Conte Maggi’s Mille Miglia by Peter Miller. 164pp.91/4″ x 91/2″ .(Alan Sutton Publishmg, Shepherd Road, Gloucester GL2 6EL. £14.95).
Over thirty years since the Mille Miglia was last run, it is easy to forget just what a formidable reputation this event forged for itself between 1927 and 1957 as the finest road race in existence.
Its originator and driving force was nobleman Conte Aymo Maggi, a respected racing driver of his day who, along with all other native Brescians, had been deeply insulted that the newly-built circuit at Monza had “stolen” the Italian Grand Prix in 1922 only one year after its successful inauguration at the Brescian circuit of Fascia d’Oro. Had it not been for the Count’s enthusiasm, connections and perseverance, it is doubtful whether the Mille Miglia would ever have come into being, so his own story is inextricably linked with that of the event.
It is therefore quite a coup that author Peter Miller has been allowed access to the personal photograph albums of Contessa Camilla Maggi, the Count’s widow, in order to write this book. Miller has gone beyond the confines of simply recounting each thousand miles in chronological order, and rather has woven a story around the nobleman, his family, his life and times, while the kernel of the book still remains the race.
Most of the 150 black-and-white photographs are splendid, and truly capture the spirit of the times. Naturally many are of competing cars, but they are interspersed with family portraits, group gatherings and even one of a hydrofoil. Some look awful, having been lifted from period magazines and newspapers, but it is far better to study a bad reputation than not have one at all.
My only gibe against the book is the poor layout: photographs often bear no relation to the text at all, sometimes even appearing in wrong chapters and certainly not in chronological order. There are also double-page inserts from Stirling Moss, Enzo Ferrari, Alfred Neubauer and others which have been designed into the book completely out of context; for instance, Neubauer’s piece falls in the middle of a chapter devoted to a resume of the Count’s background. The result is that the flow of the story is seriously interrupted. Appendices outline the chronology of the Mille Miglia, list the top ten finishers between 1927 and 1957 and those who finished the course between six and fourteen times, and include route-maps. Recommended. WPK