By Eric Watkins
LOS ANGELES, May 13 – This year’s famed Mille Miglia road race is just days away, and promises to be a star-studded event in terms of cars, drivers, fun, and history, with more than 20 firms represented – led by Jaguar.
The May 16-20 race follows the most beautiful roads from Brescia to Rome and back, and remains a challenge for vehicles and drivers as the 1,600-kilometer course is covered in just three days under variable weather conditions.
The 2012 running of the Mille Miglia marks 60 years since Sir Stirling Moss and Norman Dewis (then Jaguar’s chief development driver) took the start in the first disc-brake equipped C-type.
For this year’s race, UK-based JD Classics is preparing and supplying support to three cars from the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust. All three cars are set to take part in the event.
“All three cars are significant in their own right but the 1952 Jaguar XK120 ‘LWK 707’ is of particular historical interest,” JD Classics said, referring to the car as the record-breaking ‘7 days and 7 nights’ XK120.
According to JD Classics, this fixed-head coupe covered “a staggering 16,581 miles over the period of 7 days and 7 nights averaging at a speed of 100.31 miles per hour.”
THREE JDHT JAGS
The other two JDHT Jaguars entered in this year’s event include a 1953 Jaguar C-type, chassis number XKC 045, as well as a Jaguar XK-120 open two-seater. Mario Tadini owned the C-type, which was driven in the 1953 race by Italian racing driver Franco Cortese.
In addition to the three JDHT-backed cars under preparation by JD Classics, the official Mille Miglia website shows another dozen or so Jaguars in the running – including entry number 136 to be driven by another storied name in Jaguar history: Lammers.
Jaguar will hardly be alone in this year’s event, with the Porsche Museum sending a host of cars, including the Porsche 550 Spyder, 356 Speedster 1500, 356 Speedster 1600, 356 Speedster 1600 S and a 356 Coupe.
“The numbers 550 and 356 represent notable Mille Miglia successes for the Zuffenhausen sports car brand,” Porsche Museum said, noting that the first winning Porsche drivers was the two-man team of Prince von Metternich and Count von Einsiedel in 1952 in a Porsche 356 1100.
“In the following year, 1953, a downright phalanx of no fewer than 18 Type 356 sports cars took their place on the starting line in Brescia,” the Museum said, adding that the Porsche team of Hans Herrmann and Erwin Bauer took first place in the two-liter displacement sports car category.
The Mille Miglia has long been known for the derring-do of drivers and navigators, and in the annals of Porsche, the 550 Spyder in 1954 probably experienced the most spectacular exploit.
“To avoid losing valuable time, works driver Hans Herrmann drove the low-slung mid-engine sports car under a lowered railway barrier just in front of a passing train,” the Museum said. The duo Hermann/Linge ended up winning a class victory and an impressive sixth place overall.
BMW 328 RETURNS
The iconic BMW 328 Touring Coupé, which won the race in 1940, will also be on the starting line of this year’s race. According to BMW Board member Herbert Diess, who will drive the vehicle, the BMW 328 established benchmarks for automobile aerodynamics and lightweight construction.
Joining Diess on the starting grid is fellow Board member, Ian Robertson, responsible for marketing and sales at BMW, who said a record of “numerous racing victories” brought the BMW 328 to be one of the most “successful sports vehicles” at the end of 1930s.
This may be an historical event, but one can already hear the engines roaring, the tires skidding, and the cheers of the crowd all along the way. It will be history in the making, with a lot of history on the line.
© Glamma Productions Inc 2012