Brescia, Italy, in May. Italian parking as haphazard as ever, only it’s not extravagantly abandoned Cinquecentos or Pandas, but a visiting tide of some of the worlds’ finest classic cars. The Mille Miglia is in town, and it’s as impressive (and disorganised) as ever. GRR’s checking it out, as, evidently is half of Italy, the tight, cobbled streets not just filled with expensive metal, but a huge mass of humanity.
The manufacturers are out in force, both Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz are running tribute events (with a predictable laissez-faire approach to planning and timetables) giving not just those interested in historics something to see on the route, but fans of the modern too. The older metal’s the real draw, even if it’s impossible not to be impressed by the sight of three LaFerraris, and a similar number of 722 Stirling Moss Mercedes-McLaren SLRs, out being used properly. Jaguar’s operation, running a fleet of C and D-types, would shame many a modern race team’s efforts.
There are flocks of Gullwings, Merc’s presence high in this 60th anniversary of the famous race, Stirling Moss’s famous 722 flanked by its SLR teammates in one of Brescia’s main thoroughfares. It’s the sights, sounds and smells that are so intoxicating though. The multi-million pound motorcade makes its way through the Italian countryside and a few coned-off flag-waving, people-lined, city centre roads. The route often incorporates timing challenges that test the co-driver’s ability to both read a roadbook and stopwatch and the wheel man (or woman’s) ability to interpret the shouted, misheard and hand-signalled gestures over the sounds of classic engines being revved furiously and the cries of the Italian crowds to go faster.
Think of a Festival of Speed crowd spread out over a 1000 miles, waving happily as cars pass, traffic rules dismissed and police outriders and Alfa saloons pushing the classics through Italy at speeds otherwise impossible. The daily traffic gets out of the way, more often than not catching the back to shorten their commute, Italy’s output of speeding tickets is certain to be significantly higher over the next few days. But what a small price to pay to see such a magnificent mass of motoring being used as it should be….