It must be a dream to drive the Mille Miglia tribute for any car enthusiast, and this Dutch father-son couple fulfilled that dream last October when they participated in their 1972 Ferrari 365 GTC/4.
2020 marked the 38th anniversary of the Mille Miglia Ferrari Tribute.
Day 1: A ‘Great’ Start
Our first Mille Miglia started early on a cold Tuesday morning. We dreamed of driving the Mille Miglia for years and 2020 would be our first time as father and son driving it. Unfortunately, the event was pushed back to October due to COVID-19, so we had to wait just a little bit longer. We decided to take the 1972 Ferrari 365 GTC/4 for its first big drive in years. We wanted to participate in a classic car as the Mille Miglia is, after all, a classic car race. The car was in its best shape, loaded up on our trailer and we left on October 20 at 7 am.
After driving for only 1 hour, the towing car – a 2-year-old Range Rover – warned us with the message ‘no power’. Luckily, it was able to continue the drive. After calling our dealer, they told us go to the closest Range Rover dealer, which was in Dusseldorf, Germany. We went to the dealer and after waiting for a bit the car was plugged onto a laptop and checked for any defects, hoping it was just an electronic issue. It wasn’t. There was an issue with the turbo which would take at least 6 hours to repair. Unfortunately, they did not have the part in stock…
The Range Rover warranty gave us the right to a free loaner car, but they didn’t have any with a tow bar that was able to carry the weight of the trailer with the Ferrari. After waiting for 5 hours, we decided to just get the Ferrari off the trailer and drive straight to Brescia, which was an 850 km drive. We were unsure whether we were going to arrive in time for the start.
As we wasted around 6 hours waiting and debating in Dusseldorf, we were pretty late, and it would turn in to a night drive, which we were not too fond of. We booked a hotel in Switzerland after driving some 400 km and arrived at 9 pm. Not the day we had planned, but the Ferrari was running very smooth aside from some minor issues. The heater did not heat enough to defog the windows and the rear window is enormous, so we were often blinded by lights of other cars.
After a relatively short sleep, we jumped in the Ferrari again and drove to Brescia without any issues.
Day 2: Checking In
Upon arrival at the famous Brixia, you get your first taste of the Mille Miglia. Everywhere you see people working and preparing their old cars and applying stickers. Goosebumps!
Since we were driving in the Ferrari Mille Miglia Tribute, our car needed to undergo a final check as well. Unfortunately, half of our front lights were not working since driving in the rain in Switzerland. We tried to fix it ourselves but that didn’t work out very well, so just went through the check and told them we would have it fixed by the local Ferrari workshop ‘Rosso Corsa’. They agreed and let us through. Our number was 502 and as it turned out, the second oldest car in the Ferrari Tribute.
When we arrived at Rosso Corsa, the mechanics dropped their work to fix the lights on our Ferrari. A very nice experience as we arrived unannounced but were very kind to help us out immediately. We even met another Dutch father-son team who were participating in their Ferrari 458 Spider. They experienced an odd vibration when driving the car in reverse. Rosso Corsa fixed both our Ferraris in about an hour.
We decided to take the rest of the day off since the previous two days were pretty hectic: a nice glass of wine was well deserved!
Day 3: The Start
The day started with lining up all the cars on Desenzano Boulevard from oldest to newest. Chronological order is quite a thing in the Mille Miglia and the race officials really care about having it in this order.
After some time waiting around, the drivers’ briefing started where they explained the road books and additional last-minute changes. We didn’t really know what they were talking about since this was our first Mille Miglia. I had some experience in navigating smaller races, but that was quite some time ago.
Other people told us that navigating is not really an issue. There are signs everywhere pointing you in the right direction or just follow the rest of the cars. Luckily, we did manage to figure it all out before the start.
That was until we were put to the test for the first time. After departing an empty Desenzano (thanks to COVID-19) and driving for 30 minutes, we arrived at the first ‘time trial’. We didn’t really know what to do but were told to drive 350 meters in 32 seconds. This does not mean you can drive as fast as you can, because you get penalty points for every second earlier of later than 32 seconds. This was harder than expected and some participants take this seriously. Someone even attached an extra mirror to his car so he could see the exact moment he crossed the line. We just used our phone stopwatch and hoped for the best, which didn’t turn out to be our greatest talent…
The remainder of the day we drove about 285 km over typical Italian bumpy roads. Their roads aren’t the best, and for the whole drive we could hear our exhaust pipes clash against the bottom of the car, but we made it to the hotel. Once parked, we took a shower and got a nice dinner with a glass of wine and went straight to bed, as the alarm clock would ring at 4 am the next day.
Day 4: The Drive To Rome
The drive to Rome started with us and everybody getting lost on our way to the start at 4 in the morning. When we finally crossed the starting line, we drove through some beautiful roads to San Marino. This is where the Ferrari 365 really came to life: uphill against the mountain roads, the mighty 12 cylinders didn’t have any problem keeping up with the modern Ferraris. The only problems were us being tossed around in the car because of the old seatbelts and uncomfortable seats. Shifting through the gears turned out to be hard work as well.
After a long day of driving, we arrived in Rome, which was the craziest thing we have ever done. If you have ever been in Rome, you know the traffic is horrible and we arrived in rush hour. Since we and about six other participants were quite late, a police escort through the city was arranged: past every red light from the suburbs to the city centre. Two police bikes held up all traffic and pulled over other cars to make room for us. Real madness!
When we arrived, we were just in time to participate in the parade lap through the centre of Rome. Some 70 Ferraris joined, all of them revving, passing each other, horning and simply sharing the passion. The people of Rome loved it; only in Italy!
When the drive was done, we arrived at our hotel and parked up the Ferrari. All of the other ‘real’ classic cars joined us at 10 pm for a small parade. Extremely cool to see all of them arrive. The drivers look beaten up from driving a whole day in a car without roof or even windshields. Quite an unforgettable day!
Day 5: Roma To Salsomaggiore
Once again, the day started at 4 am, but now with rain. Some guys who were attending in their Ferrari SP1 and SP2s decided not to start with us and wait for the rain to be over. Although the lights were repaired, it was very hard to see the road because of enormous rainfall and the defective anti-fogging system. The first 80 km of this day were highway. We decided to drive no faster than 70 kph (43.5 mph) so were passed by a lot of cars, which was quite scary. Once we left the highway, we stopped for an espresso and a croissant.
The day passed slowly. It kept raining, which was quite sad as we passed iconic city centers and villages. We did some more time trial tests and kept driving until dark. Once we had to do some uphill driving, we noticed the car was not enjoying the thin and cold air. Luckily, no issues with the car came up.
After a long drive, we arrived at a racetrack where we had to do more time trials, which was quite funny in our old car. The next stage was less fun: we had to drive another hour to our hotel on pitch black mountain roads in the most horrible conditions. The car was shaking, squeaking and rattling on all sides, and we thought something could fall or break off the car at any point.
We safely arrived at the hotel, which had a nice bar and served lovely cold beers.
Day 6: To The Finish
The last day was the most beautiful day. The sun was shining, so our moods were up. We drove through many small villages packed with people cheering to drive as fast or make as much noise as possible.
It really is like a national holiday when the Mille Miglia passes through the cities. We had a police escort again for the whole day, which pretty much allowed you to drive as fast as you liked. A line of cars waiting for the traffic light to turn green? “No problem, just pass them and keep driving, the police will take care of them!”
As an Italian police officer, it’s an honour to support the Mille Miglia. They sleep and eat in the same hotels and are with us during the whole rally.
The trip of the day was only 220 km, so after the first lunch stop it is pretty much over. We paraded with all of the cars to the finish line in Brescia and received our medal for completing the event (1669 km / 1037 miles) in our 1972 Ferrari 365 GTC/4. A great feeling and what an adventure it had been!
The car did it, and we did it – father and son.
We completed the Mille Miglia and are happy we’ve done it in the oldest car in our stable. It was quiet tough sometimes but imagine driving in the real classic cars from 1927-1957. We might do that next time because this was certainly not our last Mille Miglia. It really is the most beautiful race in the world.