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The BMW Concept Coupe Mille Miglia 2006 - Successes for eternity

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The BMW Concept Coupe Mille Miglia 2006
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Successes for eternity
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BMW and the Mille Miglia: Successes for eternity.
The name is the programme and it has a legendary sound: Mille Miglia.
Right from its inception, the road race covering 1,000 miles was considered the greatest challenge imaginable for the race drivers and their automobiles. Those who could pass the Mille Miglia had thus proven their ability to compete not only in motor sports but also all-together in automobile construction. 24 races were held between 1927 and 1957 in northern Italy. The races were a spectacular event for umpteen thousands of motor sports fans and a great stage for race drivers such as Tazio Nuvolari, Stirling Moss, Rudolf Caracciola, Juan Manuel Fangio and Fritz Huschke von Hanstein. On top of everything, the Mille Miglia was always the most important trial of strength for the automobile manufacturers. In 1977, the Mille Miglia celebrated its resurrection. As a reliability and constancy drive for historic vehicles, it has held the spirit of classical racing sports alive since then.

Four young men from Brescia, just as wealthy as they were excited by racing sports, had already made a determination in 1925 to turn their hometown into a motor sports centre. Two years later, they were able to see their plans come true. Henceforth, the start and finish line in Brescia became a real carnival; the drivers and their automobiles were enthusiastically celebrated. Year for year, racing sports fever spread throughout the land and not only because the cars dominating the races were initially of Italian manufacture.

The first Mille Miglia led through Bologna and Florence to Rome and from there through Ancona, Ferrara, Treviso and Vicenza back to Brescia. The races also ran in the subsequent years on earth roads and through tight villages.
It put people and material through a tough test and exuded the incomparable atmosphere of a spectacle in which not only the drivers were constantly driven to their limits. What the critics were worried about actually happened during the race in 1938: ten people died during a terrible accident near Bologna. The tragedy instigated the Italian government to immediately prohibit racing sports events on public roads.

mille_miglia_concept_2006_building_ front

A victory for BMW and a record for eternity.
Only two years later, the substitute for the rally was found: the 1st Gran Premio Brescia delle Mille Miglia. The course once again covered 1,000 miles but now on paved roads in the city triangle between Brescia, Cremona and Mantua. This course was driven nine times. The spectators not only had to get accustomed to a new route but also to a totally new kind of victorious car.
For years and years, the eight cylinder bolides from Alfa Romeo with its up to 360 PS powerful compressor engines had dominated the Mille Miglia. Only in 1931 did Rudolf Caracciola manage to break through this Italian winning series, using a powerful compressor-Mercedes SSKL. But a new kind of sports car suddenly appeared on Europe’s racing circuits: the BMW 328 – actually a delicate vehicle when compared to its competitors with its 2 litre engine and a stock power of a modest 80 PS. The small two-litre class roadster had already won the Mille Miglia back in 1938. BMW had thus made a breakthrough, but the really great triumph followed in 1940. In their BMW 328 Mille Miglia Coupé with a Touring body, Fritz Huschke von Hanstein and Walter Bäumer drove to a historic victory. Driving at an average speed of 166.7 km/h, they set a record that would last for all time. The second place car, an Alfa Romeo, only reached the finish line a quarter hour after the victorious BMW 328.

For BMW at the same time, the spectacular success was to remain the only total victory in the classical race. The Second World War initally put an end not only to the Mille Miglia but also to BMW’s motor racing activities. With the restart in 1947, the Mille Miglia led from Brescia to Rome and back for the first time again. After the prelude victory for Alfa Romeo, Ferrari took over the dominating role in the subsequent years. After the war, BMW no longer sent factory teams to Italy. And despite some spectacular races – such as in 1955 with the Stirling Moss and David Jenkinson victory in a Mercedes 300 SLR – the end of the Mille Miglia was only a question of time. The field of participants became increasingly confusing; occasionally there were over 400 vehicles at the start line even including diesel vehicles and oddities such as the ISO tiny car – the predecessor of the BMW Isetta –, which bravely tormented themselves over the Apennines passes in 1954. But above all, driving on the roads and arriving safely at the finish line became increasingly riskier in the race cars that became more powerful and faster from year to year. The tragedy of 1938 repeated itself in 1957 – a serious accident in Guidizzolo claimed twelve fatalities – and spelled out the end for the Mille Miglia.

1977: The fascination returns.
The fascinating moments of the Mille Miglia remain stuck in the memories of many automobile enthusiasts. And they can be experienced once again today in the Mille Miglia storica. In 1977, exactly a half century after the first Mille Miglia, a new version of the legendary race was staged for the first time. Meanwhile, it is completed year for year in May in historic sites as a reliability and consistency run. The chase for best times has turned into a demonstration of automobile-engineering art stretching over three days and attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators to the roadsides. All vehicle models that participated in the classic Mille Miglia at least once between 1927 and 1957 are permitted to start. Of course, the BMW 328 and other vehicles such as the BMW Isetta and BMW 507, two models deployed in the 50’s in private races, also take part. Each year, the BMW Group Mobile Tradition brings a series of vehicles from their stock to the Mille Miglia start line. On top of that, private teams always secure their participation in the legendary circuit.


For fans of classical automobiles, today the Mille Miglia has an importance comparable to the significance of the original races for the motor sports scene back then. Nowhere other than between Brescia and Rome is motor sport and automobile engineering history celebrated so intensely and impressively. The Mille Miglia storica pays homage to the design engineers and their works, which continue to inspire professionals and lay persons even today. In 2006, it will be held for the 24th time. That means exactly the number of races will be reached that were held between 1927 and 1957 during the fights for minutes and seconds. The places in the starting field are still just as coveted as back then. As not only the memories but above all the vehicles allowed to participate are lovingly groomed by their owners – nothing stands in the way of the future of the Mille Miglia storica.

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 June 2006 10:47  

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