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cover Mille miglia 2

text Gianni Mercatali photo Dario Garofalo

June 15, 2006

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The most spectacular international vintage auto event

Enzo Ferrari called it “the most beautiful race in the world”. Thanks to its characteristic direction markers it was dubbed the “freccia rossa” (red arrow)—which indicated the trail for drivers back in the time before satellite navigators. Its historical reenactment is a true “traveling museum”. It is without doubt the most spectacular international vintage car race: the Mille Miglia. It is a legend, symbol of passion for cars, for adventure and challenge. 

At 84 years from its first edition, 375 cars built from 1927 to 1957 have traveled the historical course Brescia – Roma – Brescia, crossing seven regions, 177 cities and the Republic of San Marino, coming into contact with some of the most extraordinary landscapes in Italy. On the other hand, the inventors of the internal combustion engine, Barsanti and Matteucci, are from this part of the country. Without taking anything away from Emilia and the passion of its people for motors, or from Brescia, where the competition was created, Tuscany has given the race some of its most glorious moments thanks to characters like Clemente Biondetti and Pasquino Ermini. The former collected four victories—in 1938 and 1947 with an Alfa Romeo and in 1948 and 1949 with a Ferrari. His long experience as a driver and automobile connoisseur pressed him to build a Jaguar Biondetti Special in 1950 and a year later a Ferrari Jaguar Biondetti, both of which have remained one-of-a-kind. 

Pasquale Ermini, called Pasquino by everyone, began as a mechanic and driver during the 1920s and 1930s.  He opened the Officine Ermini on viale Matteotti in Florence in the years following the war. The Officine became an atelier where the most important drivers of the time had cars built that were able to hold their own against Alfa Romeos, Maseratis and Mercedes. Some of his most celebrated cars were the “siluro”, the small sedan “Frua” and the 357 Scaglietti—all true technical and mechanical masterpieces. In the history of automobiles, saying Ermini means saying “barchetta”. They were spartan, essential cars, but from an unmistakable line and personality. 

Biondetti and Ermini were both founding members of the Allegri al Volante in 1949 in Florence. The association of drivers brought fresh air and the Florentine spirit to the Mille Miglia. 

Dissolved in 1953, it was reorganized in 2006 by a few passionate drivers and important car collectors, all rigorously Florentine. The Club Allegri del Volante numbers 12 associates, nine of which recently participated in the recent Mille Miglia historical reenactment. Sportsman-like spirit, determination, rigor, intense passion and a pinch of romanticism have characterized their participation. Florentine fresh air. It deserves mentioning that the crew that ranked best in the general rankings was Niccolò and Filippo Ricci in a red 1952 Jaguar XK120 OTS, a model celebrated for its repeated success at the 24-Hour of Le Mans. During one special Montalcino practice, Niccolò was driving along a gravel road that was particularly disjointed, he realized the back left crossbow had been damaged. The race should have ended among the precious Brunello vines. Fortunately, during the nearby Buonconvento pit stop his mechanics fixed the car. But this town, among the most beautiful in Italy, was unlucky for the Allegri del Volante: the 1951 Ferrarri 225 S Export was being driven by Marcello Fratini and Alessandro Bruni’s team when a radiator check transformed a steam cloud into a fountain similar to that of the Trocadero in Paris. A little worry, but the two Allegri were able to fix everything. These pit-stops are wonderful moments when teams can exchange thoughts and emotions. The meal stops are stormed especially to get to the water and fruit. The heat, dust, the exhaust from the cars blacken the faces of the drivers in their open roof cars, leaving only the whites of their eyes clean (thanks to protective eyewear). All around is the perfume of gasoline mixed with oil. In the air is the sound of cylinders while the foot on the gas pedal keeps the motor rotating. These stops are social moments when the drivers, mechanics, assistants, race commissioners and sponsors meet with the throngs of curious spectators—those who “decorate” the side of the road throughout the 1,600 kilometers—ready to snap a photo memory. The landscapes of the historic centers complement the unique and elegant lines and shapes of the autos and transform them from simple racecars into true works of art that compare to the historic architecture of the places. Enriching this context our Allegri al Volante Stefano Ricci with Filippo Scarpelli in a 1953 Lancia Aurelia B20; Gilberto and Andrea Focardi in a 1950 Ermini 1100 Sport; Claudia Tagliaferri and Elisa Panzeri in a 1955 Jaguar XK140 OTS; Massimo Massai and Lisa Ragionieri in a 1947 Cisitalia 202; Matteo Del Fante and Guido Maria Nola in a 1955 Fiat 8V; Massimo and Lapo Ermini in a 1937 BMW328 Coupé; Jacopo Fratini and Bonaccorso Manetti in a 1955 Jaguar XK140 OTS MC.


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