum in Brescia, at the checkpoint in Rome and at the finish in Brescia. Each single one of these moments gave us goosebumps.
4. The Italian Towns & Culture
During the 1,000 mile trip from Brescia to Rome and back to Brescia we passed an incredible number of beautiful old Italian towns and villages. It seems as if every town in Italy has at least one ancient castle and most still have fortified city centers dating back to Roman times.
Passing through one piece of history after the other it is hard to list all the highlights but we will give it a try: the old harbor of Desenzano at Lake Garda, the Arena di Verona, Castello Estense di Ferrara, the Arco di Augusto in Rimini, the state of San Marino, the castle of Senigallia, the hilltop towns of Loreto, Recanati and Macerata, Piazza del Popolo in Asoli Piceno, the snow-covered peaks of the Apennine Mountains, the famous Mille Miglia corner on SS17 near Antrodoco, Castel Sant’Angelo and Vatican City in Rome, the narrow streets of Viterbo, the rolling hills of Tuscany, the dense town of Siena, the leaning tower of Pisa, the walled city of Lucca, the Ponte della Maddalena bridge, the pass road to Abetone, the green avenues of Reggio Emilia, the ham & cheese capital Parma, Villa Reale and the circuit in Monza and the small villages and lakes between Bergamo and Brescia.
From everything we have seen two areas truly stand out: Loreto, Recanati and Macerata on the East coast of Italy and Lucca and the rest of Tuscany on the West side. From all the town Lucca is definitely our favoritel, its wide green city wall that protected the city not only from enemies but also from floods gives the city a different character than most other Italian cities.
5. The Italian Police & The Mille Miglia Organizers
A small dedicated team of Italian police escorted us the entire journey and we couldn’t give bigger appreciation to these guys! They helped us clear traffic and kept things running smooth and safe all the way. It is not that often that we can say: “Grazie Mille Polizia!”
Besides the Polizia that travelled with us all the way there were also a large number of local police, volunteers and organizers committed to making the event a success for everybody involved. These people slept probably even less than we did and deserve a lot of credits for the joy we had. Seeing some familiar faces at the various checkpoints was great and especially the guy below had us in stitches time and time again!
6. The Participants
Another group of people that made the Mille Miglia Tribute 2015 very special were the other participants. Especially our friends in car number #621, the red SLS #612, the die hards in the open SLR Stirling Moss with #609 and the winners of the Mercedes-Benz Tribute 2015 in car #601 deserve to be mentioned! The Mille Miglia, even in its current form, is so intense and action packed that the people you share these memories with often become long-time friends.
7. The Competition
Between 1927 and 1957 the Mille Miglia was a hardcore road race, first one to cross the finish line wins. Of course there were checkpoints to make sure drivers weren’t cheating but that was it! Since 1977 the Mille Miglia Tribute is held as a regularity race. The goal is no longer to arrive first but score points in a series of regularity challenges.
Points are given for passing a series of time checks at the correct time. Additionally there are average speed sections where you can gain points for maintain the correct average speed. In general these segments are quite slow with average speeds between 20 and 40 km/h. This doesn’t mean they are easy though and even with modern assistance of trip computers and timing devices it is hard to cross the line at exactly the right time.
Besides the challenges that can give you points, you can get penalties for arriving early or late at the main section checkpoints. So you have to be focussed to not only do the time trials and average speed sections right but also get to the section checkpoints on time. This usually results in a chaos shortly before the checkpoint where cars that are early cue and cars that are late try to squeeze through to the checkpoint. An entertaining mess time and time again! Some take the competition very seriously and others still try to figure out how the challenges work by the time they get back to Brescia.
So even though it the Mille Miglia Tribute is not a race, there is still a decent level of competition between the participants!
8. The Driving
We should not forget the driving! We have been to a lot of events but rarely have we come across such a beautiful mix of roads. From fast open highways to scenic mountain roads, the Mille Miglia 2015 route had it all! Some stretches were literally closed of for the Mille Miglia so there we could safely enjoy the cars performance.
Our 2015 Mercedes-Benz SL 500 Mille Miglia 417 Edition held up extremely well and even though the roads were far from in perfect condition it survived without a scratch. The twin-turbo V8 with an output of 455hp would not even let an AMG GT away that easily. The red details and matt black paint – that turned to matt grey after a dusty first day – stood out enough and we got thousands of pictures taken. It is also a very comfortable and all-round car. The only things that annoyed a bit were the slow gearbox when using the paddles and the fact that the top can only open- and close up to 10 km/h.
9. The Intensity
Very few events have the intensity of the Mille Miglia Tribute. During the four days we were on the road it was pretty much always on – and if you consider we were in a modern car imagine what it is like in a classic car. There were a few rare moments to rest but the average night sleep was no longer than 3,5 hours. On Friday and Saturday we spend close to 15 hours in the car with only a short break to get some food half way in.
Navigating through towns with thousands of spectators, following a police escort to traffic and high concentration for the time trials, its all part of the Mille Miglia. The great thing is before the start you think ‘What are we doing?’ and after the finish you think ‘What have we done?’ but when you are in it you enjoy every second of it.
10. Anything can happen!
The last highlight of the Mille Miglia 2015 was the fact that anything can happen. One moment you come round a bend to find 50 sheep in your path, the next you come round a corner in a small town to find a band playing live next to the road to cheer you on. It is unbelievable what we have seen during the days on the road. And it is hard to explain, and probably even harder for others to understand.
The Mille Miglia Tribute was by far the most incredible car event I have ever attended and I hope to do it again with a classic car some day!
Last but not least we will recap the Mercedes-Benz Tribute to Mille Miglia 2015 with one photo gallery per day:
Day 0 – Scrutineering in Brescia
Day 1 – Brescia to Riccione
Day 2 – Riccione to Rome
Day 3 – Rome to Parma
Day 4 – Parma to Brescia
Mille Miglia 2015 Highlights Video
Special thanks to Mercedes-Benz and my co-driver Michael Frank!