La corsa la più bella del mondo.
Is what they say to describe the famous Mille Miglia, a regularity race for vintage cars, which takes its drivers from Brescia to Rome and back. A distance of 1600km, or a 100 miles, as the name of the race suggests.
I was lucky enough to take part in the 90th edition of the race thanks to an invitation by Chopard, the official sponsor of the event since 1988. The link between Chopard and the Mille Miglia? The passion for beautiful mechanics, glamour and the spirit of competition. It’s therefore, no surprise to see Karl Friedrich Scheufele, co-president of Chopard, collector and amateur pilot, take part in the race year after year behind the wheel of a racing car. For this 90th edition, he settled for no less than a Porsche 550 Spyder with, official Porsche driver and winner of the 24 hours of Le Mans, Romain Dumas.
The Mille Miglia was a very special event in my lady driver eyes, not only for its legendary reputation and the dreams that it inspires, but also because for the first time, I was going to take the departure of a historic race with another man than my father, in this case my boyfriend. We had been warned of the risks of dispute that could arise in this kind of rally; misunderstanding the navigator, fear of the pilot’s driving, it’s easy for the tension to rise if the duo pilot-copilot isn’t operational. For what valid reason, would we jeopardise our relationship when were about to embark on a Dolce Vita journey aboard our Porsche 550 Spyder? He was lucky, I do not fear speed and do not scream. As for me, I feel safe, he is an experienced driver who is exceptionally calm. The level of calm that could hide a slight psychorigid tendancy. Regardless we would take the risk to share this beautiful adventure together as brand ambassadors for Chopard.
Our journey would take us along beautiful Italian roads, were we would drive through Verona, Ravenna, Rome and many other pretty villages in Tuscany. Throughout the race one single rule applied: be regular and respect the imposed time. A time, which we could monitor thanks to our automatic chronographs Chopard Mille Miglia his & hers. A first for Chopard, introducing a couple’s collection for which we took great pride in representing for the 2017 edition of the Mille Miglia.
I was wearing the model Her’s, a 39mm diameter, with a white dial and bracelet, which with His, a 42mm diameter and a black dial and bracelet. The two steel chronographs were accessorised with a rubber strap. An ideal choice for the weather conditions we met along the way, from basking temperatures to torrential rain. You can discover more about these watches on Watch-Her, my women’s watch blog.
And so, confined to our Porsche 550 Spyder dating 1957, we took part in a moving concession of 450 spectacular cars. It is without a shadow of doubt, the race that assembles the biggest and most beautiful selection of prewar cars. Most of which are only seen at selected competitions. After calibrating my direction announcement, « 500 meters, roundabout -right » not a word more nor a word less, (that’s when I discovered my boyfriend is hopelessly rigid) we were leaving Brescia and heading to Padova, scheduled arrival at midnight forty…
Mille Miglia 2017
©Alexandra Pauli for Chopard
Mille Miglia 2017
©Alexandra Pauli for Chopard
Dinner not having been accounted for until after our arrival, we stopped along the way to pick up a Quatro Staggioni pizza, which we would share on the road. Until then, romance was strong lived. A few errors of notification later, we arrived in Padova at the scheduled time, our hands usually inseparable were distant already. The fatigue, I tell myself.
The next morning, departure of the second step Padova-Roma, six hundred forty long kilometers from which our body still hasn’t quite recuperated even one week after: For Claudio the backlash of a bad sunburn and for me accumulated fatigue and permanent red-eyes. I have to say that 12h of convertible a day, without a windscreen, in full sun, without a headscarf, hair in the wind, quickly has us disillusioned. As the night approached, our foreheads were transformed into a mosquito cemetery, in other words between Fellini’s Dolce Vita and the Mille Miglia, there is a whole world… A few kilometers from our arrival in Rome, a citation of the American novelist Thornton Wilder sprung to mind: “When you’re safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; when you’re having an adventure you wish you were safe at home”. We finally made it to Rome after a few technical problems, we had no headlights and one of the batteries would not re-charge. We would have loved a dinner on a terrazza and a bottle of Prosecco laughing over which Italian sounding names to choose for our future children… Instead we each had an apple and a bottle of water from the mini bar, followed by a warm shower and a pot of conditioner to try and untangle the dreadlocks that recently formed on my head.
The Dolce Vita of the Mille Miglia was slowly turning into a strenuous physical effort, and in hindsight a convertible was probably not the best choice of car for long journeys and strict average speed limits. Despite trying to control my pilot with a close time keeping using my Chopard Chronograph, he didn’t pay any attention, and continued zooming through the Italian countryside. It was in those moments, that I had to channel my Alpha female tendencies, burying unsightly reactions to avoid a very long walk back to Brescia. He is not a regularity pilot, and I did in all fairness try to keep that into consideration. Sadly for me, it was impossible for us to reverse roles as I couldn’t reach the pedals with the seat configuration, had I insisted on driving we would have had to remove the seat each time we swapped pilot…
That said, I must admit, I was overcome with pride watching him race on the open roads. Day and night he was encouraged and cheered on by the public who stood along the roads. Surely that’s enough to make any woman blush? An extraordinary atmosphere that reflected the Italians’ passion for cars and certainly the reason the Mille Miglia is the most beautiful race in the world.
After a short night in Rome, the third stage began Rome – Parma, one that we unfortunately couldn’t finish due to torrential rain rain further technical issues. The battery had a mind of its own, preventing us from restarting the engine without pushing the car. This proved to be complicated, especially when it stooped halfway up a hill… Even if it was “only” 500kg as Claudio said, I had signed for a rally and not for intense sessions of body pump!
Not very excited at the prospect of driving 12 hours in these conditions of which 4 hours at night without headlights, we decided hand in hand to declare defeat. And so, very disappointed, we returned to Brescia by train. My smile was back in no time when he announced he had booked a room for us at the Albereta for the night, the sublime hotel where Chopard had welcomed us the night before the race. Dinner on the terrace, a bottle of Bellavista later, our love was stronger than ever, sharing our stories and thinking with admiration about our competitors who would spend the night under the rain, with no food!
The next day in Via Venezia, a show awaited: The parade of cars which had survived all the tests of the Mille Miglia. Pilots and copilots, who had not split up on the journey, let their joy and emotion burst on the finish line. Their heads filled with memories, they shared their experience with the public and their relatives that came to greet them. Exhausted but all raring to kick start the 2018 edition! It would seem that their passion leaves space for tiredness.
Finally, a big thank you to Chopard for this beautiful experience. We are very proud to have been given the opportunity to represent this prestigious jewelry and watch brand, who conducted this racing event at a very high level of elegance, style and with a true Gentlemen Driver spirit. The watches have become priceless to us, and although we were unable to finish the race, they will be the memory of this great adventure and of our first rally as a couple, which will not be the last…
I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Claudio, the man with whom I share my life for his love and his patience. He very gracefully accepted ( *cough* was forced) to play the game and take part in the following short film for Chopard. Now for a man who hates being in the limelight, does not know how to pronounce the word Instagram and has never had a Facebook account, I feel it is quite an achievement. On the subjects of first times, it is the first time that I share timidly my private life with you… A way for me to thank you for your support day after day which allows me to live these beautiful adventures that I take such pleasure sharing with you! A historic first this Mille Miglia!
Black dress: Vicedomini
High heels: Gucci
Duffel bag: Chopard
Olive jacket: The Kooples
Driving shoes: Ciccio’s ( Cefalu)
Driving gloves: Acaba
Watch: Chopard Her’s chronograph
90th Mille Miglia 2017, Brescia, Italy, 18th May 2017
(c) Alexandra Pauli