12 November 2010

Mille Miglia Madness - 10 Tips

For the past few years, the Mille Miglia has been under new management. If you haven't been back recently, you can expect a much better all-around-event – albeit a bit more commercial. Here are a few tips about the new Mille Miglia for those considering having a go. Hagerty is dedicated to supporting quality vintage events and they don't get any better than this one.

1 Some cars are more eligible. Just because your car is eligible doesn't mean you will be accepted. Every year the entries far exceed the 375 slots. Manufacturers are big sponsors, so unless you're Jackie Stewart, don't expect your Gullwing to be a shoo-in. The situation is similar for the BMW 328s and 507s. Other tough entries are Lancia Aurelias and Alfa Giuliettas, simply due to the large number of applications for a limited number of slots. Don't buy one of these cars with the sole intent of running the Mille Miglia because you may be sorely disappointed. The best ways to increase your chances is to enter a pre-war car (good), a relatively rare and significant car (better) or a car that ran the Mille Miglia “in period” (best). Of course, if you want a lock in an entry, become a sponsor…

2 No papers, no invite. All cars must have a FIVA ID Card to be eligible. This involves an application and physical inspection of your car. You should allow at least a month for this to be completed. Generally, the Mille Miglia organization will only accept cars that are strictly as they were delivered new (or exactly as modified in-period for competition). These are FIVA classifications A/1 to A/3 and B/1 to B/3. In short, this means roll bars, fuel cells, race tires, electronic ignition, braided hoses and factory “works” replicas or “tribute” cars are NOT permitted. Only authentic period equipment is permitted. No exceptions.

3 Deadline December. The Mille Miglia application deadline is typically around December 20, so start planning in the fall at the earliest if you want to get your car ready. In addition to the FIVA ID, the Mille Miglia will require photos of the car as part of the online application to verify that it's prepared to period specification. You have one shot at this so make sure your equipment is correct. The online application is a bit tedious, and your bank may need to be contacted in advance to approve the international transaction. The organizers are very strict and the deadline is non-negotiable.

4 What it really costs. No one said it was going to be cheap, but Mille Miglia fees total nearly £6,500, and you have to get your car there. Americans can add on $6,500 for shipping round-trip from and £3,500 or so for driver co-driver to fly to Europe and stay for a week. This does not include race prep, which may be considerable. Of course, Hagerty does a great job of handling the insurance needs out of its European office.

5 Prep matters. Your first objective is to finish. This is a hard 1,000 miles and your car must be in top order. There is nothing worse than the disappointment of spending your Mille Miglia on the side of the road with mechanical, electrical or cooling issues. Get the car ready well in advance and take it out on some long distance touring events. Don't take a freshly restored car. This is almost always a recipe for failure, no matter what your restorer says. It's also best to have a support team on the event to get you back on the road if you encounter any trouble. The Mille Miglia doesn't provide mechanical support. This is a race; keeping the car running is your job.

6 By air or by sea? If you're in Europe you're going to drive, but coming from overseas, you have choices to make. Flying the car is better, simply because the car is in transit for a relatively short time, reducing the opportunity for damage. Traveling by boat can jostle the car considerably. Containers sometimes get lost at sea, but planes rarely go down. That said, flying can cost twie as much.

7 Embrace chaos. The Mille Miglia is organized chaos from check-in to the finish line; that's part of its charm. The Italians will insist that the directions are very clear and all spelled out — but they are all in Italian.

8 Remember this IS a race. The Mille Miglia is not a luxury tour. It's a 1,000 mile race from the north of Italy to Rome and back - 40 towns in 48 hours. The event starts on Thursday evening in Brescia and ends there two days later on Saturday evening. Plan on arriving in your hotel after midnight, starving, and waking up before dawn. You'll be completely exhausted.

9 Pick your partner. Find a co-pilot who can tell time and read a route book without being car sick. It doesn't hurt if he's Italian and has run (or even won) the Mille Miglia before. Hey, this is USEFUL information, right? The modern Mille Miglia is a historic rally and not an all-out race from start to finish. There are approximately 40 timed sections that will require a sophisticated digital stopwatch. The top supplier is Digitech (digitechtiming.com). A good timing device will run nearly £1,000. The route book is in kilometers. Make sure your trip odometer is working well or install an auxiliary. Even modest success on the time trials can raise your finish to top 100.

10 Billy, don't be a hero… It's unlikely you will be stopped by the authorities because it's Italy and this is the Mille Miglia. It's hard to resist the allure of driving at top speed and at the edge of the old car's limits, but every year several competitors are involved in accidents. Enjoy the drive, take in the scenery and cheers of the crowds and bring your car and co-pilot home safely. Of course it's OK if you win, too.

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