La Festa Mille Miglia – What’s in a name?
Report and photos by Len Clarke
Japan’s premier historic rally, La Festa Mille Miglia reverted to its original name in 2013, having run under the La Festa Autunno banner in 2011 and 2012. This year’s running took in more than 1,100kms (700 miles) of competitive stages traversing the Kanto plain, west of Tokyo, held 18-21 October.
As can be expected, the quality of the entry list is always inspiring. La Festa Mille Miglia attracts the best of the best among Japan’s historic rallying scene; with new surprises and rare examples lined up next to the established roster of regulars, all world-class machines, for a truly captivating array of art and engineering, the likes of which is simply no longer made.
The bulk of the 90-strong entry comprised machines from the fifties and sixties, many of them Italian in origin, but with a strong contingent of British, German and French makes also present. Among the inter-war cars, the nineteen twenties had seven entries (six of them Bugatti), while the fifteen machines from the following decade were almost exclusively British.
The four-day rally got underway at its traditional departure point, deep within one of Tokyo’s most famous landmarks, Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s premier Shinto shrine. Built in 1920 in remembrance of the emperor Meiji and his wife, Meiji Shrine (as it’s known in English) is an oasis of calm in the center of the capital. The expansive wooded grounds are, surprisingly, not natural forest, but the result of extensive planting of trees donated during the shrine’s construction.
As much social outing as competitive motoring event, the start, which took place on a Friday this year, never fails to attract a varied and interesting crowd. Among the onlookers, various TV personalities, sports stars, racing drivers, socialites and enthusiasts mingled before each of the machines made its way over the starting ramp.
Snaking through the urban setting of Omote Sando and Daikanyama before heading west out of the city on the Kanetsu expressway towards the open roads of Gunma prefecture, the cars and their occupants caused a stir in all the small towns and villages through which they quickly passed. Armies of flag-waving schoolchildren lined the streets next to elderly residents, who looked equally enthused by the clamor of the passing parade. The participants’ opening day ended when they reached the Prince Hotel in the resort town of Karuizawa, Nagano prefecture.
The second day had the longest competitive distance, nearly 400kms (250 miles), and passed through Kusatsu, Shibu Onsen, Nakanojo and other scenic spots on the way to the Tsumagoimura Panorama line, the route running majestically along a mountain ridge before dropping back down to the Kusatsu Tenguyama rest area. And that was all before the lunchtime break! The afternoon saw the competitors weaving through half a dozen hot spring villages and they made their way back towards Karuizawa.
Rain that had been falling since the night of day two intensified on day three, drenching anyone in an open top car — and there were plenty of those. Despite the conditions however, the locals came out in droves, encouraging the now sodden barchetta-equipped entrants, as conditions — unbelievably — continued to worsen. By the end of the leg, the exhaustion etched on the faces of some participants was acute. However, the resort setting of Hakone and its hot springs must have done wonders for any soaked soul.
The final day dawned cloudy, but quickly gave way to sunny patches that, by mid-morning, had brought welcome warmth and bright rays of sunshine to the cockpits of the competitors’ quickly drying machines. Running at a quick clip along the Izu Skyline (open road images), the cars dove down to the famous old resort town of Atami, once dubbed Japan’s Monte Carlo — more for the physical resemblance than any glamour. Then it was the straight jaunt east toward Yokohama, past the beachside towns of Oiso, Chigasaki, Fujisawa and Enoshima before reaching beautiful Hayama, where everyone gathered one last time to have lunch before the final stint back to Tokyo.
Once in the capital, the crowds of office workers straining to catch a glimpse of the cars as they drove through Monday evening traffic was a fitting reminder that events of this type capture the imagination — and hearts — of an ever-growing segment of the public.
Similar to the 2011 and 2012 events, Len Clarke also documented the 2013 La Festa Mille Miglia, offering the following gallery showing the strong entrants at this year’s event. We split up Len’s pictures into two galleries. The first gallery starting below features our favorite images, all displayed in the full-width view of Sports Car Digest, while the second gallery can be found on the last page of the article and gives a comprehensive view of all the photographs.
La Festa Mille Miglia 2013 – Featured Photo Gallery
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