he first twenty years of the Mille Miglia, as described by the San Giorgio Team Related topics
In the "Single Issue" published by the San Giorgio Team on May
2, 1948 celebrating the Team's debut at the Mille Miglia Cup,
Alfredo Tiocchi signed an article which accurately illustrated the
event. The following excerpts are taken from his article:
"Away back in 1927, when, thanks to a handful of brave sportsmen from Brescia, the 'Mille Miglia Cup' was first organized, many people considered it a daring undertaking. But it was, in fact, a test which would prove unsurpassed, unequaled, because it was so genuinely Italian - a test of the bold and resolute cleverness which is such a typical expression of our people.
Of the past fourteen editions of the Cup, eleven have been won by Alfa Romeo; one by O.M.; one by Mercedes Benz and one by B.M.W.
No other car manufacturer beside Alfa Romeo can boast such a long, dazzling series of successes in such an important international competition (…).
The 1927 edition
We can't really say that the vehicles participating in the 1927 edition of the Cup were ready for this kind of race. However, two car manufacturers in particular - Alfa Romeo and O.M. - could rely on the experience they had in competitions like these, as well as on the number of sports events their vehicles had entered before. Alfa Romeo had made a reputation for itself thanks to its very successful racing cars, while O.M. was more specialized in distance races.
Minoia and Morandi's crew triumphantly reached the city of Brescia at the average speed of 77.238 km/h, and the two drivers were the first to sign their name in the competition's golden book.
It was a very valuable lesson for Alfa Romeo, whose crew had been leading the race up until Rome. The Alfa Romeo group realized that the Mille Miglia was not an ordinary race, and that technical innovations in racing cars would have to match any technical advances in touring and sports vehicles.
Once all the features and requirements of the competition were carefully assessed, the first 'Mille Miglia' vehicle was engineered and built. Many sports enthusiasts wish it could still be in production. Considering contemporary road conditions - more arduous and much slower than today's - Alfa Romeo found that a vehicle with a smaller engine would be more appropriate. This is how they came to build a 6-cylinder, 1,500cc car with or without supercharge.
Alfa Romeo's first success
The O.M. Team, captained by Morandi, Mazzotti and Rosa, and boasting extremely fast Bugatti vehicles driven by Nuvolari, Bordino, and the Brilli-Peri crew, was still Alfa Romeo's main competitor.
This great, fierce team was definitely the favorite to win the Cup. However, Nuvolari and the Brilli-Peri crew - who had outdistanced their competitors up to Florence - finally gave in. After a 600-kilometer long stretch, Campari was leading the race aboard his small, fast 1,500cc at an average speed of 84.128 km/h.
In order to adapt their production to the improved road conditions, the "Portello" Car Company upgraded their engines - from 1,500cc to 1,750cc - without changing the main features of their vehicles.
The third edition of the competition seemed to offer uncertain results up until Rome. Then in Terni, Borzacchini - who was driving a Maserati - had to finally give way to Campari, who, keeping to his "waiting" technique, had been upon his competitor's heels for a while.
In Rome, Varzi - who was driving an Alfa Romeo - was 40 minutes behind Campari, but by the time they reached Brescia, he was only 12 minutes behind. He lost the second position to Brescia-natives Rosa and Morandi - in an OM - by just 2 minutes.
A record number of entries
The fourth edition of the 'Mille Miglia' was mostly characterized by the incredibly large number of drivers who entered the competition. As a matter of fact, 135 cars were lined up at the start line in the 1930 edition - the first one, incidentally, featuring also German vehicles, like the Mercedez Benz driven by Caracciola.
That year, Alfa Romeo had picked three champions for its 1,750cc vehicles, and namely Nuvolari, Campari and Varzi.
The rivalry between Varzi and Nuvolari helped make the competition truly unforgettable. The racing speed had been grueling - so grueling that Nuvolari reached Brescia right before Varzi, at an average speed of over 100 km/h. Morandi and Rosa, on the other hand, came in third. Once again, Alfa Romeo had triumphed over its competitors.
However, Mercedes Benz would repeat the Mille Miglia experience again: a year later, in 1931, Caracciola would leave his hometown north of the Alps to compete against the Milan car manufacturer at the Mille Miglia Cup on a Mercedes S.S.K., a very powerful sports car equipped with a 7-liter engine.
The first foreign victory
Deeming its 1,750cc vehicles inadequate for this type of competition, Alfa Romeo hurriedly built a new sports car - a supercharged 8-cylinder 2300 - which was better suited for the new, modern streets of the Mille Miglia circuit. However, hasty preparations ended up costing Alfa Romeo the victory. In fact, following a series of minor, inconsequential incidents and unlucky inconveniences, Alfa Romeo was defeated by Caracciola and his Mercedes.
Nevertheless, Alfa Romeo would prove a more successful competitor in the following year, with a new, improved 8-cylinder 2300, tested in various competitions held throughout the year and enhanced accordingly.
In 1933, the 7th edition of the Mille Miglia featured for the first time a British-made vehicle - the 1100 MG - winner of its class thanks to the Italian-English crew Lurani-Eyston.
The following year, Varzi and Nuvolari engaged in a new competition which added interest to the race, and crowned Varzi as the winner of the Cup.
An average of 120 km/h
In terms of speed, a slight improvement of the average recorded in previous editions would take place in 1935, when the Pintacuda-Della Stufa crew would raise it to a record 114.753 km/h.
That year, Varzi and Bignami's attempt to outshine Alfa Romeo with their 3,600cc Maserati would be hopeless, as the Milan car manufacturer would score first, second and third place in the general rankings.
In 1936 a new speed record was set at 121.622 km/h by the crew Brivio-Ongaro.
Adverse weather conditions characterized the 11th edition of the race, held in 1937 and won by Pintacuda and Mambelli.
The 1938 record
In 1938, the 12th edition of the Mille Miglia was won, once again, by Alfa Romeo with the Biondetti-Stefani crew, who maintained an average speed of 135.391 km/h. This would be the next-to-last victory for the Milan car manufacturer at the Mille Miglia Cup.
Unfortunately, this edition of the race was marked by a terrible accident in Bologna. Many spectators were left injured and the competition had to be suspended by official order. As a consequence, there would never be a Mille Miglia Cup in 1939.
The following year, the 13th edition of the race was allowed to take place in a closed circuit between Brescia, Cremona and Mantova. It was a year of surprises for the famous competition: on one hand, the race was won by a 2-liter B.M.W. driven by Hansteln Baumer, and on the other a new average speed record - 166.733 km/h, to be precise - was set. The race was completed in 8.54 hours, 46 minutes and 3.5 seconds (...).
Edited by Nunzia Manicardi
Informative materials courtesy of the San Giorgio Racing Team