Last Mille Miglia

Last Mille Miglia

The year 1957 was a very difficult one for Enzo Ferrari as well as the year when Piero Taruffi, known as “the silver fox” with his white hair, retired from racing. Early in the season, the Ferrari squadron for the Formula 1 and Sports-prototype world championships included talents such as Eugenio Castellotti, Luigi Musso, Peter Collins, Mike Hawthorn, Alfonso De Portago, and Wolfgang von Trips, plus other excellent drivers as and when needed.

January began with the bitter disappointment of the Argentine Formula 1 Grand Prix, where the best-placed Ferrari was only fifth. However, the disappointment was mitigated just a week later with victory in the Buenos Aires 1000 km thanks to Masten Gregory, Castellotti and Musso with the 290 MM, which set the stage for the conquest of another World Sportscar Championship. But tragedy was just around the corner when, on the 14thof March, Castellotti died in Modena, during a test. Eugenio had won the Mille Miglia in 1956, before which for two years other marques had interrupted Ferrari’s lengthy long domination, which had seen six straight wins from 1948. The Mille Miglia was actually the first race to take place after this tragedy. Piero Taruffi, who had already raced in the Italian endurance race 13 times without winning, was now 51 years old, and had promised his wife Isabella the day before the race that he would retire from competition if he won. Enzo Ferrari was aware of and moved by this promise. He clearly recalled that Taruffi had debuted in racing with one of Ferrari’s cars, and this was why he decided to help him accomplish this enterprise, providing him with a 315 S.

On the afternoon of Sunday 12 May Taruffi was in second place when he refuelled in Bologna, physically worn out. Ferrari encouraged him to keep going, because his Collins team-mate in front of him had technical problems, while behind him his other team-mate, Von Trips, was making a comeback but would not attack him, because Ferrari was going to have a word with him. Ferrari then returned to Modena and didn’t follow the race, which continued towards Mantua and Brescia. As foreseen, Collins was forced to retire while von Trips escorted Taruffi to the finish line, telling the press that he had tried to attack him in the previous stretches but had failed. The German was only 29 years old and, out of respect, had no problem in accepting team orders that always favoured the veterans.

As promised, Taruffi kept his promise to his wife and announced his retirement. This was the end of a long career that had seen Taruffi take many victories and set world records with motorcycles, cars, and speed record prototypes, all combined with his many engineering activities. However, the 1957 edition of the Mille Miglia was also to be the last. As the race drew to a close, near Mantua, De Portago’s Ferrari 335 S suffered a burst tyre that sent it flying off the road, killing the driver and navigator Edmund Nelson. Nine spectators also died, four of them children. Another tragedy had struck Enzo Ferrari. The event was banned. A unique race had finished and with it a whole era.

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The Ferrari Legacy
70 years of excellence
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