MMR Blog

Sandy on Assignment: At the start... of the Mille Miglia

Posted on June 19, 2014 Comments (4)

By Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

The 2014 Mille Miglia winners at the start to reclaim their 2011 title, Giordano Mozzi and Stefania Biacca driving an original Mille Miglia car, the 1928 Lancia Lambda tipo 221 spider Ca.Sa.Ro.

The 2014 Mille Miglia winners at the start to reclaim their 2011 title, Giordano Mozzi and Stefania Biacca driving an original Mille Miglia car, the 1928 Lancia Lambda tipo 221 spider Ca.Sa.Ro.

Who wouldn’t want to go to Italy… to watch the start of the Mille Miglia? When the opportunity presented itself to rendezvous with my daughter, I was thrilled with the timing. I was about to repeat last year’s adventure concept… motorsports bookends... the Mille Miglia on one end and Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on the other.

Today’s Mille Miglia is on many a bucket list. As a spectator verses entrant, there are huge differences in approaching this event, as one would expect. All the same, it was still exciting and a thrill to watch the field of this year’s 435 official entries go through the scrutineering and start day fanfare, before they actually took off on their four day adventure, the third weekend in May.

Brescia’s Piazza della Vittoria maintains its historical significance to the Mille Miglia.

Brescia’s Piazza della Vittoria maintains its historical significance to the Mille Miglia.

It all starts in Brescia, about an hours drive east of Milan, Malpensa being the airport of choice. Everyone discouraged me from renting a car in Italy, including my native Italian friends. Forget it! I had a blast driving the narrow hilltop roads and autostrade, during our two-week stay.

Brescia has a rich motorsports history starting at the beginning of the 19th century, as a hub for auto manufacturing and its Brescia Motoring Week and Florio Cup. Originally, hometown to the first Grand Prix of Italy in 1921, it was that event‘s organizer who pulled the rug out from under Brescia, quickly moving the event the very next year to a newly built circuit in Monza, establishing the Italian Grand Prix, as we know it today. The betrayal is what ignited the imagination of a small group of young sportsmen referred to in the history books as the Four Musketeers, Giovanni Canestrini, Aymo Maggi, Franco Mazzotti and Renzo Castagneto, to put together the Mille Miglia, in less than three months time.

Overlooking scrutineering at the Fiera di Brescia.

Overlooking scrutineering at the Fiera di Brescia.

First, for those of you who want to check this off your bucket list, here are a few travel tips. Arrive Wednesday morning, before Thursday’s start, and head directly to scrutineering at the Brixia Expo-Fiera di Brescia, a large exhibition venue, on the outskirts of Brescia. Bring, and I emphasize, bring your GPS from home, downloading Italy’s roads beforehand. A GPS is invaluable and costly, if you rent it at the airport, as we did. We walked right into the Expo and there before us were many of the classic and historic cars, plus a section of newer cars, all going through the paces of registration and technical inspection. I found it fascinating, a sort of history lesson, as all the cars were examples of those raced during the span of the event from 1927-1957.

A walk back in time, during registration and tech checks.

A walk back in time, during registration and tech checks.

Moving through scrutineering.

Moving through scrutineering.

This year’s official registration list noted 71 cars that had participated in the original races. Sixty four different marques would be arriving from 34 countries around the world, with the most, 113, from Italy. From the total 435 teams, 62 were composed of members of the same family, father and sons mostly. Thirteen female teams were listed, in addition to quite a few husband and wife teams counted in the family total.

Jay Leno and Ian Cullum at the start in a 1951 XK120 Sports Ecurie Ecosse

Jay Leno and Ian Callum at the start in a 1951 XK120 Sports “Ecurie Ecosse”.

We got to meet and talk with a few owners; otherwise most of the cars were unattended. This was the best opportunity to take time and look over the cars without competing crowds. Outside the hall, Jaguar Heritage Racing with their ten celebrated 1950s models and celebrity drivers were milling around. Jay Leno, who commented that he favors the XK120 era and his co-driver, Ian Callum, Jaguar’s design director, would drive one of the Ecurie Ecosse race cars. Andy Wallace, ex-Jaguar Le Mans winner, whom I cheered on at Goodwood last fall, was there to drive a famed 1952 C-type. The celebrity list of Jaguar drivers was impressive.

This first early afternoon, at the Expo, was also an excellent time to make souvenir purchases, without crowds. At this point, I will mention that the Mille Miglia, like my recommendation for the Goodwood Revival, is an excellent trip for spouses. There are so many opportunities for shopping, eating, sightseeing, and wine tasting… after the car enthusiast gets his or her fix of the cars.

The Bentley Driver’s Club in Sirmione, a favorite stop for car club rallies during the Mille Miglia.

The Bentley Driver’s Club in Sirmione, a favorite stop for car club rallies during the Mille Miglia.

Accommodations for the Mille Miglia were tricky, yet they need not be. I asked friends who had participated in prior years and got an excellent recommendation to stay at the Best Western Master in Brescia. Jaguar thought so too, as the Jaguar Heritage team was also staying there! Unfortunately, the prices are so inflated that it’s hard to recommend actually staying in Brescia. Like the original races, promotion and tourism are still key objectives of the event.

Following the start and a spin through the streets of Brescia, the cars work their way up to Lake Garda and the quaint touristy town of Sirmione, no more than 45 minutes north. They drive through the entire town and historic section. It would be my recommendation to find a hotel in Sirmione. We followed our two-night stay in Brescia with another two in Sirmione with rates about two thirds less, and directly on the lake.

Thursday morning, we noticed cars beginning to park near the race start, so heading back into Brescia from Sirmione for the entire day may be just as realistic as staying in town. You may not even feel the need to be at the start, which for spectators means lining the streets and watching the cars zoom by. Heading back to Sirmione around 3pm, in time to line its streets, might be just as exciting.

We were told that Thursday before the start, the museum, Museo Mille Miglia, hosts a pre-race diner for competitors. Knowing this, we adjusted our Thursday itinerary to arrive at the museum shortly after it opened at 10am and took our time. If you are driving to the museum you will have to be creative in parking. We saw a line of newish Ferraris parked along a chain link fence across the street from the museum and tucked right in. In hindsight, they were probably part of the Ferraris doing drives as a Tribute to the Mille Miglia!

The museum is situated inside the Monastery of Saint Eufemia, a beautiful building with historical significance itself, built in 1008. Opened to the public in 2004, you step back in time, not only into the history of the original Mille Miglia but the entire Italian social and political culture of those years, with multi-media displays and historic cars creating a sense of being there. Written in Italian with English translations, the museum book is an excellent walk through each individual year with a concise summary of the road infrastructure challenges and petrol and tyre rationing, facing the 1947 start up after the war and seven year pause of the event, as well as the final demise due to a tragic accident and unsuccessful attempts to sustain itself afterwards.

Italians Francesca Grimaldi and Lucia Fanti in their XK120 OTS Jaguar maneuvering the narrow streets off the Piazza, before they take off to victory in the female team division.

Italians Francesca Grimaldi and Lucia Fanti in their XK120 OTS Jaguar maneuvering the narrow streets off the Piazza, before they take off to victory in the female team division.

German’s Peter and Dr. Claus-Peter Amberger in their 1928 4.5 Bentley fight the crowds out of the Piazza towards the start.

German’s Peter and Dr. Claus-Peter Amberger in their 1928 4.5 Bentley fight the crowds out of the Piazza towards the start.

I find the tidbits of history fascinating for this event. Initially it was meant to be a one-time race. More of a shot in the arm for the Italian people, especially Brescians. A sporting event on local roads which would not only capture the spirit of sports car enthusiasts, but would hopefully inspire technological innovation from the auto industry and road improvements. The route was determined to be half of Italy, Brescia to Rome and back… 1600km, or 1000 miles, thus the title, Mille Miglia.

This event spawned the pleasures of grand sports motor touring that many of us enjoy today.

At high noon on Thursday, the itinerary calls for the cars to congregate in the Piazza della Vittoria, the location where pre-checks were moved to in 1932. One must keep in mind, the original Mille Miglia was continuous. Stopping only for fuel and repairs. The 1927 first place winner, in a hometown manufactured O.M. (Officine Meccaniche), clocked in at a total time of 21 hrs, 04 mins, 48 secs. Today’s event is actually a four day regularity run.

At the Piazza, you get the same sense of these cars as you do when the Pebble Beach cars end their road tour in Carmel… pandemonium. When you think about it, like Pebble Beach, these are million dollar cars, just parked for mobs of onlookers to see… and admire. That is another very nice thing about this event. It’s approachable for the public at no cost other than getting there.

Another recommendation is to make lunch reservations at one of the local restaurants just off the Piazza when you arrive race day. It takes the edge off things, when everything gets crazy at lunchtime. We actually didn’t do that, but there was a silver lining. While walking out of the city towards Viale Venezia, the start, we remembered friends mentioning they sat at a cafe on the street and watched the cars go by. We caught a late lunch and got to watch them, presumably en route the Museum tour and dinner.

American co-driver Mark Gessler, president of the Heritage Vehicle Association, in an original Mille Miglia Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 GS Zagato accompanies Manuel Elicabe to a stellar 11th place finish!

American co-driver Mark Gessler, president of the Heritage Vehicle Association, in an original Mille Miglia Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 GS Zagato accompanies Manuel Elicabe to a stellar 11th place finish!

About an hour and a half before the 6pm start, we were front and center, a coveted location we were thankful to secure as media guests. We made friends with our media mates on either side of us. Everyone was staking out territory for the perfect shots. To be honest with you, the most interesting shots are more likely back at that little café along the roadside. Every inch of road is a good spectator spot to watch the Mille Miglia, so don’t worry... you’re so close you can do a high five with the drivers if you want!

We admired every driving team for undertaking the journey. It was fun to have spotted the winning teams when they were driving in the Piazza before the start and to have caught a glimpse of most of the cars as they rolled up onto the start stage.

On the lawn at Pebble Beach in 2013 to the start of the 2014 Mille Miglia, Tony Shooshani is all smiles in his 1921 Alfa Romeo G1 with driver Craig Calder.

On the lawn at Pebble Beach in 2013 to the start of the 2014 Mille Miglia, Tony Shooshani is all smiles in his 1921 Alfa Romeo G1 with driver Craig Calder.

And off they all go…

And off they all go…

Mille Miglia logo

When I see the red arrow, a logo they say has been around from the beginning, it will forever draw me in because there has to be a fantastic story behind who’s wearing it or sporting it on their vehicle, even if they were like me… a spectator. It was magical just being there.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on June 13, 2014 Comments (0)

In keeping with MMR’s tradition of supporting readers who indulge themselves at every given opportunity, we remind all that this Sunday is Father’s Day. A word to the wise man; if your plans include treating yourself to a good book, good food, and affordable wine in copious amounts in the name of Fatherhood, we urge you to consider that in itself, fathering is not so much an accomplishment. The achievement lies in surviving its byproduct, the children from whom you are expecting a thoughtful gift. Don’t expect them to buy you a good motorsports book. It isn’t going to happen. So take care of yourself. This week’s highlighted resources from our Goods and Services Directory feature some interesting reads. And here is where you can really shine. After you have purchased the book and just before you plunk down a C note for that box of backyard cigars, see that some flowers are delivered to the Memsahib. She probably made Father’s Day possible for you.

We review the Canadian GP in Montreal and preview Le Mans which is this weekend. Several short weeks ago we changed over our winter tires to summer and we were trying to figure out just how to read the code on the tires that indicate when they were hatched. Denise McCluggage’s story about tires is a timely review about an important and expensive part of our drive that some of us take for granted and most drivers completely neglect. 

Silver Arrows

Our featured photographer this week is MMR’s old friend Royce Rumsey’s Study in Silver. 

Our Michael Furman image for this issue is the cockpit of a 1936 Delahaye 135 GP race car. It is probably not your resident mental image of a Delahaye, but you won’t be disappointed in this basic racer version. See more of his work in his Gallery or at MichaelFurman.com.

Michael Furman photograph of the cockpit of a 1936 Delahaye 135 GP race car.

F1: Canadian GP – Montreal

By all accounts, neither the City of Montreal nor the F1 race disappointed. We didn’t attend and regret missing the parties but we did watch it on TV and everyone seemed to agree it was an interesting race. Despite their massive support in Montreal, Ferrari didn’t really have an impact and neither did McLaren. But, Red Bull and Mercedes did. It is too easy to say that the race was competitive because of the failure of technology at Mercedes. As enthusiasts we learned a few new interesting aspects of these cars and drivers. For one, we learned that the mighty Mercedes team were vulnerable, not only to hardware failure but also from an engineering point of view. Everyone knew that this track, with its long straight and relatively slow corners was tough on brakes. The new hybrid power system calls on the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) to slow the car through the drivetrain. Like downshifting. Mercedes felt that would be sufficient and ran smaller than permitted rear brake discs to save weight. When the KERS system failed, they ran out of brakes in the rear. Larger discs would not have solved the problem but they would have helped. 

Brake problems

Full credit to Rosberg who out qualified his teammate, and then, from the moment he had car problems ran hard and smart to salvage a second place. Vettel, who finished third to Ricciardo and Rosberg also showed grace and maturity in his post race interview. Next, we knew that drivers sometimes were obliged to reboot the computers, or more likely reprogram the drive settings, while they were racing. And we learned that some of them are better at it than others. Force India’s driver Sergio Perez, for instance, is not particularly good at it and it took him longer than others to change the necessary settings, costing him time and positions on the track and possibly contributing to his ill advised block on Massa that cost them both points-paying positions in the race. And it could be a clue as to why McLaren dumped him. Who says F1 is boring?

Le Mans: le 24 Heures du Mans

Stake out the couch, pile up the heart arresting, life shortening goodies, and a sleeping bag and tell everyone to close the doors to their room. Coverage begins Saturday at 6:30PM ET and Sunday at 1:00 AM. WOW! Will you be popular!

Le Mans: 24 Heures du Mans is the European equivalent of the Indy 500. Both get weeks of hype and special days to introduce the cars and the teams to the public. In the end, what was once an endurance race, as in will this bloody thing last is now a 24 hour sprint, as in foot to the floor for 24 race. Audi have dominated it in recent years with only a few Peugeot interruptions, to the disappointment of the French. Porsche had a stranglehold on it for years before they did.

The evolution of new engine and aerodynamic technology has presented an opportunity for car manufacturers to showcase their engineering talents and this year both Porsche and Toyota have joined the fray. Audi are there but hardly mentioned. Toyota have won the first two races of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship and they are looking strong for Le Mans where they qualified 1-2. Now begins the race of tactics.

Around the Newsstands

Classic and Sports Car did an interesting three-way comparison between a ′66 327 Corvette, a ′63 Jaguar XKE and a Toyota 2000 from the ′66 to ′70 period. Thought provoking read.

The June issue of Sports Car Market surveys some of the better known participants in the auction/collection game expounding on current market pricing and whether it is a justified trend or merely a bubble and when/if Chicken Little Syndrome will kick in. As you know, we don’t cover auctions here because so many people, like SCM, do it so much better. But because our MMR Goods & Services Directory deals daily with sales and repair outlets, (we have 2800 suppliers in the Directory) we can tell you that these quickly rising prices are affecting several sectors. For dealers, buying cars is getting tougher and tougher as nobody who can afford to wants to sell a car today that could be worth appreciably more in several months from now. Correspondingly, major used parts for older cars are also rising in price and being withheld from the repair shops for the same reason. As with everything else, where you stand on this issue depends on where you sit. For the average enthusiast, this is a game being played way beyond their ability to compete. While there is some comfort in seeing appreciation for the car you have been maintaining and enjoying for several years, if you are not planning to sell it, you are simply a spectator.

Have a great weekend.

Peter Bourassa


My Word: Do You Know Your Tire’s Birthday?

Posted on June 12, 2014 Comments (0)

by Denise McCluggage

When one writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column as I did in a previous life that writer looks forward to the special weeks someone has devised, such as the recent Tire Week. A special week hands a writer a subject and means one fewer had to be dreamed up to fill the quota of 52. Yippee for tires.

I particularly liked Tire Week because I believe sincerely that tires are as important as you can get in a vehicle. Yes, they keep the bloody thing off the ground, but that’s not what earns them their kingship. What does that is this: Tires serve as the sole communicator of all drivers’ hopes, wishes and intentions from the vehicle to the surface of the earth. Nothing else can do that.

Want to turn? The steering wheel merely aims your rolling front wheels. It is the tires taking little bites of the road in that new direction that result in a turn. Want to stop? The brakes slow the turning of the tires. It is the tires’ friction with the road’s surface that leads to a stop. Want to get rolling? Apply pressure to the gas pedal and the car’s running gear turns the drive wheels. Again the friction between the tires and the road surface causes your vehicle to get underway and keeps it rolling as you feed it fuel. If that grip on the road is absent because of ice, gravel or too much speed you do not do what you intended. Tires and friction are necessary.

I felt a bit guilty not writing something about tires this past Tire Week so I decided to do a column, if not for a newspaper, at least for the medium gradually strangling newspapers. And I decided to concentrate on an aspect of tires that most people are surprised to hear about.

Tires have a birthdate. Tires have a use span. Tires have a shelf life. And it behooves tire users to know about such things so that they can be wise buyers and safe users of the most important items on their cars.

Many people know enough to keep their tires inflated to the proper pressure, checking no less than once a month when the tire is cold—maybe driven a mile or less to the service station. But it’s really nice to have an accurate pressure gauge at home and even a neat compressor to pump up a non-compliant tire. These people know how to check to the depth of the tread with a coin (or how to Google it) and to look for damaging curb strikes on the sidewalls. And for cracks on those sidewalls.

I applaud them. But they are often at a loss when I say “How old are your tires?” Oh, put on three years ago. Big sale. Saved a ton. Did you? How old were they when you bought them? They were new!

To your car, maybe. But when were they born?

Blank look. Just ask the tires.

Right off the rack a tire can be ready to be scrapped. Maybe. Did you ever buy a packet of shiny new yellow pencils with round red erasers only to get them home and discover the erasers are as hard as little rocks? Good for smearing the mark of a #2 pencil but not for erasing anything. Pencils are cheaper than tires but their rubber is subject to similar time limitations. Tire rubber gets hard and that grip to turn, stop and start is dangerously compromised. The tread—as sharp as it looks, as deeply as it measures—is not what counts. Age is. And history.

Controversy reigns. Tire dealers have their own policy of how old a tire needs to be before they will not sell it. Tires warehoused in controlled climate and humidity are “younger” than tires mounted and in use or displayed in sun-struck racks at a shop. Be aware that laws have been discussed governing maximum tire ages but none have been passed. A tire living outdoors in a hot dry climate may be ready for replacement in five or six years. Seven is probably a limit for such a tire to be safe. For a garaged car in a kinder atmosphere you might get moderate use for another three to four years but I’m fond of seven. Which, comes to finger-counting, means my lightly-used 21-year-old Suzuki Sidekick living in New Mexico is probably ready for new black rings at each corner.

Let me go check their birthday…

OK. I’m embarrassed. My lovely Bridgestones which I still think of as “newish”—and they look it—carry this code—3403—on the sidewall following DOT and other numbers not relevant to me now. I’m not going to tell you what 3403 means but let you “look it up.” My daddy always said that would mean more to me.

What Daddy meant was go through card catalogs and pull down heavy tomes from library shelves. Certainly character-building. I mean go to this Tire Rack link and look at their illustrated way to read the age of your tires. And mine, if you’re the nosy kind. Tire Rack also has a wealth of tire lore that is worth several years of Tire Week. You can become an expert and dine out on tire information for months to come.

Belated happy birthday, Tire Week.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on June 6, 2014 Comments (0)

June! Glorious June!

Our June calendar lists a favorite racing city party and Le Mans.

Our images this week are from the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, taken by Editor Dom Miliano and me. Michael Furman’s feature image is that of a 1933 Squire front.

1933 Squire photo by Michael Furman

IndyCar and Detroit Both Survive

In the recent past, images of Detroit have been anything but pretty. But news from the Motor City has been much better of late. People who care about the city, including Roger Penske, have contributed energy and money to make things happen. The American never say die and we can do this attitudes are prevailing. Property values are rising, and neighborhood by neighborhood there is a resurgence of small businesses and community spirit. Ford, GM, and Chrysler are doing well and doing good by investing in their own local infrastructure. Ironically, the same word applies to this turnaround as to the iconic downtown development that was once heralded as its salvation and later criticized as the reason for its ruin. Renaissance. 

Penske Racing is based in Detroit and The Captain has been the driving force and sponsor behind the two day IndyCar races held on Belle Isle, a park island just off Detroit’s downtown. This is another barrier bound street course and its physical condition mirrors Detroit’s finances. It is to be hoped that both will improve. Penske cars won both bumpy races and as bumpy races go it was entertaining. The talented Will Power drove to a solid win on Saturday and the equally talented Helio Castroneves won on Sunday. The close racing on a tight bumpy course made for the inevitable contact and bad feelings and the soap opera is now part of the IndyCar show.

F1 in Montreal this Weekend

The Grand Prix of Canada takes place in Montreal this weekend. Montreal is a great party city and the F1 team sponsors decorate the town squares with product and race car displays. The race track itself is both simple and boring. The F1 community has a speak no evil policy to which all adhere. A boring track is called technical by drivers. This infers that they don’t think it is as boring we do. Named after native son Gilles Villeneuve, it is essentially a park service road on an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River and in full view of downtown Montreal. Coming off the tight Monaco circuit, this track allows for more passing. It is one of Hamilton’s favorite circuits and he has won here several times. That insures that the Mercedes drama will continue.

Greenwich Concours d’Elegance

Dom and I attended the Greenwich Concours this past weekend. The setting, a wooded park on the Long Island Sound is magnificent. Sadly, the view of the water is blocked by the huge Bonham’s Auction tent installation. The show cars are set out in circular compounds among the trees and while I had heard complaints about this, I found it interesting and not at all a negative issue. The actual selection of cars on display was eclectic and interesting. The whole atmosphere is casual and owners of cars on display seemed more accessible and engaging. 

Greenwich Concours d'Elegance

The Bonhams Auction was a huge success and the pricing on market leading cars did not disappoint. An early Flat Floor E-Type Jaguar sold for $335K and an XK-150S did $203,500. The crowd cheered a local bidder who purchased John Fitch’s Phoenix in part to keep it in Connecticut. This is a good thing. No bubble burst here.

Uncommon Ferraris

A Connecticut resident brought his Carbon Fiber race car to the Greenwich Concours. We thought you might be interested in seeing its pretty sister and the Forghieri-designed original.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to share this newsletter with a friend. It’s how we grow.

Peter Bourassa


Uncommon Ferraris

Posted on June 6, 2014 Comments (0)

James Glickenhaus is a collector of historic and important race cars from the sixties-seventies period. One of those cars, displayed here (#23) is the Ferrari P3/4 which Chris Amon drove to victory at Daytona in 1967. The other two cars are new Ferrari P4/5s. Glickenhaus commissioned their design by American Jason Castriota. They have Ferrari running gear but are not of Ferrari’s manufacture. Both are carbon fiber, the race version is unpainted. It has competed and was shown at Greenwich this past weekend.

Uncommon Ferraris

Uncommon Ferraris

Uncommon Ferraris