Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Last Mille Migla

I've posted about details of various Mille Miglias several times, including the last one in 1957.  But the mastery of the drivers who competed in this epic open road race keeps calling me back.  This post is partly an excuse to put up some pictures that give a flavor of the event.

The pictures are mostly from Louis Klementaski's "navigator" seat beside Peter Collins in his Ferrari. Ferrari's reputation, which made it an iconic brand by the early 1950's, began with Luigi Chinetti's LeMans win in 1949.  Then, as now, LeMans got a lot of press coverage.  But Ferrari dominated the the Carrera Pan-America and the Mille Miglia (winning 8 of 11), and was competitive in the Targa Florio--all the great open road races of the postwar era.  But Ferrari itself is not the point of this post.  The pictures are.  You can Google "Klementaski Mille" for more pictures or his website for a broader selection of his work. The account of the Collins/Klementaski drive comes from Chapter 50 of Chris Nixon's dual biography of Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins, Mon Ami Mate.

The postwar Milles were, just about, 1000 miles.  In 1955 and 1957, the winning speed was about 100 m.p.h. (dry or mostly dry roads both years).  Most of us have done 1000 mile trips, if not in one day.  For this thought experiment, supply your own experience.  Mine is from Buffalo NY to Minneapolis MN (1020 miles) or from Cleveland OH to Tampa FL (1100 miles).  They require 15+ hours, pushing hard on Interstates, to average 70 m.p.h.  When you consider that the Mille was run on 2-lanes and crossed mountains twice, it puts 100 m.p.h into perspective.

Route of the later postwar Mille Miglias.  You can use this map to follow along with the text below if interested.

In 1957, the Ferrari team consisted of Collins/Klementaski and Alfonso DePortago/Ed Nelson in 335 S's and Wolfgang Von Trips and Piero Taruffi driving solo in 315 S's (identical cars with slightly smaller engines).  The 335 S had a 4.1 liter V-12 red-lined at 7500 r.p.m., giving a theoretical top speed of 170 m.p.h.

Top speed was reached before the first Control, and pit stop, at Ravenna.  Near Ancona, Collins passed Von Trips, putting him two minutes to the good as far as he knew.  At the Pescara Control and pit stop, Collins learned that he was definitely in the lead, averaging 116 m.p.h.  Popoli began the climb into the mountains and there was a Control-only stop at L'Aquila.  At the Rome Control and pit stop, Collins was averaging 107 m.p.h.  Viterbo was the fourth Control and pit stop.  At the Siena Control, Collins was averaging 101 m.p.h.

At Radicofani Pass he began to catch the slow-moving early starters in batches, reducing his average speed.  After the Florence Control there was a long climb into the mountains again in 2nd and sometimes 1st gear; around Futa Pass the transaxle began to make noise.  By Raticosa Pass, the grinding noise from the transaxle was bad.  Bologna was a Control and 5th pit stop.  From there the road was flat and straight through Modena.  Parma was a Control and final pit stop.  Collins coasted in with a broken transaxle.  DePortago and Nelson and several spectators were killed in a crash which ended the Mille.   That crash has been thoroughly documented so I won't dwell on it here.  Taruffi won, followed home by Von Trips.

Klementask shoots Collins chasing Von Trips on the long straight roads that characterized the first stages of the Mille.
From the sun's angle, the picture appears to have been taken between Ferrara and Ancona.  "Run as fast as you dare."  

Passing Von Trips.  Shirt and tie?  Well, Mike Hawthorn wore a bow tie when he raced.  Collins wore polo shirts.

Klementaski shot of Collins taking a hairpin on what looks to be the morning climb into the mountains, heading for Rome.

Another '57 Mille hairpin shot.  This is Olivier Gendebien in his class-winning Ferrari 250 GT LWB, one of the earliest in
the 250 GT's long string of wins.  The big bore cars were averaging close to 100 m.p.h. with stretches like these?

Taruffi leads Von Trips across the finish line: 1000 miles in a few minutes over 10 hours.

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