Mille Miglia – The World’s Greatest Road Race

Usefully launched to coincide with the anniversary of the original race’s demise, 50 years ago this May, the latest book on the subject covers every running of the Mille Miglia from the first victory by OM in 1927, to the last ever win by Ferrari in the tragic 1957 event.

With cars from Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Mercedes-Benz driven by the true greats such as Nuvolari, Fangio, Taruffi and Caracciola, together with Mille Miglia specialist like wealthy industrialists the Marzotto brothers, the title - quite simply - says it all. At its pomp, nothing could match the Mille Miglia for drama and extraordinary feats of human and mechanical endeavour.

Written by Anthony Pritchard, the author of many motoring books over the years, the 264 page book starts with biographies of the founders of the event, led by Count Aymo Maggi, and then profiles some of the race’s greatest drivers (Ascari, Biondetti, Moss, Varzi et al) before an examination of the great marques that have competed over the years (Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Lancia, Ferrari and more), and then the races themselves.

For a reader under-educated in the race in general, and the pre-War era in particular, the book is essential, providing just enough detail for the hard-core connoisseur yet not getting too bogged down in facts for the casual observer. All the stories are there; Moss’s epic drive in the 300SLR in 1955, Nuvolari before the War, the great rivalry between the Italian drivers of the 50s, the terrible accidents, the last of which befalling ‘Fon’ de Portago and co-driver Ed Nelson in 1957 that finished the race for good.

Interspersed with the historical narrative are personal impressions from some of the well-known (and not so well-known) drivers and personalities. Like British rally driver Sheila van Damm’s experiences as a novice in 1956, and Count Lurani describing his 1934 drive in an MG Magnette. There are also circuit maps that chart the development of the approximately 1,000 mile circuit over the years.

Always a tremendously varied event, with entries ranging from Isetta bubblecars to 400 hp Ferraris, the book captures the atmosphere of each race to perfection, charting the progress of the leaders, the state of the weather, and even the condition of the roads.

Full of black and white photographs – with an eight-page colour section – it’s a recommended read at £35.00 plus Post and Packing, and can be bought direct from the publishers, Haynes.

Text - Steve Wakefield
Photos - Haynes

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