Mille Miglia: the world's most famous road race

16 May, 2014 11:33am Sam Naylor

A brief look at one of the most exciting events on the classic car calendar: the iconic Mille Miglia

The Mille Miglia (Thousand Miles) is an Italian road race for classic cars, based on the route of a previous road race of the same name which took place 24 times between 1927 and 1957. The route starts at Brescia then follows the roads down the country to Rome and back, with a total length of about 1,000 miles - hence the name.

The first Mille Miglia race took place on 26 March 1927, and 77 cars took to the winding roads of Italian countryside. The winners of the first race, Nando Minoja and Giuseppe Morandi, using an Officine Meccaniche 665 S, took just over 21 hours to complete the 1,000-mile route: an average speed of 48mph.

Realising the opportunity for propaganda following the race's warm public reception, Italy's fascist leader Benito Mussolini sent a note to the organisers of the race with just three words on it: "Do it again".

Mille Miglia Stirling Moss

The race continued to be held until 1957, with a break for World War II - and in the 1950s it became an all-out competition for various manufacturers and major motorsport names. Sir Stirling Moss famously won the race in 1955 in his Mercedes 300 SLR, but other legendary racing drivers that competed in the classic race include Alberto Ascari and Juan Manuel Fangio.

With an average speed of over 97mph in the 1955 race, the Mille Miglia had become a rather dangerous spectacle and in 1957 two fatal crashes meant the original version of the race was over. In 1977 a new Mille Miglia took over - more like a parade than a race, it takes place over several days and only pre-1957 cars may compete.

Modern-day Mille Miglia

The 2014 Mille Miglia race takes place from 15-18 May, with the route starting in Brescia and passing through Padova, San Marino and L'Aquila to Rome. From there the entrants drive up to Bologna and then back on to the finish line at Brescia.

Mille Miglia Jodie Kidd

The modern Mille Miglia race attracts famous faces from around the world, with this year's racers including former F1 driver Martin Brundle, US TV presenter Jay Leno, racing driver Bruno Senna, AC/DC singer Brian Johnson, model Jodie Kidd and actor Adrien Brody.

The cars entered into this year's race had a combined value of millions, with a wide array of rare and exotic classic cars taking part. These include the Jaguar XK 120, Porsche 356 1500 Speedster, Ferrari 250 Europa GT, Aston Martin DB 2/4, Jaguar C-Type, Lancia Aurelia B20 GT, Alfa Romeo 6C, Bugatti Type 40 and Bentley 4.5 Litre.

Watch some highlights from Jaguar of this year's race above, or just click through the gallery above to see some of the more iconic and beautiful cars ever built taking on the world's most famous road race in years past.