Under the organization of the Circolo Veneto Automoto and headed by the excellent Stafano Chiminelli, Le Mitiche now offers three days of superb driving, with an entry limited to approximately 100 cars, with good hotels, superb organization and almost hassle-free motoring. The Circolo’s greatest asset is that it consists of a passionate group of club members who just want to organize the best event of this sort that they possibly can. In addition, they are non-profit making and this is reflected in the cost, so there are no horrendous entry fees.
This year’s format started with scrutineering and formalities in the small town of Romano d’Ezzolino just outside Bassano del Grappa in the Veneto. The regulations require that entries must consist only of open cars—barchettas, spiders, cabriolets, sports racers etc.—with a date cutoff of 1960.
This year the oldest car was Venanzioro Fonte’s Alfa Romeo RL Targa Florio of 1924, a fabulous piece of kit which I had the pleasure of running behind up the Passo Manghen on the first day until its owner found it had too long a gearing for mountain work and substituted a more touring example of Arese’s handiwork. It also had an explosive exhaust which was sheer music, but which the owner also suggested “You wouldn’t want to take it to church on a Sunday.”
Eddie McGuire, of Gordini and Cooper Bristol fame, works tirelessly on behalf of the event, co-ordinating entries from across the world and running himself in his blower 4.5 liter Bentley among a 13 example cache of these cars. The overall entry, from 11 countries, started and ran in car date chronological order with earliest cars at the front and latest at the back. Example figures were five Ferraris including 340 MM and 166 MM. There were five Maseratis, including 250S, 300S and A6GCS. Out of seven Jaguars, including C and D Types, one was the unique Barou-bodied 120 of Wolfgang Techel (pictured right). As well as the RL there were both 6 and 8C Alfa Romeos, OSCA, Lancia, Amilcar…the list went on. I must express a huge thank you to Gianni Codiferro for making available his Porsche 550 Chamonix for our participation.
Two overnight stops were included in the itinerary and, as this year’s event was concentrated in the Trentino/Alto Adige areas, these were Bolzano and Trento, cities not far apart but in the two and a half days of driving, participants needed to cover around 530 kilometers in total. Various tests are included of the short, regularity type in order to establish a finishing order.
By their very nature—the cars being barchettas—their carrying capacity is low, so the organizers ensure luggage is moved from hotel to hotel by navettes and this worked very well indeed, with suitcases already in rooms upon arrival after a day’s driving.
The start was from the scrutineering location, on the Friday and the first afternoon settled everyone into what was ahead. It consisted of 140 kilometers over secondary and minor roads (but never rough), over two passes, the Manghen and the Lavaze, each of about 2000 meters. Just to keep all on their toes, a biblical downpour within 20 minutes of the start had everyone donning their wet weather gear, but it was hot and clear on arrival in Bolzano where first the cars were displayed to the public in one of the main piazzas, before continuing to the designated hotel night-stop.
Saturday was the day of reckoning for all, as the not overlong 280 kilometers run included the daunting Stelvio, followed by the fearsome Gavia passes. To get everyone warmed up though, crossings of the Passo Mendola and Passo delle Palade were slotted in as primi piatti before the secondi. The main road run, from Merano, was dealt with easily with the inestimable help of our two outrider Polizie bikers, who carved a safe passage through the tourists.
At sea level the temperature had hovered around 26 degrees all of the morning and was that figure as we hit the 39th tornante at the bottom of the Stelvio. As we wound our way up the ceaseless point and squirt of the seemingly vertical mountain face, the weather worsened, as the temperature dropped and cloud turned to rain, sleet, hail and, finally, snow at the summit where it was -4 degrees! So much hype surrounds the climb from the east that the other side is ignored. It shouldn’t be. It is every bit as impressive in its own way and, more than that, the sun came out again.
Over lunch in Bormio, I began to wonder what I was doing there with the thought of the Gavia ahead. Perhaps I shouldn’t read so much but, having watched the excellent 1958 Coupe des Alpes film and read many stories of late ’50s/early ’60s rallies over the unmetalled road I asked about it before we restarted. “The going up is no problem, it’s the coming down that needs to be treated with respect,” and so it was. With sheer drops and a road of only single-carriageway width, guarded only by marker stones, it was a fabulous experience and one to be recommended—slowly. The summit is, well, just bleak and it was almost surreal to find Matteo Crippa’s Ferrari 340 MM parked up there among the scree.
It was a comparatively easy afternoon run down to Trento over the Passo Tonale after all that excitement and, like so many of the towns and villages we passed through, we enjoyed a typically Italian enthusiastic and welcoming arrival, followed by another dinner of high standard.
Sunday morning’s return run down to Bassano was over the Passo Vezzena and via a test in the First World War battle town of Asiago, marking the centenary of the tragic event this year. A short run of only 110 kilometers allows the organizers to bring the field into the center of Bassano del Grappa for a refreshment halt and to allow the public to inspect the cars before a final start is made to cover the short 15 kilometers to the official finish in the medieval town of Marostica and its Castello.
Throughout the event the roads were well-chosen, the vistas outstanding, the overnight stops well-executed. It had been a superb experience and unequivocally to be recommended. Thank you to Stefano Chiminelli and his team for three wonderful days. Can we come back next year please?