Five memorable moments of the Mille Miglia

The original Mille Miglia was a true endurance ‘road race’. Held on public roads in Italy between the years 1927 and 1957, it was one of the toughest tests of man and machine. We take a look back at some of the event’s defining moments prior to the start of the 2015 re-enactment…

1936: Due to political tensions in North Africa, the 1936 Mille Miglia was held during severe fuel shortages. In response to the inevitable public outcry, organisers hosted a special class for vehicles running on wood or coal. Only one car from the class finished, a Fiat 508 Balilla ‘Gas’, crossing the line more than 18 hours behind the winning Alfa Romeo 8C 2900A of Antonio Brivio.

1949: More than 300 cars entered the 1949 Mille Miglia. To reduce confusion, race organisers instructed teams to paint entrant numbers on their cars – a rule that stuck. It also marked the first year that Autostrada sections were widely eliminated.

1950: Because the number 17 is unlucky in Italian culture, the 17th Mille Miglia was renamed 'The 1950 Mille Miglia for the Franco Mazzotti Cup’, after one of the event's founders. The race also witnessed four Marzotto (not to be confused with 'Mazzotti') family entrants; the brothers all drove Scuderia Marzotto/Ferrari-entered cars, including eventual winner Giannino Marzotto.

1953: Film director Roberto Rossellini entered the 1953 Mille Miglia driving a Ferrari 250 MM Vignale. He failed to finish, suffering differential failure. According to reports, Rossellini raced against the wishes of his film star wife Ingrid Bergman (see photo), who later protested by lying on the car during a stop in Rome.

1955: Sir Stirling Moss’s co-driver Denis ‘Jenks’ Jenkinson developed his own scrolling map-reading device for the 1955 Mille Miglia. The pair famously won by a large margin, setting a record average speed of nearly 100mph. Similar devices are used in rallying today.

Photo: Alinari Archives / Getty Images