Report by Dennis Gray | Photos by author and Bob Ross
The 2012 running of the California Mille was held April 30th to May 3rd on the twisty and scenic back roads of Northern California and Nevada.
Similar to the previous twenty editions of the rally, the California Mille departed San Francisco on Monday morning from its traditional starting line at the famed Fairmont Hotel, located atop Nob Hill. The four-day, nearly 1000-mile rally took participants from San Francisco to as far north as Reno, Nevada before ending the rally in Calistoga. In case of mechanical issues, the rally was followed by mechanics Conrad Stevenson and Jere Brown, plus the Chubb Insurance support vehicle of Bill Crowley and Jeff Walker.
Notable entrants in the 2012 California Mille included the supercharged (and breathing hard) 1935 Lagonda Rapier; the delicate Fontana-bodied 1951 Ferrari 212 Export; a Maserati A6G/2000 Zagato that played back-up to the owner’s broken-down Ferrari 212 Export Sport; 1953 Alfa Romeo 1900CS by Pinin Farina; a pair of Austin-Healeys, a warmed-over 100/4 and the real-deal 100S; 1954 Talbot-Lago Gran Sport 4.5; ex-Brigitte Bardot Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder; the Zagato-bodied AC Bristol coupe; Sebring class-winning 1959 Arnolt-Bristol; several Porsche Carrera GT; Jaguar XK; Mercedes-Benz 300SL and Alfa Romeo variations; among others. Sports Car Digest Publisher Jamie Doyle shared driving duties in the 1947 Cisitalia 202 Gran Sport.
California Mille 2012, Day One – Under perfect conditions, the approximately 60 teams left the Fairmont Hotel at 8:30am, headed across the Golden Gate Bridge towards the Sacramento River Delta, ending in Locke; the only town in the United States built exclusively by the Chinese for the Chinese. Once coffee was poured, the group continued along the Sacramento River and had lunch at Wine and Roses Hotel in the town of Lodi, the proclaimed “Zinfandel Capital of the World”.
While the morning runs were at sea level, the afternoon saw the cars climbing all the way to 7,740 feet at Luther Pass before settling for the night at Incline Village, Nevada on the shore of Lake Tahoe. Participants and cars were tired, as the 267-mile journey was too much to bear for several cars.
California Mille 2012, Day Two – Another fine weather day met the group on the second day, which saw the rally drive down the western edge of Lake Tahoe before heading north again towards Carson and Virginia City. Historic Virginia City is reached by climbing Route 341, the stretch of highway that annually plays host to the Virginia City Hill Climb. The rally made an afternoon stop in Reno, Nevada to visit the National Motor Museum, which houses the remainder of the famed Harrah’s Automobile Collection. Then came the arduous 5000-foot climb up Mount Rose. Engines were huffing and puffing and participants were hoping for more power up the grade and better brakes on descent along the 25-mile mountain pass.
California Mille 2012, Day Three – Again blessed with excellent weather, participants said goodbye to Lake Tahoe and headed west via Donner Pass to historic Nevada City, followed by a lunch stop at the Sacramento River State Park in Colusa. Once fed – both cars and participants – the rally travelled twisty Highway 29 to Calistoga, which is located in the upper portion of Napa County.
California Mille 2012, Day Four – Mother Nature made herself known on the final day, with steady, light rain following the rally until mid-afternoon. These damp conditions, coupled with the extra tight Skaggs Springs Road, made the morning drive from Calistoga to Bodega Bay on the Pacific too treacherous for many teams, who opted for a more leisurely road to the final destination. Fortunately, the final leg from Bodega Bay to Calistoga was less taxing, as the roads were more accommodating and the weather cleared up, allowing the rally teams to soak in the 2012 running of the California Mille.
The California Mille is presented by Amici americani della Mille Miglia (American Friends of the Mille Miglia), which also stages the January 1st Anti-Football Drive and Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design drive to Monterey. Sports Car Digest Contributor Martin Swig is the organizer of all events.
California Mille 2012 – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture and description)
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[Source: Dennis Gray]