The Seventh Mille Miglia.



The Seventh Mille Miglia


THAT the Italians are more enthusiastic about motor racing than any other community in the world is proved by the ability of the Royal Automobile Club of Italy to hold its annual 1,000 mile race over roads voluntarily closed by the general public. Even in France such a race would be impossible, while what would happen if the suggestion were put forward in our own House of Commons could only be done justice to by a Bateman cartoon! The mere fact of never having driven in a sports or racing car does not detract from the excitement of the Italian peasant at the prospect of witnessing a motor race. Weeks before the Mille Miglia takes place the word is passed round that the cars will be passing through a particular town or village at a certain time, and woe betide the cyclist or driver of a cart who tries to use the road and thereby impede the progress of the racing cars. So that, in effect, the public are their own marshals, which no doubt accounts for the few accidents which occur, when one considers that the entry list is always about one hundred cars. In accordance with usual practice, the Utility class, the Saloons, and the 1,500 c.c. and 1,100 c.c. cars were sent off first, and a tremendous crowd assembled in Brescia to see the start. In quick succession the machines disappeared out of sight towards Cremona, great interest being aroused by the green M.G.Magnettes, driven by Lord Howe and H.C.Hamilton, G.E.T.Eyston and Count Lurani, and Sir H.Birkin and B.Rubin. The first stage of the 1,000 miles course, to the control at Bologna, is the fastest of the whole route, towns and villages being taken flat out at speeds of anything up to 130 m.p.h. Through Cremona, Parma, Reggio and Modena the cars roared, fastest of all being Borzacchini on one of the Ferrari-stable Alfa Romeos, who averaged 100.5 m.p.h. and beat the record by 10 seconds. On this stretch Count Trossi, a popular Italian driver, got into a disastrous skid on a corner. He wrecked his Alfa Romeo, receiving slight injuries himself and hurling his mechanic through space.

Race organised by R.A.C. of Italy. Distance 1,000 miles. Previous winners :

1927 Minoia-Morandi (0.M.), 48 m.p.h.

1928 Campari-Ramponi (Alfa Romeo), 52 m.p.h.

1929 Campari-Ramponi (Alfa-Romeo), 55.6 m.p.h.

1930 Nuvolari-Guidotti (Alfa-Romeo), 62 m.p.h.

1931 Caracciola-Sebastian (Merc4desBenz), 62.85 m.p.h.

1932 Borzacchini Bignarni (AlfaRomeo), 67.7 m.p.h.

From the start it was evident that Sir Henry Birkin was destined to pursue his well known role of setting up a very fast pace in order to crack up the rival cars in the class. At the Bologna control he was well ahead, and over the Raticosa Pass to Florence he maintained a record average. And so to Siena, where the note of the gallant Magnette began to falter, and finally the car had to be withdrawn with a broken valve. By this time, too, the rear axle was giving trouble, but in any case Birkin’s work was done, for the Maserati, driven desperately by Tuffanelli in an effort to keep pace with the flying Magnette (which had averaged 87 m.p.h. for 129 miles), came to a standstill on the Puta Pass, before Siena, with an irreparably damaged gearbox.

Of the larger cars, Borzacchini held his lead over Nuvolari all the way to Rome, beating the record to Florence by some three minutes. Von Brauchitsch, the German driver of a Mercedes-Benz, was experiencing a tremendous amount of tyre trouble, throwing three treads in 24 miles, and eventually gave up the uneven battle. Penn-Hughes, who was driving Earl Howe’s Mercedes-Benz as a sort of tender to the Magnettes, experienced little trouble, on the other hand, with normal Dunlop Fort covers.

After Rome had been passed, a different complexion was put on the race by the retirement of Borzacchini, with a cracked cylinder head on his Alfa Romeo. Nuvolari took the lead, which he was to hold until the end, and as he had a comfortable advantage of thirteen minutes over the next man, Castelbarco, on a similar Alfa Romeo, he could afford to ease up considerably. Then came the difficult section to Perugia, Macerata and Ancona, after which there is a fast run through Pesaro, along the shores of the Adriatic, to Bologna. Although the two Magnettes were leading in the 1,100 c.c. class, unexpected opposition was coming from the little Ballila Fiats. These unsupercharged 4cylinder side-valve cars of under 1,000 c.c. were putting up a most impressive show, averaging about 60 m.p.h. for the 750 miles to Bologna. On arrival at Bologna Eyston had to fit new batteries, for his dynamo had ceased to function. Howe’s trouble was plugs and a broken headlamp bracket, but eventually the two cars got going again within twelve minutes of each other. The remaining Maserati, driven by Tabanelli, had run off the road and damaged its front axle. With great determination the crew had removed the axle, heated and straightened it at a local garage, and returned to the fray, arriving at Bologna an hour after the Magnettes had left.

Eyston, through having to economise with his lights, using one only wherever possible, was gradually overhauled by Earl Howe, but no sooner had the latter got within striking distance than he was delayed once more with faulty plugs. Strazza, on a special Lancia Astura, had made a splendid run until just before the second Bologna control, when he tore out the fabric of a universal joint. After a hasty repair, however, he continued. At two o’clock in the morning we stood at the finishing point, a street on the outskirts of Brescia. All around thronged a dense crowd of Italians, excitedly discussing the possible winners of the various classes. So powerful were the street lamps that it was almost like daylight, but up above the mysterious foliage of the budding chestnut trees held the darkness. Suddenly the sound of a bugle rang out (how well the Italians can stage-manage a motor race!) and simultaneously a car with blazing headlights appeared down the road from Verona. It was difficult to distinguish the make of the car in its dazzling lights, and we screwed up our eyes in an effort to overcome this disability. Then the car came so near that we could see, and a great shout went up from the crowd, such as to gladden the hearts of the few Englishmen present. For the car first to arrive and winner of the 1,100 c.c. class, at an average of 56.89 m.p.h., was the dusty and mud-stained M.G.Magnette driven by George Eyston with Count Lurani beside him. Hardly had the two weary drivers recovered from the congratulatory embraces of pressmen and officials, and Eyston had driven off to the official park, before the second Magnette arrived, followed by a steady stream of travel stained Alfa Romeos, Fiats and Bianchis. By this time everyone knew that Nuvolari was the winner, and he received a tumultuous welcome as he pulled up, winner of the seventh Mille Miglia at an average speed of 67.45 m.p.h. His time was a shade slower than Borzacchini’s last year, but this was not to be wondered at in view of the lack of competition. Castelbarco, the second man, finished 27 minutes behind, so that Nuvolari could well afford to take it easily. The first nine cars were Alfa Romeos, when the sequence was broken by Strazza’s Lancia, which, had it not been for the delay caused by its universal, could have finished third. But there should be no ” ifs ” or ” buts” in motor racing!

The victory of the M.G. Magnette, apart from being a splendid performance on the part of its drivers, George Eyston and Count Lurani, is a good omen for the future of the car itself. It is safe to say that the average speed of both Magnettes would have been considerably higher if suitable plugs had been used. As it was, an enormous quantity were burnt out, and the constant stoppages brought down the average speed greatly. In spite of this, the cars showed themselves capable of very high speed, the chassis stood up to the rough roads without trouble, and the Wilson pre-selective gearbox has been triumphantly vindidated as a definite improvement in the design of a racing car.

Special praise must be given to the little Balla Fiats, which gave a performance little short of miraculous. Unsupercharged, with side-valve 995 c.c. engines, these little cars averaged over 53 m.p.h. for the race, being 100% reliable, and possessing remarkable road holding qualities.


1. Nuvolari and Compagnoni, Alfa Romeo, 15h. 11m. 50s. Average 67.45 m.p.h.

2. Castelbarco and Cortese, Alfa Romeo, 15h. 38m. 2s.

3. Taruffi and Pellegrini, Alfa Romeo, 16h. 0m. 576.

4. Scartiotti and D’Ippolito, Alfa Romeo, 16h. 22m. 10s.

5. Santinelli and Berti, Alfa Romeo, 16h. 25rn. 39s

6. Ruesch and Kessler, Alfa Romeo, 16h. 25m. 46s.

7. Gazzabini and D’Allesio, Alfa Romeo, 16h. 31m. 28s.

8. Foligno and Comotti, Alfa Romeo, 16h. 41m. 48s.

9. Peverelli and D’Orto, Alfa Romeo, 16h. 51m. 55s.

10. Strazza and Gismondi, Lancia, 16h. 58m. 20s.

11. Casti and Favero, Alfa Romeo, 17h. 7m. 376.

12. Auricchio and Rosa, Alfa Romeo, 17h. 9m. 33s.

1,100 c.c. Class.

1. Eyston and Lurani, M.G., 18h. 1m. 4s. Average 56.89 m.p.h.

2. Earl Howe and Hamilton, M.G. 18h. 2m. 34s.

3. Ambrosini and Menchetti, Fiat Special.

4. Tabanelli and Borgnino, Maserati.

Saloon Cars.

1. Sperti and Donnini, Alfa Romeo, 17h. 49m. 58s. Average 57.5 m.p.h.

2. Count Rossi Theo-Cattanco Alfa Romeo.

1,600 c.c. Class.

1. Berrone and Carraroli, Alfa Romeo, 17h. 38m. 35s.

2. Dalla-Mura-Crivellari, Alfa Romeo.

Utility Class, under 1,100 c.c.

1. Ricci and Maggi, Fiat, 19h. 11m. 36s. 53.8 m.p.h.

2. Spotorno and Ghiringelli, Fiat.

3. Ceschina and Guagnellini, Fiat.

Utility Class, above 1,100 c.c.

1. Martinelli and Tragella, Bianchi, 18h. 54m. 15s. Average 54.2 m.p.h.

The M.G.’s equipment included Lucas ignition, Ferodo brake-lining, Dunlop tyres, K.L.G. plugs, T.F.T. fuel tank filler and Wilson gear box.

80 out of 88 starters used Ferodo brake-linings.