I am a vintage car fan and it is the second weekend in May. So with my camera-team I am off towards Lake Garda because it is there that every year Europe 's most spectacular vintage car rally takes place. And every year it's the same procedure. About 30 nations draw up to the starting line in Brescia with their vehicles to take part in the Mille Miglia - a 1600-km vintage car rally through Tuscany.
It's pouring with rain which is typical of previous rallies, but that doesn't keep the participants and fans away from this spectacular event. The Mille Miglia was held for the first time in 1927 when 77 cars took part in the race - although that year only 54 managed to make in over the finishing line 1000 miles later. Today, more than 370 teams selected from 800 candidates take part in the rally. Only competition cars representing models that took part in the race between 1927 and 1957 are accepted.
By the afternoon all the vehicles, worth approximately 3 million dollars between them, have had their technical check- over. Sponsor Karl-Friedrich Schäufele, vice-president of the famous international jewellers Chopard, is now itching to get going. In 1988, he and his father Karl-Friedrich - both dedicated connoisseurs of vintage cars, decided to sponsor this legendary race. This was not a passive participation, since they also take part in the race personally.
One would expect excitement but today there are quite a few long faces. No wonder, since it would seem that Mille Miglia might well have to call a rain-check. Will you start anyway?
Of course! We are not going to let a bit of rain spoil things, because the Mille Miglia is always great fun!
Your car truly is a magnificent piece - an Aston Martin from 1930... it looks like it is in extremely good condition. How have you prepared for the race?
The car was given a complete overhaul and I am certain that we will both make it over the 1600 kilometres.
What is the route?
The first leg is to Ferrara where we arrive this evening; it is about 150 kilometres. And tomorrow the route takes us from Ferrara via Rimini and San Marino to Rome . The day after tomorrow, we drive from Rome via Sienna, Florence and the rest of Tuscany , then Bologna and back to Brescia .
That is a really long stretch and won't be easy in this weather. Will the cars manage to make it? Naturally, I shall keep my fingers crossed for you, but what are the odds?
The odds are good that the cars will survive the route. We have a good mechanic coming along. The chances that we will finish the race are actually pretty good, but the car is pretty uncomfortable.
So it is quite a challenge to take part in such a rally?
It will be pretty hard-going and the rain won't exactly help....
With a pat on the back and our best wishes, we accompany the brave souls to the starting line. At 20:15 precisely, it is time - then the engines are fired and a hundred, shiny vintage cars hit the road.
The going was tough! Heavy rainfall put an additional strain on the soaked drivers, but it provided convincing proof that the biggest European vintage car race is a real endurance test and not just an excursion for eccentric snobs. The stars were not millionaires or aristocrats, but the car themselves - those trusty old- timers that already proved themselves in the 1000 Mille Miglia between 1927 and 57.
The rain did manage to claim a couple of victims but thankfully nobody was hurt. Precautions had been taken to avoid accidents and traffic jams on the 1000 miles of public road. Keep moving - time is short, even if there are wonderful sights to be seen on the the way. A short breather in the romantic little town of Urbin, where the water drips onto the drivers already curling sandwiches. Afterwards, the loneliness, the winding country roads - a perpetual final spurt “directione Roma-Brescia”.
Although there was an individual winner, overall victory went to all the vintage cars in the Italian team - which proves again, an old flame never dies!! And by the way...there is also a great on the market - dedicated to the lovers of the Mille Miglia Race. So take your time and go for it !!!
* This special feature "Mille Miglia Oldtimer Race" has been one of more than 300 Portraits, produced by Nathalie Gütermann for her TV-Shows 'Nathalie's Lifestyle' and 'Nathalie's Art of Living' that were broadcasted between 1990 - 2003 in Germany and in 15 countries world-wide. The content has been updated with actual information in 2004 for Nathalies-Lifestyle.com © 1990 - 2004. The reproduction or other use of any text, photographs, etc. needs the prior written permission of the Chief Publisher.