Jaguar is celebrating an excellent team performance in the 2015 Mille Miglia with all nine cars finishing the grueling 1,000-mile endurance rally across Italy, with two cars inside the top 200 finishers.
In the year that Jaguar celebrates its 80th anniversary, Jaguar Heritage headed to the start in Brescia with three C-types, three D-types, two XK120s and an XK140 driven by famous faces from the world of motorsport, TV and music.
In total, well over 400 cars took part in the punishing four-day event, which started in Brescia, headed to Rimini on the east coast, before dropping down to Rome, back up to Parma – taking in historic Siena and Pisa on the way – before finishing back in Brescia.
Supported by an expert crew of Jaguar Heritage technicians, the nine Jaguar entries never missed a beat allowing each driver pairing to focus on the core demands of the Mille Miglia: covering big daily mileages while also completing regularity time-trial stages.
It was ‘NDU 289’, the Jaguar C-type of Jaguar Vehicle Integrity Chief Engineer Mike Cross, with Telegraph journalist Mikey Harvey, which came out on top for the Jaguar team, finishing in 153rd place – a great performance given that the top 100 places are filled with regularity time trial experts.
“We’ve driven 1,000 miles over four long days and the C-type has been superb throughout,” said Mike Cross, who leads a team responsible for giving Jaguar cars their unique driving qualities. “There’s definitely a discernible blood line: the faster you go, the better the C-type gets. It becomes more precise, more stable, more calm – and that DNA is carried through to modern Jaguars.”
Finishing not far behind them in 171st place were model and TV presenter, Jodie Kidd and model and GQ.com columnist David Gandy, driving ‘OOF 748’, a Jaguar XK120 roadster. This was the second time Kidd had driven the Mille Miglia in this car, affectionately nicknamed ‘Betsey’: “It was just so much fun to be reunited with Betsey again,” she said. “I’ve really learned how to drive her and get the best out of her. As ever, the roads and the crowds were just sensational. I’d like to say a huge thank you to the Jaguar support team who put in some Herculean efforts to keep everyone motivated and moving.”
Fellow driver, David Gandy, added: “It’s just been a real privilege and an incredible experience. I think the highlight for me was the way Jodie and I worked as a team. Our driving styles are very similar – we’re just as committed on the road as each other.”
Rapper and musician Elliot Gleave, aka Example, drove with his father, Michael Gleave. This was the second time Elliot had driven the Mille Miglia. This time he drove in ‘TAC 740’, an XK140 roadster. “This year was even better than the first time. I really got to grips with the car, the route books and the timing challenges. It has been a totally brilliant experience, but I’m knackered. I feel like I’ve done 20 days of touring. Doing it with my Dad has been amazing. He lives in Australia so I only see him once or twice a year. This is something we’ve been able to bond over. It’s been very special indeed.”
Driving his own Jaguar C-type, ‘PUG 676’, was Royal Automobile Club Motoring Committee Chairman, Ben Cussons, partnered by journalist Alex Goy. He commented: “It’s been a great event – superb organisation throughout, a warm welcome from other drivers and even the weather was good with only a few drops of rain. The C-type performed superbly and was supported by a supremely dedicated Jaguar crew. Jaguars always seem to be a favourite with Italians – they always cheered when they saw the C-types and D-types.”
The event certainly left a profound effect on TV chef, James Martin, who drove ‘393 RW’, a long-nose D-type.“You feel elated at the end. It’s just the most amazing feeling. I’ve been through the turmoil and the heartache of not finishing the Mille Miglia so to be able to cross that line…I’m a Yorkshire farmer but I had tears in my eyes.
“The long nose D-type is the fastest machine out there. It’s just amazing to drive. There was an incredible moment when we were joined by another Jaguar works D-type and we had an amazing battle with a Ferrari TR over 100 miles up in the mountains.”
Recalling Stirling Moss’ 1955 victory in the Mille Miglia during which he averaged just under 100mph, Martin said: “If we experienced just 0.1 per cent of what Stirling Moss went through then you respect the man even more. For him to do what he did back then for 1,000miles is just unbelievable. It’d be an understatement to say I want to come back next year. This has been the best four days of my life. Thanks to Jaguar.”
Martin’s co-driver, adventurer Charley Boorman, was just as in awe of the experience: “I didn’t really know quite what to expect. When I did the Dakar, there was the similar feeling of the unknown. But James and I just had a laugh from beginning to end. We were like two children in a sweet shop at Monza on the banking!
“I can’t believe we actually finished. Given the drop-out rate and how tough it is on man and machine, I’m so thrilled to get over the line. The D-type was fantastic. It was brutal. I really want to do it again. Big thanks to Jaguar – everyone who supported us to keep us going. They barely slept. They were fantastic.”
Driving ‘RSF 303’, the priceless Jaguar D-type ‘Long Nose’ Ecurie Ecosse racer of businessman and classic car enthusiast Clive Beecham, was Jaguar Director of Design, Ian Callum. “This was my third Mille Miglia,” he said. “I was offered the chance to do this year’s event in a D-type, and an Ecurie Ecosse D-type at that. I couldn’t turn it down, especially as I remember that car being driven at Ingliston race track in Scotland when I was about seven or eight years old.
“It’s a huge privilege to be part of that car’s history – because it’s made even more history now, being part of the Mille Miglia. And this year’s drive was pure enjoyment for me, pure exhilaration. This event is amazing – it gives you a unique feeling for what the car is about. It underlines exactly what the Jaguar brand is all about.”
The team was completed by finishes from endurance racing legend, Derek Bell and art collector Adam Lindemann, who drove ‘KSF 182’, a C-type, Jaguar Land Rover CEO, Dr Ralf Speth and Tony O’Keeffe in ‘280 BPE’, an XK120 roadster, and classic car expert and owner of D-type ‘NVC 260’, Simon Kidston with journalist Jason Barlow.
Note: Press release courtesy Jaguar Land Rover.