2013 Mille Miglia. Day Three. The Final Leg.

The competitors make their way out of Rome and back to Brescia on the final day of the 2013 Mille Miglia.

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The final day of the Mille Miglia saw an early morning mad dash out of Rome under Polizia escort for the competitors. Drivers – and crankandpiston reporters alike – had been lucky to catch a few hours shut-eye. However, for many of the crews sleep had not been an option. Slaving through the night to prepare the cars for the long slog to Brescia, where the 2013 running of the ‘most beautiful race in the world’ had started from, Red Bull and enthusiasm for the day ahead would be the driving force needed to keep it together. Fortunately, we were all stocked up on supplies of both.

Glorious sunshine made a welcome return as Team Jaguar made its way out of Rome in our F-TYPE S convoy. The supercharged V6s, with active exhaust enabled, provided the early morning soundtrack and guaranteed every dog in Rome was awakened. Dan Connel – top bloke and Global Brand PR and Communications Manager at Jaguar – would be doing most of the wheel work today while I juggled the duel tasks of being navigator and hanging out of our F-TYPE S in compromising positions for pic-snappery purposes.

A quick F-TYPE photo opportunity at the Colosseum was the limit of touristic activity. Time to get en route and mingle with Mille Miglia competitors before the early morning traffic build up in Rome delayed our progress. With Dan driving like a man on a mission, it wasn’t long before we were carving our way through the field and attempting to catch some of the Jaguar drivers.

While some competitors take the slow and steady approach to the Mille Miglia as it is judged on average speeds, many take the opportunity to give priceless examples of yesteryear a good thrashing. Witnessing epic dogfights between drivers fully on it on public roads that are lined with countless cheering Italian motor fans is an extraordinary glimpse into motor racing history.

Bernard Kuhnt (Director of Jaguar Land Rover Europe) and Hannah Herzsprung (hot German actress) had a mega shootout through narrow Italian streets and roads in their C-Type against a Mercedes-Benz 300SL. Dan and I in our F-TYPE managed to keep pace with them for a few kilometres before they peeled off for one of the many time trials that competitors must endure.

We also tailed Chris Harris and Alex Buncombe as they took the fight to a Ferrari 212 on its home turf. Big balls and bravado – as well as a bit of driving talent – are prerequisites for steering these machines at speed, especially so when we entered the narrow cobbled streets of Siena. The Italian fans went ballistic at the site of a Jaguar giving chase to a Ferrari mere inches away from them, however, in a moment of hilarity we all ended down a dead-end street after taking a wrong turn.

Rain made an appearance again late in the evening as we entered Modena. With the competitors splitting off for a hoon around Fiorano the difficult decision was made to take the shortcut to Brescia so we could witness the drivers crossing the finishing line. It was the first time we had deviated from the route and felt like the end of our Mille Miglia as we sped along the Autostrada in the rain.

Three days and 1000 miles after 415 cars had left Brescia for the 31st reenactment of “most beautiful race in the world” felt like a lifetime ago. The successful return of 340 of them to the Viale Venezia proved to be quite an emotional affair for many of the competitors. Wide eyed with a potent cocktail of euphoria and exhaustion, many of the drivers were almost in disbelief that they had finally conquered the Mille Miglia.

Victory went to the Argentinian crew of Juan Tonconogy and Guillermo Berisso in their 1927 Bugatti T 40. For five-time veteran, Tonconogy’s first win makes him the youngest driver to take the top spot in the ‘new’ Mille Miglia races.

“The Mille Miglia is a unique race of its kind, which requires great physical stamina and constant concentration, but it gives us emotions that are so difficult to verbalize and virtually impossible to forget. I wish to say goodbye to all of you, knowing we will see each other again next year. ”
Juan Tonconogy

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