With Derek Hood, JD Classics’ Managing Director driving and Steve Reidling, our Race Shop Manager navigating, team Hood-Reidling in a 1954 Cooper Jaguar T33 were thrilled to complete 2009’s historic Mille Miglia. Covering 1000 demanding miles (that’s Roman miles, namely 1000 paces to the mile) from Brescia to Rome and back via some of Italy’s toughest, most spectacular roads and mountain passes.
Throughout the three days and across 31 hours of racing, several thousands of spectators come out to view one of the world’s most unique racing spectacles and enjoy the buzz of the event’s accompanying concerts and parties. And no doubt the crowds also came out to catch a glimpse of a race fraternity that included Dutch royalty, motorsport celebrities, esteemed politicians, business magnates and other glitterati – all in hundreds of legendary motors, each one an engineering jewel, gracing some spectacular scenery.
All of which helps explain why over a thousand journalists, media crews and hundreds of photographers are drawn by this race’s charms.
But the most significant part of what makes the race so alluring for us is the fact that each driver has to drive original, unmodified historic vehicles without all the refinements of modern motoring along a route that asks plenty of questions of a team’s ability to meet the challenge.
As it was, the punishing course meant that after just one day’s racing to Ferrara, several cars had already dropped out. By the last day, 86 cars had failed to finish. Getting historic race cars like these ready to face as well as meet challenges like these takes a great deal of foresight and preparation. Some say you also need a good slice of luck. But we try and make our own luck by applying our considerable historic racing experience and by being as thoroughly prepared as possible.
In the event, our car performed admirably – coping especially well with the punishing third leg where competitors have to drive from Rome back to Brescia in just one day. Eventually, team Hood-Reidling finished just outside the top half of the 378 participants. Definitely a performance to be proud of for a first showing. And the crowds were thrilled, too, having been treated to an unbelievably tight finish at the top with just two points separating first and second place.
The highlight? Has to be a fantastic fourth place finish on the third regularity stage to Forca di Cerro (during the second leg). Even David Coulthard (in the same Mercedes Benz 300 SLR Stirling Moss won the 1955 Mille Miglia in) couldn’t catch them!