It’s no wonder Enzo Ferrari once called the Mille Miglia the “most beautiful race in the world”.
Lagondas and Mercedes-Benz 710s jostling with sci-fiinspired BMW 328s, late-1940s Bristols and Healeys and 1950s Fiat 500 C Topolinos. Ferrari and Maserati, Jaguar and Porsche are all in the mix too, and of course dozens of Alfas. In the end, Lawson and Sedgwick would have stood a good chance of winning, with a 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Zagato coming in first, a 1933 Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 Gran Sport placing third and another 6C 1750 Gran Sport Zagato in fifth.
Over its three days, the race passes through 230 towns, including Rimini, Siena, Florence, Bologna and Parma, and a quick lap around the famous track at Monza. Every street in every sun-bleached, red-bricked medieval town is lined with local well-wishers, and all around are views of olive and cypress trees and stone villas dotted across the springtime Tuscan landscape. It’s no wonder Enzo Ferrari once called the Mille Miglia the “most beautiful race in the world”, even if winning it isn’t straightforward, with precisely measured routes and a timetable clocked right down to the hundredth of a second.
It turns out this year’s winner “hired his vintage Alfa for 70,000 for the week on the proviso that if he won the Mille Miglia, the car was free. If he came second it was half,” Paul says. “No wonder he cracked the champagne as soon as he was off the podium,” chimes his brother.
It’s the locals’ passion for the event, the cars and motoring that takes everyone by surprise. The “Alfistis” are out in force, children waving little flags emblazoned with the logo of the carmaker that began life in Milan in 1910 – the badge is based on the coat of arms of the Visconti, one of Italy’s most historic families, the red cross on a white background representing Milan, the snake a symbol of renewal and the wreath in honour of the marque’s numerous victories on road and track.
Participating in the Mille Miglia was a chance “to take the final step on a journey that my father began years ago”, Paul Lawson says. “It would have been an honour to finish it for him.” So there’s no doubt they all intend to return in 2017 with even greater gusto. “We’ll bring the 1929 6C back and we might not win,” says Lawson with a wink, “but we’ll be close.”