The most beautiful race in the world: Running the Mille Miglia in a 90-year-old Bentley
Give the [INAUDIBLE]
[INAUDIBLE] that wasn't the vehicle [INAUDIBLE]
Welcome to the Mille Miglia.
A four day, historic rally covering some of the best roads that Italy has to offer.
It's been called the most beautiful race in the world and we are going to show you why?
Lemilia Milia dates back to 1927 when it started as a 1000 mile point to point race across the Italian countryside.
It was run at speed on open roads with drivers putting their cars to the ultimate test.
Often testing their luck to.
That era ended in 1957 when a pair of tragic fatal accidents brought the race to a close.
It lingered on for a few years as a limited speed showcase but that event ended too.
That is until 1977.
In 77, the race was reborn reinvented as a historic rally open only two cars that would have been eligible for competition in the original, that is to say cars produced before 1957, the modern me Lacey's racers covering a vast swath of Italy and doing so at a very good speed.
But ostensibly abiding by all Italian road laws being scored for the accuracy of their timing not for their speed.
Think of it like a time speed distance rally or irregularity rally.
The One that's unlike anything else on the planet.
The 2019 event would begin in Brescia home of the Mille Miglia Museum, and over the course of four days, crossed 1,794 kilometers.
That's over 1,100 miles of Italian countryside, running down the east coast to Cervia Milano Marittima.
Then continuing southward to Rome, before turning northward again to Bologna.
And finally returning depression.
The day before the start was a day for finalizing registration, checking out the competition and getting familiar with my ride.
What was my ride something very, very special.
It's a 1934 and a half liter Bentley blower.
Called the demonstrator.
Bentley entered two cars into the race, celebrating the company's centenary and looking to address some unfinished business.
You see back in 1930 Bentley entered a blur into the middle A but withdrew it prior to the start, fearing the car wasn't ready for the challenge that lay ahead.
Now, 89 years later, we were there to celebrate the company's 100 year anniversary and to finish the race and to finish well.
But first, I had a little paperwork to attend to.
Just give you an idea of what I'm going through.
This is my route book for tomorrow.
And this is a high level overview, starting British in and working our way down to Milan America team right here.
And then I've got this listing which is all the various sections, that we need to go through tomorrow.
The red ones are the ones that I'm most concerned with.
Those are basically, the specific time trials and they give you a. Exact distance and time that you need to run through here.
So we've got the first one, for example is 400 to 60 meters 54 seconds we have to go through that in that gives us an average speed of 30.67 kilometers per hour.
And we will lose points for every fraction of a second every 100th of a second.
We are early or late.
So what am I doing?
Basically, I'm taking that information and plugging it into my handy dandy graphing calculator from high school here, which I've written a little program on here that just spits out a table and then I can put that Table and I'm writing that down into a notepad.
Now yes, I could probably do Microsoft Excel and print out those values instead.
But rather I actually kind of like going through this process of writing through the individual times basically tells me for every 100 meters, what time we need to be at that 100 meter mark.
By writing it down.
I feel like I'm getting a little bit of a preview of the stage in my head.
And also I kinda like having this be just a simple manual thing, no computers to break down or anything like that either.
And then, of course, on top of all of this I've got all these roots and everything else I need to go through, all the instructions, so many instructions for the course of the day and if all goes well we will arrive at our destination tomorrow evening.
A little after, after 10 o'clock in the evening
Before the stars all the cars gathered at the mill Emily museum and Russia giving me another chance to see what we were up against.
And Google some of the 430 world class cars would enter Many of these machines spend their lives relaxing in museums or their security behind ropes and kept religiously clean, only to be trotted out a few times a year and put through their paces at events like this.
Bentley's pair of blowers looked like monsters compared to some of the svelte roasters on display Some simple and lovely others are needs and worth more than the most expensive of modern hyper cars.
But before long it was time to put on our vintage head gear strap on our goggles and hit the road.
sitting behind the wheel to my right was Robin peel head of royal and VIP relations a title that must surely be unique to the world of Bentley.
For the next four days Robin would have the job of physically wrestling this lovely blower across the Italian countryside.
While I have navigator had the mentally draining task of ensuring we got where we needed to go exactly when we were supposed to get there.
Along the way, we would receive penalties for arriving either too early or too late at any checkpoint.
Certain time cross section's time down to a fraction of a second and all I have at my disposal was a kitchen timer a vintage odometer and my width which that would become seriously frayed along the way.
The most challenging bits were the time trials a series of very short stretches of closed roads that robin and i have.
I had to cover at a precise speed.
With a half dozen or more of these run back to back, there's no time for any calculations.
So my preparations the night before were put to the test as we tried to cross every timing strip at the exact moment the route book dictated.
Being just a fraction of a second off would mean penalties at the end of the day In a lower fishing position as a result.
We were blessed with good weather along the way and though the first day was short, just 322 kilometers, I was still pretty well wiped by the end of it.
I have just gotten back into the hotel room and after a very long day is.
We left 11 o'clock at night so we hit the road little after 1:30 event just before two o'clock, I guess it was.
Yeah, that was a long day.
It's gonna be an even longer day tomorrow but, absolutely incredible day though to see all the fans that came out to cheer for every single car even well in the night.
Lot of great help from the police officers shutting down roads for us letting us through intersections, that kind of thing.
And just an amazing, amazing experience.
I didn't realize that to my navigation skills need to improve.
I did a lot of [UNKNOWN] work last night but ultimately just created like too much data for me to possibly handle in the car.
So I'm going to simplify a little bit tonight.
I still got some work to do to run through tomorrow's time trials because I couldn't read Stopwatch and the true computer and watch the patient with all the same time I needed to be able to do that.
But otherwise we did pretty well.
We didn't miss any turns.
We were early at all the major checkpoints, which meant we could kinda sit and wait a little bit and then at the end of the day, thank goodness they decided to let us all check in early without penalty.
Normally if you check in early, there's a pretty significant penalty.
But tonight they I guess wanted to let everybody get to bed a little bit early and I do appreciate that.
So without further ado, I'm going to shut down.
[LAUGH] Go through my notes, get things ready for tomorrow morning because I need to be in the car at 6am.
[COUGH] Yeah, but certainly worth it.
Our departure was indeed bright and early, or dark and early, as it were.
But it quickly saw us spearing off into the countryside, and through some lovely villages, some of which came bearing gifts of fresh fruit, that were quite welcome.
On the open road, the blower very happily cruised along at 65 miles an hour, and above.
But things got far more memorable when we were crawling through the narrow walled streets of Assisi.
A stunning Citadel that put all of its history on display for us as we rolled through breaks squealing and engines echoing.
Bad traffic in the afternoon meant some risky passes to stay on time.
But even though we were keeping on deadline, our arrival into Rome was quite late in the day, I had to resort to my personal headlight, that is the one I strapped to my head, to be able to read my notes as we made our way through the city's crazy streets.
And pass the stunning sites, I sadly didn't have time to admire on this night.
It was about this time I started to realize I was struggling to do basic math, things like average speed and even figuring out time zones.
Sleep deprivation was already beginning to catch up with me and we weren't even halfway there.
I have just made it back to the hotel, it is just after 11 o'clock at night.
We were in the car this morning at 6AM.
So yeah, that's a long day of driving and we covered about 560 kilometers which is, I really can't do math right now but it's over 300 miles anyway.
And yet it may not sound like that much in a day but given, [UNKNOWN] Was.
Forced to be very slow a lot of these sections were 20 to 30 kilometers an hour and given we were driving through the town countryside which if you've never had the opportunity to do it's it can be very slow and different did let's say we covered a lot of ground today given everything and of course given the current year in which is 90 years old put on suntan lotion four times today but as you can maybe tell i'm a little bit darker than I was yesterday and we'll see how good I am in the morning man, what a day really exhausting, but it's really good.
A lot of changes that I made to my planning last night to help me get a little bit more sleep still only about three and a half hours, but single because last night and definitely make things easier today by simplifying things But really, you know, the race is less about tracking your time and more about just the experience, absolutely overwhelming today.
Going into [UNKNOWN] and the crowds there were just unbelievable and then coming into Rome tonight was absolutely manic.
I've driven in Rome a number of times It is not fun.
To try to do it in a fleet of cars that are at least 60, 70 years old, was incredible and terrifying at the same time.
We managed to get to all of our checkpoints today on time.
The first checkpoint we had 15 seconds to spare.
That was after driving.
Like 120 kilometers with 15 seconds to spare, which has been incredible, but we made it.
Yeah, I'm blanking on everything else right now because my mind is shutting down sleep deprivation but I still got to about an hour, two hours worth of work to prep for tomorrow, even longer day ahead tomorrow with even more time trials and challenges ahead tomorrow.
And I like to be a little bit prepared and try and get all the sleep so Content from day to.
Day three was another early morning, and another long day, but the one with perhaps the most memorable destination of the entire event.
Sienna, a stunning city that's among the most beautiful on the planet.
I visited there just a few years before and marveled at that beautiful town square.
Now here I was racing through town tearing through streets barely wider than the car itself, past bemused vacationers eating their tourist fair.
And parking up in that very square itself.
All these cars in that amazing setting was just another unbelievable scene in this unbelievable race.
But it wouldn't be long after that we were out and once again stuck in traffic.
This time it was Bologna we were trying to enter and the roads were even thicker with congestion and the day before.
A police escort helped us make it on time.
An arrival late in the evening that still sauce cutting through streets lined with spectators, who wanted nothing more than to see and to hear.
And smell the cars.
We were more than happy to oblige.
All right, so I just got back to the hotel from these three, the most challenging day.
It is about 10:30 right now.
And it was It was an amazing day of highs and amazing day of lows too.
I started off great, really good morning, some fun roads.
A lot of really technical challenges in the time travel today where we need to hit intervals at precise times and measure to the 1/100 of a second.
Hell we gotta do good rhythms today.
The average speeds, I think we did pretty well too Things go well, and then in the afternoon we hit traffic.
I don't have any other ways to describe it other than traffic for about three hours.
We were started in some really awful rush hour.
And it was just awful because we had a checkpoint that we knew we needed to get to a time where were those points.
And I was doing the math every 30 minutes of how far behind schedule we were.
We were on track every time but to keep on track, we had to do some occasionally questionable things to catch up.
Thankfully we had a police escort for part of it but it was very frustrating like that.
Imagine being thinking that you're going to miss your flight and rushing to the airport.
He was like that for a couple of hours straight and That was not much fun.
But then after that, we climbed up this beautiful mountain up.
Getting up toward the Alps was very cold came down this beautiful fast flowing road.
People cheering the whole lot and then we came into Bologna of the central square Bologna.
Just a massive crowd of people cheering and screaming and everyone loving the car, wanting Have picture with the car or you picture with me for whatever reason.
As incredible as we incredible.
Yeah, highs and lows, definitely highs and lows.
Tomorrow a little bit easier day I get to sleep in until I think 30 tomorrow pretty good.
So gonna do a little bit of timing work tonight to have some time off tomorrow.
But we finished up at four o'clock tomorrow for 25 will be our finish time to.
Tomorrow, which means I might be able to sleep with a long time, and that's gonna be pretty good.
And I'm really tired.
The final day of the event was among the shortest, but by this point, my body and mind were definitely struggling.
The weather had finally improperly turned against us.
We'd run through the occasional shower before, but this morning it was properly raining.
I was cold and miserable in the open top badly and without much of a heating system to speak of.
I had a little more than the wind burn from the previous days to keep me warm.
It was remarkable to see so many priceless machines covered in Italian muck and grime from the rain.
But that's all part of the experience.
Eventually the weather broken we covered the distance of that final day at a relatively relaxed pace, winding our way back into Russia on familiar roads and into the finish.
Where I handed over the last time card, and we knew we'd completed the event.
Job done, but not quite done.
After the real finish came the ceremonial finish, or we pulled up on stage received a few trinkets for our troubles.
And then relief.
Robin brilliant work again, thank you for keeping me safe and bring us home
Finally, I can climb out of this thing.
It's been four days, well over 1,000 miles, this thing didn't skip a beat.
And I am absolutely exhausted, this has been an absolutely incredible experience and I don't even know how to summarize it.
So let's go to voice over and maybe I'll say something a little bit more cohesive there.
[LAUGH] We covered the entire distance in this beautiful example of an 89 year old piece of machinery which didn't develop a single problem, even ignoring the moving time.
We spend hours and hours idling away at various checkpoints.
Something many cars half that age would struggle to manage.
And how did we finish?
We came home one hundred and fifty third out of the 430 entrants.
Given the complexity of the event and the high tech rally computers the many of those competitors were using, as a rocky, I feel pretty proud of that, and perhaps most importantly in the world of motor sports We beat our teammates.
But as for summarizing the experience, as it turns out, I wouldn't have to just yet because my experience wasn't over.
Fast forward two months we've teleported halfway around the world.
We're now on the lawn at the Pebble Beach Concord.
We're Bentley brought one of the two cars at entered into the meal Amelia And after it's done here in the lawn, after it's judged, I'm going to finally get my chance behind the wheel.
This car, the Brecon blower, was the sister car of the one eye campaign through Italy.
And the very car that was entered into the Mella Mella, way back in 1930.
Robin, we fast forward in a few months we swapped seats.
I'm in the right seat, which is an American is a little bit unusual be sitting here with the steering wheel in front of me.
But the controls are a little bit different than what I'm used to.
So before we get going, can you tell me where everything that I need to know is where, Okay.
Same principle source of really media content,
But they look different, say, in front of you.
There are two broad switches which are magnetize.
So you flick those down.
Bottom left another branch switch, which is the fuel pump.
And then under my left knee is the main battery which will then activate everything.
So we start with battery.
[UNKNOWN] Fuel pump and then this big brass button is your starter
And driving a short obviously can't miss the wheels shifters on the right which is interesting
So uneconomic but in the 1920s that's where it was.
It's it's four gears.
There's no synchronous
So on the way up, it's just gently gently on the way down.
It is double D.
Double D clutching, okay.
And gas pedal break?
Okay, so again we are slightly confusing here your middle pedal is gas.
Your middle pedal is gas.
Your right pedal is break.
The race cars were always that configuration because If you think 1929 there was no established way of doing it.
So, it was the norm then, for this car.
Drive for 90 years to fix that Robin.
It's how it is.
All right, gas in the middle, cut in the left, break in the right, battery down here.
Okay, turning that.
And then [UNKNOWN]
Fuel ****, do I need to yell clear or anything like that?
And the big [UNKNOWN] started.
Which reverse right away.
If you looked down said it's it's back.
It's also a rising down.
Good for you'll see a little mental metal ball but you need to flip that to the right.
You get it reversed.
The reason he said is if you're in your third gear and you're racing along and you don't want to.
You don't want to to remain the same.
Good to see you.
But in fact when you came into the living room which was the great narrow parking lot here I mean.
I'm going to be meeting the first family later on this week.
All right so this is exactly what
One more tip.
Once the clutch is engaged, leave it for a good three four seconds before you [INAUDIBLE]
All right here we go, clutch is in.
[SOUND] Give me a second, [INAUDIBLE] irst.
Come back to second, then try first again.
It's not budging
Touch all the way down
Okay, gas the middle.
You did it!
I did it!
Look at that.
I'm very proud of myself, don't stop me.
Don't forget, brake on the right.
Okay, we'll turn a U-turn.
Boy, okay, here we go.
Wow, this is quite some scary here.
Okay, braking the rights.
The thing is all about slow and steady, don't rush anything.
So I gotta pull this up.
is that right?
[SOUND] Again, give it three For seconds so let it engage.
That's at all [UNKNOWN]
And always turn when it's moving.
Ready for the camera.
into neutral and I just
Off a second and, [UNKNOWN] keep going, start again, touch down.
Okay, [UNKNOWN] That's right, okay.
[UNKNOWN] 30 seconds,
So, clutch down, give it a couple of seconds.
A little more [UNKNOWN] first time cuz you're gonna need [UNKNOWN]
[INAUDIBLE] this car from the car that we were in in Italy.
It's identical in its size, it's just the power output on this car was in race mode 240 brake horsepower.
The road car was 170.
So quite a percentage difference.
So I think we'll turn right.
Right, okay, [INAUDIBLE]
Don't go into first, just let it [UNKNOWN].
First is really a stopping gear.
Now, second is probably a better gear.
If you stop, then go into first.
Hand brake, hand brake applied.
Boy, I'm on a hill now, okay.
Feel the clutch and the [INAUDIBLE]
Ever use a handbreak?
Handbreak pull back.
Yep, you're in it, eh?
Feel the clutch bite.
That was a bit of an advanced challenge.
Yeah, I guess we can back up a little bit.
Just get a feel.
I'm loving it!
I think [UNKNOWN]
Every sense is working.
[UNKNOWN] Is me to bad guy.
[UNKNOWN] As you think [UNKNOWN] [INAUDIBLE]
see you again and beautiful drive in the most beautiful car in the world.
It was my pleasure.
Just clutch it, and it's really.
My brief time behind the wheel gave me that much more respect for Bentley's Robin Peele, who hustled the car through the Italian countryside for four days straight, and got us out the other side safely.
Just driving this is an experience that requires full physical and mental committment.
Racing it would take that to another level.
And hey if you want experience this for yourself, that just got a little bit easier.
Bentley is actually gonna build a dozen new four and a half litre [UNKNOWN] just like this one that [UNKNOWN] across Italy.
Price not disclosed, but it will surely be the sort of sum that would get you comfortably into a futuristic hypercar.
That modern alternative may be faster but I assure you, it couldn't possibly deliver an experience, as anything like this.