WHEN Charles Jarrott wrote his fine account of the Paris-Madrid race of 1903 he deplored the closing of the era of town to town races which marked the early days of motoring. His view was that the modern type of race over a short closed circuit lacked the sporting qualities of the older type, and though the series of Grand Prix races has shown that his fears were without cause, there is no doubt of the appeal of the race covering great tracts of country.
From 1903 till 1927 the circuit race was the only road race available. In the latter year was conceived the brilliant idea of the Italian Mille Miglia, over a course from Brescia to Rome and back to the starting point which formed a giant figure of eight over the whole of Italy, and embraced every type of road over which a car is likely to travel.
The route goes from Brescia through Bologna and over the Apennines to Florence, then to Siena and Rome, where it turns back again and leads through Terni, Perugia, Marcerata, Ancona, and Bologna, where it crosses the outward road, and goes via Treviso and Verona to Brescia. Such a course has all the romance and variety which anyone could desire, and provides a test of endurance for cars and drivers unequalled by any motor race in the world.
History of the Race.
In 1927, the first year this now famous classic was held, it was won by Minoia and Morandi driving a 2-litre O.M. in 21h. 4m. 48s. at an average speed of 48 m.p.h. while similar cars were second and third.
In 1928 the victory went to the famous Milan firm of Alfa-Romeo, who, with a 1,500 c.c. model driven by Campari and Ramponi, beat a 2-litre O.M. by the narrow margin of 8 minutes. Their time was 19h. 14m. 5s., a speed of 52 m.p.h. 1929 saw a repeat victory for Campari and Ramponi, this time on a 1,750 c.c. Alfa, again taking their place from a 2litre 0.M., 10 minutes behind them, with
another 1,750 c.c. Alfa third. This time they took 18h. 4m. 28s., a speed of 55.6 m.p.h.
1930 brought another win for Alfas again with a 1,750 c.c. car, driven this time by Nuvolari and Guidotti, while the first four places were occupied by similar models. The winners’ time was much shorter than hitherto, being 16h. 18m. 59s., speed 62 m.p.h.
Last year, 1931, saw the introduction of two models new to the event, the 2,300 c.c. Alfa-Romeo, and the 4,900 c.c. Bugatti. Once more All put up a great fight but were defeated by the lone entry of Caracciola on the 7-litre supercharged Mercedes, who broke all previous records for the race in 16h.. 10m. 10s., his speed. being 62.85 m.p.h. under difficult weather conditions.
This year the race was favoured with dry weather and 88 cars left Brescia on their long journey. The big cars, as usual, started after the utility class and included no less than 31 Alias out of 48 cars, the largest number of any other make being 4 0.M.’s. This class also included the 105 Talbot driven by Brian Lewis, who put up a very fine show against the strong entry of supercharged cars, and in spite of a crash which would have been enough for most drivers, got going again and finished 25th. As only 41 cars finished, the strenuous character of the race can well be imagined.
From the first it was obvious that the pace was going to be terrific, and on the first stage to Bologna which is the fastest piece of road in the course, three cars were practically equal. These were Nuvolari and Guidotti on one of the 2,300 c.c. Alfas, Caracciola and Ilonini on another, and Varzi and Castelbarco on a 2,300 c.c. Bugatti. Five seconds of time covered these three cars while they had put up the almost incredible average speed for the 130 miles of 101 m.p.h. Such a pace was bound to cause trouble, and by the time Florence was readied two of the Alfas had crashed. Ghersi first came to grief, fortunately sustaining only
minor injuries, and in turning to look at the wreckage, Nuvolari also left the road and had to retire. At Florence, 195 miles, the order was : 1. Caracciola-Bonini (Alfa-Romeo), 2h. 36m,
2. Campari-Soczi (Alfa-Romeo), 2h. 40m.
3. Siena-Taruffi (Alfa-Romeo), 2h. 42m.
4. Broschek-Sebastian (Alfa-Romeo), 2h, 43m.
4. Varzi-Castelbarco (Bugatti), 2h. 44m. 6. Borzacchini-Bignami (Alfa-Romeo), 2h. 46m.
The next section of the route saw the end of the Bugatti chances, when Varzi went out of the race with a damaged petrol tank. Caracciola was still holding his lead, but Broschek had pulled up to second place, and at Siena was only four and a half minutes behind the leader.
The Small Class.
In the small class much favourable comment was caused by the performance of the supercharged M.G. Midget driven by Lord de Clifford and V. G. Selby. They had bad luck in. the early stages through being held up with a puncture, and lost much ground on Tuffanelli, who, at the wheel of a 4 cylinder 1,100 c.c. Maserati, had established a firm lead in his class. However on the mountainous section the M.G. went to such purpose that it gained on its larger rival and got up to second place in the 1,100 c.c. class. Unfortunately near the end of the race the M.G. had to retire with a sheared camshaft drive. At Itome (376 miles), the order was :
1. Caracciola (Alfa-Romeo), 5h. 22m. 52s.
2. Siena (Alfa-Romeo), 5h. 31m.
3. Campari (Alfa-Romeo), 5h. 32m. 20s.
4. Trossi-Brivio (Alfa-Romeo), 5h. 39m. 31s.
5. Borzacchini (Alfa-Romeo), 5h. 40m, 12s. 6. Broschek (Alfa-Romeo), 5h. 54m, .Caracciola was driving a truly magnificent race, having -averaged over 70 m.p.h. to Rome, and looked like repeating his success of last year. Borzacchini was driving with his usual cunning and not forcing his car too much, while Caracciola had to stop at Terni to adjust his brakes which were beginning to give out under the strain of the pace he was setting,
.This stop cost him nearly the whole of his lead, and Campari and Siena were closing up on him, and eventually passed him. At Perugia (495 miles), the order was :—
1. Siena (Alfa-Romeo), 7h. 14m.
2. Campari (Alfa-Romeo), 7h. 14m, 35s.
3. Caracciola (Alfa-Romeo), 7h. 18m.
4. Borzacchini (Alfa-Romeo), 7h. 20m.
5. Trossi (Alfa-Romeo), 7h, 35m.
6. Scarfiotti-d’Ippolito (Alfa-Romeo), 7h. 37m.
Scarfiotti’s car was a 1,750 c.c. model, all the others being the famous 2,300 c.c. type. Between Perugia and Marcerata the winding and difficult roads caused further changes in the leaders, and Campari took the lead from Siena, who dropped back to third, second place being taken by the wily Borzacchini, who was now beginning to show once again his remarkable ability under difficult driving conditions. and when they reached Ancona he had taken the lead, not to lose it again. At this control Campari was lying second but as he was leaving the town disaster overtook him. Wishing to replace his .:goggles which he had pulled down in the control, he left the wheel to his
co-driver Soczi. However, this method of control was insufficient to cope with an awkward moment, and the car left the road and was rendered hors-de-combat fortunately without injury to the drivers. On the run from here to Bologna, Borzacchini really showed his hand, and in Spite of the complete darkness covered the
intervening 130 miles at the perfectly horrible average of nearly 89 m.p.h. This remarkable feat of driving gave him a really comfortable lead, the second man now being Caracciola who had made a last effort, but to no avail as his car finally gave out at Verona, and he retired after a fine drive. (Continued on page 330)