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Mille Miglia Rally 2012

Great Mille Miglia link!

The Rally Days

Thursday May 17, 2012

We collected the Siata at the Brescia Fair, where the cars stay during the night. From there the procession went to the old town center; the Piazza Della Loggia. Here the cars were sealed. This old ritual is of no real use anymore as the cars are now equipped with GPS senders, and the organizers can easily track any rally car at any time during the rally. The Siata now has 4 seals around the steering column.

After the sealing, the cars were displayed in town for viewing by the public. The piazza was so crowded; one could practically walk over the heads of the spectators. These folks really like cars! After 3 PM the cars and their drivers were free to leave and go to the MM museum for a meal and preparing for departure.

The first start was at 6.45 PM. At that time and cars were up 12 hours deep. The Siata wasn't due to start until around 8 AM.

Since there is no way to get out of the city during the rally start, Chuck and I took off early and waited for the Siata to pass us 40 KM down the road. Some of the entrants didn't even make it that far, which I suppose makes for a very long trip home, no matter where you live, but certainly when you come from overseas.

The first sectors were through industrial regions so not much interesting to see or interesting roads for motoring. Like a NASCAR race, you have to do the first section of the race to get to the interesting part.

Halfway through this first part of the trip I got a phone call from Don indicating that the door window was not working again. We met and I got the window down. Later on, the phone rang with the message that the door flew open in a corner, luckily no damage but not a real good feeling for the driver.

After getting to Ferrara, we entered the paddock, but not after getting lost in the city. During sections through towns and villages, often the service cars were not allowed on the same route as the rally, and from the point where the routes split we were often on our own (with our Garmin to guide us). We arrived some 20 minutes after the Siata and went to work right away.

A small inconvenience was that our service area was not in a parking garage, but just an open air parking with no light!  Chuck and I had to take the whole door apart in the dark and do the repairs. We made the decision to have a functional door latching system over a functioning window crank. To my surprise we got both working again and we put the door back together and went to the hotel. By now it was 2 AM, and going to the hotel took the better part of 45 minutes. The start the next day was at 8.09 AM so after a quick meal and a bottle of wine (part of that went straight on my jeans) we finally went to bed and got a whole two hours of sleep.

Friday May 18, 2012

The next day, the bus ride back was slow but we were there in time for starting in the right slot.

That morning all systems were a go, and no troubles of any kind reared their ugly heads, until lunch. The message which came to us was that they had a leak in the gas tank. Long story short, this fix involved a lot of running and creative ideas.  We got the hole repaired and the team went on their way with only 15 minutes delay; easily made up by skipping lunch.

An hour into the afternoon session we get the message that the dreaded window gave up again. So be it. Thankfully the door staying closed was more important.

The driver had listened to my advice and nursed the little car over the humps instead of dragging the tank over the tarmac. He actually did a wonderful job on that (we barely found anymore scratches on the tank after arrival back in Brescia) and that meant that he went somewhat slower than we were used to.  So, we raced on past Spoleto onto a mountain road; spectacular views!  Just before we finished the descent we got a call about tire trouble in Spoleto - 24 km back!

No way was this little Dutchman going back against the rally traffic to rescue the Siata, so we asked Ms. Garmin to find us the shortest way back, maybe not the best idea, but she did!  I was happy that Chuck was driving. We found narrow gravel roads with inclines and sharp descents to deal with that even most sure footed pack mules would have found difficult. We made it back in record time only to get a call that they were stuck in traffic in Spoleto. A car crash blocked the way.

We too had encountered an accident on the road out of Spoleto (not rally related) in fact we were about 5 cars behind the victims. That meant we were past it in no time. Long story short, we managed to meet each other around the area where the second accident had happened, and fixed the issue in minutes.

This side trip gave us the chance to go over the mountain a second time; however the rally car would not be in time for a timely check at the end of the day in Rome.

This time Chuck and I were the lucky ones to get to the hotel first, as the rally cars were presented to the public in the Olympic stadium, and taken for a tour through Roma, ten at a time. Chuck and I got 4 hours sleep this time!

Saturday May 19, 2012

The start was easy and the first leg passed without any troubles. The car ran like a dream and Don was taking it easy on her. Refueling was all we did all day. The Tuscan views where a joy for the eyes.  At lunch we refueled and checked oil etc. All systems were A-OK.

During lunch the rain started. Only once in the lifetime of the event, has the MM ever been run without rain, including the original races. The wonderful side effect is that the roads cleared up really well. No more MM “wannabe’s” to be found. (Mainly Fiats and Alfas, idiots in Porsches and not very pleasant Mercedes drivers) The last sector was a very different than last year when traffic crawled forward. Now there were only rally, service and local cars on the road; much faster, much easier.

After driving by the Fiat Sports-car factory in Maranello, and through the grounds of the Maserati factory, we drove quickly to set up the last refuel "pit".  At this time Don reported a clutch issue and a vibration. Heavy vibration is the word, as I noticed when I took it for a test drove it on the parking lot. We decided, as we were only 130 km away, to take it easy and be smooth and hope for the best outcome.

All went well. We were able to stay behind the Siata as we progressed to our next check point. At about 20 km before the end, Don took a little more risk and tried to be in time at the check point. About 5 roundabouts before the finish they took a wrong exit, and then discovered that reverse wouldn't engage. I was able to push the car back, but a minute or two were definitely lost with the wrong turn, and getting back to the right road. We ended up losing two minutes.

2012 proved to be a wonderful challenging adventure, and in many respects a totally different experience than last year’s rally.

The Siata is now on her way back to the USA and we will follow tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.


Aston Martin Lister

Autocourse Panhard



En route service station

Fiat Multipla

Golden Hawk

Lancia Lambda


Maserati plant

Montana plates

My co driver of last year's car

Paddock in Brescia

Paddock in Ferara

Piazza della Loggia

Rally traffic

See, it is not all vacation!

Siata last start, leg 7 to Brescia

Start in Rome

Through a Village

Triumph TR3


Weber of a Cisitalia

Tech Day

Wednesday May 16, 2012

The trip to the Fierra, where the tech inspection was went a tad different than expected. Having told the Garmin to go towards Bergamo, the machine and I did not really agree which exit to take at arrival. I missed the one I thought was the right exit because of our disagreement.  So I had to take the on ramp instead, kind of against the flow. This worked really well and as usual no complaints from any Italian side, mainly because there was nobody to upset. It did put a big smile on the face of the Siata driver behind me, and stopped Chucks heart for a minute or two. It took him at least that long before he started to formulate sounds of discomfort.

At the Fierra we were told to go to registration and waited half an hour in line before anybody told us that we were in the wrong line. So we changed lines and got to talk to a really nice man who had the guts to enter a Lincoln Capri.

After being sent away again, this time to get a temporary rally license, we finally got the badges and we’re in the rally.

Next steps were to get the gear and get the car through tech. So up we went to watch a 15 minute video in Italian. My months of studying with Rosetta Stone were of some help and although I understood a lot more than most foreigners, I had no clue what the man was talking about; we skipped that step fairly soon after it began.

Local Police were to check (again) the driver’s licenses. The message given to us was: "Next year bring an international license”. This was friendly enough and correct according to the instructions provided by the organizers.

From the police we went to get the numbers and stickers. Upon our arrival, nothing was available for the chase car, but after we said something they suddenly showed up from a back room. We were now good to go downstairs and stick the stickers to the car. The driver and co-driver got their promotional packages, and Chuck put the stickers on as if it was his daily job.  Three layers of Ricci stickers and Choppard logos, and a couple of numbers later, we were ready. The Peugeot also got decorated, but less commercial.

Tech was a breeze. All the lights worked and the numbers matched with the documents so everybody was happy and we got the sticker without any problems.

Again, an issue with the door was checked, and it became clear that the temporary repair to the window mechanism has a heavy door handle as a result. We all could live with that complication, and the door went back together again. I am getting really good at that.

I had a little time to walk around in the parc ferme, and took some pictures. After last year’s overdose, (and another one this year) I was not impressed with the fleet of Mercedes, nor with the fleet of Porsches that came straight out of the Porsche museum to play. It was nice to see more O.M's and Bugattis, but when the time came for me to look around, many of those had disappeared. Too bad, but I'm sure I will get a chance or two to see them in action.

For the home audience, I need to mention that there are two more American cars also lined up, a Thunderbird and a Studebaker.

Fairly early in the afternoon we went back to the hotel, where we had the pleasure to see old and new together next to each other. There stood a fine example of Ettores craftsmanship next to an overly loaded and wide Volkswagen product, also carrying the Bugatti name and logo.

Tonight will be early to bed, as tomorrow the rally starts for real. First we will pick the car up at the Fierra, from there it will be escorted by Brescia finest to the Piazza della Loggia. At that square it will get the sixth seal around the steering column, afterwards the Siata will be displayed for most of the day. Around 3.30 the caravan will leave town and go to the headquarters, the Mille Miglia museum. A diner with plenty of local specialties will be served, and the competitors will leave as the start begins at 6.45 PM (oldest first). The Siata # 209 will start just before 8PM. There are three cars starting every minute, one at a time.

Chuck and I will leave early, and take the Peugeot to Desenzio where we will have a look at the early starters and wait for the Siata to pass. Then we will join the crazy crowds on the road and expect to arrive in our hotel around 3 AM for a couple of hours of sleep.

I hope I will have Internet tomorrow, so I can keep the story going.


Day Four in Brescia

Tuesday May 15, 2012

Miracles can happen in this country.

Today around ten o'clock in the morning we actually had two working phones. The Italian man in the shop apparently went way beyond what he should do, and in name of the Mille Miglia got us up and going. Almost everyone in this country sees the need that laws are made to be broken. The second phone now is in name of an American, with no Italian SS number!

David celebrated this feat with some ice cream and off we went to have a look at his Lancia in restoration. David’s Lancia was not the only one we saw; there were a whole bunch of them! On top of that we took a short trip to visit another customer of the restorer to admire his paint skills on two other Lancias. One car was a fabulous Americana spider which never made it out of the garage; the other one did. Have a look at the paint job. It is blue!

In Daniel’s shop we also found an old friend, the gray Siata V8 of an Australian owner, who later walked in to collect his car. The owner of the red Siata V8 will not compete in this year’s rally, but his car, like the grey one, have both raced in the original race.



The little black racing Lancia in a corner also has the same pedigree.

After having admired all kind of cool “automobilia”, I also got a kick out of coming across the second Maserati motorcycle I have ever seen. Some Moto Guzzi's were also parked left and right.

After our tour, we were invited for lunch; Italian style. Not only was the food absolutely delightful, it was also more than enough. We started with some pizza, to be followed with risotto with mushrooms and ravioli with speck. As if that was not enough, we had to have some prosciutto with mozzarella and an espresso to finish.

I think I love Italy!

Back in the hotel, we found the Siata flanked by a Russian entered Alfa Romeo. No, not a real Guillia, but what a car it is.

Enjoy the photos. There will be more to come tomorrow when all entrants will assemble in the hall where registration and tech take place.

Tech here goes with a FIVA document in hand. In that passport the whole car is described. The inspector checks not only the safety devices and lights, but also if the proper transmission is installed, and if the tire size is correct and to make sure that you haven't sneaked in a blower under the hood. With everything Okay you get your sticker and a GPS device, so organizers are always aware of where you are.

Hope all goes smoothly.


Day Three in Brescia

Monday May 14, 2012

Much to our dismay, we found out that the telephone shops don’t open until 3.30 p.m. on Monday afternoons, and the incredible bookstore does the same. So we decided to make a day of it and have a road trip. Chuck and I went to visit a friend in the town of Lago Maggiore.

The trip east was quite quick and uneventful, until we reached the little village of Oggiogno.  Here we had to make a turn to the left to go up the hill.

In 2007 the road to the upper villages had been blocked when a tunnel collapsed. Authorities made a make-shift alternate road and covered it with asphalt. Let's put it short, the clutch and tires of the poor Peugeot suffered quite a bit. I have never seen steeper hairpins and tighter turns. Even with the Peugeot, not a big car, there was one turn we couldn't make in one try.

When the tunnel collapsed, it took six months to get in a new road. During this time, a helicopter serviced the villages once a week, picking up garbage and aiding cars that were stuck on top of the hill. The villagers also had to have two cars; one to get to the tunnel and one on the other side to get from the collapsed tunnel and beyond.

Chuck’s friend’s home is about 1000 feet above the lake, and maybe 250 feet away from the coast. Spectacular views!

Today we start to be serious about cars.  We are planning a visit to an ex Ferrari race car driver, who, in the past, was responsible for the race department of that brand, and a visit to the shop where the Lancia is being restored.


Day Two in Brescia

Sunday May 13, 2012

Contrary to popular belief, the weather in Italy is not good all the time.  The thunderstorms and rain however were not enough to keep us from sleeping in this morning.

The town is getting ready for the rally, but nothing is apparent apart from the many fences that will soon go up.

We had lunch in a little restaurant around the corner from the Piazza Della Loggia where the rally starts. The Piazza will be a heavily occupied paddock on Thursday when all the cars pass for the official sealing and introduction to the public.

The telephones still are not working and tomorrow it will be the first thing on the agenda.

Sunday is the Holy Day here and you would be hard pressed to find any open stores for anything but gasoline and food.

The afternoon Chuck and I choose to take the Peugeot out for a trip to nowhere; just a drive through the mountains. We ended up going by some terrific scenery as we drove through the beautiful green valleys and mountains. The last leg, before returning to Brescia, was over a mile high pass (1655 meter, 5624 Feet.) the Passo Maniva.  I did a couple dozen first gear hair pins, and at many points the car barely had enough space to go through the walls or stay on the narrow road and not fall off the mountain. All this pleasure in the steady rain!

Once above the first layer of clouds we enjoyed a gorgeous view of mountains; we even saw some snow.

The next couple of days looks like they will be really easy on us. Hopefully we will get the phones to work. After that nothing is planned until Wednesday when registration and tech are on the list.

I hope you will enjoy the pictures. Not many racecars have yet made it into the streets of Brescia. The only other rally participant we saw was an Italian Fiat 1100, but she was too far away to take a decent picture.

More later!


Day One

Saturday May 12, 2012

We made it to Italy!

For once the trip went as planned; although our Lufthansa flight operated by United Airlines was not recognized by United. The computer at O'Hare had some issues understanding that a Dutch person does not need a visa for entering another EU country!
After saying goodbye to Joe as he dropped us off, and a last $10 beer in the terminal, the trip went smoothly.  We landed a couple of minutes early in Malpensa, where the atmosphere was muggy and heavy.

The owner of the Siata was waiting for us, and together we picked up the co-driver from California and the rental (Peugeot 308 Diesel, wonderful little car) and a tad later the Siata.

As I drove the car to Brescia, at a toll booth, the Siata’s window handle crank broke right in my hands. Once back at the hotel, a temporary repair was made and without spending a penny!

Driving with an open window proved to be a very windy experience! Luckily there was no rain. We spend the rest of the trip calibrating the trip master.

Chuck and Don's co-driver got a little lost on the trip to Brescia hotel and had to give up and actually follow GPS directions (after converting units from miles to kilometers! After giving up on “second guessing” the GPS, everything turned out fine.

The cell phones we bought last year presented some interesting challenges this year. We could receive a call, but calling from either one was impossible. After an afternoon asking around we found the proper store and the problem was solved. In Italy the pay phones are blocked for further use after 11 month after the last call. After adding 5 Euros to the balance and they work fine again.

The Siata seems to be running fine, and it looks like we can enjoy some free time in Italy before the race starts.

Co-driver David will be going to have a look at his latest acquisition, a Lancia B24S Convertible. It is being restored not far from here. The plan is to go see the car.

Stay tuned,

Friday May 11, 2012

Off to the race!

Today is departure day for the MM.  The car has arrived in Milan, and the word is that the Siata has made the trip without incurring any damage.

I haven't seen the car for a long time, and am anxious to see how it survived the Argentinian Rally and the travels. Sure hope to tell you all is OK soon.

I hope you will enjoy my report.

Happy motoring



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