Chopard sets off for a classic with anniversary Mille Miglia rally

Nick Watkins 23/05/2018
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Revved up: The start of the 36th Mille Miglia

The 36th edition of, “La corsa la più bella del mondo” started under a clear blue sky as over 400 classic cars set off from Viale Venezia, Brescia and passed through more than 30 Italian cities and towns. San Marino, Roma, Siena, Parma, Milan and Bergamo were all en route before drivers headed back to the starting point. The first car, a BMW 328 from 1938, departed from the famous ramp on Viale Venezia, leading hundreds of classic cars for an incredible event through the greatest landscapes of Italy.

Designed exclusively for classic and vintage cars, the event is one of the world’s oldest motoring events. Mille Miglia began in 1927, taking place 24 times until 1957 and bringing international fame to luxury sports cars such as Alfa Romeo, BMW, Ferrari, Maserati and Porsche. The 1,743km trip has been a regularity race since 1977, meaning it’s now more of a rally than a race, with drivers maintaining average speeds throughout. The event is only open to cars produced before 1957 and selected from the models, which took part in the original rally.

Classics: Cars driving through Brescia

Classics: Cars driving through Brescia

Thousands of spectators lined the streets of Brescia to catch a glimpse of the drivers in this year’s rally, which welcomed drivers from 40 different nationalities, from five continents. The legendary driver Jacky Ickx drove alongside Karl-Friedrich Scheufele in a stunning classic Porsche 550A Spyder RS – on loan from the Porsche Museum. The car was specially created in 1956 and was destined to make its mark on the history of motorsports.

The Mille Miglia is a family story of passion for the Scheufeles, all the members of the family have taken part or attended the rally under the Maison Chopard flag. The annual meeting is a demanding mistress that requires constant attention and concentration in order to lead a car to victory.

Since 1988, Chopard has been the historic partner and official timekeeper of the legendary classic car event. 2018 saw Chopard celebrate its 30th partnership with the Mille Miglia. Several friends of the brand attended the 2018 race including actor Adrian Brody, who partnered the Porsche driver Timo Bernhard in position 301 on the ramp of Viale Venezia in a Porsche 356 from 1955. In total, Chopard took no fewer than five cars to the starting line. Albert Carreras, son of the famous tenor José Carreras drove the race with his co-pilot Jordi Pascual in a Mercedes Benz 300 SL, owned by the Scheufele family.

Partners in time: Karl-Friedrich Scheufele and Jacky Ickx

Partners in time: Karl-Friedrich Scheufele and Jacky Ickx

The close ties between Chopard and the Mille Miglia stem from a shared history that began 30 years ago. The initial connection was born from a personal passion for classic cars by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. Under his leadership Chopard became the main sponsor of the Mille Miglia in 1988 and the watchmaker was one of the first brands to associate its name with the automobile world. For Scheufele, the links are entirely natural, “Lovers of fine cars often have a great weakness for precious timepieces and vice versa. Extreme precision and sporting elegance are important in both these fields,” he said at the event. The roar of well-tuned engines, the smells of rubber on hot tarmac are certainly in contrast to watchmaking, where atmospherically controlled rooms and deafly silence reigns supreme. However, closer inspection reveals a number of common factors between the two worlds, including the relationship with time, the passion for fine mechanical engineering, and the need for sustained concentration.

On Saturday, fans cheered as the first cars crossed the finish line in Viale Venezia, the winning team of Juan Tonconogy and Barbara Ruffini, ended the rally with 74,108 points. The Argentinian team started in 85th position driving an Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 GS “Testa Fissa” from 1933. Second place went to Giovanni Moceri and Daniele Bonetti from Italy in an Alfa Romeo 65 1500 SS from 1928 with 73,714 points. The third duo to reach the podium was Andrea Vesco and Andrea Guerini at the wheel of a beautiful 1929 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Zagato, with a total score of 73,327 points. The most represented carmaker at the event was Fiat with 49 cars, followed by Alfa Romeo with 48, Jaguar with 35 and Mercedes-Benz with 33 cars.

The Chopard collection

This year’s rally saw Chopard launch a number of special Mille Miglia watch models, each with rubber lining inspired by 1960s Dunlop tyres.

The Mille Miglia 2018 Race Edition

Limited to 1,000: Race Edition

Limited to 1,000: Race Edition

The stylish 42mm watch in stainless steel, equipped with a mechanical chronograph movement with automatic winding. The timepiece is presented on a black calfskin bracelet with red stitching and black rubber lining. Limited to 1,000 pieces.

The Mille Miglia Racing Colours

Limited to 300: Racing Colours

Limited to 300: Racing Colours

A stunning limited edition 42mm watch in stainless steel featuring a lacquered (British Racing Green) dial. It’s presented on a black calfskin bracelet with green stitching and black rubber lining. Just 300 pieces available.

The Mille Miglia GTS Power Control Grigio Speciale

Limited to 1,000: Power Control Grigio Speciale

Limited to 1,000: Power Control Grigio Speciale

43mm watch in titanium featuring a stippled anthracite grey ruthenium dial and equipped with a mechanical movement with automatic winding. The watch is presented on a grey Cordura fabric bracelet. Limited to 1,000 pieces.

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Formula E set to make debut in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia next season

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Saudi Arabia is readying its engines after it was announced that the ABB FIA Formula E Championship is set to make its debut in the Middle East with a round in Riyadh next season.

The organisers of Formula E – a pioneering motor racing championship that solely uses electric-powered cars – has signed a 10-year agreement with Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority (GSA) and the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation.

Riyadh will catch a first glimpse of the sport’s next generation of cars, with the new race scheduled to take place in the opening round of season five this December.

Formula E founder and CEO Alejandro Agag said: “Bringing racing to Riyadh for the first round of the new season is the perfect setting for the next phase of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship.

“An exciting and vibrant country that is focusing on its future, Saudi Arabia will be the ideal venue to mark the competitive debut of the next generation Formula E cars.

“We think Saudi Arabia – with the new vision of Prince Abdulaziz, Prince Khalid and the country – is a fitting location to launch the latest chapter of the electric street racing series.

“Many other sports are already increasing their presence in Saudi Arabia and we’re proud that they’ve chosen Formula E over other categories in racing.

“Most countries are now looking to Formula E, especially Saudi Arabia which is concentrating on the development of new technologies, renewable energies and electric vehicles.”

Formula E is only growing in stature and will welcome long-time Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa onto its circuits in a Venturi next season.

Indeed, Massa will take in his first competitive laps as a Formula E driver with the picturesque Ad Diriyah district of Riyadh as his backdrop. Further details on the location and circuit layout will be revealed in due course.

His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Vice-Chair of GSA, said: “Saudi Arabia is looking to the future and Formula E is the motorsport of the future, that’s why this is such an exciting opportunity.

“It aligns perfectly with the country’s 2030 vision and offers the prospect of world-class racing on the streets of the capital for the first time in our history. For all fans, men, women, young and old, the dream of hosting a ‘home race’ will now come true.

“As a driver myself, who cares about growing the sport, nothing could make me happier. The length of the partnership will give Saudi Arabia and Formula E the platform to create a lasting legacy for both the sport globally and the Kingdom over the course of a decade.”  

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Lewis Hamilton edges Valtteri Bottas to claim Spanish Grand Prix pole

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On pole: Lewis Hamilton (right)

Lewis Hamilton will start from pole position in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix after edging out Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by just four hundredths of a second.

Hamilton, who holds a four-point championship lead over Sebastian Vettel, delivered a record-breaking lap of Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya to claim his first pole since the opening round in Australia.

Vettel has been the one-lap master this year following a hat-trick of poles, but the Ferrari man had no answer for an inspired Hamilton here on Saturday. Vettel will line up in third after qualifying 0.132 seconds slower than Hamilton.

Kimi Raikkonen finished in fourth place for Ferrari, ahead of the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.

“It was very close but I am very happy,” Hamilton said. “I needed this pole because I haven’t had one for a while.”

Vettel added: “I was happy with the lap. The first run was not so good, but the last lap felt good. Then I looked where I ended up and I saw that my name didn’t go to the top. We expected Mercedes to be strong.”

McLaren arrived for the opening leg of the European season armed with a series of upgrades and hopeful of turning a corner following their miserable start to the season.

On the fifth anniversary of his last victory in F1, Fernando Alonso ensured a McLaren car progressed to the final phase of qualifying for the first time this year.

The 36-year-old Spaniard will line up in eighth place with his team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne 11th. Progress perhaps, but there is still work to do for the team who claimed they would rival Red Bull this year following their switch from Honda to Renault power.

British team Williams could once boast the might of Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet, who between them shared nine world championships.

But their current line-up of Lance Stroll, the Canadian teenager whose career has been bankrolled by his fashion billionaire father Lawrence, and Russian Sergey Sirotkin, is possibly the worst in the team’s history.

Their car is desperately poor this year, too, and they will head into tomorrow’s race rooted to the foot of the constructors’ championship.

It seems certain they will remain there after Stroll crashed out of qualifying, while Sirotkin was only one place ahead of him. Stroll stepped on to the gravel at Turn 12 and spun into the barriers to bring a premature end to his session.

It marked the third time he has been in the gravel this weekend. “I’ve never seen a Formula One car crash like that on the exit of Turn 12,” Sky Sports pundit Martin Brundle said in bemusement.

Williams will be spared the indignity of seeing both of their cars on the final row of the grid after Brendon Hartley suffered a 160mph crash in final practice.

New Zealander Hartley, 28, was taken to the medical centre for precautionary checks but despite being given the green light to continue his Toro Rosso team were unable to get his severely damaged car ready in time for qualifying.

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