The Italian Almanac

Mille Miglia

Mille Miglia

Organizers of Italy's classic Mille Miglia (1000-mile) car race have been flooded with requests from around the world to take part in this year's reenactment of the famous race from Brescia to Rome. The 2008 edition of the race is set to start May 18 and already some 1,700 applications have been sent in from as far away as Japan, Argentina and the United States to take part in the competition between vintage cars.

''The organizing committee of Italian and foreign experts has received about 1,700 requests and from these will have to choose the 375 cars which will take part in this year's race,'' a statement said. Because of the global interest in the race, organizers have decided to take the Mille Miglia on an international road show to cities like Geneva, London, New York, Munich and Moscow. The aim of the initiative is to promote the economies of 36 cities and towns the race goes through on its way from Brescia to Rome.

The original Mille Miglia endurance road race was staged 27 times between 1928 and 1957 and kickstarted the careers of motor racing legends like Tazio Nuvolari, Alberto Ascari, Juan Manuel Fangio and Sterling Moss, who set a course record in 1955. The race was banned in 1957 after a car crash which caused the death of the driver, his navigator and 11 spectators. Although the competition was suspended, from 1958 to 1961 the event continued in a speed-limit rally format but lost popularity.

In 1977, the race was revived as the Mille Miglia storica (Historic 1,000-Mile) parade reserved for cars from the golden era of racing (pre-1957) including beautiful machines like Bugattis, Lancias, Alfa Romeos, Aston Martins, Ferraris, Maseratis and prewar Mercedes and Porsches. Most of the cars are driven by international celebrities from the worlds of business, entertainment and sports.