Shock waves reverberated through the Italian vintage motor racing world at the end of May, after the surprise announcement that the proceeds from organizing and running the Mille Miglia would leave Brescia for the first time in 90 years. Marva srl, a Brescia-based company had lost the right to put on the event after bringing it back from oblivion and staging it with enormous success for 24 straight years. Instead, the huge sums of money the Mille Miglia generates will go to Rome and the new organizers, a consortium based in the Italian capital and made up of Gruppo Meet, who will handle communications and promotion; Mac Events, who will actually organize and run the regularity race; and San Remo Rally, who will look after the sporting side.
The new arrangement will start with the 2007 Mille Miglia and continue for a five-year period.
Owned by the Automobile Club of Brescia, the Mille Miglia and its famous red arrow logo were first dreamed up, organized and run in 1927. The race was banned in 1957 after a works Ferrari 335S driven by Marquis Alfonso De Portago flew off the road at Guidizzolo, a few kilometers from the finish, and killed the Spaniard, his co-driver American Ed Nelson, five children and four adult spectators.
There were a number of attempts to resurrect the race in less dangerous forms, but none was successful until 1982. That was when Brescia businessmen Costantino Franchi, Ezio Ziletti, Giuseppe Lucchini, Vittorio Palazzani and Gino Danieli formed Marva srl and came to an arrangement with the Auto Club of Brescia for the exclusive right to organize a new Mille Miglia based on a regularity formula. The resuscitated race was an immediate success and became arguably one of the most important vintage racecar competitions in the world. Each year, the AC of Brescia put the Mille Miglia, the right to run it and the exploitation of its logo out to tender and for 24 years only Marva put in a bid.
That all changed for the 2007 Mille Miglia. Tenders were duly requested as usual and the AC of Brescia fixed its starting price of 380,000 euros (about $US 486,400). The big surprise was that, after a quarter of a century in which Marva was the only company to bid for the event, the Gruppo Meet/Mac Events/San Remo Rally consortium made a proposal for next year. The Club awarded the two organizations’ projects equal points, but when it came to the annual fee for the privilege of running the MM, they found Marva had bid 525,000 euros ($672,000) and the Rome consortium over a million euros (more than $1,280,000).
A rather embarrassed president of the Automobile Club of Brescia, Giacomo Bontempi, was quick to point out that the name of the winning bidder had not yet been “formalized.” But whatever happens, he said, “We have three people whose job it is to supervise the Mille Miglia. Nothing will change: the race will be run, as always along traditional lines.”
The only thing that will change is the destination of those huge amounts of money generated every year by the management of the Mille Miglia and its logo.
By Robert Newman