Behind the wheel were many famous figures from the world of entertainment, sports and business. On Thursday 22 May the technical inspections began at the famous Piazza della Vittoria in Brescia’s ancient centre and in the evening at the starting line in Viale Venezia.
No fewer than 37 Mercedes-Benz, 33 Ferraris and 30 Alfa Romeo were observed. These were followed by 26 Fiats, 25 Porsches and 23 Bugattis. But it was also possible to admire long forgotten brands such as Amilcar, Bizzarini, Cisitalia, Osca, Talbot-Lago, Riley or Veritas. And many others reminded one of the golden age of the Mille Miglia.
The program and the laps of the 2003 Mille Miglia followed closely – with some slight modifications made this year – the historical route of the original race . Even if it was about 100 kilometres shorter, the route of "1,000 miles" remained nevertheless faithful to the event’s name and also this year was divided into three sectors: Brescia to Ferrara (179 kilometres), Ferrara to Rome (618 kilometres) and Rome back to Brescia (654 kilometres).
The 2003 Mille Miglia presented its native town Brescia with a wide range of novelties and many prestigious names. Several official teams, top-level drivers and many VIPs made the travelling museum of historic cars even more thrilling.
King Carl Gustav XVI of Sweden drove a BMW 328 Touring Spider and shared the cockpit with Prince Leopold of Bavaria. The king, aged 57, is one of the youngest monarchs in Europe and his car was always followed by two regular road cars packed with bodyguards. Italian rock lady Gianna Nannini, sister of the former Formula One driver Alessandro Nannini from Tuscany, also drove a BMW. Countess Cica Lurani Cernuschi drove a Bugatti and Prince Emanuele Filiberto of Savoya another one. The founder of the legendary Monterey historic races, Steve Earle, was also seen at the wheel of a BMW. Chopard watch manufacturer Karl-Friedrich Scheufele partnered with former Belgian race ace and Ferrari star Jacky Ickx in a 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spider.
Daimler Chrysler CEO Dr. Wolfgang Schrempp naturally used a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing. German race driver Jochen Mass was again at the start in the legendary ex-Stirling Moss Mercedes. Paul Rosche, the great project engineer of BMW Formula One engines, came back to the Mille Miglia in a BMW, whereas Robert Dover, president of Jaguar GB, raced a Jaguar C-Type. Famous photographer Oliviero Toscani and singer-song writer Lucio Dalla followed in a Porsche 356. Another remarkable personality seen in Brescia was Stephen Brauer, the American ambassador in Belgium and at the European Union, in a 8-liter Bentley. Unfortunately the technical overhaul of the Ferrari 750 Monza of Andrea and Walter Burani, owners of the renowned Mariella Burani Fashion Group in Italy, could not be finished in time for the 2003 Mille Miglia.
The elite of finance and industry also included Galeazzo Pecori Giraldi, the president of the well-known Morgan Stanley business bank in a Bugatti, and Erich Hilmar von Baumbach, president of the pharmaceutical giant Boehringer-Ingelheim in a BMW 328. Well-known financier Emilio Gnutti (Italia Telecom) brought several Ferraris to the start and Gnutti’s yellow 750 Monza Spider was driven by Federico Imbert, top manager at J. P. Morgan Chase Manhattan Bank. Brescia’s prominent industrialist Giuseppe Lucchini, founder of the historical Mille Miglia and owner of a large Ferrari collection, sent his son Luigi in a cute little Lancia to the start. Patrizio Bertelli, managing director of Prada Group drove a Porsche.
While in previous years up to 55 Ferraris participated in the historic Mille Miglia, this year the number was smaller with 33 cars from the Maranello marque. The earliest Ferrari was a 166 MM Barchetta owned by a Japanese team. The 1951 Mille Miglia-winning 340 America Coupé Vignale with Luigi Villoresi was raced this year by U.S. owner Jack Croul. Absolutely spectacular was also the lovely 166 MM/53 Spider Vignale of James and Charlene Fuchs from Brookfield/WI. They were assisted by restorer Wayne Obry of Motion Products.
From the Gnutti collection came a 340 America Touring Barchetta, the ex-Pagnibon 225 S Coupé Vignale, a 750 Monza, a 250 GT Tour de France and one of the five 250 GT Zagato Berlinettas. Regrettably the latter was damaged in an accident during the Mille Miglia. Several 250 GT Boanos, 500 Mondials and 750 Monzas, not to forget 500 TRs and 250 GT Tour de France Berlinettas were seen too. Beverly Hills collector David Sydorick drove his gorgeous 250 GT Zagato, the car which has won the Corrado Millanta Press Award at the recent Villa d’Este show. A very early 166 Inter Coupé Vignale and a one-off 212 Coupé bodied by the Swiss Ghia-Aigle coachworks completed the group of 33 Ferraris at this year’s Mille Miglia.
Thousands of people followed the event, accompanying the multicolored group with admiring comments. In this atmosphere, the typical enthusiasm for vintage car races in general and for the Mille Miglia in particular reached levels of real fanaticism, finding the peak during the start in the evening, at the turning point in Rome and at the arrival at the finishing line in Brescia, but also during the diversified route along the Apennines. The weather was absolutely perfect this year with not a single drop of rain.
It was an overwhelming spectacle of unimaginable proportions for those who took part for the first time, an extraordinary natural phenomenon that surprises each time again those who come back to attend. Those who have seen it know what the others are missing!
© Marcel Massini 29/05/2003
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