In 1936 Italy found itself on the short end of economic sanctions imposed by the League of Nations as a result of Mussolini’s adventures in North Africa. This resulted in a severe shortage of fuel throughout Italy. Racing of course was severely limited but Italy being Italy a way was found to run the Mille Miglia. To dampen public outcry from some quarters special prizes were offered for cars running on wood, charcoal or any other by product. Only one of these entrants would make it to the finish. For cars at the sharp end of the field alternate types of petrol were actually used to increase the power of their engines.
Given this atmosphere it’s quite understandable that the race would take on an even more national flavor with the only foreign entrant a lone 1500cc Aston Martin. Against this car were arrayed twenty-three Alfa Romeos and twenty-five Fiats of all sorts and sizes. Many still powerful cars from previous races would find their way into the hands of lesser drivers. Included in the entry list were six cars running on a mixture of coal and gas, or “carbonella”, the fastest of which finished the race almost eighteen hours after the race winner having to dodge regular vehicle traffic by that time.
The Scuderia Ferrari prepared Alfa Romeos were represented by three new 8C 2900A roadsters driven by Pintacuda, Count Brivio and Farina. Another Alfa Romeo was provided for Clemente Biondetti. Sixty-nine cars began the race just after 5 a.m. with Biondetti’s Alfa leaving next to last. By the time the cars reached Bologna he had a minute and a half lead over Pintacuda followed by Brivio. A ferocious race followed over the Raticosa and Futa passes and down to Florence. With Pintacuda slowed by a malfunctioning carburetor the battle was joined by Brivio and now Farina. Past Rome and onto Terni, Farina had now taken the lead over Brivio with only seventy seconds separating the top three cars after six hundred miles of racing.
Brivio finally managed to catch Farina outside of Perugia and held onto the lead for the last four hundred miles just beating Farina by thirty seconds. Pintacuda was able to recover third place even though he had been delayed thirty minutes by repairs.