Lancia was back again with four D24 cars for Taruffi, Ascari, Castellotti and Gino Valenzano. Vittorio Jano had created a completely new revision of the car. These featured a punched-out version of the V6 that could produce 265 bhp. Furthermore, the chassis was modified to accept the more sophisticated De-Dion type rear axle. Pinin Farina was again chosen to manufacture the body and included a curious air intake on the right front fender. Brakes were located inboard which made them difficult to change. Ascari had earlier been acquitted of any personal responsibility for his fatal accident in 1951 and was now free to race.
Ferrari countered with the 4.9-liter Lampredi V12 engined 275Plus and had engaged Farina, Maglioli, Scotti and Giannino Marzotto as drivers. Marzotto would enter the race with his young sister in law, Gioia Tortima as co-driver. Clemente Biondetti was also there but by that time the valiant 56 year old driver was very sick and only had a few months left to live.
Last August the greatest driver the world had ever know, Tazio Nuvolari died in his bed. As a mark of respect for this extraordinary, inimitable little man the route of the Mille Miglia near its finnish would pass through Mantua, Nuvolari’s birthplace, that the thunder of several hundred racing cars would remind the citizens of the great man who had once lived amongst them.
Rather than rain this years race featured fog. Taruffi’s Lancia was the fastest on the opening stages, averaging 108.9 mph into Ravenna and a minute and a half lead. over Ascari followed by Castellotti. Maglioli in fourth was the closest Ferrari. Into Rome the Lancia of Castellotti was forced to retire moving Maglioli up to third. Taruffi, forever unlucky in this race sprung an oil leak and he too had to retire. Ascari who had taken it easy in the opening stages now assumed the lead.
On the return trip North Ascari’s throttle return spring failed and was temporarily replaced by a rubber band. This and other problem started to crop up and by the time he reached Florence Ascari seemed to have had enough with the Mille Miglia, a race he never really warmed up to. Ready to quit it was only after a long stop that he was persuaded to carry on. By Bologna all the top Ferraris had retired and it was clear sailing for Ascari to the finish. Ferrari, who hadn’t lost a Mille Miglia since 1948 was soundly thrashed by Lancia. It was up to Vittorio Marzotto in a private Ferrari to salvage any honor for the Maranello firm. The Maserati of Musso coming in third and Biondetti in his final Mille Miglia fourth.
Ascari remarked after the race that “this victory I owe, before everything else, to the advise given to me by Biondetti – advise that I have treasured”. This advise, “that he would only win this race by prudence and by sustaining the courage and determination, despite fatigue, to keep his foot off the accelerator” and thus the young champion toasted a dying veteran.