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Mille Miglia

G LM 53 bThere is a reason why Enzo Ferrari described Mille Miglia as ‘the most beautiful race in the world’. It is more than a simple car race: for many years it has represented a chance for the whole of Italy to come together and celebrate its own collective heritage and an occasion to acknowledge our shared past. That’s why Federico Fellini chose to include it in his masterpiece Amarcord. The Marzotto family has long recognized its own key business values as embedded at the very core of this event, which celebrates boldness and innovation. Their presence at Mille Miglia was initially of a competitive nature, as brothers Vittorio, Umberto, Giannino and Paolo raced against legendary pilots such as Fangio and Ascari. To this day, Marzotto’s presence is guaranteed, as the race reaches the 34th installment of its historical re-enactment.

 

Can any other event in the world combine tradition, excitement and beautiful landscapes like Mille Miglia? This is the question – a rhetorical one of course – behind the thirty-fourth re-enactment of this historical race, scheduled to take place between May 19th and May 22nd: it is enough to explain why this legendary competition never lost its appeal. Enzo Ferrari summed up this happy, colorful trail of cars, which seems to exist out of time, in a clever two-word definition: ‘traveling museum’. Only cars that have been constructed between 1927 and 1957 are allowed to take part in the competition today. Back in its first instalments, Mille Miglia was all about the fastest car, today is more about endurance. Above all, however, Mille Miglia is about history – not only of car engineering, but of Italy as a whole. This is a race that goes beyond the simple thrill of competitive driving, to celebrate made-in-Italy excellence. That’s why the Santa Margherita Wine Group chose to sponsor it for the second year in a row.
The history of the Marzotto family is closely connected to the race: in the Fifties the four Marzotto brothers – Vittorio, Umberto, Giannino and Paolo – regularly competed in the Mille Miglia, often triumphing over established champions such as Fangio and Ascari. In 1954, Vittorio Marzotto came first in his category, behind the wheel of a Ferrari Sport 500 Mondial, qualifying for the silver medal overall, just behind Formula 1 champion Alberto Ascari. Just two years earlier, he’d won the prestigious Grand Prix of Monaco.
This year too the Marzotto family is in attendance. The Santa Margherita Wine Group is putting forward five cars, among the nearly 450 participating vehicles, from 36 different countries. On the Santa Margherita team there are two Lancia Aurelia B20’s, one driven by Stefano Marzotto and Mauro Peruzzi, and one driven by Nicolò Marzotto and Santa Margherita’s CEO Ettore Nicoletto; a Lancia Aurelia B24 driven by Giuseppe Giuliano and Loris Vazzoler, the Group's Tecnhical Director; a Mercedes Gullwing driven by Formula 1 champion Ivan Capelli and Steve Slater; a Lancia Lambda driven by Alessandro and Sebastiano Marzotto. Stefano Marzotto explained why his family has a soft spot for Lancia: “First of all, Lancia is a very important brand historically. It enabled Ferrari to put together a great Formula 1 team. Right after the tragic death of Ascari, Lancia left the racing world and handed his great inheritance over to Ferrari. That included all the technology that the brand had developed up to that point, in many cases more advanced than Ferrari’s own. Lancia has always been our family car of choice. We ran our first race on a Lancia Aprilia.”
The Marzotto family, however, brought home its first trophies with Ferrari: Giannino won the Mille Miglia in 1950 and 1953, behind the wheel of his signature Ferrari ‘Uovo’. “My family and Enzo Ferrari,” Stefano Marzotto continues, “had a very close relationship. This was back when Ferrari was a very different company from what it is today. Back then, the Marzotto family directly contributed to the brand’s development. We’d purchase one of their cars, and their owner would pay the workers. Soon we started racing with their cars.”mapThis sparked some rivalry among the participants to the Mille Miglia. “Enzo was reserving his best cars for the pilots on his team. We were a bit of a secondary, unofficial team – so when we beat them, it was a big deal.”
In 2016, Mille Miglia is going to re-enact the four-legs of the original route, over four days. The starting line is set in Brescia, on Thursday May 19th, followed by Rimini the next day and ending in Rome. On the third day drivers will loop back up to Parma, returning to Brescia on Sunday May 22nd. “It’s our very own Tour de France,” 1000 Miglia’s Andrea Dalledonne happily sums up the race, “It’s the best of Italy on show.” He is right, as increasingly participants, partners and punters come from abroad. “I’m really impressed with the interest we’ve generated internationally – although at times it feels like other countries are more excited about this race than Italians should be themselves. Eighty percent of our sponsors and racers are foreign. That’s why it’s so important to us to keep up our strong relationships with Italian partners, such as the Santa Margherita Wine Group.”
Of course, as well as the historical bond between the Marzotto family and 1000 Miglia, there are obvious marketing strategies put in place as part of the sponsorship agreement. “Many of our wine cellars are located in the areas the race passes by: it’s a new way for our customers to get to know these places, and observe our work up close.” It is also a way to generate live participation, the kind of live support that makes Mille Miglia a really special race. A growing, all-encompassing passion that works across generations and is propelled by a deep awe for these minor miracles of mechanics and design, able to travel faster than 200km/h. “This is a popular event – in the real sense of the word,” Dalledonne continues, “the kind you see granddads taking their grandsons to. When you watch competitive cycling there is a quick flash of color and then it’s all over. Mille Miglia is much more fun to watch because the parade goes on for hours.” And how could you get bored, given the backdrop against which it takes place? “Driving into Rome last year was incredible,” says Stefano Marzotto: “It was a truly spectacular May evening, the kind that makes you feel joy deep in your heart, in its utter simplicity.” And if anyone, after all this, still had any qualms regarding the contemporary value of Mille Miglia, let us answer them with a memorable quote from Giannino Marzotto: “When you celebrate the past you need to ask yourself why. Mille Miglia represented the technical and social progress of humanity: that’s why this re-enactment of the past is still relevant in helping us build a better future.”

Testo – Francesco Paolo Giordano

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