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Mille Miglia Rally

Great Mille Miglia link! http://www.supercars.net/gallery/119513/2642/1.html


Day One and we are off.

Thursday, as usual we got up early to pick up the car and drive in convoy to the Piazza Della Loggio, where the cars were all sealed. The fact that we went early proved a wonderful thing as later during the day, there was literally no room to walk anywhere anymore.

During the "sealing ceremony" every participating car gets a seal around the steering column to ensure that the same car is used during the whole rally. Nowadays, I suppose this is merely a formality and tradition, as each race car is assigned a transponder so that the organizers know where the car is at all times.

As support vehicle drivers, we could not go to the "paddock" and were left to our own devices. It took my partner, John Barrett from Georgia, more than an hour to find a parking spot. I arrived just in time to see someone's backside sticking out of the door of the Siata, installing the seal.

After the sealing, all cars were parked along the streets of Brescia's old town center, the public was free to have a close look at all of them.

For a while I stood along the road and saw many known and unknown celebrities come by such as Giacomo Augostini (MV Augusta 500 cc motorcycle multiple world champion) Dutch princes, etc. I was certainly more interested in the cars.

Talking about cars, there were two negatives we experienced in this Mille Miglia. One became clear before the start.

The Mille Miglia is fast becoming a more commercial event, and as such, the organizers understandably needed to find sponsors. Mercedes, Porsche, BMW and a couple of fashion companies made their presence known. This resulted in no less than 20 Mercedes' 300 SL and 22 Porsche 356 etc.

Another interesting note is that it was very obvious that many entries were actually rental cars courtesy of the sponsors. In addition, some of those companies had all kind of activities during the rally that seemed to interfere with the main event. Not that this really mattered, as hundreds of cars from the Netherlands, Germany and Italy did the whole course at the same time as we did. This made for well crowded roads throughout our drive.

Before the start at 8 PM, John and I left town to pick up the Siata, which was at a little town on the Garda Lake. We sat on the sidewalk, and watched the cars come by, and then walked over and picked up our car without any problems. This was the point when the rally started for real for us.

John and I had the same road book as the drivers; not that we needed it. The roads were literally lined with what looked to be well over a million spectators all along the route. From small towns to open pasture land, spectators were to be found camping by the side of the road, many in lawn chairs, or partying by a wood fire. This went on until we arrived at the end of the stage around 2AM.

At many old villages and towns, the race cars were separated from the chase cars. While the racers went through town the chase cars were led around town. This was sometimes a difficult adventure, and no notes were available to the chase car crews, so many times we had to guess where to go. At times it was nearly impossible to figure out where we joined the route again. I have to say that three or four time we were quite lost in the Italian Country side. Funny how one trusts another driver in the same position, and usually we were lost in groups… GPS is a wonderful thing.

Often though, we were saved by the crowds that were even lining up along our route to see the wonderful Ferrari's and old sports cars that followed us like a swarm of bees.

Bologna

At the first stop in Bologna we found that as a participant of the MM we did get a hotel room, but there was barely any time to sleep. It was 3AM before we arrived at the hotel and 6:00 a.m. when we left.

John and I went out of town and waited for the Siata to come by. The first stage was a liaison stage with a lot of interstate driving. Coming out of a long right turn at 100 MPH there was a little person trying to convince us to take a right while the book said to continue another mile. No way to stop and we got lost on our own and did some impromptu sightseeing.

Why the Mille Miglia is the Mille Miglia

We joined the route a while later, and found out about what makes the MM the MM.

For MM cars everything is permitted. Speed limits do not exist. Driving on the wrong side of the road is fully accepted, even at 120 K/H. The rule is to ignore red lights, to the point that on many occasions we were two wide on the left lane crossing intersections, as the crowd applauded you. Even if you had to push a car off the road the spectators would still smile at you and give you way. This enthusiasm was not the case with none MM cars, and modern cars. I suppose many body shops will do good business the coming weeks.

The best we did was, although under police escort, over 120 K/H through Bologna ignoring everything except the crowds. I dare say that was mighty exciting!!!!

Day Two of the Event

The second day we started early so we could see the country side. What a beautiful countryside. On several sections we went with the race cars through the old towns; that was spectacular! The settings were unbelievable. Classic roman architecture, the crowds, and many local old sports cars were being shown on the plazas.

Roma

At the end of Friday we arrived in Roma. We got lost and again were saved by the GPS. At times, language problems slowed us down such as thinking that we could type in the word "Garage", instead of using the Italian word, which I refuse to try to spell.

In the mean time the race cars were led through Rome in groups of 20 cars at the time while all side roads were blocked, and Rome came to a stand still.

After parking the car, and doing minor service, we left in a private mini bus for our hotel, where diner was served until breakfast started at 5:00 a.m.

John was tapped on his shoulder during diner by a friend of his from Georgia. She was vacationing with her husband and stayed in a hotel next door, but since their bar was closed they came for a drink at our hotel. What a small world it is!

The Second Half Begins!

Saturday up early again, to do the second half of the rally. All teams now where tired, and sometimes the atmosphere got a tad touchy in the cockpits. The weather was getting hot (we got only one shower during the whole event!) and we were now seeing more and more cars with mechanical problems along the roads, along with many more dented street vehicles and motorcycles rolled up or jammed under a guard rail.

Starting early on Saturday in Rome proved a good thing. The roads were pretty empty and we had a chance to see the monumental architecture, parks and bridges as we drove by; absolutely magnificent all of that. Once out of Rome and we got to the country side, I sometimes had a hard time to stay with the route book.

Arriving at the village where we had lunch, we did major service to the Siata. We added half quarts of oil (that we bought for no less than $23 per liter). During a dirt road section, I believe the oil dip stick came up a bit and some oil was lost through the dip stick hole.

Around 11.30 PM the Siata, and John and I in our chase car, arrived back in Brescia where the finish was.

The Ceremony and a sigh of relief

John was lucky enough to find a parking spot nearby, so we were able to see the whole ceremony; very disappointing as the whole thing takes less than a minute. The satisfaction factor however, was immense.

Back in the hotel we had snacks and drinks and talked to other competitors, which I may say made me feel good as we had encountered way less problems with our car.

The sum of service to the Siata was tightening a front wheel bearing, changing a fuse and adding some oil.

Sunday after dropping off one of the owners at Como, I came back to Brescia for the lunch at the Mille Miglia museum. This was a great event as well. The food and the sparkling wine were absolutely wonderful. The lunch itself was somewhat unbelievable when one takes in consideration that there where over 500 guests. (The wine in particular went down well as I believe I had a lot of it. Poor John, when he arrived I gave him the car keys)

We shared our table with an Italian team and a German team that drove a Ferrari 312.

It was just so enjoyable to sit drink eat and talk, and for me, without the tension I had felt knowing that something could break in the car during the rally; something stupid that I had not seen. For the first time in three days I finally could relax.

Three days I will always remember what a great event!


Day Four May 11, 2011

Today was amazing!

The day started with issues with a burned out bulb, that wasn't really burned out, and then on to a drivers' side headlight which did not work. Additionally we found out that during the trip the passenger's side tail light had broken. The Backlit backing plate with the connectors broke in two. We managed to get half the repairs done before we had to take off for the credentials and tech.

The credentials were easy, and all was done in a very efficient way. Tech, not as easy as none of the lights wanted to work. The lights were the first thing to be checked, and so we had to go out of line and do it again. Long story short, it helps if you switch the lights one before expecting them to work!

The rest of the afternoon I shot pictures, talked with owners and mechanics. It was too much to take in; aGordini with Le Mans history, any old BMW (including two 507's) Mercedes to the point that a 300 sl is an ordinary car etc etc. There were slews of Porsches and many old Ferrari and no less than 6 OM's.

We wandered over to go see what happened at the auction, and found out that there are crazy people with money everywhere, including today in Brescia. A mill of the road Bugatti, with the wrong left overs of an engine, no interior, no gages, no top or roof went for over 600.000 Euro.

We all had a couple of imported beers (the auctioneer is German, and they brought barrels of their local beer), had a Pizza and went to our rooms early as tomorrow is the start.

I absolutely don't expect to get any Internet service during the rally, but if I do, I will only be able to mail some pictures. Knowing this, I am to the point where I don't understand why we even have hotel room reservations; if I can get 4 hours of sleep I would be surprised.

With fun from Italy



Day Three May 10, 2011 - More about Brescia & the cars.

Today I picked up my co chase-car driver, John Barrett, at the airport near Milan. Needless to say, for those who have yet to experience driving in Italy, going toward Milan around 8:00 in the morning is not a good idea.

We were back in Brescia at noon and had a nice walk through town, a light lunch and a discussion about cultural differences, and how daughters ought to be dressed according to their parent's wishes. Obviously Italians have other criteria than American parents.

The old town of Brescia is being transformed for the MM and many squares will be taken over by the participating cars and a multitude of vendors.

After lunch we went to see a broker of what one could call "specialty cars". I could have spent the rest of the week at his place! We got to admire some real cool stuff. The greenish Maserati "Panoramica" was a prototype, and if I understood correctly, it is the only of its kind. Bodied by Zagato, and recently restored to its old luster; it is an awesome car. Almost all windows are curved Plexiglas and full of little details like sun screens that are tightened by wing nuts so they will always stay up.

The broker also had a replica Ferrari made to fit a Dino 2 liter, Lucas fuel injection engine. One of two built, and this one carries the No.1.

Some Ferrari's, Bentley, and an odd Maserati Bora were not even uncovered, as they were deemed to be common for special attention.

Race fan as I am I did have a look at an original 1600 GTa Alfa, with the beautiful twin plug head.

In the back I found a nice 12 cylinder 4 overhead cam shaft Maserati block with heads and a Coventry Climax with a broken rod and a hand size hole on both sides of the block.

I believe very much in originality, but also know the virtues of a rev limiter.

Tomorrow the official Mille Miglia activities will start, and at 11.00 A.M. we are scheduled for tech.

When I have access to the Internet again, I will report on our experiences going through tech.

Thanks for reading,

Yves

Panoramica

Zagato bodied Maserati Panoramica

Zagato Interior Maserati

Brescia


Day Two May 9, 2011 -

Today started out as a cloudy day. We left the hotel to pick up the other owner of the Siata at the airport. Again we experienced great service at the Dollar rent a car desk, and were on our way before 10:00 a.m.

I had the honor to drive the Siata from Malpensa to Brescia. The little car ran great but after some 15 minutes the car became very unstable and touchy to drive, so I signaled the leading car to pull over. All wheels were tight however we decided to stop at a gas station. I had an inclination that the tires might have lost their pressure during transport.

Wrong; they were 7 pounds over inflated! After letting out some air the car ran straight again and was very stable.

Traffic here is terrible. The roads are terribly over crowded. However, it was an absolute delight to experience that almost no one had an urge to change lanes when we came to a stop. About 4 miles later we went again and arrived at our hotels without any further troubles.

While the owners checked into their hotel, I set off to fix the rear blinkers. When the license plate was mounted the wires were cut for some reason and the blinkers had been hooked up backwards. Since all the wires are green it took me a while to figure out this puzzle. Before I left, Rich had been smart enough to equip me with a gas soldering tool, so all connections should now hold up during the rally.

In the afternoon we went to the Mille Miglia museum. This museum is housed in an exquisite building which had something resembling a moat around two sides of the building. We "fell with our noses in the butter" and by our sheer luck we found that a German auction house (Lanke) was getting ready for their MM auction; the first in the MM history.

We got to talk to the auctioneer and had some great looks at a "barn find" Bugatti and some Mille Miglia eligible vehicles like the Lancia and Nardi Bobby. The latter was build by Nard for his daughter, Bobbi, and is a one of a kind little cute car that resembles a bug eye, without the eyes. They also had two Replica Alfa Romeos up for sale; one of them was supposed to fetch over 130.000 Euros.

After the visit to the museum we visited the most extensive car bookshop I have ever seen. Have a look on the Internet at www.gilena.it. They claim to have over nine thousand titles on sale. I actually found an Alpine book that I have never heard of.

The evening was spending in good spirits at a fine dining table with a good bottle of Nobile di Montepulciano.

Ciao, hopefully more tomorrow,

YB

Mille Miglia Museum

Nardia Bobby

Lancia

DB2-4, TFiat & DB2

To Brescia

Building the Grand Stand for the start.

Building up for the sealing ceremony.


Day One May 8, 2011 -

As the Siata was damaged during transport to Italy, I was asked to come a couple of days early so we could take care of the repairs. The driver's side brake line was cut, therefore the car couldn't go anywhere.

The trip to Milan went well and without any problems, but once I arrived in Malpensa I couldn't find the owner of the Siata. Turned out, he was waiting for me at another terminal. I went to the Dollar rental car desk, and the Italian ladies at the counter were extremely helpful, to the point that they let me use their cell phone to make an international call. Once we made contact we went to pick up the car at the broker.

Again Italian courtesy went high. As everything seems to be closed on Sunday, a lady came especially for us to open the complex so we could pick up the car.
Push starting was needed, as the battery was drained. It took three meters pushing and she came alive.

Three heart attacks later I drove the Siata onto an empty parking lot, where we repaired the brakes with the parts I brought with me. Half an hour later she was bled, and we took off for the hotel, where to my pleasant surprise the GP of Turkey was just about to start. Imagine watching a GP with 5 Deutscher driving on German TV!

Here's the view from the hotel on day one, the sun is out and the temperature is in the high 70's.


NEWS UPDATE 5/1/2011 -

For those who know the significance of the Mille Miglia, it won't be a surprise to see the quality of the cars that are selected to participate. Out of more than 1500 entrees, only a maximum of 375 cars are selected to participate.

The organisers have a special committee, with adequate Italian Style rules to decide who is going to be part of the event, and who doesn't.

To see all the participating cars please click on this link, make sure you have a bit of time on hands to go through this virtual museum: http://www.1000miglia.eu/form/vetture_accettate.php

As from the 12th of May, the official Mille Miglia site will allow you to follow your favorite cars. I hope Siata Nr 184 will be on your list. Just click on this link: http://www.racelink.it/mm/live/index.php?lan=ENG

I will leave this Saturday to go to Milan. The Siata will be waiting for us at the airport, but she is not drivable. During transport to Milan, somebody unfortunately put a strap around a brake line and tore the line in pieces. Luckily for us, I have all the dimensions on file, and will go to Italy with a new brake line and extra brake fluid to repair the car at the airport. The plan from there is to drive to Brescia where the technical inspection is planned for the 10th.

Next time , I will be greeting you from Italy,

Ciao amici,

yves 5/1/11


Video of last year's Mille Miglia rally - Nr 199 is THE car!

McHenry County Vintage Car Gazette has written an article featuring Vintage Sports Car Inc.'s project car going to the Mille Miglia rally. Click here to read more.

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