It’s day one on the 2013 Mille Miglia, and crankandpiston is on-hand to watch competitors leave Brescia and arrive in Ferrara.[Not a valid template]
There are certain staples that spring to mind when we think of the Mille Miglia: hundreds of immaculate pre and post-war racing machines; camaraderie between competitors; Italian fans lining the single track roads, roaring their support until their vocal chords are spent; and sun. Lots and lots of sun.
Day one of the 2013 Mille Miglia got underway with one of these pre-requisites already debunked. Since the early morning, Madre Natura had done a number on the very pretty Piazza della Loggia in Brescia, aka the starting point. By go-time, after each car had received its seal from the governing body and road books had been distributed, man and machine alike were thoroughly dowsed.
That certainly didn’t bother the Italian fans though who were out in force to wave off the first cars at exactly 18.45pm. In an event steeped in nearly a hundred years of heritage, this particular tradition is adhered to every year. Of course, it does also mean that by the time all the competitors cross the finishing line in Ferrara – having not exceeded an average speed of 50kph – all and sundry will be completely knackered. But more on that later.
crankandpiston’s jovial hosts at Jaguar weren’t too concerned with the weather either. The team has very kindly invited us to run the Mille Miglia in a new F-Type – just a few weeks after we attended the international launch in Spain – for the duration of the 1485km colossus. Much has been made of the roadster’s ‘spiritual’ connection to Jaguar’s iconic roadster, the E-Type, since its launch, and amidst the context of 1920s-1950s racing machines, here is the F-Type’s chance to prove it’s connection to the E-Type is more than just chronological.
Indeed, six of the biggest crowd pullers on this year’s Mille Miglia are the three C-Types and three XK120s that the company has brought for some notable celebrities. As well as the fashion world’s Salvatore Ferragamo and Mr Dolce & Gabbana David Gandy, Yasmin Le Bon is also in the hot seat in the #199 1950 XK120 OTS. We’ll ask how Simon is when we slide up for an autograph at some point. Meanwhile British GT Championship Pro-Am Class winner Alex Buncombe, who will be co-driving with drive channel’s Chris Harris, was clearly keen to get underway in the #269 1952 Jaguar C-Type. Of course, he wasn’t too busy to throw a thumbs up our way.
Once we’d waved ‘ciao’ to a number of historic machines, it was time to leap into our two-seater and take on the slick Italian strade. Some sections of the near-1500km route are restricted to competitors only, but it was quite incredible to witness the Italian motor racing support firsthand. Even our F-Type, which debuted 56 years after the final Mille Miglia rally and was therefore way outside the eligibility lines, received enormous enthusiasm from the crowds.
Enthusiasm that my co-driver, Jaguar Land Rover’s Richard Agnew, was more than happy to return. Richard is an avid petrolhead, and that’s not just because it looks good on his CV. The way he played up to the crowd with a bit of sideways action here, a hint of drifting rear wheels there and a blat of the F-Type S V6 was extraordinary. Plus occasionally terrifying, Richard catching me off-guard every so often as I stuck my head out the window to grab some shots on the move. One particular highlight of our trip was our splash and dash for fuel just after the halfway point. Andy Wallace, competing this year in the #200 1951 Jaguar XK120 OTS, found himself a little short after filling up and wondered if we’d mind spotting him 50 euros.
Even the local police got into the spirit, applauding and cheering as waves of competitors swept past: such a striking difference to local bobbies who dish out speeding tickets to competitors on Rally Great Britain.
Having taken a shortcut to get to the finish line – don’t worry, we’re not listed in the official results – we were on-hand to see the competitors flock over the finish line in Ferrara, once again to the joy of the Italian fans. By this time it was already well past 1am, and even though the rain by this point was dying down, I figured it was time to turn in ‘early’ just before 4am.
Day two kicks off in a few hours. I wonder where you can fine a good espresso in Ferrara…?