Mille Miglia 2009

Date: May 2009

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To understand the Mille Miglia, one has to think of it along the lines of the aphorism about women from the famous politician: it is a race, rolled into a party and wrapped in passion – very Suixtil all around!

Race, first and foremost, with a long tradition of extraordinary exploits and sportsmanship. A race with countless opportunities to measure the skills and grit of each team and their machines. A race beautifully organized this year with collaboration from countless organizations, including the police, all collaborating to make the event a success for both the racers and the public. A race also supported by untold numbers of volunteers, helpers and people of all boards full of goodwill and enthusiasm. A race this year also graced with a gorgeous weather (drenched in Lombard and Tuscan suns with only a few drops to be had, certainly welcome to cool of these more than 380 teams, but a fraction of the overall numbers of teams that actually pleaded to be accepted as participants, all vying for the glory associated with winning a race that has so many champions name preceding them on the honor roll) that certainly contributed to the very low level of incidents observed. A race designed to tax men and machines alike with snaking mountain passes, grueling passages and difficult historic city centers paved in uneven cobblestones shaking the very souls of machines often as old as men thirst for speed. A race against time and everything fleeting: by partaking in almost century old rites of passage, people find at the Mille Miglia the ultimate way to beat time itself into submission. A race, finally, that visited aside from hallmarks of civilization such as Rome, Firenze and Sienna (for example) as well as towns and villages soaked in automotive legends from yesteryear and today that resonate deeply with drivers and fans alike, Maranello, Modena (add some more)…

A party then, and what a party: people lined up for 1000 Miles to wave and cheer at beauty on wheels, men, women and children whatever the time of day or night that unholy caravan went through. Every village had a tent set-up, every town a real parade organized. And then, to top it all up, every car club took the opportunity to rally their members and everyone was there, by the road side, to show to their own beasts the origin of their specie and have them connect to their very own glorious past. A party also among the drivers and team, at the breaks and after every stages when drivers –while their mechanicals marvels were being tended to by the expert hands of dedicated mechanics, rejoined around any watering holes still opened and exchange, well into the small of the night, the stories of that day or another (sometimes preceding this one by decades!) and share the joy of a dream realized or the sadness of the dreaded, harrowing breakdown of this or that one, trying –by the mere mention of the incident- to exorcise the possibility that it could happen to them. Most of these shared moments without boast but just the good-spirited friendship of old and new hands who all realized they partake in more than a tradition but a real ritual!

A passion, finally: really more than one single passion, but rather passions shared or not. Men and women passionate by their beautiful machines and dedicating them an attention and –sometimes- affection that could make many a partner jealous if they did not know better than to try and interfere with something so profound. A love of the cities and towns of Italy for all things festive and even more so if these have to do with an industry where the country has a long and proud tradition of winning man-machine combinations. Such a fervor to be demonstrated in all things big and small before during and after the glorious event. A passion for all things well done from the organizers that have put so much energy and attention to replicating an event that has so many precedents that any attempts is bound to be held to the highest of standards – an expectation yet again met at this year of the event. And overall from all the competitors this year again a passion for motorsports that take them to the extreme limit of endurance for the sheer pleasure of knowing that boundaries are meant to be pushed ever further, even in such fields as auto racing where the great drivers from the past have set records that often appear unbeatable.

And the Suixtil team in all this?
Well, where to start? At the beginning seems to be the logical place, but there is just so much to recount:

The heroes then first:
Marc and Oliver have been fast friends for more than 20 years and classic car fanatics for just the same. Their long history of racing is a proud one and they have not shied from many challenges. Between them they have more than 15 participations to the 1000 Miglia alone and that is just one of the many races they cover every year. When not racing Oliver and Marc then enjoy fast living and soak up the history associated with their passion to the point where their combined knowledge can be simply called encyclopedic!
Their machine, then, an OSCA (the very brand that is the only one chosen by Sir Stirling to own) MT4 with a history so rich and proud that it alone appears worth summing up. Originally acquired by the Count de Portago, a man of means, he took consideration of his less fortunate friend Roberto Mieres (himself part of the legendary Argentinean team lead by no one else than “El Chueco” himself) who was longing for such a stallion to race across his continent, sent him this incredible machine pieced together under the expert eyes of the Maserati brothers now again independent and united. Roberto proudly took it, among others, through the punishing Mexican leg of the 1954 Panamericana race. When Marc and Oliver stumbled upon it they just could not resist the attraction and decided then (4 years ago) and there that it had to be restored to its former glory and granted another chance at the racing history. The finishing touches were put barely a week before the race (in the rush an original radiator cap could not be sourced, so an historical Maserati one was used instead). It hardly let anytime at all for the road testing before the black beauty, sporting all its original markings from the day could be shipped off to Brescia to meet-up with its competition!

The support team?
Well, there were, in fact, two of them: foremost the mechanical geniuses at Hall and Hall ( who, having re-invented the car first wanted to make sure it lived up to its full potential and devoted attention and care to it every time they had a chance (and two times more). It is evident that there cannot be enough credit going to people whose sheer dedication to the machine transcends by far the notion of a simple job and they clearly are an integral, even if often unsung, part of the team. The other support team was there for sheer emotional and moral (that would be your not so distinguished correspondent) support. There it must be confessed that the amount of weird adventures we encountered need to be boiled down to just a few anecdotes to avoid seeing this all resume digress into a case of gonzo journalism (without the hallucination inducing drugs though) that we fear might not be to everyone’s taste (for those of you who like it, we recommend a first or repeat viewing of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”). So here are a few gems of what happens when 3 people (2 very-in-love girlfriends and yours truly) get thrown in the middle of a legendary race: we snatched (don’t asked how) credentials that allowed us unfettered access to the whole race, then lost the windshield sticker – stolen as we first thought barreling down some deserted roads (and despairing of the Italian soul) only to find it 100 miles later crumpled but still stuck, on the roof of the car (restoring our faith in the Italian soul in the process). We accidently sprayed ourselves in gasoline before jumping back in the “Racing Twingo” for more barreling down dark secondary roads before finishing our first day’s rush at 0600, in a place coincidentally named “the pit stop café”. There were more but recounting them might just cast a shadow over the credibility of these lines and I will therefore keep them to myself, sure that the participant will, like I, reminisce on occasion and chuckle at the memories. Suffice to say that our own 1000 Miles brought many a laughter and appeared in Suixtil’ character with the overall event!

And the Suixtil race then?
A mad dash, like the proverbial bat out of hell really, taking the OSCA to its limit right from the start in a very unsparing approach that resembles the race itself. And did the machine rise to the challenge? More than could be expected: it appeared to be rearing to go and nothing seemed to happen until the engine reached 4,000 RPM when the loud growl then turned into a shrill blood-icing scream and the real power of the car (could it be reduced to this?) became evident. Thanks to its incredible lightweight the beast corners like no others while the short gear-change allows for fast reprise. Our expert-drivers relentlessly pushed the 55-year young baby to its limit (they were found in two small mechanical occurrences that had more to do with the terrain than the mechanics but still costs the team a few hours of days before they could be addressed) and lead it to a beautiful race as well as a collection of vignettes that will stay imprinted on the memories of their witness if they were unfortunately not captured on film: Oliver overtaking cool-headedly on a two-way village street while another car passes the OSCA in the other direction, both drivers appreciatively looking the now silenced OSCA in Ferrara at the end of the first leg (their first chance to test the machine personally) their eyes gleaming from the confirmation that they were right in every and all of their expectations of the beast, the crowds, by far the biggest, at every stops to take in the incredible sights the OSCA offers in its “bad boys black”, screaming even when silent, the gaping mouth at the front looking set to gobble anything coming too close, like a greedy shark while also gasping at its second-to-none race credentials painted on the car, but also plainly visible on its body: a true experience of the Mille Miglia right there and then!. Finally, Oliver, shouting to try to be heard over the ear-shattering noise of the front-end engine to answer the question about the lack of a speedometer, “we don’t need one; we always drive as fast as we can”.
To conclude, the Suixtil team led a Suixtil race, animated by an indomitable will to finish under extreme conditions while striving at all times to have fun, what –around here- we call living “at life speed!”

And the Suixtil garments then?
Since we re-launched the Heritage Line 4 short months ago, we had not been given the opportunity to see with our own eyes how well the uniforms would perform. Well, suffice to say, they passed with flying colors in the arduous environment of an open-road/open-top car, they delivered on all their promises of comfort and durability. As the same attention and care is going in the design, elaboration and production of our new products (did I just hear an Ah Ah, coming from the back?), it is comforting to note and inspiring for the future. Marc and Oliver wore their uniforms with pride but without any circumspection, preoccupied as they logically were with the race at hands. While Oliver is partial to the Targa long-sleeve polo for is comfort and protection from the sun, Marc loves the comfort of the Original Race Pants (especially the light fabric cotton fabric that represents such an improvement over the jeans or other slacks that offers such a relief from the heat of the cockpit) and their great pockets. Both confirmed the attraction of the Monza cashmere sweaters for both early start and those previously mentioned late finishes. Overall these observations confirm the overall endurance of our Heritage line distinctive garments as well as their well-adjusted functionality. What also needs to be remarked upon is the attention their unique looks afforded the team: many an envious head turned that had placed so much effort to restoring their mechanical beauties only to realize that their little polo-playing logoed short sleeved shirts and jeans were so out of character with the celebration taking place. Nothing confirmed the joy being had and the communion with the spirit of the event like our teams’ Sebring racing shirts soiled with grease adorning their tired bodies and beaming (but also dirtied) faces! Rest assured that the Suixtil team took the “cool looking” cup hands down and will continue to take their part in perpetuating the tradition of “gentlemen-drivers” at key events around the world.

We hope the pictures presented in the attached gallery will better convey (than the meek words of your correspondent) the intensity and range of emotions brought together by this extraordinary edition of the Mille Miglia and invite you to enjoy them all like everything else Suixtil – at life speed!

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