It starts in Brescia, it ends in Brescia, but it’s the in-between that makes the Mille Miglia one of the greatest spectacles in today’s automotive world. The race, like its earlier namesake, is a race on public roads in Italy. Unlike it’s earlier predecessor, which was a full-throttle, 1000 mile course with speeds exceeding 170mph, the race is now a time trial for cars that either did participate in the original race or could have. This year saw nearly 500 historic and vintage racers, many worth many millions of dollars, unleashed onto the Italian roads, lined with cheering people and the omnipresent, everyday Italian traffic of trucks, Fiats and Vespas.
Red lights, white lines and traffic laws became mere suggestions and often cars would take the path of least resistance which might just be the wrong way down the wrong side of a divided street. The cars were on the road for 12 and 13 hours at a time, often arriving so late that drivers would only get a few hours of sleep before they hit the road again. It’s grueling, hot, uncomfortable and undeniably one of the best adventures remaining on the planet.
“All life is about experiences,” commented Alexander Bilgeri, VP of Corporate Communications who helped pilot the class-winning 1939 BMW Mille Miglia Roadster. “Being here is a great experience. We have had the chance the chance to ride, to drive fantastic cars, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
They start in Brescia in the North, a run to Rome somewhere in the middle and back to Brescia along some circuitous route that in this year’s event took them through Rimini, San Marino, Sienna, Parma (via Pisa which entails a several hour detour to the West), and eventually back to Brescia. This year, they also lapped the Autodromo di Monza, including a run around the old oval from the days that Indy and Monza were mentioned in the same sentence.
“This is one of the greatest races in the world,” claimed Ian Robertson, member of the board of BMW Group who drove a sleek, streamlined BMW 328 Berlin Rome Touring Roadster. “The crowds are out all the way to Rome and all the way back. A million, maybe a million and a half spectators from old ladies, young kids, all out there chasing it, rallying it, cheering it, it’s just exciting all the way.”
BMW Group Classic fielded five 328s with an international line up of drivers from Germany, the United States, Britain, Italy and China. With its low weight, high reliability and perfect roadholding, the BMW 328 caused a sensation soon after its debut in 1936, both on the road and on the race track. At the Mille Miglia it first drew attention to itself in 1938 when it won the 2.0-litre category. Two years on, Fritz Huschke von Hanstein and Walter Bäumer followed that up with overall victory in a BMW 328 Mille Miglia Touring Coupé. Among the models BMW Group Classic is dispatching to this year’s event are the BMW 328 Berlin-Rome Touring Roadster from 1937 and a BMW 328 Mille Miglia Roadster hailing from 1939.