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Mille Miglia in a 1938 Alfa

  1. Mille Miglia Day -1: The Fiera Brescia

    As we duck out of the torrential rain and into a nondescript hanger on the outskirts of Brescia, our senses are assaulted with the sight of 400 priceless cars and the overpowering smells of petrol and polish. Welcome to the most expensive car park in the world, and the real starting point of the classic Mille Miglia, the most evocative road race on the planet.

    From Type 35 Bugatti’s to squadrons of priceless Jaguar C-Types, everywhere you turn, your eyes are met with the kind of automotive exotica it’s almost impossible to assimilate without an hourly sit down with a nice cup of tea.

    But we’re not here just to gawp. Before we’ve even had chance to unscramble the dream garage of several eccentric billionnaires, we’re ushered off out of the hall to complete the bureaucratic checklist that Italy thrives on. Boring officialdom. Day -1 of the Millie Miglia.

    Medical checks complete, priceless car paperwork verified, rules of the road explained - and, I hasten to add, promised to be adhered to - life insurance signed away, a spiral of autographs on pieces of paper that are instantly forgotten by all parties concerned. Soon enough, though, it’s time to be introduced to our car, the more than appropriately-named 1938 Alfa Romeo 6c 2300 Mille Miglia.

    The first introduction does nothing to quell nerves: “This will be your car for the event, it’s priceless, so please bring it back as you found it…” We’d rather not bend it either, if I’m honest; they love Alfas here, and we’re talking real passion, rather than respect. Dropping a car like the 6c into the bushes in Italy would be like defacing some sort of religious iconography. And with Alfa aiming to mount something of a resurgence of its brand in the coming months with the launch of the 4c, the next three days will be an unscientific litmus test of what remains of the brand’s loyal following in its heartland territory.

    The original Mille Miglia was held 24 times between 1927 and 1957, with it’s most notable alumni being Sir Stirling Moss and Dennis Jenkinson who completed the epic 1000 mile course (from Brescia to Rome and back to Brescia) in a staggering 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds in their Mercedes Benz 300 SLR in 1955. In its modern iteration the Mille Miglia is run over three days in May and it’s fair to say that Moss’ legendary achievement will always remain unsurpassed.

    Not that we’d be challenging for the title even if we could: having piloted the 6c around the car park for a grand total of five minutes, it’s clear that our race is going to be something of a war of attrition. A similar car won the event in 1937, with our car rolling out of the factory a year after the victory, so there’s history here, but nothing does more to awaken your sense of unrelenting development than driving a car from the distant past. With a jaw-dropping 95BHP at our disposal, brakes best described as disinterested, wipers that don’t touch the screen very regularly and lights that wouldn’t hold a candle to a, er, candle, the next few days are going to be a proper 1930’s driving experience.

    Time, I reckon, to get some sleep.

  2. Mille Miglia Day -1: The Fiera Brescia

    As we duck out of the torrential rain and into a nondescript hanger on the outskirts of Brescia, our senses are assaulted with the sight of 400 priceless cars and the overpowering smells of petrol and polish. Welcome to the most expensive car park in the world, and the real starting point of the classic Mille Miglia, the most evocative road race on the planet.

    From Type 35 Bugatti’s to squadrons of priceless Jaguar C-Types, everywhere you turn, your eyes are met with the kind of automotive exotica it’s almost impossible to assimilate without an hourly sit down with a nice cup of tea.

    But we’re not here just to gawp. Before we’ve even had chance to unscramble the dream garage of several eccentric billionnaires, we’re ushered off out of the hall to complete the bureaucratic checklist that Italy thrives on. Boring officialdom. Day -1 of the Millie Miglia.

    Medical checks complete, priceless car paperwork verified, rules of the road explained - and, I hasten to add, promised to be adhered to - life insurance signed away, a spiral of autographs on pieces of paper that are instantly forgotten by all parties concerned. Soon enough, though, it’s time to be introduced to our car, the more than appropriately-named 1938 Alfa Romeo 6c 2300 Mille Miglia.

    The first introduction does nothing to quell nerves: “This will be your car for the event, it’s priceless, so please bring it back as you found it…” We’d rather not bend it either, if I’m honest; they love Alfas here, and we’re talking real passion, rather than respect. Dropping a car like the 6c into the bushes in Italy would be like defacing some sort of religious iconography. And with Alfa aiming to mount something of a resurgence of its brand in the coming months with the launch of the 4c, the next three days will be an unscientific litmus test of what remains of the brand’s loyal following in its heartland territory.

    The original Mille Miglia was held 24 times between 1927 and 1957, with it’s most notable alumni being Sir Stirling Moss and Dennis Jenkinson who completed the epic 1000 mile course (from Brescia to Rome and back to Brescia) in a staggering 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds in their Mercedes Benz 300 SLR in 1955. In its modern iteration the Mille Miglia is run over three days in May and it’s fair to say that Moss’ legendary achievement will always remain unsurpassed.

    Not that we’d be challenging for the title even if we could: having piloted the 6c around the car park for a grand total of five minutes, it’s clear that our race is going to be something of a war of attrition. A similar car won the event in 1937, with our car rolling out of the factory a year after the victory, so there’s history here, but nothing does more to awaken your sense of unrelenting development than driving a car from the distant past. With a jaw-dropping 95BHP at our disposal, brakes best described as disinterested, wipers that don’t touch the screen very regularly and lights that wouldn’t hold a candle to a, er, candle, the next few days are going to be a proper 1930’s driving experience.

    Time, I reckon, to get some sleep.

  3. Mille Miglia Day -1: The Fiera Brescia

    As we duck out of the torrential rain and into a nondescript hanger on the outskirts of Brescia, our senses are assaulted with the sight of 400 priceless cars and the overpowering smells of petrol and polish. Welcome to the most expensive car park in the world, and the real starting point of the classic Mille Miglia, the most evocative road race on the planet.

    From Type 35 Bugatti’s to squadrons of priceless Jaguar C-Types, everywhere you turn, your eyes are met with the kind of automotive exotica it’s almost impossible to assimilate without an hourly sit down with a nice cup of tea.

    But we’re not here just to gawp. Before we’ve even had chance to unscramble the dream garage of several eccentric billionnaires, we’re ushered off out of the hall to complete the bureaucratic checklist that Italy thrives on. Boring officialdom. Day -1 of the Millie Miglia.

    Medical checks complete, priceless car paperwork verified, rules of the road explained - and, I hasten to add, promised to be adhered to - life insurance signed away, a spiral of autographs on pieces of paper that are instantly forgotten by all parties concerned. Soon enough, though, it’s time to be introduced to our car, the more than appropriately-named 1938 Alfa Romeo 6c 2300 Mille Miglia.

    The first introduction does nothing to quell nerves: “This will be your car for the event, it’s priceless, so please bring it back as you found it…” We’d rather not bend it either, if I’m honest; they love Alfas here, and we’re talking real passion, rather than respect. Dropping a car like the 6c into the bushes in Italy would be like defacing some sort of religious iconography. And with Alfa aiming to mount something of a resurgence of its brand in the coming months with the launch of the 4c, the next three days will be an unscientific litmus test of what remains of the brand’s loyal following in its heartland territory.

    The original Mille Miglia was held 24 times between 1927 and 1957, with it’s most notable alumni being Sir Stirling Moss and Dennis Jenkinson who completed the epic 1000 mile course (from Brescia to Rome and back to Brescia) in a staggering 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds in their Mercedes Benz 300 SLR in 1955. In its modern iteration the Mille Miglia is run over three days in May and it’s fair to say that Moss’ legendary achievement will always remain unsurpassed.

    Not that we’d be challenging for the title even if we could: having piloted the 6c around the car park for a grand total of five minutes, it’s clear that our race is going to be something of a war of attrition. A similar car won the event in 1937, with our car rolling out of the factory a year after the victory, so there’s history here, but nothing does more to awaken your sense of unrelenting development than driving a car from the distant past. With a jaw-dropping 95BHP at our disposal, brakes best described as disinterested, wipers that don’t touch the screen very regularly and lights that wouldn’t hold a candle to a, er, candle, the next few days are going to be a proper 1930’s driving experience.

    Time, I reckon, to get some sleep.

  4. Mille Miglia Day -1: The Fiera Brescia

    As we duck out of the torrential rain and into a nondescript hanger on the outskirts of Brescia, our senses are assaulted with the sight of 400 priceless cars and the overpowering smells of petrol and polish. Welcome to the most expensive car park in the world, and the real starting point of the classic Mille Miglia, the most evocative road race on the planet.

    From Type 35 Bugatti’s to squadrons of priceless Jaguar C-Types, everywhere you turn, your eyes are met with the kind of automotive exotica it’s almost impossible to assimilate without an hourly sit down with a nice cup of tea.

    But we’re not here just to gawp. Before we’ve even had chance to unscramble the dream garage of several eccentric billionnaires, we’re ushered off out of the hall to complete the bureaucratic checklist that Italy thrives on. Boring officialdom. Day -1 of the Millie Miglia.

    Medical checks complete, priceless car paperwork verified, rules of the road explained - and, I hasten to add, promised to be adhered to - life insurance signed away, a spiral of autographs on pieces of paper that are instantly forgotten by all parties concerned. Soon enough, though, it’s time to be introduced to our car, the more than appropriately-named 1938 Alfa Romeo 6c 2300 Mille Miglia.

    The first introduction does nothing to quell nerves: “This will be your car for the event, it’s priceless, so please bring it back as you found it…” We’d rather not bend it either, if I’m honest; they love Alfas here, and we’re talking real passion, rather than respect. Dropping a car like the 6c into the bushes in Italy would be like defacing some sort of religious iconography. And with Alfa aiming to mount something of a resurgence of its brand in the coming months with the launch of the 4c, the next three days will be an unscientific litmus test of what remains of the brand’s loyal following in its heartland territory.

    The original Mille Miglia was held 24 times between 1927 and 1957, with it’s most notable alumni being Sir Stirling Moss and Dennis Jenkinson who completed the epic 1000 mile course (from Brescia to Rome and back to Brescia) in a staggering 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds in their Mercedes Benz 300 SLR in 1955. In its modern iteration the Mille Miglia is run over three days in May and it’s fair to say that Moss’ legendary achievement will always remain unsurpassed.

    Not that we’d be challenging for the title even if we could: having piloted the 6c around the car park for a grand total of five minutes, it’s clear that our race is going to be something of a war of attrition. A similar car won the event in 1937, with our car rolling out of the factory a year after the victory, so there’s history here, but nothing does more to awaken your sense of unrelenting development than driving a car from the distant past. With a jaw-dropping 95BHP at our disposal, brakes best described as disinterested, wipers that don’t touch the screen very regularly and lights that wouldn’t hold a candle to a, er, candle, the next few days are going to be a proper 1930’s driving experience.

    Time, I reckon, to get some sleep.

  5. Mille Miglia Day 1: Brescia

    Didn’t sleep. It’s raining biblically hard, and I have a food hangover. Italy wouldn’t be Italy without a truly excellent eleventy course meal to celebrate the start of the legendary race, and as we head to bed in the early hours I found myself questioning the sanity of driving a priceless car on flooded roads for the next three days, or indeed the need for three different puddings. Still, the rain was pouring down outside through the night, and as we surface at the start of the day to have the car sealed for the event, it shows no signs of clearing. The day drags, as does the lack of sleep and the weight of responsibility.

    7:10: Five minutes to go until our start, and the chaos of trying to get 420 cars to line up in order for their allotted start time has turned the Viale Venezia into a high octane game of car draughts as people arrive fashionably late and push, horn sounding, through the crowds to roost somewhere near their allotted start number. It is chaos. Very evocative, brilliant, amazing, beautiful chaos.

    7:13: Time to fire the old girl up, check that my co-pilot is ready to go and more importantly confirm he actually knows where we’re going…” Everything ok?” I ask, presuming that the answer is a foregone conclusion… “Have I got time to go to the loo?” “NOT NOW!”

    7:15: I drive the Alfa up the ramp and almost into its awaiting crowd of adoring Alfisti. There are shouts of “Bella Machina, Buono Voyagi”. In the pre-race interview - screened live to the whole of Italy - I mumble something about ‘only in Italy’, though it may have come out as ‘Hffrrufle-mufurfle, Italy’. The flag drops and we’re off. Next stop Ferrara…

    We roll off the stage and down the Viale Venezia past crowds of people ten deep, all waving, smiling and shouting. The 6c might not be the fastest car here by some margin, but if enthusiasm could be translated into horsepower we’re destined for a win. Or at least a place. Well, a finish. Possibly.

    Turning right up the hill in Brescia you can see the words ‘Alfa’ form on the lips of the adoring, car-savvy fans. The rain is easing, but still an omnipresent threat, making the best part of 1.3 tonnes of handbeaten Superleggera bodywork mounted on a ladder chassis something of a handful on slick cobbles. Still, so far so good, despite regular warnings from the passenger seat to ‘remember the brakes’ helpfully and that ‘those cobbles look very slippery’. Resisting the urge to shout ‘I KNOW’ at the top of my voice, we’re though the tricky first mile, heading down the hill and out of Brescia. I begin to breathe again for the first time in ten minutes.

    The Mille is just spectacular. Every roundabout is rammed full of spectators: from babes in arms, to great grandmothers who look like they might well remember the original event and Moss’ legendary achievement. And they’re all shouting, waving and clapping. The sheer, overwhelming passion is infectious. I feel like a rock star.

    I probably don’t look like one.

    The 6c has woken up from its time resting in the museum, and as the road opens up we’re beginning to blow out the cobwebs. Out of Brescia and onto Desenzano, we head through crowd-lined streets and onto Sirmione on the banks of Lake Garda. This is the first timed stage and an opportunity for Co-pilot No1. to show his talents.

    It works like this: the modern version of the Mille Miglia is punctuated by regularity stages, where the whole priceless convoy stops and has to drive for specific distances at pre-agreed - and very specific - speeds (say 480meters at 43.5kph). Get it right and you’re awarded points, and it’s these points combined with signing in each of the pre-assigned route points at the allotted time that define your position in the event. So being able to operate a stopwatch, or more accurately 4 or 5 stopwatches at the same time, is something of a pre-requisite for Mille success.

    “Right, first regularity stage, are we good?”

    “I still need to loo…”

    “NOT NOW!”

    To make matters worse, the regularity stages are split into sections with each section requiring a different distance to be covered at a different average speed. As you cross the line for the first section you start the timing for the second and so on and so on… hence the multiple stopwatchery.

    “Right then here we go, what’s my average speed for this first section”

    “Average speed…erm?”

    It’s fair to say that what follows is somewhat shambolic and mildly shouty attempt at the first regularity stage. There’s some confusion over the fact that as one section ends the next one starts, there are two or three exchanges based around: “Should I have started this one going yet?” “Yes you bloody well should have!”.

    A couple of moments that involved the phrase “Well, there’s no need for that…”

    And as we leave Sirmione I’m doing my best Mutley impression whilst defusing the situation with helpful comments like: “Well it’s only the first one, now we know how to do it I’m sure we’ll do a better job of the next one, unrepeatable mutterings…”

    To ease tension we pull in for fuel and a quick pit stop and meet the other element of a successful Mille Miglia campaign: the support crew. Paola and Alessandro from Museo Storico Alfa Romeo are the perfect antidote to Mille stress, “Alle” is responsible for the engineering - read nursing - of all Alfa Museums cars and is clearly passionate, protective and yet oddly trusting with his pride and joy, whilst knowing every element of it’s construction. He is delighted to see we’ve made it this far…”complimenti”.

    Paola is amongst the greatest things ever to come out of Italy. This is her 5th Mille Miglia and she is known and loved by everyone on the event. And although she normally follows the cars competing for the win (not something that given our current form we’ll need to worry about), this year she’s devoted to us and is currently firm favorite for co-pilot replacement after day one, something I feel it’s best to keep to myself given we’re about to tackle another batch of special stages…

    As we head out fueled and drained respectively, the light dims and the crowds dissipate as we head ominously for our next battle with the stopwatch. Our fuel stop has dropped us into a glut of cars, so we have time to regroup as we wait for the stage.

    “Ok, so there are six stages in this one and it’s dark. So good luck”

    Despite a hairy exploration into the maximum grip levels of the 6c on a particularly tricky downhill left, the regularity stage passes by without the swearing that marked the previous version and we’re off and on our way to Ferrara still talking to each other. Just.

    One final stage in Padova sees a return to form from the co-pilot seat and as we arrive into Ferrara and park up, the atmosphere in the car is best described as tense. The monosyballic Q&A is broken by the arrival of our support crew and the promise of beer and sleep. The 6c is tucked up in its Museo Storico silver onesie, and we head to the bar.

    As we sit watching the live feed of the other competitors arriving into Ferrara the reality of what’s just happened - and more pressingly what’s going to happen in the next couple of days - dawns. Day one done, 158 miles covered, 845 to go.

    Bedtime.

  6. Mille Miglia Day 1: Brescia

    Didn’t sleep. It’s raining biblically hard, and I have a food hangover. Italy wouldn’t be Italy without a truly excellent eleventy course meal to celebrate the start of the legendary race, and as we head to bed in the early hours I found myself questioning the sanity of driving a priceless car on flooded roads for the next three days, or indeed the need for three different puddings. Still, the rain was pouring down outside through the night, and as we surface at the start of the day to have the car sealed for the event, it shows no signs of clearing. The day drags, as does the lack of sleep and the weight of responsibility.

    7:10: Five minutes to go until our start, and the chaos of trying to get 420 cars to line up in order for their allotted start time has turned the Viale Venezia into a high octane game of car draughts as people arrive fashionably late and push, horn sounding, through the crowds to roost somewhere near their allotted start number. It is chaos. Very evocative, brilliant, amazing, beautiful chaos.

    7:13: Time to fire the old girl up, check that my co-pilot is ready to go and more importantly confirm he actually knows where we’re going…” Everything ok?” I ask, presuming that the answer is a foregone conclusion… “Have I got time to go to the loo?” “NOT NOW!”

    7:15: I drive the Alfa up the ramp and almost into its awaiting crowd of adoring Alfisti. There are shouts of “Bella Machina, Buono Voyagi”. In the pre-race interview - screened live to the whole of Italy - I mumble something about ‘only in Italy’, though it may have come out as ‘Hffrrufle-mufurfle, Italy’. The flag drops and we’re off. Next stop Ferrara…

    We roll off the stage and down the Viale Venezia past crowds of people ten deep, all waving, smiling and shouting. The 6c might not be the fastest car here by some margin, but if enthusiasm could be translated into horsepower we’re destined for a win. Or at least a place. Well, a finish. Possibly.

    Turning right up the hill in Brescia you can see the words ‘Alfa’ form on the lips of the adoring, car-savvy fans. The rain is easing, but still an omnipresent threat, making the best part of 1.3 tonnes of handbeaten Superleggera bodywork mounted on a ladder chassis something of a handful on slick cobbles. Still, so far so good, despite regular warnings from the passenger seat to ‘remember the brakes’ helpfully and that ‘those cobbles look very slippery’. Resisting the urge to shout ‘I KNOW’ at the top of my voice, we’re though the tricky first mile, heading down the hill and out of Brescia. I begin to breathe again for the first time in ten minutes.

    The Mille is just spectacular. Every roundabout is rammed full of spectators: from babes in arms, to great grandmothers who look like they might well remember the original event and Moss’ legendary achievement. And they’re all shouting, waving and clapping. The sheer, overwhelming passion is infectious. I feel like a rock star.

    I probably don’t look like one.

    The 6c has woken up from its time resting in the museum, and as the road opens up we’re beginning to blow out the cobwebs. Out of Brescia and onto Desenzano, we head through crowd-lined streets and onto Sirmione on the banks of Lake Garda. This is the first timed stage and an opportunity for Co-pilot No1. to show his talents.

    It works like this: the modern version of the Mille Miglia is punctuated by regularity stages, where the whole priceless convoy stops and has to drive for specific distances at pre-agreed - and very specific - speeds (say 480meters at 43.5kph). Get it right and you’re awarded points, and it’s these points combined with signing in each of the pre-assigned route points at the allotted time that define your position in the event. So being able to operate a stopwatch, or more accurately 4 or 5 stopwatches at the same time, is something of a pre-requisite for Mille success.

    “Right, first regularity stage, are we good?”

    “I still need to loo…”

    “NOT NOW!”

    To make matters worse, the regularity stages are split into sections with each section requiring a different distance to be covered at a different average speed. As you cross the line for the first section you start the timing for the second and so on and so on… hence the multiple stopwatchery.

    “Right then here we go, what’s my average speed for this first section”

    “Average speed…erm?”

    It’s fair to say that what follows is somewhat shambolic and mildly shouty attempt at the first regularity stage. There’s some confusion over the fact that as one section ends the next one starts, there are two or three exchanges based around: “Should I have started this one going yet?” “Yes you bloody well should have!”.

    A couple of moments that involved the phrase “Well, there’s no need for that…”

    And as we leave Sirmione I’m doing my best Mutley impression whilst defusing the situation with helpful comments like: “Well it’s only the first one, now we know how to do it I’m sure we’ll do a better job of the next one, unrepeatable mutterings…”

    To ease tension we pull in for fuel and a quick pit stop and meet the other element of a successful Mille Miglia campaign: the support crew. Paola and Alessandro from Museo Storico Alfa Romeo are the perfect antidote to Mille stress, “Alle” is responsible for the engineering - read nursing - of all Alfa Museums cars and is clearly passionate, protective and yet oddly trusting with his pride and joy, whilst knowing every element of it’s construction. He is delighted to see we’ve made it this far…”complimenti”.

    Paola is amongst the greatest things ever to come out of Italy. This is her 5th Mille Miglia and she is known and loved by everyone on the event. And although she normally follows the cars competing for the win (not something that given our current form we’ll need to worry about), this year she’s devoted to us and is currently firm favorite for co-pilot replacement after day one, something I feel it’s best to keep to myself given we’re about to tackle another batch of special stages…

    As we head out fueled and drained respectively, the light dims and the crowds dissipate as we head ominously for our next battle with the stopwatch. Our fuel stop has dropped us into a glut of cars, so we have time to regroup as we wait for the stage.

    “Ok, so there are six stages in this one and it’s dark. So good luck”

    Despite a hairy exploration into the maximum grip levels of the 6c on a particularly tricky downhill left, the regularity stage passes by without the swearing that marked the previous version and we’re off and on our way to Ferrara still talking to each other. Just.

    One final stage in Padova sees a return to form from the co-pilot seat and as we arrive into Ferrara and park up, the atmosphere in the car is best described as tense. The monosyballic Q&A is broken by the arrival of our support crew and the promise of beer and sleep. The 6c is tucked up in its Museo Storico silver onesie, and we head to the bar.

    As we sit watching the live feed of the other competitors arriving into Ferrara the reality of what’s just happened - and more pressingly what’s going to happen in the next couple of days - dawns. Day one done, 158 miles covered, 845 to go.

    Bedtime.

  7. Mille Miglia Day 1: Brescia

    Didn’t sleep. It’s raining biblically hard, and I have a food hangover. Italy wouldn’t be Italy without a truly excellent eleventy course meal to celebrate the start of the legendary race, and as we head to bed in the early hours I found myself questioning the sanity of driving a priceless car on flooded roads for the next three days, or indeed the need for three different puddings. Still, the rain was pouring down outside through the night, and as we surface at the start of the day to have the car sealed for the event, it shows no signs of clearing. The day drags, as does the lack of sleep and the weight of responsibility.

    7:10: Five minutes to go until our start, and the chaos of trying to get 420 cars to line up in order for their allotted start time has turned the Viale Venezia into a high octane game of car draughts as people arrive fashionably late and push, horn sounding, through the crowds to roost somewhere near their allotted start number. It is chaos. Very evocative, brilliant, amazing, beautiful chaos.

    7:13: Time to fire the old girl up, check that my co-pilot is ready to go and more importantly confirm he actually knows where we’re going…” Everything ok?” I ask, presuming that the answer is a foregone conclusion… “Have I got time to go to the loo?” “NOT NOW!”

    7:15: I drive the Alfa up the ramp and almost into its awaiting crowd of adoring Alfisti. There are shouts of “Bella Machina, Buono Voyagi”. In the pre-race interview - screened live to the whole of Italy - I mumble something about ‘only in Italy’, though it may have come out as ‘Hffrrufle-mufurfle, Italy’. The flag drops and we’re off. Next stop Ferrara…

    We roll off the stage and down the Viale Venezia past crowds of people ten deep, all waving, smiling and shouting. The 6c might not be the fastest car here by some margin, but if enthusiasm could be translated into horsepower we’re destined for a win. Or at least a place. Well, a finish. Possibly.

    Turning right up the hill in Brescia you can see the words ‘Alfa’ form on the lips of the adoring, car-savvy fans. The rain is easing, but still an omnipresent threat, making the best part of 1.3 tonnes of handbeaten Superleggera bodywork mounted on a ladder chassis something of a handful on slick cobbles. Still, so far so good, despite regular warnings from the passenger seat to ‘remember the brakes’ helpfully and that ‘those cobbles look very slippery’. Resisting the urge to shout ‘I KNOW’ at the top of my voice, we’re though the tricky first mile, heading down the hill and out of Brescia. I begin to breathe again for the first time in ten minutes.

    The Mille is just spectacular. Every roundabout is rammed full of spectators: from babes in arms, to great grandmothers who look like they might well remember the original event and Moss’ legendary achievement. And they’re all shouting, waving and clapping. The sheer, overwhelming passion is infectious. I feel like a rock star.

    I probably don’t look like one.

    The 6c has woken up from its time resting in the museum, and as the road opens up we’re beginning to blow out the cobwebs. Out of Brescia and onto Desenzano, we head through crowd-lined streets and onto Sirmione on the banks of Lake Garda. This is the first timed stage and an opportunity for Co-pilot No1. to show his talents.

    It works like this: the modern version of the Mille Miglia is punctuated by regularity stages, where the whole priceless convoy stops and has to drive for specific distances at pre-agreed - and very specific - speeds (say 480meters at 43.5kph). Get it right and you’re awarded points, and it’s these points combined with signing in each of the pre-assigned route points at the allotted time that define your position in the event. So being able to operate a stopwatch, or more accurately 4 or 5 stopwatches at the same time, is something of a pre-requisite for Mille success.

    “Right, first regularity stage, are we good?”

    “I still need to loo…”

    “NOT NOW!”

    To make matters worse, the regularity stages are split into sections with each section requiring a different distance to be covered at a different average speed. As you cross the line for the first section you start the timing for the second and so on and so on… hence the multiple stopwatchery.

    “Right then here we go, what’s my average speed for this first section”

    “Average speed…erm?”

    It’s fair to say that what follows is somewhat shambolic and mildly shouty attempt at the first regularity stage. There’s some confusion over the fact that as one section ends the next one starts, there are two or three exchanges based around: “Should I have started this one going yet?” “Yes you bloody well should have!”.

    A couple of moments that involved the phrase “Well, there’s no need for that…”

    And as we leave Sirmione I’m doing my best Mutley impression whilst defusing the situation with helpful comments like: “Well it’s only the first one, now we know how to do it I’m sure we’ll do a better job of the next one, unrepeatable mutterings…”

    To ease tension we pull in for fuel and a quick pit stop and meet the other element of a successful Mille Miglia campaign: the support crew. Paola and Alessandro from Museo Storico Alfa Romeo are the perfect antidote to Mille stress, “Alle” is responsible for the engineering - read nursing - of all Alfa Museums cars and is clearly passionate, protective and yet oddly trusting with his pride and joy, whilst knowing every element of it’s construction. He is delighted to see we’ve made it this far…”complimenti”.

    Paola is amongst the greatest things ever to come out of Italy. This is her 5th Mille Miglia and she is known and loved by everyone on the event. And although she normally follows the cars competing for the win (not something that given our current form we’ll need to worry about), this year she’s devoted to us and is currently firm favorite for co-pilot replacement after day one, something I feel it’s best to keep to myself given we’re about to tackle another batch of special stages…

    As we head out fueled and drained respectively, the light dims and the crowds dissipate as we head ominously for our next battle with the stopwatch. Our fuel stop has dropped us into a glut of cars, so we have time to regroup as we wait for the stage.

    “Ok, so there are six stages in this one and it’s dark. So good luck”

    Despite a hairy exploration into the maximum grip levels of the 6c on a particularly tricky downhill left, the regularity stage passes by without the swearing that marked the previous version and we’re off and on our way to Ferrara still talking to each other. Just.

    One final stage in Padova sees a return to form from the co-pilot seat and as we arrive into Ferrara and park up, the atmosphere in the car is best described as tense. The monosyballic Q&A is broken by the arrival of our support crew and the promise of beer and sleep. The 6c is tucked up in its Museo Storico silver onesie, and we head to the bar.

    As we sit watching the live feed of the other competitors arriving into Ferrara the reality of what’s just happened - and more pressingly what’s going to happen in the next couple of days - dawns. Day one done, 158 miles covered, 845 to go.

    Bedtime.

  8. Mille Miglia Day 1: Brescia

    Didn’t sleep. It’s raining biblically hard, and I have a food hangover. Italy wouldn’t be Italy without a truly excellent eleventy course meal to celebrate the start of the legendary race, and as we head to bed in the early hours I found myself questioning the sanity of driving a priceless car on flooded roads for the next three days, or indeed the need for three different puddings. Still, the rain was pouring down outside through the night, and as we surface at the start of the day to have the car sealed for the event, it shows no signs of clearing. The day drags, as does the lack of sleep and the weight of responsibility.

    7:10: Five minutes to go until our start, and the chaos of trying to get 420 cars to line up in order for their allotted start time has turned the Viale Venezia into a high octane game of car draughts as people arrive fashionably late and push, horn sounding, through the crowds to roost somewhere near their allotted start number. It is chaos. Very evocative, brilliant, amazing, beautiful chaos.

    7:13: Time to fire the old girl up, check that my co-pilot is ready to go and more importantly confirm he actually knows where we’re going…” Everything ok?” I ask, presuming that the answer is a foregone conclusion… “Have I got time to go to the loo?” “NOT NOW!”

    7:15: I drive the Alfa up the ramp and almost into its awaiting crowd of adoring Alfisti. There are shouts of “Bella Machina, Buono Voyagi”. In the pre-race interview - screened live to the whole of Italy - I mumble something about ‘only in Italy’, though it may have come out as ‘Hffrrufle-mufurfle, Italy’. The flag drops and we’re off. Next stop Ferrara…

    We roll off the stage and down the Viale Venezia past crowds of people ten deep, all waving, smiling and shouting. The 6c might not be the fastest car here by some margin, but if enthusiasm could be translated into horsepower we’re destined for a win. Or at least a place. Well, a finish. Possibly.

    Turning right up the hill in Brescia you can see the words ‘Alfa’ form on the lips of the adoring, car-savvy fans. The rain is easing, but still an omnipresent threat, making the best part of 1.3 tonnes of handbeaten Superleggera bodywork mounted on a ladder chassis something of a handful on slick cobbles. Still, so far so good, despite regular warnings from the passenger seat to ‘remember the brakes’ helpfully and that ‘those cobbles look very slippery’. Resisting the urge to shout ‘I KNOW’ at the top of my voice, we’re though the tricky first mile, heading down the hill and out of Brescia. I begin to breathe again for the first time in ten minutes.

    The Mille is just spectacular. Every roundabout is rammed full of spectators: from babes in arms, to great grandmothers who look like they might well remember the original event and Moss’ legendary achievement. And they’re all shouting, waving and clapping. The sheer, overwhelming passion is infectious. I feel like a rock star.

    I probably don’t look like one.

    The 6c has woken up from its time resting in the museum, and as the road opens up we’re beginning to blow out the cobwebs. Out of Brescia and onto Desenzano, we head through crowd-lined streets and onto Sirmione on the banks of Lake Garda. This is the first timed stage and an opportunity for Co-pilot No1. to show his talents.

    It works like this: the modern version of the Mille Miglia is punctuated by regularity stages, where the whole priceless convoy stops and has to drive for specific distances at pre-agreed - and very specific - speeds (say 480meters at 43.5kph). Get it right and you’re awarded points, and it’s these points combined with signing in each of the pre-assigned route points at the allotted time that define your position in the event. So being able to operate a stopwatch, or more accurately 4 or 5 stopwatches at the same time, is something of a pre-requisite for Mille success.

    “Right, first regularity stage, are we good?”

    “I still need to loo…”

    “NOT NOW!”

    To make matters worse, the regularity stages are split into sections with each section requiring a different distance to be covered at a different average speed. As you cross the line for the first section you start the timing for the second and so on and so on… hence the multiple stopwatchery.

    “Right then here we go, what’s my average speed for this first section”

    “Average speed…erm?”

    It’s fair to say that what follows is somewhat shambolic and mildly shouty attempt at the first regularity stage. There’s some confusion over the fact that as one section ends the next one starts, there are two or three exchanges based around: “Should I have started this one going yet?” “Yes you bloody well should have!”.

    A couple of moments that involved the phrase “Well, there’s no need for that…”

    And as we leave Sirmione I’m doing my best Mutley impression whilst defusing the situation with helpful comments like: “Well it’s only the first one, now we know how to do it I’m sure we’ll do a better job of the next one, unrepeatable mutterings…”

    To ease tension we pull in for fuel and a quick pit stop and meet the other element of a successful Mille Miglia campaign: the support crew. Paola and Alessandro from Museo Storico Alfa Romeo are the perfect antidote to Mille stress, “Alle” is responsible for the engineering - read nursing - of all Alfa Museums cars and is clearly passionate, protective and yet oddly trusting with his pride and joy, whilst knowing every element of it’s construction. He is delighted to see we’ve made it this far…”complimenti”.

    Paola is amongst the greatest things ever to come out of Italy. This is her 5th Mille Miglia and she is known and loved by everyone on the event. And although she normally follows the cars competing for the win (not something that given our current form we’ll need to worry about), this year she’s devoted to us and is currently firm favorite for co-pilot replacement after day one, something I feel it’s best to keep to myself given we’re about to tackle another batch of special stages…

    As we head out fueled and drained respectively, the light dims and the crowds dissipate as we head ominously for our next battle with the stopwatch. Our fuel stop has dropped us into a glut of cars, so we have time to regroup as we wait for the stage.

    “Ok, so there are six stages in this one and it’s dark. So good luck”

    Despite a hairy exploration into the maximum grip levels of the 6c on a particularly tricky downhill left, the regularity stage passes by without the swearing that marked the previous version and we’re off and on our way to Ferrara still talking to each other. Just.

    One final stage in Padova sees a return to form from the co-pilot seat and as we arrive into Ferrara and park up, the atmosphere in the car is best described as tense. The monosyballic Q&A is broken by the arrival of our support crew and the promise of beer and sleep. The 6c is tucked up in its Museo Storico silver onesie, and we head to the bar.

    As we sit watching the live feed of the other competitors arriving into Ferrara the reality of what’s just happened - and more pressingly what’s going to happen in the next couple of days - dawns. Day one done, 158 miles covered, 845 to go.

    Bedtime.

  9. Mille Miglia: Day 2 Ferrara-Rome

    Three and a half hours in bed is just sufficient to make you painfully aware of how tired you are without actually running the risk of compensating for that lack of sleep in any way. As I haul out of bed it’s clear that day two requires a different tactic.

    “Right you’re driving”

    Alessandro and I take the 6c out of its cocoon and install Co-pilot into the driving seat just in time for the weather to break and start raining again. This does not help Co-pilot’s disposition. Time for some words of encouragement.

    “So you know when they say that this 6c is priceless? I wonder what that actually means in real terms? I mean, is it worth more than your house, or all you possess, or all both of us possesses?”

    “You’re not helping”

    “Sorry, but just try and put the priceless bit out of your head for now, I always find that it’s always when you’re worried about something and you back off that you’ll have the accident. In this priceless car. Which is, by all accounts, priceless.”

    “Like I said, you’re not helping, please shut up”

    “Ok, time to start her up, and remember, it’s priceless”

    “WILL YOU SHUT UP!”

    With the rain pouring down and a nervous Co-Pilot pilot it’s not the ideal time for the wipers to start to untangle themselves. Twenty miles into the stage and the bar connecting them un-connects, and we’re left with one sorry wiper (on the driver’s side, fortunately) flapping lazily across the screen. The fact that the remaining wiper isn’t touching the screen hasn’t improved the Co-Pilot Pilot’s mood. We head tentatively towards Rome passing through Lugo, Ravenna, Cesena and Gambettola and onwards towards San Marino and our first battle with the stopwatch.

    San Marino is perched at the top of the kind of hill that would have Sherpas feeling a little hill-weary, and the 6c- despite having cleared its throat yesterday - is now breathing hard on the ascent. Whatever remaining cobwebs there were have now been dispatched, and the more time I spend in this wonderful carrozeria-bodied (in aluminium by Superleggera) four-seater, the more I fall in love with it. It’s hard to dial back to 1938 when you’re surrounded by the modern day furniture like Armco, traffic jams and fast food, but in 1938 this thing must have felt like the Millennium Falcon. While the bodywork wouldn’t feel out of place in a gangster movie, it’s the engine that’s the star of the show and now it’s working cleanly its clear that this car has a huge - if slightly ancient - heart.

    As I ponder the vagaries of age, we’re split from the mainstream traffic and plunged into the first regularity stage of the day, which despite some shouting of “Where the hell am I going?!” from the driving seat mid-stage, passes without major drama.

    We pass through the stunning medieval squares of San Marino, stopping to pick up a stamp at the checkpoint, we head down the hill and onto lunch at Sansepolcro. Or what would have been lunch had it not been for an alarming development: As we arrive in Sansepolcro we inspect the car out of a sense of duty more than anything more practical, only to find long black streaks of oil running down its flanks from the bonnet vents…

    Oh dear, priceless just got expensive. I spend some time trying to develop the perfect way to pitch the sentence. “I’m really sorry but my co-pilot seems to have broken your car”, But in the end plump for: “We’re not stopping for lunch, can we meet you at the next petrol station the car is bleeding?” This is not the appropriate engineering terminology.

    Alessandro arrives and inspects what I fear may be terminal. After much wiping with a rag and staring into the hot engine bay he pronounces the leak as ‘normal’. Er?

    “Do you want to top it up a bit”

    “No, it’s fine, maybe later”

    And with that the 6c is brimmed with fuel, the lead replacement potion (the 6c does not have, unsurprisingly unleaded cyclinder heads) is measured exactingly by Alessandro, and poured into the tank with a theatre and style that only an Italian can manage, and we’re off again and on our way to Rome dispatched with another winning smile.

    After an engine-affirming blast down the Autostrada, the roads open and we flow along toward Assisi in the wake of a Mark 7 Jaguar. Another stunning medieval town (Umbertide this time), another regularity stage dealt with and its clear that the new tactic is working. Things are looking up. The weather has taken a turn for the better, and as we blast through Assisi we are waved on by a cluster of Monks (Note to self: if you want to be a monk, make sure you opt for Assisi: nice monastery and perfect vantage point for the Mille).

    At the next fuel stop it’s time for a driver change, so co-pilot is back in the box seat for the next regularity stage and the all-important map reading into Rome. As dusk falls the Forca d’Arrone stage brings a return to form from Co-Pilot, but the warm glow of the evening sun as we wend our way out of the mountains washes away the tension.

    We barrel into Rome amongst a line of cars with the combined value of the Greek debt, lead by a bike cop on full reheat who takes us to the city limits and then heads off with a wave to collect the next lucky participants (where else in the world with the local police be allowed to spend three days playing follow-the-leader and ignoring any and all speed limits and traffic signs? You have to love Italy…)

    Our scheduled arrival time into Rome is 10:35 and we need to hit it to ensure we avoid a penalty, so navigation has now become key.

    “Right Co-pilot, where am I headed?”

    “Erm?”

    “Mate, where do I get off?”

    “Ok, well none of this is on the map, none of it, so - honestly? - I don’t know” “None of it is on the map?”

    “None of it? Surely some of it is?”

    “Well that one isn’t, so you don’t want that one, or that one. Ooh, that one looks good… no, that’s not on there either. Erm.”

    “Oh good lord, don’t tell me about the ones I don’t need, tell me about the ones WE DO!”

    “Well there’s no need to be like that”

    “Like what?”

    “Like that. Short with me”…

    “Of course I’m being short with you. I’m trying to drive a priceless Alfa into Rome to an unknown destination without causing the world’s most expensive pile up by suddenly turning at the last minute because my Co-pilot can’t read a map, ofcourseI’mbeingshort”

    “Well there’s no need for it, and we’re here anyway, here, here, TURN HERE!”

    It’s fair to say that the arrival into Rome was something of a high point on the stress-level-ometer, and we sit in the assembly area ignoring each other.

    We regroup and are led around Rome in the most privileged tour group of the year, police outriders proudly leading us around the highlights of their city. From the Vatican to the Colisseum with everything in between, and into the parking for the night. Privileged doesn’t quite cover it. Bed beckons but only for a few hours (four, to be precise) and I start plotting a diplomatic way of replacing Co-pilot with Paola…508 miles done, 492 to go, and we’re ranked no.150. We’ve made progress but there’s a long way to go.

  10. Mille Miglia: Day 2 Ferrara-Rome

    Three and a half hours in bed is just sufficient to make you painfully aware of how tired you are without actually running the risk of compensating for that lack of sleep in any way. As I haul out of bed it’s clear that day two requires a different tactic.

    “Right you’re driving”

    Alessandro and I take the 6c out of its cocoon and install Co-pilot into the driving seat just in time for the weather to break and start raining again. This does not help Co-pilot’s disposition. Time for some words of encouragement.

    “So you know when they say that this 6c is priceless? I wonder what that actually means in real terms? I mean, is it worth more than your house, or all you possess, or all both of us possesses?”

    “You’re not helping”

    “Sorry, but just try and put the priceless bit out of your head for now, I always find that it’s always when you’re worried about something and you back off that you’ll have the accident. In this priceless car. Which is, by all accounts, priceless.”

    “Like I said, you’re not helping, please shut up”

    “Ok, time to start her up, and remember, it’s priceless”

    “WILL YOU SHUT UP!”

    With the rain pouring down and a nervous Co-Pilot pilot it’s not the ideal time for the wipers to start to untangle themselves. Twenty miles into the stage and the bar connecting them un-connects, and we’re left with one sorry wiper (on the driver’s side, fortunately) flapping lazily across the screen. The fact that the remaining wiper isn’t touching the screen hasn’t improved the Co-Pilot Pilot’s mood. We head tentatively towards Rome passing through Lugo, Ravenna, Cesena and Gambettola and onwards towards San Marino and our first battle with the stopwatch.

    San Marino is perched at the top of the kind of hill that would have Sherpas feeling a little hill-weary, and the 6c- despite having cleared its throat yesterday - is now breathing hard on the ascent. Whatever remaining cobwebs there were have now been dispatched, and the more time I spend in this wonderful carrozeria-bodied (in aluminium by Superleggera) four-seater, the more I fall in love with it. It’s hard to dial back to 1938 when you’re surrounded by the modern day furniture like Armco, traffic jams and fast food, but in 1938 this thing must have felt like the Millennium Falcon. While the bodywork wouldn’t feel out of place in a gangster movie, it’s the engine that’s the star of the show and now it’s working cleanly its clear that this car has a huge - if slightly ancient - heart.

    As I ponder the vagaries of age, we’re split from the mainstream traffic and plunged into the first regularity stage of the day, which despite some shouting of “Where the hell am I going?!” from the driving seat mid-stage, passes without major drama.

    We pass through the stunning medieval squares of San Marino, stopping to pick up a stamp at the checkpoint, we head down the hill and onto lunch at Sansepolcro. Or what would have been lunch had it not been for an alarming development: As we arrive in Sansepolcro we inspect the car out of a sense of duty more than anything more practical, only to find long black streaks of oil running down its flanks from the bonnet vents…

    Oh dear, priceless just got expensive. I spend some time trying to develop the perfect way to pitch the sentence. “I’m really sorry but my co-pilot seems to have broken your car”, But in the end plump for: “We’re not stopping for lunch, can we meet you at the next petrol station the car is bleeding?” This is not the appropriate engineering terminology.

    Alessandro arrives and inspects what I fear may be terminal. After much wiping with a rag and staring into the hot engine bay he pronounces the leak as ‘normal’. Er?

    “Do you want to top it up a bit”

    “No, it’s fine, maybe later”

    And with that the 6c is brimmed with fuel, the lead replacement potion (the 6c does not have, unsurprisingly unleaded cyclinder heads) is measured exactingly by Alessandro, and poured into the tank with a theatre and style that only an Italian can manage, and we’re off again and on our way to Rome dispatched with another winning smile.

    After an engine-affirming blast down the Autostrada, the roads open and we flow along toward Assisi in the wake of a Mark 7 Jaguar. Another stunning medieval town (Umbertide this time), another regularity stage dealt with and its clear that the new tactic is working. Things are looking up. The weather has taken a turn for the better, and as we blast through Assisi we are waved on by a cluster of Monks (Note to self: if you want to be a monk, make sure you opt for Assisi: nice monastery and perfect vantage point for the Mille).

    At the next fuel stop it’s time for a driver change, so co-pilot is back in the box seat for the next regularity stage and the all-important map reading into Rome. As dusk falls the Forca d’Arrone stage brings a return to form from Co-Pilot, but the warm glow of the evening sun as we wend our way out of the mountains washes away the tension.

    We barrel into Rome amongst a line of cars with the combined value of the Greek debt, lead by a bike cop on full reheat who takes us to the city limits and then heads off with a wave to collect the next lucky participants (where else in the world with the local police be allowed to spend three days playing follow-the-leader and ignoring any and all speed limits and traffic signs? You have to love Italy…)

    Our scheduled arrival time into Rome is 10:35 and we need to hit it to ensure we avoid a penalty, so navigation has now become key.

    “Right Co-pilot, where am I headed?”

    “Erm?”

    “Mate, where do I get off?”

    “Ok, well none of this is on the map, none of it, so - honestly? - I don’t know” “None of it is on the map?”

    “None of it? Surely some of it is?”

    “Well that one isn’t, so you don’t want that one, or that one. Ooh, that one looks good… no, that’s not on there either. Erm.”

    “Oh good lord, don’t tell me about the ones I don’t need, tell me about the ones WE DO!”

    “Well there’s no need to be like that”

    “Like what?”

    “Like that. Short with me”…

    “Of course I’m being short with you. I’m trying to drive a priceless Alfa into Rome to an unknown destination without causing the world’s most expensive pile up by suddenly turning at the last minute because my Co-pilot can’t read a map, ofcourseI’mbeingshort”

    “Well there’s no need for it, and we’re here anyway, here, here, TURN HERE!”

    It’s fair to say that the arrival into Rome was something of a high point on the stress-level-ometer, and we sit in the assembly area ignoring each other.

    We regroup and are led around Rome in the most privileged tour group of the year, police outriders proudly leading us around the highlights of their city. From the Vatican to the Colisseum with everything in between, and into the parking for the night. Privileged doesn’t quite cover it. Bed beckons but only for a few hours (four, to be precise) and I start plotting a diplomatic way of replacing Co-pilot with Paola…508 miles done, 492 to go, and we’re ranked no.150. We’ve made progress but there’s a long way to go.

  11. Mille Miglia: Day 2 Ferrara-Rome

    Three and a half hours in bed is just sufficient to make you painfully aware of how tired you are without actually running the risk of compensating for that lack of sleep in any way. As I haul out of bed it’s clear that day two requires a different tactic.

    “Right you’re driving”

    Alessandro and I take the 6c out of its cocoon and install Co-pilot into the driving seat just in time for the weather to break and start raining again. This does not help Co-pilot’s disposition. Time for some words of encouragement.

    “So you know when they say that this 6c is priceless? I wonder what that actually means in real terms? I mean, is it worth more than your house, or all you possess, or all both of us possesses?”

    “You’re not helping”

    “Sorry, but just try and put the priceless bit out of your head for now, I always find that it’s always when you’re worried about something and you back off that you’ll have the accident. In this priceless car. Which is, by all accounts, priceless.”

    “Like I said, you’re not helping, please shut up”

    “Ok, time to start her up, and remember, it’s priceless”

    “WILL YOU SHUT UP!”

    With the rain pouring down and a nervous Co-Pilot pilot it’s not the ideal time for the wipers to start to untangle themselves. Twenty miles into the stage and the bar connecting them un-connects, and we’re left with one sorry wiper (on the driver’s side, fortunately) flapping lazily across the screen. The fact that the remaining wiper isn’t touching the screen hasn’t improved the Co-Pilot Pilot’s mood. We head tentatively towards Rome passing through Lugo, Ravenna, Cesena and Gambettola and onwards towards San Marino and our first battle with the stopwatch.

    San Marino is perched at the top of the kind of hill that would have Sherpas feeling a little hill-weary, and the 6c- despite having cleared its throat yesterday - is now breathing hard on the ascent. Whatever remaining cobwebs there were have now been dispatched, and the more time I spend in this wonderful carrozeria-bodied (in aluminium by Superleggera) four-seater, the more I fall in love with it. It’s hard to dial back to 1938 when you’re surrounded by the modern day furniture like Armco, traffic jams and fast food, but in 1938 this thing must have felt like the Millennium Falcon. While the bodywork wouldn’t feel out of place in a gangster movie, it’s the engine that’s the star of the show and now it’s working cleanly its clear that this car has a huge - if slightly ancient - heart.

    As I ponder the vagaries of age, we’re split from the mainstream traffic and plunged into the first regularity stage of the day, which despite some shouting of “Where the hell am I going?!” from the driving seat mid-stage, passes without major drama.

    We pass through the stunning medieval squares of San Marino, stopping to pick up a stamp at the checkpoint, we head down the hill and onto lunch at Sansepolcro. Or what would have been lunch had it not been for an alarming development: As we arrive in Sansepolcro we inspect the car out of a sense of duty more than anything more practical, only to find long black streaks of oil running down its flanks from the bonnet vents…

    Oh dear, priceless just got expensive. I spend some time trying to develop the perfect way to pitch the sentence. “I’m really sorry but my co-pilot seems to have broken your car”, But in the end plump for: “We’re not stopping for lunch, can we meet you at the next petrol station the car is bleeding?” This is not the appropriate engineering terminology.

    Alessandro arrives and inspects what I fear may be terminal. After much wiping with a rag and staring into the hot engine bay he pronounces the leak as ‘normal’. Er?

    “Do you want to top it up a bit”

    “No, it’s fine, maybe later”

    And with that the 6c is brimmed with fuel, the lead replacement potion (the 6c does not have, unsurprisingly unleaded cyclinder heads) is measured exactingly by Alessandro, and poured into the tank with a theatre and style that only an Italian can manage, and we’re off again and on our way to Rome dispatched with another winning smile.

    After an engine-affirming blast down the Autostrada, the roads open and we flow along toward Assisi in the wake of a Mark 7 Jaguar. Another stunning medieval town (Umbertide this time), another regularity stage dealt with and its clear that the new tactic is working. Things are looking up. The weather has taken a turn for the better, and as we blast through Assisi we are waved on by a cluster of Monks (Note to self: if you want to be a monk, make sure you opt for Assisi: nice monastery and perfect vantage point for the Mille).

    At the next fuel stop it’s time for a driver change, so co-pilot is back in the box seat for the next regularity stage and the all-important map reading into Rome. As dusk falls the Forca d’Arrone stage brings a return to form from Co-Pilot, but the warm glow of the evening sun as we wend our way out of the mountains washes away the tension.

    We barrel into Rome amongst a line of cars with the combined value of the Greek debt, lead by a bike cop on full reheat who takes us to the city limits and then heads off with a wave to collect the next lucky participants (where else in the world with the local police be allowed to spend three days playing follow-the-leader and ignoring any and all speed limits and traffic signs? You have to love Italy…)

    Our scheduled arrival time into Rome is 10:35 and we need to hit it to ensure we avoid a penalty, so navigation has now become key.

    “Right Co-pilot, where am I headed?”

    “Erm?”

    “Mate, where do I get off?”

    “Ok, well none of this is on the map, none of it, so - honestly? - I don’t know” “None of it is on the map?”

    “None of it? Surely some of it is?”

    “Well that one isn’t, so you don’t want that one, or that one. Ooh, that one looks good… no, that’s not on there either. Erm.”

    “Oh good lord, don’t tell me about the ones I don’t need, tell me about the ones WE DO!”

    “Well there’s no need to be like that”

    “Like what?”

    “Like that. Short with me”…

    “Of course I’m being short with you. I’m trying to drive a priceless Alfa into Rome to an unknown destination without causing the world’s most expensive pile up by suddenly turning at the last minute because my Co-pilot can’t read a map, ofcourseI’mbeingshort”

    “Well there’s no need for it, and we’re here anyway, here, here, TURN HERE!”

    It’s fair to say that the arrival into Rome was something of a high point on the stress-level-ometer, and we sit in the assembly area ignoring each other.

    We regroup and are led around Rome in the most privileged tour group of the year, police outriders proudly leading us around the highlights of their city. From the Vatican to the Colisseum with everything in between, and into the parking for the night. Privileged doesn’t quite cover it. Bed beckons but only for a few hours (four, to be precise) and I start plotting a diplomatic way of replacing Co-pilot with Paola…508 miles done, 492 to go, and we’re ranked no.150. We’ve made progress but there’s a long way to go.

  12. Mille Miglia: Day 2 Ferrara-Rome

    Three and a half hours in bed is just sufficient to make you painfully aware of how tired you are without actually running the risk of compensating for that lack of sleep in any way. As I haul out of bed it’s clear that day two requires a different tactic.

    “Right you’re driving”

    Alessandro and I take the 6c out of its cocoon and install Co-pilot into the driving seat just in time for the weather to break and start raining again. This does not help Co-pilot’s disposition. Time for some words of encouragement.

    “So you know when they say that this 6c is priceless? I wonder what that actually means in real terms? I mean, is it worth more than your house, or all you possess, or all both of us possesses?”

    “You’re not helping”

    “Sorry, but just try and put the priceless bit out of your head for now, I always find that it’s always when you’re worried about something and you back off that you’ll have the accident. In this priceless car. Which is, by all accounts, priceless.”

    “Like I said, you’re not helping, please shut up”

    “Ok, time to start her up, and remember, it’s priceless”

    “WILL YOU SHUT UP!”

    With the rain pouring down and a nervous Co-Pilot pilot it’s not the ideal time for the wipers to start to untangle themselves. Twenty miles into the stage and the bar connecting them un-connects, and we’re left with one sorry wiper (on the driver’s side, fortunately) flapping lazily across the screen. The fact that the remaining wiper isn’t touching the screen hasn’t improved the Co-Pilot Pilot’s mood. We head tentatively towards Rome passing through Lugo, Ravenna, Cesena and Gambettola and onwards towards San Marino and our first battle with the stopwatch.

    San Marino is perched at the top of the kind of hill that would have Sherpas feeling a little hill-weary, and the 6c- despite having cleared its throat yesterday - is now breathing hard on the ascent. Whatever remaining cobwebs there were have now been dispatched, and the more time I spend in this wonderful carrozeria-bodied (in aluminium by Superleggera) four-seater, the more I fall in love with it. It’s hard to dial back to 1938 when you’re surrounded by the modern day furniture like Armco, traffic jams and fast food, but in 1938 this thing must have felt like the Millennium Falcon. While the bodywork wouldn’t feel out of place in a gangster movie, it’s the engine that’s the star of the show and now it’s working cleanly its clear that this car has a huge - if slightly ancient - heart.

    As I ponder the vagaries of age, we’re split from the mainstream traffic and plunged into the first regularity stage of the day, which despite some shouting of “Where the hell am I going?!” from the driving seat mid-stage, passes without major drama.

    We pass through the stunning medieval squares of San Marino, stopping to pick up a stamp at the checkpoint, we head down the hill and onto lunch at Sansepolcro. Or what would have been lunch had it not been for an alarming development: As we arrive in Sansepolcro we inspect the car out of a sense of duty more than anything more practical, only to find long black streaks of oil running down its flanks from the bonnet vents…

    Oh dear, priceless just got expensive. I spend some time trying to develop the perfect way to pitch the sentence. “I’m really sorry but my co-pilot seems to have broken your car”, But in the end plump for: “We’re not stopping for lunch, can we meet you at the next petrol station the car is bleeding?” This is not the appropriate engineering terminology.

    Alessandro arrives and inspects what I fear may be terminal. After much wiping with a rag and staring into the hot engine bay he pronounces the leak as ‘normal’. Er?

    “Do you want to top it up a bit”

    “No, it’s fine, maybe later”

    And with that the 6c is brimmed with fuel, the lead replacement potion (the 6c does not have, unsurprisingly unleaded cyclinder heads) is measured exactingly by Alessandro, and poured into the tank with a theatre and style that only an Italian can manage, and we’re off again and on our way to Rome dispatched with another winning smile.

    After an engine-affirming blast down the Autostrada, the roads open and we flow along toward Assisi in the wake of a Mark 7 Jaguar. Another stunning medieval town (Umbertide this time), another regularity stage dealt with and its clear that the new tactic is working. Things are looking up. The weather has taken a turn for the better, and as we blast through Assisi we are waved on by a cluster of Monks (Note to self: if you want to be a monk, make sure you opt for Assisi: nice monastery and perfect vantage point for the Mille).

    At the next fuel stop it’s time for a driver change, so co-pilot is back in the box seat for the next regularity stage and the all-important map reading into Rome. As dusk falls the Forca d’Arrone stage brings a return to form from Co-Pilot, but the warm glow of the evening sun as we wend our way out of the mountains washes away the tension.

    We barrel into Rome amongst a line of cars with the combined value of the Greek debt, lead by a bike cop on full reheat who takes us to the city limits and then heads off with a wave to collect the next lucky participants (where else in the world with the local police be allowed to spend three days playing follow-the-leader and ignoring any and all speed limits and traffic signs? You have to love Italy…)

    Our scheduled arrival time into Rome is 10:35 and we need to hit it to ensure we avoid a penalty, so navigation has now become key.

    “Right Co-pilot, where am I headed?”

    “Erm?”

    “Mate, where do I get off?”

    “Ok, well none of this is on the map, none of it, so - honestly? - I don’t know” “None of it is on the map?”

    “None of it? Surely some of it is?”

    “Well that one isn’t, so you don’t want that one, or that one. Ooh, that one looks good… no, that’s not on there either. Erm.”

    “Oh good lord, don’t tell me about the ones I don’t need, tell me about the ones WE DO!”

    “Well there’s no need to be like that”

    “Like what?”

    “Like that. Short with me”…

    “Of course I’m being short with you. I’m trying to drive a priceless Alfa into Rome to an unknown destination without causing the world’s most expensive pile up by suddenly turning at the last minute because my Co-pilot can’t read a map, ofcourseI’mbeingshort”

    “Well there’s no need for it, and we’re here anyway, here, here, TURN HERE!”

    It’s fair to say that the arrival into Rome was something of a high point on the stress-level-ometer, and we sit in the assembly area ignoring each other.

    We regroup and are led around Rome in the most privileged tour group of the year, police outriders proudly leading us around the highlights of their city. From the Vatican to the Colisseum with everything in between, and into the parking for the night. Privileged doesn’t quite cover it. Bed beckons but only for a few hours (four, to be precise) and I start plotting a diplomatic way of replacing Co-pilot with Paola…508 miles done, 492 to go, and we’re ranked no.150. We’ve made progress but there’s a long way to go.

  13. Mille Miglia Day 3: Rome - Brescia 492 Miles

    Four hours in bed is just enough time for your body to think that you’re making an attempt at catching up on your lack of sleep and for it to slip into a deep comatose state. It is a terrible lie. The alarm finds me still slightly beaten up from the day before. Day three of the Mille Miglia beckons, the big one: 492 miles, 24 regularity stages and a route that sees us through Vallelunga, Sienna, Florence, across the Futa and Raticosa passes and onto Bologna, Maranello, Modena, Cremona and finally back to where it all started in Brescia. A day when you need to know where you’re going, when you need to keep hitting all your regularity stages with, erm, regularity, and where above all else, you need to work as a team. Paola?

    “Morning Co-pilot”

    “Morning, Son”

    “Right then dad, last day of the Mille, lets have a blast.”

    “Agreed.”

    The Start at Rome provides another example of Italian organization at it’s best. With 422 cars all vying for position and desperate to hit their allotted start time, the organizers orchestrate the now-familiar highly expensive car drafts and we waft through on the stroke of 6:45. We’re off, with the ancient proverb ringing in our ears: ‘You can’t win the Mille on days one and two, but you can absolutely lose it on day three’. Conscious of this, Co-pilot is driving the 6c and I’m navigator and keeper of the stopwatches.

    We blast out of Rome as the sun lifts in the sky and 6c is transformed from the car we left Brescia with. The pipes have cleared and it’s finally showing its true colours, the straight six pulling hard to our designated 4-4500 redline. What a car. Ok, so its performance feels pedestrian by most modern standards, but in 1938 this was some feat of engineering. The support car is full to the gunwhales with kit and so we’ve spent the last few days driving the 6c with all our baggage on board. Space is becoming even more limited as every town we tour through wants to showcase it’s wares, so that we’re now carrying our combined body weight in pasta, risotto, nougat and mineral water. To maximize performance we could have, should have, left some of it behind, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the event, so we head - fully laden - into the longest day, safe in the knowledge that should anything go wrong, we’re fully equipped to provide an impromptu roadside banquet.

    Rome slips away behind us and our first regularity stage beckons at Vallelunga, the circuit famous for Moto GP and the home favorite, Rossi. Our task today is to average 47.9KPH around the circuit, and to say that it feels odd holding the 6c back to this positively pedestrian speed is an understatement. Still, needs must, and today is more Tortoise than Hare. Eventually we hit the timing beam at our allotted second (not bad) and we’re off and on our way to Sienna.

    Everywhere we go the Alfa is greeted with smiles and shouts from every generation: “Bella Machina, vai vai Brescia” becomes a familiar phrase. As a small an unrepresentative test, it’s clear that the Alfa brand is undiminished in its homeland; all they need now is the product to deliver to their passionate expectation.

    Buoyed by not completely screwing up the first regularity, ‘Team 6c’ and most notably Co-pilot, have discovered that you can drive the 6c harder than we ever thought possible all those hours ago in the car park in Brescia. We storm across picture perfect Tuscan scenery, with the old Alfa loving the gin clear sky and dry roads.

    A fuel stop, another 400 miles worth of smiles and approval from Paola and Alle, and we’re off on a more traditional part of the route. At its inception in 1927, the Mille ran on a number of unpaved ‘white’ roads. To keep the event true to its roots - and infuriate many of the owners of priceless historics - the next special stage takes place on 10km of those unmade white roads. With a surface like a washboard and dust which has the ability to invade every orifice, this stage will make or break the car. Or us.

    “Can you get out, I think we’ve got a puncture” mutters the co-pilot as we draw up to the line.

    I jump out and check but no puncture “No mate, you’re fine.”

    “Its pulling like hell to the right, we should stop.”

    “Lets do this stage then stop at the next town”

    The 6c rattles across the corrugated section, and out to the time control. There’s now such a drag that if you release the wheel the 6c merely turns sharp right. We nurse her to the next fuel stop and radio the support crew…

    “Freni sono multo multo caldi” I explain in terrible Italian to the worried looking Alessandro who sets to work trying to cool the offside front brake drum down and release the - clearly bound solid - brake shoes.

    Co-pilot is looking worried, Paola isn’t smiling anymore and Alesandro is working with an efficiency and calm serenity that only he can deliver. I arrive back to the glowing hot wreckage with a hastily filled watering can, which, Alessandro grabs with a swift “mille grazie”, and promptly pours over the offending drum, engulfing him in steam… For a while we lose Alessandro in the cloud and when he re-emerges, he’s wandering around blindly through his steamed glasses muttering, ‘Too much brake, toooooo much brake’

    “You drive now, not Co-pilot…”

    This requires careful sales patter, but with some diplomacy I manage to persuade Co-pilot that the next section is boring and it would be better if he took a rest and looked out of the window, all the better able to enjoy the full glory of Sienna.

    We depart, Alessandro looking concerned and Paola’s smile wattage severely reduced. I make a mental note to see if I can get to Sienna without touching the brakes.

    Sienna delivers in style with an Alfa fan base ten deep, and all shouting and waving and willing the 6c to Brescia. At Florence we catch up with Sir Chris Hoy and Le Mans legend Andy Wallace in their XK120 in the traffic. They’re clearly having a blast and we helpfully teach them a few Italian phrases that are sure to make the home leg more eventful.

    Sorry, chaps. With the Italian for beginners lesson complete, we stick to Wallace as he threads the XK120 gracefully through the Florentine traffic and on towards the legendary Futa and Raticossa passes.

    Worth noting here that ‘we’ have successfully managed not to set fire to the brakes again (mostly because we haven’t used them), but more notably because Alessandro has slackened the front shoes off leaving the rears to do more (see all) of the work. This makes for ‘interesting’ braking performance.

    Another fuel stop and Co-pilot is back in the driving seat as we head to the Italian petrolhead heartland, and Ferrari. The usually fortified gates are open and we drive the 6c through and into the heart and soul of the Prancing Horse, past the wind tunnel and down past the assembly lines and out through the historical gates. Out and down to Fiorano, Ferrari’s backyard test track. And another time trial. Oh God.

    It seems incredibly odd, driving the 6c around hallowed turf (not literally) where Lauda made his comeback, Schumacher invented his favorite pasta dish and more recently Alonso honed LaFerrari, but Co-pilot is living the dream, we break the beam and we’re done and off to Cremona…

    A final fuel stop and the support team are pleased to see nothing is on fire. The smiles and ‘complimeti’ are back.

    As the light fades I’m back in the driving seat for the final set of stamps and the last blast to Brescia. We clear Cremona and the finish is now tantalizingly close. The goal we’ve been working towards, fighting over, arguing about - a simple finish - is a mere 33 miles away. True to form it’s raining again.

    The exhaustion sets in like a bad hangover and the car goes silent. We’re both painfully aware that we’re in the ‘so near and yet so far zone’ and we need to keep the 6c humming to make our allotted time into Brescia. Luckily, the road from Cermona to Brescia is arrow straight and I find my mind wandering to Moss and Jenks, foot buried, pace notes finished, racing flat out to the line, having done what it’s taken us three days to complete in just ten hours…

    We’re pushing the 6c now and sat at 120kmh, which feels like lightspeed when you’re surrounded by 1938 aerodynamics with your path lit by 1938 lights, staring into the distance and trying to pick out which is a white line at the edge of the road, and what is the reflection of some distant light source in a raindrop. It’s almost lethally hypnotic.

    Wave upon wave of all-consuming fatigue hits like a warm, pillowy battering ram, and we fight it off with the reality that get it wrong now and not only will the adventure be over, but we will be too.

    The Brescia city limits sign flashes by.

    “Left here mate, then down to that roundabout and left and then….we’re here”

    “Thanks Co-pilot, awesome job today”

    “Pleasure mate, mind blowing really”

    No sooner have we turned left into Via Venezia than we’re back in the organized chaos that is the queue for the finish. Yet more exemplary Italian organization sees us cross the line at our allotted time, beer in hand, 1000 miles done and dusted. We roll down the ramp, race over and are plunged straight back into the modern world as we get lost in Brescia and have to hook up my iPhone and get it to navigate our way back to the hotel and our awaiting support crew. We did it. It feels like victory.

    The emotions of the Mille are hard to define, it is the most frenetic, frustrating, exhausting, beautiful, life-affirming event it’s possible to imagine. Held in a country that is quite simply the only place in the world with the charisma, organization, beauty and passion to be able to pull it off. It is without question the single greatest way for Italy to showcase all that it’s good at.

    Our personal Mille proves the Alfa brand still commands respect, and with the right product has the potential to go from strength to strength. We lost count of the tens of thousands of people who jumped up and down in excitement as we passed, grandparents reminiscing, fathers nudging their children and passing their infectious enthusiasm onto the next generation. All of them with the words “Alfa, Bella Macchina” forming on theirs lips as we passed. The 6c was a quite incredible way to experience that passion at all the corners of the country.

    As for Co-pilot, to compete in the Mille Miglia is an unbelievable honour; to compete in a works Alfa team with your father (life’s co-pilot) at your side was an indescribable pleasure, even when we didn’t know where we were going or what the time was. The cliché has it that the Mille is made up of a thousand miles and a thousand smiles. The scale of that understatement is staggering.

    A thousand miles, countless smiles and memories that will last for generations to come is more like it. Thank you Alfa, thank you Italy.

  14. Mille Miglia Day 3: Rome - Brescia 492 Miles

    Four hours in bed is just enough time for your body to think that you’re making an attempt at catching up on your lack of sleep and for it to slip into a deep comatose state. It is a terrible lie. The alarm finds me still slightly beaten up from the day before. Day three of the Mille Miglia beckons, the big one: 492 miles, 24 regularity stages and a route that sees us through Vallelunga, Sienna, Florence, across the Futa and Raticosa passes and onto Bologna, Maranello, Modena, Cremona and finally back to where it all started in Brescia. A day when you need to know where you’re going, when you need to keep hitting all your regularity stages with, erm, regularity, and where above all else, you need to work as a team. Paola?

    “Morning Co-pilot”

    “Morning, Son”

    “Right then dad, last day of the Mille, lets have a blast.”

    “Agreed.”

    The Start at Rome provides another example of Italian organization at it’s best. With 422 cars all vying for position and desperate to hit their allotted start time, the organizers orchestrate the now-familiar highly expensive car drafts and we waft through on the stroke of 6:45. We’re off, with the ancient proverb ringing in our ears: ‘You can’t win the Mille on days one and two, but you can absolutely lose it on day three’. Conscious of this, Co-pilot is driving the 6c and I’m navigator and keeper of the stopwatches.

    We blast out of Rome as the sun lifts in the sky and 6c is transformed from the car we left Brescia with. The pipes have cleared and it’s finally showing its true colours, the straight six pulling hard to our designated 4-4500 redline. What a car. Ok, so its performance feels pedestrian by most modern standards, but in 1938 this was some feat of engineering. The support car is full to the gunwhales with kit and so we’ve spent the last few days driving the 6c with all our baggage on board. Space is becoming even more limited as every town we tour through wants to showcase it’s wares, so that we’re now carrying our combined body weight in pasta, risotto, nougat and mineral water. To maximize performance we could have, should have, left some of it behind, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the event, so we head - fully laden - into the longest day, safe in the knowledge that should anything go wrong, we’re fully equipped to provide an impromptu roadside banquet.

    Rome slips away behind us and our first regularity stage beckons at Vallelunga, the circuit famous for Moto GP and the home favorite, Rossi. Our task today is to average 47.9KPH around the circuit, and to say that it feels odd holding the 6c back to this positively pedestrian speed is an understatement. Still, needs must, and today is more Tortoise than Hare. Eventually we hit the timing beam at our allotted second (not bad) and we’re off and on our way to Sienna.

    Everywhere we go the Alfa is greeted with smiles and shouts from every generation: “Bella Machina, vai vai Brescia” becomes a familiar phrase. As a small an unrepresentative test, it’s clear that the Alfa brand is undiminished in its homeland; all they need now is the product to deliver to their passionate expectation.

    Buoyed by not completely screwing up the first regularity, ‘Team 6c’ and most notably Co-pilot, have discovered that you can drive the 6c harder than we ever thought possible all those hours ago in the car park in Brescia. We storm across picture perfect Tuscan scenery, with the old Alfa loving the gin clear sky and dry roads.

    A fuel stop, another 400 miles worth of smiles and approval from Paola and Alle, and we’re off on a more traditional part of the route. At its inception in 1927, the Mille ran on a number of unpaved ‘white’ roads. To keep the event true to its roots - and infuriate many of the owners of priceless historics - the next special stage takes place on 10km of those unmade white roads. With a surface like a washboard and dust which has the ability to invade every orifice, this stage will make or break the car. Or us.

    “Can you get out, I think we’ve got a puncture” mutters the co-pilot as we draw up to the line.

    I jump out and check but no puncture “No mate, you’re fine.”

    “Its pulling like hell to the right, we should stop.”

    “Lets do this stage then stop at the next town”

    The 6c rattles across the corrugated section, and out to the time control. There’s now such a drag that if you release the wheel the 6c merely turns sharp right. We nurse her to the next fuel stop and radio the support crew…

    “Freni sono multo multo caldi” I explain in terrible Italian to the worried looking Alessandro who sets to work trying to cool the offside front brake drum down and release the - clearly bound solid - brake shoes.

    Co-pilot is looking worried, Paola isn’t smiling anymore and Alesandro is working with an efficiency and calm serenity that only he can deliver. I arrive back to the glowing hot wreckage with a hastily filled watering can, which, Alessandro grabs with a swift “mille grazie”, and promptly pours over the offending drum, engulfing him in steam… For a while we lose Alessandro in the cloud and when he re-emerges, he’s wandering around blindly through his steamed glasses muttering, ‘Too much brake, toooooo much brake’

    “You drive now, not Co-pilot…”

    This requires careful sales patter, but with some diplomacy I manage to persuade Co-pilot that the next section is boring and it would be better if he took a rest and looked out of the window, all the better able to enjoy the full glory of Sienna.

    We depart, Alessandro looking concerned and Paola’s smile wattage severely reduced. I make a mental note to see if I can get to Sienna without touching the brakes.

    Sienna delivers in style with an Alfa fan base ten deep, and all shouting and waving and willing the 6c to Brescia. At Florence we catch up with Sir Chris Hoy and Le Mans legend Andy Wallace in their XK120 in the traffic. They’re clearly having a blast and we helpfully teach them a few Italian phrases that are sure to make the home leg more eventful.

    Sorry, chaps. With the Italian for beginners lesson complete, we stick to Wallace as he threads the XK120 gracefully through the Florentine traffic and on towards the legendary Futa and Raticossa passes.

    Worth noting here that ‘we’ have successfully managed not to set fire to the brakes again (mostly because we haven’t used them), but more notably because Alessandro has slackened the front shoes off leaving the rears to do more (see all) of the work. This makes for ‘interesting’ braking performance.

    Another fuel stop and Co-pilot is back in the driving seat as we head to the Italian petrolhead heartland, and Ferrari. The usually fortified gates are open and we drive the 6c through and into the heart and soul of the Prancing Horse, past the wind tunnel and down past the assembly lines and out through the historical gates. Out and down to Fiorano, Ferrari’s backyard test track. And another time trial. Oh God.

    It seems incredibly odd, driving the 6c around hallowed turf (not literally) where Lauda made his comeback, Schumacher invented his favorite pasta dish and more recently Alonso honed LaFerrari, but Co-pilot is living the dream, we break the beam and we’re done and off to Cremona…

    A final fuel stop and the support team are pleased to see nothing is on fire. The smiles and ‘complimeti’ are back.

    As the light fades I’m back in the driving seat for the final set of stamps and the last blast to Brescia. We clear Cremona and the finish is now tantalizingly close. The goal we’ve been working towards, fighting over, arguing about - a simple finish - is a mere 33 miles away. True to form it’s raining again.

    The exhaustion sets in like a bad hangover and the car goes silent. We’re both painfully aware that we’re in the ‘so near and yet so far zone’ and we need to keep the 6c humming to make our allotted time into Brescia. Luckily, the road from Cermona to Brescia is arrow straight and I find my mind wandering to Moss and Jenks, foot buried, pace notes finished, racing flat out to the line, having done what it’s taken us three days to complete in just ten hours…

    We’re pushing the 6c now and sat at 120kmh, which feels like lightspeed when you’re surrounded by 1938 aerodynamics with your path lit by 1938 lights, staring into the distance and trying to pick out which is a white line at the edge of the road, and what is the reflection of some distant light source in a raindrop. It’s almost lethally hypnotic.

    Wave upon wave of all-consuming fatigue hits like a warm, pillowy battering ram, and we fight it off with the reality that get it wrong now and not only will the adventure be over, but we will be too.

    The Brescia city limits sign flashes by.

    “Left here mate, then down to that roundabout and left and then….we’re here”

    “Thanks Co-pilot, awesome job today”

    “Pleasure mate, mind blowing really”

    No sooner have we turned left into Via Venezia than we’re back in the organized chaos that is the queue for the finish. Yet more exemplary Italian organization sees us cross the line at our allotted time, beer in hand, 1000 miles done and dusted. We roll down the ramp, race over and are plunged straight back into the modern world as we get lost in Brescia and have to hook up my iPhone and get it to navigate our way back to the hotel and our awaiting support crew. We did it. It feels like victory.

    The emotions of the Mille are hard to define, it is the most frenetic, frustrating, exhausting, beautiful, life-affirming event it’s possible to imagine. Held in a country that is quite simply the only place in the world with the charisma, organization, beauty and passion to be able to pull it off. It is without question the single greatest way for Italy to showcase all that it’s good at.

    Our personal Mille proves the Alfa brand still commands respect, and with the right product has the potential to go from strength to strength. We lost count of the tens of thousands of people who jumped up and down in excitement as we passed, grandparents reminiscing, fathers nudging their children and passing their infectious enthusiasm onto the next generation. All of them with the words “Alfa, Bella Macchina” forming on theirs lips as we passed. The 6c was a quite incredible way to experience that passion at all the corners of the country.

    As for Co-pilot, to compete in the Mille Miglia is an unbelievable honour; to compete in a works Alfa team with your father (life’s co-pilot) at your side was an indescribable pleasure, even when we didn’t know where we were going or what the time was. The cliché has it that the Mille is made up of a thousand miles and a thousand smiles. The scale of that understatement is staggering.

    A thousand miles, countless smiles and memories that will last for generations to come is more like it. Thank you Alfa, thank you Italy.

  15. Mille Miglia Day 3: Rome - Brescia 492 Miles

    Four hours in bed is just enough time for your body to think that you’re making an attempt at catching up on your lack of sleep and for it to slip into a deep comatose state. It is a terrible lie. The alarm finds me still slightly beaten up from the day before. Day three of the Mille Miglia beckons, the big one: 492 miles, 24 regularity stages and a route that sees us through Vallelunga, Sienna, Florence, across the Futa and Raticosa passes and onto Bologna, Maranello, Modena, Cremona and finally back to where it all started in Brescia. A day when you need to know where you’re going, when you need to keep hitting all your regularity stages with, erm, regularity, and where above all else, you need to work as a team. Paola?

    “Morning Co-pilot”

    “Morning, Son”

    “Right then dad, last day of the Mille, lets have a blast.”

    “Agreed.”

    The Start at Rome provides another example of Italian organization at it’s best. With 422 cars all vying for position and desperate to hit their allotted start time, the organizers orchestrate the now-familiar highly expensive car drafts and we waft through on the stroke of 6:45. We’re off, with the ancient proverb ringing in our ears: ‘You can’t win the Mille on days one and two, but you can absolutely lose it on day three’. Conscious of this, Co-pilot is driving the 6c and I’m navigator and keeper of the stopwatches.

    We blast out of Rome as the sun lifts in the sky and 6c is transformed from the car we left Brescia with. The pipes have cleared and it’s finally showing its true colours, the straight six pulling hard to our designated 4-4500 redline. What a car. Ok, so its performance feels pedestrian by most modern standards, but in 1938 this was some feat of engineering. The support car is full to the gunwhales with kit and so we’ve spent the last few days driving the 6c with all our baggage on board. Space is becoming even more limited as every town we tour through wants to showcase it’s wares, so that we’re now carrying our combined body weight in pasta, risotto, nougat and mineral water. To maximize performance we could have, should have, left some of it behind, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the event, so we head - fully laden - into the longest day, safe in the knowledge that should anything go wrong, we’re fully equipped to provide an impromptu roadside banquet.

    Rome slips away behind us and our first regularity stage beckons at Vallelunga, the circuit famous for Moto GP and the home favorite, Rossi. Our task today is to average 47.9KPH around the circuit, and to say that it feels odd holding the 6c back to this positively pedestrian speed is an understatement. Still, needs must, and today is more Tortoise than Hare. Eventually we hit the timing beam at our allotted second (not bad) and we’re off and on our way to Sienna.

    Everywhere we go the Alfa is greeted with smiles and shouts from every generation: “Bella Machina, vai vai Brescia” becomes a familiar phrase. As a small an unrepresentative test, it’s clear that the Alfa brand is undiminished in its homeland; all they need now is the product to deliver to their passionate expectation.

    Buoyed by not completely screwing up the first regularity, ‘Team 6c’ and most notably Co-pilot, have discovered that you can drive the 6c harder than we ever thought possible all those hours ago in the car park in Brescia. We storm across picture perfect Tuscan scenery, with the old Alfa loving the gin clear sky and dry roads.

    A fuel stop, another 400 miles worth of smiles and approval from Paola and Alle, and we’re off on a more traditional part of the route. At its inception in 1927, the Mille ran on a number of unpaved ‘white’ roads. To keep the event true to its roots - and infuriate many of the owners of priceless historics - the next special stage takes place on 10km of those unmade white roads. With a surface like a washboard and dust which has the ability to invade every orifice, this stage will make or break the car. Or us.

    “Can you get out, I think we’ve got a puncture” mutters the co-pilot as we draw up to the line.

    I jump out and check but no puncture “No mate, you’re fine.”

    “Its pulling like hell to the right, we should stop.”

    “Lets do this stage then stop at the next town”

    The 6c rattles across the corrugated section, and out to the time control. There’s now such a drag that if you release the wheel the 6c merely turns sharp right. We nurse her to the next fuel stop and radio the support crew…

    “Freni sono multo multo caldi” I explain in terrible Italian to the worried looking Alessandro who sets to work trying to cool the offside front brake drum down and release the - clearly bound solid - brake shoes.

    Co-pilot is looking worried, Paola isn’t smiling anymore and Alesandro is working with an efficiency and calm serenity that only he can deliver. I arrive back to the glowing hot wreckage with a hastily filled watering can, which, Alessandro grabs with a swift “mille grazie”, and promptly pours over the offending drum, engulfing him in steam… For a while we lose Alessandro in the cloud and when he re-emerges, he’s wandering around blindly through his steamed glasses muttering, ‘Too much brake, toooooo much brake’

    “You drive now, not Co-pilot…”

    This requires careful sales patter, but with some diplomacy I manage to persuade Co-pilot that the next section is boring and it would be better if he took a rest and looked out of the window, all the better able to enjoy the full glory of Sienna.

    We depart, Alessandro looking concerned and Paola’s smile wattage severely reduced. I make a mental note to see if I can get to Sienna without touching the brakes.

    Sienna delivers in style with an Alfa fan base ten deep, and all shouting and waving and willing the 6c to Brescia. At Florence we catch up with Sir Chris Hoy and Le Mans legend Andy Wallace in their XK120 in the traffic. They’re clearly having a blast and we helpfully teach them a few Italian phrases that are sure to make the home leg more eventful.

    Sorry, chaps. With the Italian for beginners lesson complete, we stick to Wallace as he threads the XK120 gracefully through the Florentine traffic and on towards the legendary Futa and Raticossa passes.

    Worth noting here that ‘we’ have successfully managed not to set fire to the brakes again (mostly because we haven’t used them), but more notably because Alessandro has slackened the front shoes off leaving the rears to do more (see all) of the work. This makes for ‘interesting’ braking performance.

    Another fuel stop and Co-pilot is back in the driving seat as we head to the Italian petrolhead heartland, and Ferrari. The usually fortified gates are open and we drive the 6c through and into the heart and soul of the Prancing Horse, past the wind tunnel and down past the assembly lines and out through the historical gates. Out and down to Fiorano, Ferrari’s backyard test track. And another time trial. Oh God.

    It seems incredibly odd, driving the 6c around hallowed turf (not literally) where Lauda made his comeback, Schumacher invented his favorite pasta dish and more recently Alonso honed LaFerrari, but Co-pilot is living the dream, we break the beam and we’re done and off to Cremona…

    A final fuel stop and the support team are pleased to see nothing is on fire. The smiles and ‘complimeti’ are back.

    As the light fades I’m back in the driving seat for the final set of stamps and the last blast to Brescia. We clear Cremona and the finish is now tantalizingly close. The goal we’ve been working towards, fighting over, arguing about - a simple finish - is a mere 33 miles away. True to form it’s raining again.

    The exhaustion sets in like a bad hangover and the car goes silent. We’re both painfully aware that we’re in the ‘so near and yet so far zone’ and we need to keep the 6c humming to make our allotted time into Brescia. Luckily, the road from Cermona to Brescia is arrow straight and I find my mind wandering to Moss and Jenks, foot buried, pace notes finished, racing flat out to the line, having done what it’s taken us three days to complete in just ten hours…

    We’re pushing the 6c now and sat at 120kmh, which feels like lightspeed when you’re surrounded by 1938 aerodynamics with your path lit by 1938 lights, staring into the distance and trying to pick out which is a white line at the edge of the road, and what is the reflection of some distant light source in a raindrop. It’s almost lethally hypnotic.

    Wave upon wave of all-consuming fatigue hits like a warm, pillowy battering ram, and we fight it off with the reality that get it wrong now and not only will the adventure be over, but we will be too.

    The Brescia city limits sign flashes by.

    “Left here mate, then down to that roundabout and left and then….we’re here”

    “Thanks Co-pilot, awesome job today”

    “Pleasure mate, mind blowing really”

    No sooner have we turned left into Via Venezia than we’re back in the organized chaos that is the queue for the finish. Yet more exemplary Italian organization sees us cross the line at our allotted time, beer in hand, 1000 miles done and dusted. We roll down the ramp, race over and are plunged straight back into the modern world as we get lost in Brescia and have to hook up my iPhone and get it to navigate our way back to the hotel and our awaiting support crew. We did it. It feels like victory.

    The emotions of the Mille are hard to define, it is the most frenetic, frustrating, exhausting, beautiful, life-affirming event it’s possible to imagine. Held in a country that is quite simply the only place in the world with the charisma, organization, beauty and passion to be able to pull it off. It is without question the single greatest way for Italy to showcase all that it’s good at.

    Our personal Mille proves the Alfa brand still commands respect, and with the right product has the potential to go from strength to strength. We lost count of the tens of thousands of people who jumped up and down in excitement as we passed, grandparents reminiscing, fathers nudging their children and passing their infectious enthusiasm onto the next generation. All of them with the words “Alfa, Bella Macchina” forming on theirs lips as we passed. The 6c was a quite incredible way to experience that passion at all the corners of the country.

    As for Co-pilot, to compete in the Mille Miglia is an unbelievable honour; to compete in a works Alfa team with your father (life’s co-pilot) at your side was an indescribable pleasure, even when we didn’t know where we were going or what the time was. The cliché has it that the Mille is made up of a thousand miles and a thousand smiles. The scale of that understatement is staggering.

    A thousand miles, countless smiles and memories that will last for generations to come is more like it. Thank you Alfa, thank you Italy.

  16. Mille Miglia Day 3: Rome - Brescia 492 Miles

    Four hours in bed is just enough time for your body to think that you’re making an attempt at catching up on your lack of sleep and for it to slip into a deep comatose state. It is a terrible lie. The alarm finds me still slightly beaten up from the day before. Day three of the Mille Miglia beckons, the big one: 492 miles, 24 regularity stages and a route that sees us through Vallelunga, Sienna, Florence, across the Futa and Raticosa passes and onto Bologna, Maranello, Modena, Cremona and finally back to where it all started in Brescia. A day when you need to know where you’re going, when you need to keep hitting all your regularity stages with, erm, regularity, and where above all else, you need to work as a team. Paola?

    “Morning Co-pilot”

    “Morning, Son”

    “Right then dad, last day of the Mille, lets have a blast.”

    “Agreed.”

    The Start at Rome provides another example of Italian organization at it’s best. With 422 cars all vying for position and desperate to hit their allotted start time, the organizers orchestrate the now-familiar highly expensive car drafts and we waft through on the stroke of 6:45. We’re off, with the ancient proverb ringing in our ears: ‘You can’t win the Mille on days one and two, but you can absolutely lose it on day three’. Conscious of this, Co-pilot is driving the 6c and I’m navigator and keeper of the stopwatches.

    We blast out of Rome as the sun lifts in the sky and 6c is transformed from the car we left Brescia with. The pipes have cleared and it’s finally showing its true colours, the straight six pulling hard to our designated 4-4500 redline. What a car. Ok, so its performance feels pedestrian by most modern standards, but in 1938 this was some feat of engineering. The support car is full to the gunwhales with kit and so we’ve spent the last few days driving the 6c with all our baggage on board. Space is becoming even more limited as every town we tour through wants to showcase it’s wares, so that we’re now carrying our combined body weight in pasta, risotto, nougat and mineral water. To maximize performance we could have, should have, left some of it behind, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the event, so we head - fully laden - into the longest day, safe in the knowledge that should anything go wrong, we’re fully equipped to provide an impromptu roadside banquet.

    Rome slips away behind us and our first regularity stage beckons at Vallelunga, the circuit famous for Moto GP and the home favorite, Rossi. Our task today is to average 47.9KPH around the circuit, and to say that it feels odd holding the 6c back to this positively pedestrian speed is an understatement. Still, needs must, and today is more Tortoise than Hare. Eventually we hit the timing beam at our allotted second (not bad) and we’re off and on our way to Sienna.

    Everywhere we go the Alfa is greeted with smiles and shouts from every generation: “Bella Machina, vai vai Brescia” becomes a familiar phrase. As a small an unrepresentative test, it’s clear that the Alfa brand is undiminished in its homeland; all they need now is the product to deliver to their passionate expectation.

    Buoyed by not completely screwing up the first regularity, ‘Team 6c’ and most notably Co-pilot, have discovered that you can drive the 6c harder than we ever thought possible all those hours ago in the car park in Brescia. We storm across picture perfect Tuscan scenery, with the old Alfa loving the gin clear sky and dry roads.

    A fuel stop, another 400 miles worth of smiles and approval from Paola and Alle, and we’re off on a more traditional part of the route. At its inception in 1927, the Mille ran on a number of unpaved ‘white’ roads. To keep the event true to its roots - and infuriate many of the owners of priceless historics - the next special stage takes place on 10km of those unmade white roads. With a surface like a washboard and dust which has the ability to invade every orifice, this stage will make or break the car. Or us.

    “Can you get out, I think we’ve got a puncture” mutters the co-pilot as we draw up to the line.

    I jump out and check but no puncture “No mate, you’re fine.”

    “Its pulling like hell to the right, we should stop.”

    “Lets do this stage then stop at the next town”

    The 6c rattles across the corrugated section, and out to the time control. There’s now such a drag that if you release the wheel the 6c merely turns sharp right. We nurse her to the next fuel stop and radio the support crew…

    “Freni sono multo multo caldi” I explain in terrible Italian to the worried looking Alessandro who sets to work trying to cool the offside front brake drum down and release the - clearly bound solid - brake shoes.

    Co-pilot is looking worried, Paola isn’t smiling anymore and Alesandro is working with an efficiency and calm serenity that only he can deliver. I arrive back to the glowing hot wreckage with a hastily filled watering can, which, Alessandro grabs with a swift “mille grazie”, and promptly pours over the offending drum, engulfing him in steam… For a while we lose Alessandro in the cloud and when he re-emerges, he’s wandering around blindly through his steamed glasses muttering, ‘Too much brake, toooooo much brake’

    “You drive now, not Co-pilot…”

    This requires careful sales patter, but with some diplomacy I manage to persuade Co-pilot that the next section is boring and it would be better if he took a rest and looked out of the window, all the better able to enjoy the full glory of Sienna.

    We depart, Alessandro looking concerned and Paola’s smile wattage severely reduced. I make a mental note to see if I can get to Sienna without touching the brakes.

    Sienna delivers in style with an Alfa fan base ten deep, and all shouting and waving and willing the 6c to Brescia. At Florence we catch up with Sir Chris Hoy and Le Mans legend Andy Wallace in their XK120 in the traffic. They’re clearly having a blast and we helpfully teach them a few Italian phrases that are sure to make the home leg more eventful.

    Sorry, chaps. With the Italian for beginners lesson complete, we stick to Wallace as he threads the XK120 gracefully through the Florentine traffic and on towards the legendary Futa and Raticossa passes.

    Worth noting here that ‘we’ have successfully managed not to set fire to the brakes again (mostly because we haven’t used them), but more notably because Alessandro has slackened the front shoes off leaving the rears to do more (see all) of the work. This makes for ‘interesting’ braking performance.

    Another fuel stop and Co-pilot is back in the driving seat as we head to the Italian petrolhead heartland, and Ferrari. The usually fortified gates are open and we drive the 6c through and into the heart and soul of the Prancing Horse, past the wind tunnel and down past the assembly lines and out through the historical gates. Out and down to Fiorano, Ferrari’s backyard test track. And another time trial. Oh God.

    It seems incredibly odd, driving the 6c around hallowed turf (not literally) where Lauda made his comeback, Schumacher invented his favorite pasta dish and more recently Alonso honed LaFerrari, but Co-pilot is living the dream, we break the beam and we’re done and off to Cremona…

    A final fuel stop and the support team are pleased to see nothing is on fire. The smiles and ‘complimeti’ are back.

    As the light fades I’m back in the driving seat for the final set of stamps and the last blast to Brescia. We clear Cremona and the finish is now tantalizingly close. The goal we’ve been working towards, fighting over, arguing about - a simple finish - is a mere 33 miles away. True to form it’s raining again.

    The exhaustion sets in like a bad hangover and the car goes silent. We’re both painfully aware that we’re in the ‘so near and yet so far zone’ and we need to keep the 6c humming to make our allotted time into Brescia. Luckily, the road from Cermona to Brescia is arrow straight and I find my mind wandering to Moss and Jenks, foot buried, pace notes finished, racing flat out to the line, having done what it’s taken us three days to complete in just ten hours…

    We’re pushing the 6c now and sat at 120kmh, which feels like lightspeed when you’re surrounded by 1938 aerodynamics with your path lit by 1938 lights, staring into the distance and trying to pick out which is a white line at the edge of the road, and what is the reflection of some distant light source in a raindrop. It’s almost lethally hypnotic.

    Wave upon wave of all-consuming fatigue hits like a warm, pillowy battering ram, and we fight it off with the reality that get it wrong now and not only will the adventure be over, but we will be too.

    The Brescia city limits sign flashes by.

    “Left here mate, then down to that roundabout and left and then….we’re here”

    “Thanks Co-pilot, awesome job today”

    “Pleasure mate, mind blowing really”

    No sooner have we turned left into Via Venezia than we’re back in the organized chaos that is the queue for the finish. Yet more exemplary Italian organization sees us cross the line at our allotted time, beer in hand, 1000 miles done and dusted. We roll down the ramp, race over and are plunged straight back into the modern world as we get lost in Brescia and have to hook up my iPhone and get it to navigate our way back to the hotel and our awaiting support crew. We did it. It feels like victory.

    The emotions of the Mille are hard to define, it is the most frenetic, frustrating, exhausting, beautiful, life-affirming event it’s possible to imagine. Held in a country that is quite simply the only place in the world with the charisma, organization, beauty and passion to be able to pull it off. It is without question the single greatest way for Italy to showcase all that it’s good at.

    Our personal Mille proves the Alfa brand still commands respect, and with the right product has the potential to go from strength to strength. We lost count of the tens of thousands of people who jumped up and down in excitement as we passed, grandparents reminiscing, fathers nudging their children and passing their infectious enthusiasm onto the next generation. All of them with the words “Alfa, Bella Macchina” forming on theirs lips as we passed. The 6c was a quite incredible way to experience that passion at all the corners of the country.

    As for Co-pilot, to compete in the Mille Miglia is an unbelievable honour; to compete in a works Alfa team with your father (life’s co-pilot) at your side was an indescribable pleasure, even when we didn’t know where we were going or what the time was. The cliché has it that the Mille is made up of a thousand miles and a thousand smiles. The scale of that understatement is staggering.

    A thousand miles, countless smiles and memories that will last for generations to come is more like it. Thank you Alfa, thank you Italy.

  17. Mille Miglia Day 3: Rome - Brescia 492 Miles

    Four hours in bed is just enough time for your body to think that you’re making an attempt at catching up on your lack of sleep and for it to slip into a deep comatose state. It is a terrible lie. The alarm finds me still slightly beaten up from the day before. Day three of the Mille Miglia beckons, the big one: 492 miles, 24 regularity stages and a route that sees us through Vallelunga, Sienna, Florence, across the Futa and Raticosa passes and onto Bologna, Maranello, Modena, Cremona and finally back to where it all started in Brescia. A day when you need to know where you’re going, when you need to keep hitting all your regularity stages with, erm, regularity, and where above all else, you need to work as a team. Paola?

    “Morning Co-pilot”

    “Morning, Son”

    “Right then dad, last day of the Mille, lets have a blast.”

    “Agreed.”

    The Start at Rome provides another example of Italian organization at it’s best. With 422 cars all vying for position and desperate to hit their allotted start time, the organizers orchestrate the now-familiar highly expensive car drafts and we waft through on the stroke of 6:45. We’re off, with the ancient proverb ringing in our ears: ‘You can’t win the Mille on days one and two, but you can absolutely lose it on day three’. Conscious of this, Co-pilot is driving the 6c and I’m navigator and keeper of the stopwatches.

    We blast out of Rome as the sun lifts in the sky and 6c is transformed from the car we left Brescia with. The pipes have cleared and it’s finally showing its true colours, the straight six pulling hard to our designated 4-4500 redline. What a car. Ok, so its performance feels pedestrian by most modern standards, but in 1938 this was some feat of engineering. The support car is full to the gunwhales with kit and so we’ve spent the last few days driving the 6c with all our baggage on board. Space is becoming even more limited as every town we tour through wants to showcase it’s wares, so that we’re now carrying our combined body weight in pasta, risotto, nougat and mineral water. To maximize performance we could have, should have, left some of it behind, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the event, so we head - fully laden - into the longest day, safe in the knowledge that should anything go wrong, we’re fully equipped to provide an impromptu roadside banquet.

    Rome slips away behind us and our first regularity stage beckons at Vallelunga, the circuit famous for Moto GP and the home favorite, Rossi. Our task today is to average 47.9KPH around the circuit, and to say that it feels odd holding the 6c back to this positively pedestrian speed is an understatement. Still, needs must, and today is more Tortoise than Hare. Eventually we hit the timing beam at our allotted second (not bad) and we’re off and on our way to Sienna.

    Everywhere we go the Alfa is greeted with smiles and shouts from every generation: “Bella Machina, vai vai Brescia” becomes a familiar phrase. As a small an unrepresentative test, it’s clear that the Alfa brand is undiminished in its homeland; all they need now is the product to deliver to their passionate expectation.

    Buoyed by not completely screwing up the first regularity, ‘Team 6c’ and most notably Co-pilot, have discovered that you can drive the 6c harder than we ever thought possible all those hours ago in the car park in Brescia. We storm across picture perfect Tuscan scenery, with the old Alfa loving the gin clear sky and dry roads.

    A fuel stop, another 400 miles worth of smiles and approval from Paola and Alle, and we’re off on a more traditional part of the route. At its inception in 1927, the Mille ran on a number of unpaved ‘white’ roads. To keep the event true to its roots - and infuriate many of the owners of priceless historics - the next special stage takes place on 10km of those unmade white roads. With a surface like a washboard and dust which has the ability to invade every orifice, this stage will make or break the car. Or us.

    “Can you get out, I think we’ve got a puncture” mutters the co-pilot as we draw up to the line.

    I jump out and check but no puncture “No mate, you’re fine.”

    “Its pulling like hell to the right, we should stop.”

    “Lets do this stage then stop at the next town”

    The 6c rattles across the corrugated section, and out to the time control. There’s now such a drag that if you release the wheel the 6c merely turns sharp right. We nurse her to the next fuel stop and radio the support crew…

    “Freni sono multo multo caldi” I explain in terrible Italian to the worried looking Alessandro who sets to work trying to cool the offside front brake drum down and release the - clearly bound solid - brake shoes.

    Co-pilot is looking worried, Paola isn’t smiling anymore and Alesandro is working with an efficiency and calm serenity that only he can deliver. I arrive back to the glowing hot wreckage with a hastily filled watering can, which, Alessandro grabs with a swift “mille grazie”, and promptly pours over the offending drum, engulfing him in steam… For a while we lose Alessandro in the cloud and when he re-emerges, he’s wandering around blindly through his steamed glasses muttering, ‘Too much brake, toooooo much brake’

    “You drive now, not Co-pilot…”

    This requires careful sales patter, but with some diplomacy I manage to persuade Co-pilot that the next section is boring and it would be better if he took a rest and looked out of the window, all the better able to enjoy the full glory of Sienna.

    We depart, Alessandro looking concerned and Paola’s smile wattage severely reduced. I make a mental note to see if I can get to Sienna without touching the brakes.

    Sienna delivers in style with an Alfa fan base ten deep, and all shouting and waving and willing the 6c to Brescia. At Florence we catch up with Sir Chris Hoy and Le Mans legend Andy Wallace in their XK120 in the traffic. They’re clearly having a blast and we helpfully teach them a few Italian phrases that are sure to make the home leg more eventful.

    Sorry, chaps. With the Italian for beginners lesson complete, we stick to Wallace as he threads the XK120 gracefully through the Florentine traffic and on towards the legendary Futa and Raticossa passes.

    Worth noting here that ‘we’ have successfully managed not to set fire to the brakes again (mostly because we haven’t used them), but more notably because Alessandro has slackened the front shoes off leaving the rears to do more (see all) of the work. This makes for ‘interesting’ braking performance.

    Another fuel stop and Co-pilot is back in the driving seat as we head to the Italian petrolhead heartland, and Ferrari. The usually fortified gates are open and we drive the 6c through and into the heart and soul of the Prancing Horse, past the wind tunnel and down past the assembly lines and out through the historical gates. Out and down to Fiorano, Ferrari’s backyard test track. And another time trial. Oh God.

    It seems incredibly odd, driving the 6c around hallowed turf (not literally) where Lauda made his comeback, Schumacher invented his favorite pasta dish and more recently Alonso honed LaFerrari, but Co-pilot is living the dream, we break the beam and we’re done and off to Cremona…

    A final fuel stop and the support team are pleased to see nothing is on fire. The smiles and ‘complimeti’ are back.

    As the light fades I’m back in the driving seat for the final set of stamps and the last blast to Brescia. We clear Cremona and the finish is now tantalizingly close. The goal we’ve been working towards, fighting over, arguing about - a simple finish - is a mere 33 miles away. True to form it’s raining again.

    The exhaustion sets in like a bad hangover and the car goes silent. We’re both painfully aware that we’re in the ‘so near and yet so far zone’ and we need to keep the 6c humming to make our allotted time into Brescia. Luckily, the road from Cermona to Brescia is arrow straight and I find my mind wandering to Moss and Jenks, foot buried, pace notes finished, racing flat out to the line, having done what it’s taken us three days to complete in just ten hours…

    We’re pushing the 6c now and sat at 120kmh, which feels like lightspeed when you’re surrounded by 1938 aerodynamics with your path lit by 1938 lights, staring into the distance and trying to pick out which is a white line at the edge of the road, and what is the reflection of some distant light source in a raindrop. It’s almost lethally hypnotic.

    Wave upon wave of all-consuming fatigue hits like a warm, pillowy battering ram, and we fight it off with the reality that get it wrong now and not only will the adventure be over, but we will be too.

    The Brescia city limits sign flashes by.

    “Left here mate, then down to that roundabout and left and then….we’re here”

    “Thanks Co-pilot, awesome job today”

    “Pleasure mate, mind blowing really”

    No sooner have we turned left into Via Venezia than we’re back in the organized chaos that is the queue for the finish. Yet more exemplary Italian organization sees us cross the line at our allotted time, beer in hand, 1000 miles done and dusted. We roll down the ramp, race over and are plunged straight back into the modern world as we get lost in Brescia and have to hook up my iPhone and get it to navigate our way back to the hotel and our awaiting support crew. We did it. It feels like victory.

    The emotions of the Mille are hard to define, it is the most frenetic, frustrating, exhausting, beautiful, life-affirming event it’s possible to imagine. Held in a country that is quite simply the only place in the world with the charisma, organization, beauty and passion to be able to pull it off. It is without question the single greatest way for Italy to showcase all that it’s good at.

    Our personal Mille proves the Alfa brand still commands respect, and with the right product has the potential to go from strength to strength. We lost count of the tens of thousands of people who jumped up and down in excitement as we passed, grandparents reminiscing, fathers nudging their children and passing their infectious enthusiasm onto the next generation. All of them with the words “Alfa, Bella Macchina” forming on theirs lips as we passed. The 6c was a quite incredible way to experience that passion at all the corners of the country.

    As for Co-pilot, to compete in the Mille Miglia is an unbelievable honour; to compete in a works Alfa team with your father (life’s co-pilot) at your side was an indescribable pleasure, even when we didn’t know where we were going or what the time was. The cliché has it that the Mille is made up of a thousand miles and a thousand smiles. The scale of that understatement is staggering.

    A thousand miles, countless smiles and memories that will last for generations to come is more like it. Thank you Alfa, thank you Italy.

  18. Mille Miglia Day 3: Rome - Brescia 492 Miles

    Four hours in bed is just enough time for your body to think that you’re making an attempt at catching up on your lack of sleep and for it to slip into a deep comatose state. It is a terrible lie. The alarm finds me still slightly beaten up from the day before. Day three of the Mille Miglia beckons, the big one: 492 miles, 24 regularity stages and a route that sees us through Vallelunga, Sienna, Florence, across the Futa and Raticosa passes and onto Bologna, Maranello, Modena, Cremona and finally back to where it all started in Brescia. A day when you need to know where you’re going, when you need to keep hitting all your regularity stages with, erm, regularity, and where above all else, you need to work as a team. Paola?

    “Morning Co-pilot”

    “Morning, Son”

    “Right then dad, last day of the Mille, lets have a blast.”

    “Agreed.”

    The Start at Rome provides another example of Italian organization at it’s best. With 422 cars all vying for position and desperate to hit their allotted start time, the organizers orchestrate the now-familiar highly expensive car drafts and we waft through on the stroke of 6:45. We’re off, with the ancient proverb ringing in our ears: ‘You can’t win the Mille on days one and two, but you can absolutely lose it on day three’. Conscious of this, Co-pilot is driving the 6c and I’m navigator and keeper of the stopwatches.

    We blast out of Rome as the sun lifts in the sky and 6c is transformed from the car we left Brescia with. The pipes have cleared and it’s finally showing its true colours, the straight six pulling hard to our designated 4-4500 redline. What a car. Ok, so its performance feels pedestrian by most modern standards, but in 1938 this was some feat of engineering. The support car is full to the gunwhales with kit and so we’ve spent the last few days driving the 6c with all our baggage on board. Space is becoming even more limited as every town we tour through wants to showcase it’s wares, so that we’re now carrying our combined body weight in pasta, risotto, nougat and mineral water. To maximize performance we could have, should have, left some of it behind, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the event, so we head - fully laden - into the longest day, safe in the knowledge that should anything go wrong, we’re fully equipped to provide an impromptu roadside banquet.

    Rome slips away behind us and our first regularity stage beckons at Vallelunga, the circuit famous for Moto GP and the home favorite, Rossi. Our task today is to average 47.9KPH around the circuit, and to say that it feels odd holding the 6c back to this positively pedestrian speed is an understatement. Still, needs must, and today is more Tortoise than Hare. Eventually we hit the timing beam at our allotted second (not bad) and we’re off and on our way to Sienna.

    Everywhere we go the Alfa is greeted with smiles and shouts from every generation: “Bella Machina, vai vai Brescia” becomes a familiar phrase. As a small an unrepresentative test, it’s clear that the Alfa brand is undiminished in its homeland; all they need now is the product to deliver to their passionate expectation.

    Buoyed by not completely screwing up the first regularity, ‘Team 6c’ and most notably Co-pilot, have discovered that you can drive the 6c harder than we ever thought possible all those hours ago in the car park in Brescia. We storm across picture perfect Tuscan scenery, with the old Alfa loving the gin clear sky and dry roads.

    A fuel stop, another 400 miles worth of smiles and approval from Paola and Alle, and we’re off on a more traditional part of the route. At its inception in 1927, the Mille ran on a number of unpaved ‘white’ roads. To keep the event true to its roots - and infuriate many of the owners of priceless historics - the next special stage takes place on 10km of those unmade white roads. With a surface like a washboard and dust which has the ability to invade every orifice, this stage will make or break the car. Or us.

    “Can you get out, I think we’ve got a puncture” mutters the co-pilot as we draw up to the line.

    I jump out and check but no puncture “No mate, you’re fine.”

    “Its pulling like hell to the right, we should stop.”

    “Lets do this stage then stop at the next town”

    The 6c rattles across the corrugated section, and out to the time control. There’s now such a drag that if you release the wheel the 6c merely turns sharp right. We nurse her to the next fuel stop and radio the support crew…

    “Freni sono multo multo caldi” I explain in terrible Italian to the worried looking Alessandro who sets to work trying to cool the offside front brake drum down and release the - clearly bound solid - brake shoes.

    Co-pilot is looking worried, Paola isn’t smiling anymore and Alesandro is working with an efficiency and calm serenity that only he can deliver. I arrive back to the glowing hot wreckage with a hastily filled watering can, which, Alessandro grabs with a swift “mille grazie”, and promptly pours over the offending drum, engulfing him in steam… For a while we lose Alessandro in the cloud and when he re-emerges, he’s wandering around blindly through his steamed glasses muttering, ‘Too much brake, toooooo much brake’

    “You drive now, not Co-pilot…”

    This requires careful sales patter, but with some diplomacy I manage to persuade Co-pilot that the next section is boring and it would be better if he took a rest and looked out of the window, all the better able to enjoy the full glory of Sienna.

    We depart, Alessandro looking concerned and Paola’s smile wattage severely reduced. I make a mental note to see if I can get to Sienna without touching the brakes.

    Sienna delivers in style with an Alfa fan base ten deep, and all shouting and waving and willing the 6c to Brescia. At Florence we catch up with Sir Chris Hoy and Le Mans legend Andy Wallace in their XK120 in the traffic. They’re clearly having a blast and we helpfully teach them a few Italian phrases that are sure to make the home leg more eventful.

    Sorry, chaps. With the Italian for beginners lesson complete, we stick to Wallace as he threads the XK120 gracefully through the Florentine traffic and on towards the legendary Futa and Raticossa passes.

    Worth noting here that ‘we’ have successfully managed not to set fire to the brakes again (mostly because we haven’t used them), but more notably because Alessandro has slackened the front shoes off leaving the rears to do more (see all) of the work. This makes for ‘interesting’ braking performance.

    Another fuel stop and Co-pilot is back in the driving seat as we head to the Italian petrolhead heartland, and Ferrari. The usually fortified gates are open and we drive the 6c through and into the heart and soul of the Prancing Horse, past the wind tunnel and down past the assembly lines and out through the historical gates. Out and down to Fiorano, Ferrari’s backyard test track. And another time trial. Oh God.

    It seems incredibly odd, driving the 6c around hallowed turf (not literally) where Lauda made his comeback, Schumacher invented his favorite pasta dish and more recently Alonso honed LaFerrari, but Co-pilot is living the dream, we break the beam and we’re done and off to Cremona…

    A final fuel stop and the support team are pleased to see nothing is on fire. The smiles and ‘complimeti’ are back.

    As the light fades I’m back in the driving seat for the final set of stamps and the last blast to Brescia. We clear Cremona and the finish is now tantalizingly close. The goal we’ve been working towards, fighting over, arguing about - a simple finish - is a mere 33 miles away. True to form it’s raining again.

    The exhaustion sets in like a bad hangover and the car goes silent. We’re both painfully aware that we’re in the ‘so near and yet so far zone’ and we need to keep the 6c humming to make our allotted time into Brescia. Luckily, the road from Cermona to Brescia is arrow straight and I find my mind wandering to Moss and Jenks, foot buried, pace notes finished, racing flat out to the line, having done what it’s taken us three days to complete in just ten hours…

    We’re pushing the 6c now and sat at 120kmh, which feels like lightspeed when you’re surrounded by 1938 aerodynamics with your path lit by 1938 lights, staring into the distance and trying to pick out which is a white line at the edge of the road, and what is the reflection of some distant light source in a raindrop. It’s almost lethally hypnotic.

    Wave upon wave of all-consuming fatigue hits like a warm, pillowy battering ram, and we fight it off with the reality that get it wrong now and not only will the adventure be over, but we will be too.

    The Brescia city limits sign flashes by.

    “Left here mate, then down to that roundabout and left and then….we’re here”

    “Thanks Co-pilot, awesome job today”

    “Pleasure mate, mind blowing really”

    No sooner have we turned left into Via Venezia than we’re back in the organized chaos that is the queue for the finish. Yet more exemplary Italian organization sees us cross the line at our allotted time, beer in hand, 1000 miles done and dusted. We roll down the ramp, race over and are plunged straight back into the modern world as we get lost in Brescia and have to hook up my iPhone and get it to navigate our way back to the hotel and our awaiting support crew. We did it. It feels like victory.

    The emotions of the Mille are hard to define, it is the most frenetic, frustrating, exhausting, beautiful, life-affirming event it’s possible to imagine. Held in a country that is quite simply the only place in the world with the charisma, organization, beauty and passion to be able to pull it off. It is without question the single greatest way for Italy to showcase all that it’s good at.

    Our personal Mille proves the Alfa brand still commands respect, and with the right product has the potential to go from strength to strength. We lost count of the tens of thousands of people who jumped up and down in excitement as we passed, grandparents reminiscing, fathers nudging their children and passing their infectious enthusiasm onto the next generation. All of them with the words “Alfa, Bella Macchina” forming on theirs lips as we passed. The 6c was a quite incredible way to experience that passion at all the corners of the country.

    As for Co-pilot, to compete in the Mille Miglia is an unbelievable honour; to compete in a works Alfa team with your father (life’s co-pilot) at your side was an indescribable pleasure, even when we didn’t know where we were going or what the time was. The cliché has it that the Mille is made up of a thousand miles and a thousand smiles. The scale of that understatement is staggering.

    A thousand miles, countless smiles and memories that will last for generations to come is more like it. Thank you Alfa, thank you Italy.

  19. Mille Miglia Day 3: Rome - Brescia 492 Miles

    Four hours in bed is just enough time for your body to think that you’re making an attempt at catching up on your lack of sleep and for it to slip into a deep comatose state. It is a terrible lie. The alarm finds me still slightly beaten up from the day before. Day three of the Mille Miglia beckons, the big one: 492 miles, 24 regularity stages and a route that sees us through Vallelunga, Sienna, Florence, across the Futa and Raticosa passes and onto Bologna, Maranello, Modena, Cremona and finally back to where it all started in Brescia. A day when you need to know where you’re going, when you need to keep hitting all your regularity stages with, erm, regularity, and where above all else, you need to work as a team. Paola?

    “Morning Co-pilot”

    “Morning, Son”

    “Right then dad, last day of the Mille, lets have a blast.”

    “Agreed.”

    The Start at Rome provides another example of Italian organization at it’s best. With 422 cars all vying for position and desperate to hit their allotted start time, the organizers orchestrate the now-familiar highly expensive car drafts and we waft through on the stroke of 6:45. We’re off, with the ancient proverb ringing in our ears: ‘You can’t win the Mille on days one and two, but you can absolutely lose it on day three’. Conscious of this, Co-pilot is driving the 6c and I’m navigator and keeper of the stopwatches.

    We blast out of Rome as the sun lifts in the sky and 6c is transformed from the car we left Brescia with. The pipes have cleared and it’s finally showing its true colours, the straight six pulling hard to our designated 4-4500 redline. What a car. Ok, so its performance feels pedestrian by most modern standards, but in 1938 this was some feat of engineering. The support car is full to the gunwhales with kit and so we’ve spent the last few days driving the 6c with all our baggage on board. Space is becoming even more limited as every town we tour through wants to showcase it’s wares, so that we’re now carrying our combined body weight in pasta, risotto, nougat and mineral water. To maximize performance we could have, should have, left some of it behind, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the event, so we head - fully laden - into the longest day, safe in the knowledge that should anything go wrong, we’re fully equipped to provide an impromptu roadside banquet.

    Rome slips away behind us and our first regularity stage beckons at Vallelunga, the circuit famous for Moto GP and the home favorite, Rossi. Our task today is to average 47.9KPH around the circuit, and to say that it feels odd holding the 6c back to this positively pedestrian speed is an understatement. Still, needs must, and today is more Tortoise than Hare. Eventually we hit the timing beam at our allotted second (not bad) and we’re off and on our way to Sienna.

    Everywhere we go the Alfa is greeted with smiles and shouts from every generation: “Bella Machina, vai vai Brescia” becomes a familiar phrase. As a small an unrepresentative test, it’s clear that the Alfa brand is undiminished in its homeland; all they need now is the product to deliver to their passionate expectation.

    Buoyed by not completely screwing up the first regularity, ‘Team 6c’ and most notably Co-pilot, have discovered that you can drive the 6c harder than we ever thought possible all those hours ago in the car park in Brescia. We storm across picture perfect Tuscan scenery, with the old Alfa loving the gin clear sky and dry roads.

    A fuel stop, another 400 miles worth of smiles and approval from Paola and Alle, and we’re off on a more traditional part of the route. At its inception in 1927, the Mille ran on a number of unpaved ‘white’ roads. To keep the event true to its roots - and infuriate many of the owners of priceless historics - the next special stage takes place on 10km of those unmade white roads. With a surface like a washboard and dust which has the ability to invade every orifice, this stage will make or break the car. Or us.

    “Can you get out, I think we’ve got a puncture” mutters the co-pilot as we draw up to the line.

    I jump out and check but no puncture “No mate, you’re fine.”

    “Its pulling like hell to the right, we should stop.”

    “Lets do this stage then stop at the next town”

    The 6c rattles across the corrugated section, and out to the time control. There’s now such a drag that if you release the wheel the 6c merely turns sharp right. We nurse her to the next fuel stop and radio the support crew…

    “Freni sono multo multo caldi” I explain in terrible Italian to the worried looking Alessandro who sets to work trying to cool the offside front brake drum down and release the - clearly bound solid - brake shoes.

    Co-pilot is looking worried, Paola isn’t smiling anymore and Alesandro is working with an efficiency and calm serenity that only he can deliver. I arrive back to the glowing hot wreckage with a hastily filled watering can, which, Alessandro grabs with a swift “mille grazie”, and promptly pours over the offending drum, engulfing him in steam… For a while we lose Alessandro in the cloud and when he re-emerges, he’s wandering around blindly through his steamed glasses muttering, ‘Too much brake, toooooo much brake’

    “You drive now, not Co-pilot…”

    This requires careful sales patter, but with some diplomacy I manage to persuade Co-pilot that the next section is boring and it would be better if he took a rest and looked out of the window, all the better able to enjoy the full glory of Sienna.

    We depart, Alessandro looking concerned and Paola’s smile wattage severely reduced. I make a mental note to see if I can get to Sienna without touching the brakes.

    Sienna delivers in style with an Alfa fan base ten deep, and all shouting and waving and willing the 6c to Brescia. At Florence we catch up with Sir Chris Hoy and Le Mans legend Andy Wallace in their XK120 in the traffic. They’re clearly having a blast and we helpfully teach them a few Italian phrases that are sure to make the home leg more eventful.

    Sorry, chaps. With the Italian for beginners lesson complete, we stick to Wallace as he threads the XK120 gracefully through the Florentine traffic and on towards the legendary Futa and Raticossa passes.

    Worth noting here that ‘we’ have successfully managed not to set fire to the brakes again (mostly because we haven’t used them), but more notably because Alessandro has slackened the front shoes off leaving the rears to do more (see all) of the work. This makes for ‘interesting’ braking performance.

    Another fuel stop and Co-pilot is back in the driving seat as we head to the Italian petrolhead heartland, and Ferrari. The usually fortified gates are open and we drive the 6c through and into the heart and soul of the Prancing Horse, past the wind tunnel and down past the assembly lines and out through the historical gates. Out and down to Fiorano, Ferrari’s backyard test track. And another time trial. Oh God.

    It seems incredibly odd, driving the 6c around hallowed turf (not literally) where Lauda made his comeback, Schumacher invented his favorite pasta dish and more recently Alonso honed LaFerrari, but Co-pilot is living the dream, we break the beam and we’re done and off to Cremona…

    A final fuel stop and the support team are pleased to see nothing is on fire. The smiles and ‘complimeti’ are back.

    As the light fades I’m back in the driving seat for the final set of stamps and the last blast to Brescia. We clear Cremona and the finish is now tantalizingly close. The goal we’ve been working towards, fighting over, arguing about - a simple finish - is a mere 33 miles away. True to form it’s raining again.

    The exhaustion sets in like a bad hangover and the car goes silent. We’re both painfully aware that we’re in the ‘so near and yet so far zone’ and we need to keep the 6c humming to make our allotted time into Brescia. Luckily, the road from Cermona to Brescia is arrow straight and I find my mind wandering to Moss and Jenks, foot buried, pace notes finished, racing flat out to the line, having done what it’s taken us three days to complete in just ten hours…

    We’re pushing the 6c now and sat at 120kmh, which feels like lightspeed when you’re surrounded by 1938 aerodynamics with your path lit by 1938 lights, staring into the distance and trying to pick out which is a white line at the edge of the road, and what is the reflection of some distant light source in a raindrop. It’s almost lethally hypnotic.

    Wave upon wave of all-consuming fatigue hits like a warm, pillowy battering ram, and we fight it off with the reality that get it wrong now and not only will the adventure be over, but we will be too.

    The Brescia city limits sign flashes by.

    “Left here mate, then down to that roundabout and left and then….we’re here”

    “Thanks Co-pilot, awesome job today”

    “Pleasure mate, mind blowing really”

    No sooner have we turned left into Via Venezia than we’re back in the organized chaos that is the queue for the finish. Yet more exemplary Italian organization sees us cross the line at our allotted time, beer in hand, 1000 miles done and dusted. We roll down the ramp, race over and are plunged straight back into the modern world as we get lost in Brescia and have to hook up my iPhone and get it to navigate our way back to the hotel and our awaiting support crew. We did it. It feels like victory.

    The emotions of the Mille are hard to define, it is the most frenetic, frustrating, exhausting, beautiful, life-affirming event it’s possible to imagine. Held in a country that is quite simply the only place in the world with the charisma, organization, beauty and passion to be able to pull it off. It is without question the single greatest way for Italy to showcase all that it’s good at.

    Our personal Mille proves the Alfa brand still commands respect, and with the right product has the potential to go from strength to strength. We lost count of the tens of thousands of people who jumped up and down in excitement as we passed, grandparents reminiscing, fathers nudging their children and passing their infectious enthusiasm onto the next generation. All of them with the words “Alfa, Bella Macchina” forming on theirs lips as we passed. The 6c was a quite incredible way to experience that passion at all the corners of the country.

    As for Co-pilot, to compete in the Mille Miglia is an unbelievable honour; to compete in a works Alfa team with your father (life’s co-pilot) at your side was an indescribable pleasure, even when we didn’t know where we were going or what the time was. The cliché has it that the Mille is made up of a thousand miles and a thousand smiles. The scale of that understatement is staggering.

    A thousand miles, countless smiles and memories that will last for generations to come is more like it. Thank you Alfa, thank you Italy.

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