On October 25-29, 2011 the Santa Barbara, California Stratus Media Group showed us their interpretation of a Mille Miglia. Originally scheduled for August, the Mille Miglia North America Tribute was postponed until October “to allow entrants time to prepare their cars.” I was interested to observe, because for twenty-one years I’ve been involved with the California Mille.
We’ve always thought of the Mille as being, first and foremost, about driving legendary cars on the best roads we could find. Publicity was always secondary. Before creating our own event, our late co-founder, Ken Shaff, had done the Italian event at least four times. I had done it eight times.
I don’t believe anyone from Stratus has driven the Italian Mille Miglia. Their route selection showed that, opting to pass through the congested San Francisco Peninsula twice in one day! In Italy, the cities are fun, with the motorcycle cops escorting the cars at high speed. In the U.S., not so much.
The publicity materials and car display sites were first class. Photographers and staff were everywhere, even if the entry was light, and spectators scarce. One of the event photographers assigned to Carmel Valley Road saw only fifteen cars. On the turnaround section in Stinson Beach, I waited for hours and only saw twelve. But at the Monterey overnight, it looked like around 30 cars, including some entries suggesting a serious “under-subscription.” In early publicity, Stratus announced a limit of 300 entries, to be selected from an expected 15,000 applications.
At a Santa Barbara press conference about a month prior to the event, in answer to a question, the Stratus representative claimed 48 entries. He wouldn’t state how many were paid, or how many of the cars were Mille Miglia correct. Note the ’41 Ford Tudor, or the ’53 Chevy Bel-Air 6 cylinder Powerglide with chromed, extra wide disc wheels and whitewall tires, and Tijuana tuck-and-roll-imitation interior! Wearing Mille Miglia numbers?? And reportedly trucked in from Arizona for the event! What was impressive was the number of sponsors – nearly as many sponsors as entrants.
Other overseas Mille Miglia events in Japan and Argentina, both of which I have driven in, the route selection and car entries (both number and quality) were much better.
We’ll see if Stratus is game to try again, after what must have been a big financial bust. In the meantime, our Amici americani della Mille Miglia has already staked out another fabulous, four-day California Mille 2012, using the best roads in the world here in Northern California from April 29th to May 3rd, 2012. Applications for entry can be found at www.californiamille.com.
Mille Miglia North America Tribute 2011 – Photo Gallery