Every year, the race Mille Miglia race is oversubscribed—over 700 cars registered for the 90th anniversary event—and that number is whittled down to the crème de la crème by a panel of renowned judges, not unlike at a concours d'elegance, to ensure that the 440 cars that will be racing are truly breathtaking automotive examples.
And of those 440 pre-1957 cars, 92 will be priceless cars that actually raced in the original endurance event between 1927 and 1957 before it was struck from the World Sports Car Championship calendar because of its danger to drivers, cars and spectators.
For example, among the 10 museum pieces Mercedes will be bringing are a 1928 SSK; the actual 300SL that raced in the 1952 event (important in Mercedes's history as the first event it competed in following the Second World War); eight 300SL Gullwing models; a 190SL; and a 1954 220a.
However, when it comes to classic competition cars, Italian marques will be in a league of their own. Some 14 Fiats that completed the original course will be undertaking the 1000-mile round trip this year, as will 12 Alfa Romeos, four Zagato-built cars, two Maseratis, and four Ferraris.
This year's event will be of even greater significance for the Prancing Horse. A Ferrari won the last official Mille Miglia in 1957 and the marque has chosen this year's event as part of its own 70th anniversary celebrations. It will be allowing Ferrari owners whose cars were built after 1957 to compete in a "tribute" alongside the official race for the small fee of €8,500.
Once one of the highlights of the World Sports Car Championship and truly a measure of both a car and a driver's true endurance and capabilities, the 1000-mile street course that takes in incredible scenery, twisty mountain roads from one end of Italy to another is considered by many as the birthplace of the GT car and the race that first put marques like Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Maserati, Mercedes and Aston Martin in the public consciousness.
The 90th Mille Miglia will officially start at 2pm CET on Thursday, May 18 and will start in Brescia, taking in Padova, San Marino and Perugia before turning around in Rome and heading back to the starting point via Siena, Modena and Parma.