The Mille Miglia is 1,000 miles of classic car madness
Welcome to Italy, it's the 2015 Mille Miglia.
I've been invited here as part of Team Jaguar, hence the get-up.
I'm going to be driving one of the toughest endurance rallies on Earth.
In a Jaguar C type.
It's an early production car.
It's running about 285 horsepower and, aside from a tricky gearbox, it's a peach.
I can't deny I'm excited because in the hall I'm in, there's every Mille Miglia.
There are classics you will never see moving at any event other than this and say maybe Goodwood once in a bluemoon.
This is possibly the greatest moving motor show on the planet.
We're gonna be allowed to go at breakneck speeds, jumping lights, roundabouts, everything.
Bridges, if we're feeling a bit too committed.
We're gonna be driving with some great guys.
My copilot Ben is super awesome, I'm super lucky to be paired up with him.
It's gonna be grueling though.
It's four days and 1,000 and a bit miles in a car with one door and no roof.
We are exposed to the elements.
So I retired, looking forwards to the following four days with no real idea of what lay ahead.
I mean, how difficult can it be to drive a thousand miles in four days?
Ben and I had a C-Type at our disposal.
A racing car!
Sounds easy, right?
With car and drivers signed off for juicy one thing remained, the sealing of the car.
We had the screws [UNKNOWN] so the car is legit, but now the car gets sealed and officially announced to enter the [UNKNOWN].
And that's what happens in that tent over there.
The atmosphere in there was frankly insane.
The streets were lined with people all excited to see the cars and be a part of the action.
To the people of [UNKNOWN] the [UNKNOWN] has been a mainstay since forever.
It began in the twenties when the Italian Grand Prix moved from there to [FOREIGN].
To show their distaste at the move, the Great and The Good organized the first [UNKNOWN] The challenge was to get from [UNKNOWN] to Rome and back as quickly as possible.
The event was ended in 1957 after frankly too many people died doing it.
One of the most famous winners of the event was unusually not an Italian, but a Brit.
[UNKNOWN] He along with Dennis Jenkinson, bossed the 1,000 mile course in 10 hours, 7 minutes, and 48 seconds.
With an average speed of 98.53 miles an hour.
That wasn't Nosses first go at the Mille however.
In 1952, he entered it in a Jaguar C-Type with tester Norman Lewis alongside.
This E-Type was fitted with a set of disk brakes, something Jag was working on at the time.
That tech soon became a mainstay of the automotive world.
Anyway, I digress.
Soon it would be time for us to set off.
And I was nervous.
We were ushered to the start line and waited in a fair whack of traffic.
After all there were over 400 cars to get through.
But at 15:44 exactly Car 234 Part C Type rolled off the line with Vin behind the wheel and me manning the route book.
The first of many stops popped on the first of 4 days worth With a time sheet and we were away.
Using our digital odometer and the many [UNKNOWN] errors along the route, I crossed off each direction as we went, guiding Ben and Pug along the right path.
It was massively surreal.
As we powered out of town, we were cheered on by crowds that went on for miles and miles, all there to see the cars do their thing.
The run through [FOREIGN] taught me two things.
The route would be lined, for as long as there would be [UNKNOWN] cars on it, and the passenger foot well of the seat type gets really, very hot.
Oh, and there was one more thing.
I was eyes not only for the route, but for over takers as well.
You hear talk of a car being an extension of a person but in this case it's very, very true that said I still needed to let you know whether the narrow roads allow for what could be a very risky overtake.
Then like many Milaneni competitors what I like to call extreme lan splitting you know how motorcycles often drive down the center line of a road in between The current direction of traffic and oncoming.
Imagine that, but in a 50s racer worth several million quid you're about there.
The scenery on route was stunning, and Ben seemed intent on making it as blurry as possible.
We pushed on, then spanking the car and it's engine screaming with glee.
He was driving it as was supposed to be driven, and it sounded simply glorious.
Even so, some of the overtakes got a touch tight.
It did make you feel good to be alive.
Well it's on the first leg of the first night, 100 83ish kilometers.
We came in right on time 4 hours 45.
That's what we supposed to do.
Which with the regularities and the controls as seriously as we could.
They are a little [INAUDIBLE] but I'm kind of loving the whole working out the maps and setting them, freed up or slow down.
Or making me do it's thing.
The light's going.
Ben's gonna drive the rest of the way tonight.
Because I really don't want to crash his car, in the dark, in Italy.
And that would kind of suck, so I'm gonna take over tomorrow.
Do a lot of tomorrow's fun.
Personally, I can't wait.
130 kilometers to go until we reach our final destination for today.
So far, awesome!
The roads were long, straight, and empty.
We sped through the countryside blasting through [UNKNOWN] and on to [UNKNOWN].
The wind rushing through my scalp at 110 miles an hour.
Barely any lights.
Barely any knowledge of what was coming next.
It was exhilarating above all else.
This wasn't simply driving, it was proper motoring.
It was the ultimate form of man and machine together.
It was, for want of a better word, perfect.
We're very nearly finished with day one, but because we were going quite quickly because Ben is of.
Very, very, very, very, very fast driver.
We're actually about an hour early.
So we stopped off for a sandwich and a bit of leg stretch.
So we can then check-in on time.
So we don't get penalized for being quicker than everyone else.
Because the idea is you leave and then arrive within the set amount of time that the [UNKNOWN] organizers Think it should take.
Also my shoe has slightly melted, so now the soles a little bit offset.
Ben rolled the C type off the line at 09:14 to a gray and foggy day The weather matched my brain somewhat as I'd only managed to scant a few hours' sleep, adrenaline keeping me up.
We'd be driving for over 12 hours today from Grimaldi to Rome, Italy's capital.
As we pushed through town we hit some pretty nasty traffic.
It was just after rush hour, after all.
It became steadily apparent that while most of the other road users were on side some really weren't.
Even going out of their way to block our progress.
It seemed a little off at the time, but when we think about it, this is a rally of over 400 cars and it was causing road blocks, delays, closures and all matter upset in the name of tradition.
And one that has very little to do with many young Italians.
They may love cars but I'll wager some prefer a stress free commute.
We're very nearly at the end of the first stage of day one.
Ben has been driving like an absolute demon.
We've been doing regularities and average speed [INAUDIBLE] so as long as it's [INAUDIBLE] covers an hour and ten minutes.
So it wasn't the most exciting thing in the world, but it's been great.
The scenery has been amazing.
Tamarindo is absolutely beautiful.
The cars remain incredible.
I'm still getting to grips with the route work.
I had a little bit of a brain fade this morning, so we almost got very lost.
Very early on.
Thankfully, that's all fixed.
The car is performing wonderfully.
However, the shoe melting situation from last night has only gotten worse.
But still, if you're going to have your shoes melted by anything, why not that.
It was my turn.
To drive the C type.
Now I've driven them before, but never in Italy, never in live traffic and I was understandably nervous.
As well as Pug's heating quirks, it has a few more oddities.
Starting it up involves getting the ignition going and catching it on the throttle just so, a hard thing to master.
To engage first gear you have to dip it into second to line everything up properly, and then once you're moving you have to get it into second by double declutching, and every change has to be bang on else you'll hear that horrible gronching noise.
When you're in traffic you have to keep it revving else the car will stall, and you can't sit the clutch while you're in there either else it will eat itself, you have to commit to a gear.
Thankfully, Ben is the world's most patient man and was happy to talk me through the finer points of this car and not wince too much if [INAUDIBLE].
While Ben was there and understanding, I was terrified of breaking his car.
I clung to the wheel as tightly as I could.
My hands hurt, my neck was stiff I [UNKNOWN] gear, changed the [UNKNOWN] and basically made an **** out of myself.
Everything was so familiar, yet so, so alien.
I was mildly demoralized, though.
I liked the fact I'm able to jump in and out of most cars without incident, but this was so difficult, both physically and mentally demanding.
I fell broken and the day wasn't even half done.
I jumped in the hot seat for another round, this time I was still nervous, still looking to Ben for advice, but after a short break the realigned scheme of the driving were beginning to settle in.
I began over taking cars, both competitor and non.
Even indulging in a little bit of ultimate lane splitting self.
Day two is now over.
Rimini to Rome is a really long way.
It's a really, really long No way.
I was gripping onto the wheel so hard, that as you go by there are people standing on the side of the road waving at you, but I could only give them claw waves because that's all I had.
I could only do that and then immediately grip back onto the wheel.
My second, third, and subsequent drives have just been absolutely magical.
The noises I get to experience when I'm driving it and I know what I'm doing And slowly learning how to push it a little bit harder.
It was a big, stupid grin on my face.
Our exhaust had picked up a small hole and was making what the pros call, funny noises.
So, our amazing support team got to work woving it back up while I went to bed.
Day Two- over 12 hours on the road- was done, but Day Three will see us in the car for more than 15.
It is now just on 6:30 in the morning.
I feel like I've been hit by a This event really, really tests you.
The previous days fun had taken it's toll.
I'd not eaten, relying purely on adrenaline.
Not ideal in hindsight, as I was getting fatigued and rather chilly, despite punks ability to generate shoe melting amounts of heat.
As well as making me a touch chilly, my fatigue was nackering my efforts of judging regularities.
I simply couldn't get my head around something that had been simple the day before.
It resulted in a couple of costly cockups.
Something I didn't really want.
It's going to two five, where you're gonna turn left.
As we enter Cassina I was greeted by some interesting news.
Not only was the exhaust just sounding odd.
It had a massive hole in it.
We had an hour to go to check in else face a late penalty.
Could they really do an exhaust swap on a 50s race car in less than an hour.
It turns out yes, yes they could.
The new exhaust was quieter, which was a blessing.
We were well over halfway through the day, and spirits were high.
We flew through towns, villages, country lanes, regularities, everything.
The [UNKNOWN] was on our side even if the clouds were looming.
Hell, we even drove right by the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
I've never seen it before so a view from the seat type Made it extra special.
And on the journey, we ended following an police outrider.
He was there, keeping oncoming cars out of the way, so we could get by as quickly as possible.
An odd experience, if ever there was one, though that's how much Italy loves the Milli.
They will get things out of our way so we can go as quickly as possible.
It was wicked.
About 108 kilometers out of Palmer our final stop for the night, Pug's temperature gauge gave out, not ideal considering we were light on it to ensure the car didn't blow up in tow.
From then on, we'd have to judge its temperature by feel, or the force, or something.
[NOISE] We're very nearly at Parma.
So we was told then to give the car a bit of a rest.
The temperature gauges on the fritz.
But, we should be alright.
I've been told, if I see water coming out, then we need to stop.
So, that's good.
As we pressed on into a stunning sunset, countless stems, average speed controls and regularities behind this I realized that I was really going to miss this.
Yes it was hectic, yes it I've been terrified of breaking the car with the owner who sat next to me but I'd had it mostly down by then.
Had I been super-keen 100% of the time?
There were moments where the fatigue had got the better of me and I just wanted to curl up in a ball and wake up in London.
But in order to have the highs, you do need to have some lows.
The [INAUDIBLE] is unlike anything else and its organized chaos and sheer Italian-ness had crawled under my skin.
The ride into Palmer was Bittersweet.
Tomorrow last day six hours from here in Parma back to Prussia.
Where we will then have a big beer and a big sigh of relief.
Now though I gonna go to bed because I'm knackered.
And I need to try and fix what's going on in my left ear.
Yeah it's a bit ringy.
It's the final day I'm taking first spins in the car.
A little bit apprehensive but yesterday's leads better than the day before so we should be [NOISE] All good, and I now have a super-stylish earplug.
So I don't go deaf, permanently.
[NOISE] The roads were empty, open, smooth, and perfect.
For a C type begin [UNKNOWN].
This time I felt more in control, at ease with PUG, and we went for it.
We took cars left, right and center, mixing with the traffic properly and having a good old [UNKNOWN].
My gear fumbles were becoming few and far between.
I'd even managed to get it started the first time out.
I fell properly in love with Pug that morning.
It was utterly, utterly perfect.
Very nearly at Monza, I've just taken a massive stint in the C-Type.
And it has been unbelievable.
We were flying through traffic.
We were doing some ultimate lane splitting.
Admittedly, the lanes were a bit easier.
Which seems to me just fine, but the car is wonderful.
I've seen brilliant things.
So yeah, onto Monza.
So an average speed lap of the circuit.
The sun was out, and we were due to drive around Monza, the Monza.
Well, yes, we were supposed to be averaging 50 kilometers an hour or the like around the circuit.
It did feel a bit wrong but, we did get to go up on the bank.
After a brief stint at the home of motor racing we pointed [INAUDIBLE] and went for it.
More speed, lane splitting and Making space.
All the time the roads in were lined with people clapping, cheering, loving the event and loving the atmosphere, loving being part of something truly special.
A police escort picked us up 15 kilometers out to Brecht's so my directions weren't really needed anymore, but Out of routine, I still dutifully take them off in the book.
I looked at the distance to Target Collin County Down in terms of sadness.
The end was in sight and I didn't really want it to be.
I've just driven 1,000 miles around Italy.
It's the greatest thing I've ever done.
It's the greatest thing you could ever do.
If you could find your way The car.
[NOISE] You really should, yeah.
I'm the happiest man alive today.
And right now I want a beer and a sleep.
I was thinking over the last thousand miles of how to sum this whole thing up.
I almost reached a conclusion but still can't quite because it is so full on, it's so difficult, it's a massive feat of endurance I love the fact that these are the things the world allows this because it means that cars that were built to go racing can still go racing even if it's through the Italian countryside.