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The most beautiful race in the world

The most beautiful race in the world

Ronald Rey M. de los Reyes

For Filipino veteran long-distance classic car drivers, Jan Vincent Kierulf and Jorge See, nothing has ever prepared them more than their triumphant experience at the recent Mille Miglia, or a “Thousand Mile” race event in Italy.

For Kierulf, running onboard their open top 1953 Maserati Osca race car with a 1100cc four-cylinder engine during the race made them feel like Tazio Novulari, a renowned Italian racer in the 1930s, whom some even refer to as: “the greatest driver of the past, the present and the future.”

“It has always been my dream to run the Mille Miglia,” Kierulf shared through an interview with Inquirer Mobility.

For the uninitiated, the Mille Miglia, first established in 1927, is a race from Brescia en route to Rome and back, covering one thousand miles. The journey passes through several Italian regions: Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany.

Ferrari founder, Enzo, an Italian himself, even referred to it as: ”the world’s unique traveling museum.”

Arduous road to ‘gara più bella’

The grand event, being one of the most prestigious races in the world, has strict qualifications and reviews prior one’s entry into it.

Kierulf personally experienced this, he said, having passed his application more than a year before the actual race.

“It was March 31st and still no word about my application.”

“Feeling jittery and nervous, it didn’t help that the organizers wrote, assuring refund in case of non-acceptance,” he added.

Here, to first enable one to participate, the car entry has to be eligible, meaning the car model should have joined the original race which was until 1957.

For this, he had to even replace his 1935 Bentley Vanden Plas Coupe, which he originally entered.

To add fuel to the fire, his wife, Aileen, even had to call in sick several days before the actual race.

In turn–however–See, a veteran in this field, became her replacement, which more became a blessing in disguise for Jan.

“He’s a truly seasoned, classic car driver.”

Jan explained that–at least–now, the two of them are veterans of long-distance classic car runs, both having participated in the Tour de Cebu, at least three times. Incidentally, See even organized the PK nautical runs, a precursor to the Tour de Cebu which traversed the islands of Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and back.

Kick off from Brescia

At first, being unfamiliar with driving the Maserati Osca, Kierulf shared, “It was like riding a wild stallion.”

“It accepts you with its race seats hugging you. But it is temperamental, it is a race car after all.”

Eventually, they found themselves together with 400 other cars in the city of Brescia in the region of Lombardy. The traditional scrutineering took place, followed by the sealing, he recalled.

Together with them were hundreds of classic cars of different makes and models, such as: Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Ferrari, Lancia, Ermini, Siata, Osca, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Bentley, Jaguar, Austin Healey, MG, Aston Martin, Lagonda and Bugatti.

It was like a scene cut from a movie, according to Kierulf: “The assembly of cars felt like the presentation of the warriors who will participate in a gladiatorial race.”

The kick off from the city started around past noon with 20-second intervals for each car, he narrated.

“We were car number 266 and were able to take off at around 2:30 pm.”

400 other classic cars from different makes and models
Through glorious sights and sounds of Italy

The five-day affair took them to various places around Italy, Kierulf divulged.

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From the picturesque lakeside sceneries of Sirmione, to sudden downpours in Bovolone and Cervia Milano Maritima, a tourist destination hugging the Adriatic sea, everything, for them, was spectacular.

Glorious sight of castles and fortifications

In Imola, Jan even said: “One of the highlights of the first leg was when we got to do time trials at the racetrack wherein the 34-year-old Ayrton Senna met his demise at the San Marino Gran Prix.”

And when they arrived in the beautiful city of Rome, he then shared, “What lifts up your spirit is that in every town, people line up on the streets waving flags and cheering you on.”

“Beautiful people, the Italians, full of warmth and smiles, this is the fuel we run on as Jorge and I take turns driving and waving to the cheering crowd.”

There were even places that depicted the movie, Gladiator, he said.

“Of all the stops, the best I would say was in the medieval mountaintop town of Siena. All the cars assembled in the center at the Piazza del Campo surrounded by castles and fortifications.”

Amazing countryside scenery
Amazing podium finish

Per Jan, they overtook a number of cars and at times, they ran at a top speed of 160kph, even going against giants like the six- cylinder Jaguar XK 120.

For the last day, they passed through the checkpoints of Treviglio, Stezzano, Bergamo and Gussago before pressing on until they reached the finish line in Brescia.

After they crossed the checkered flag, Kierulf stated, “Still in disbelief, we got on the podium.”

The Filipino drivers after their spectacular finish.

“Our winning moment was when we told them we were from the Philippines. This was the ultimate high as we proudly announced our origins.”

After the announcement of winners and the spraying of Franciacorta, the Italian version of French Champagne, at the back of his head ran the words: “Truly, this is not just the most beautiful race in the world. It is also the most glorious!”

Amazing medal and trophy feat