The Mille Miglia (‘Thousand Miles’) was an open-road, motorsport endurance race which ran from 1927 to 1957. Since 1977, the race has been unofficially reborn as the Rally 1000 Miglia, a race on asphalt roads for vintage cars no longer than 1957 who were registered to partake in the original race.
In December 1926, just after the end of the Second World War, young Counts Aymo Maggi and Franco Mazzotti decided to formulate a response to the decision to move the Italian Grand Prix from Brescia to Monza.
They joined forces with wealthy friends - motoring journalist Giovanni Canestrini and sports manager Renzo Castagneto - to bankroll a race. They chose a route from Brescia to Rome and back, a route roughly 1,600 km (1,000 miles), in a figure of eight.
In March 1927, they were already ready to start. Seventy-seven Italian men took part in the first race, of which fifty-one made it to the finishing line. The winner of the so-christened Cua della Mille Miglia (‘Cup of a Thousand Miles’) was Giuseppe Morandi who completed the course in 21 hours and 5 minutes, reaching a top speed of 78 km/h.
Famous Italian racing driver Tazio Nuvolari won the 1930 race in an Alfa Romeo, seeing off rival Achille Varzi at the last minute. Whilst the race began with solely Italian racers, foreign drivers and cars were introduced. The first foreign winner was in 1931 when famous German Grand Prix racer Rudolf Caracciola broke 100 km/h in the race for the first time.
The race was not without its controversies, however. In 1938, a car accident caused facilities in several spectators. This caused Benito Mussolini to halt the race for a year, before resuming in 1940 with a new route. The founders devised a circuit between Brescia, Cremona and Mantua, which participants had to complete nine times to reach the required one thousand miles. This gave birth to the Grand Prix Brescia des Mille Miglia.
After the Second World War, the route was changed again to one single route throughout Italy. However, between 1947 and 1949 the race was again halted for a variety of reasons ranging from broken roads to a pause in the production of new cars.
However, 1950 to 1957 was the race’s most prestigious era. Global manufacturers such as Porsche and Mercedez-Benz started to take the race seriously and sent over their best drivers to try and win.
Legendary British driver Stirling Moss took part in the 1955 race alongside Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio who would eventually set a world record for winning the World Championship of Drivers five times, a feat only to be beaten by Michael Schumacher decades later.
In 1956, Stirling Moss broke the speed record, clocking 157.65 km/h. However, the following year, two fatal car crashes saw the competition finish forever.