Mille Miglia in a 1938 Alfa
TG mag Editor, Charlie Turner, takes on one of the biggest challenges in motoring...
Posted: 17 Jun 2013
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.