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Mille Miglia

Relationship with Csai and Mercanti


And Canestrini, in the Trenta article remembers: «In three months the organization was ready, while entries were surpassing all forseen expectations. One hundred and one registered participants, among which some of the most important names in Italian automobile racing, and eleven official teams represented by 10 carmakers».

Everything seemed to be going right, with the organizational and political difficulties having finally been resolved, yet one final hurdle still remained: the sporting world bureaucracy.

R.A.C.I., the Royal Automobile Club of Italy, - with Crespi as president - certainly had not dared to contrast Turati's decision, but was now intentioned to place all obstacles in the way.

Firstly - with a letter dated January 25, 1927 - the C.S.A.I., Italian Automotive Sporting Commission, forced the organizers to change the date of the race, initially set for March 20, 1927, because of another event on that same day5. On January 29, a second letter prohibited the Gazzetta dello Sport from publishing the rules before being approved by the CSAI, and summoned them to not publish the names of the entrants.

On February 15, upon finally sending in the rules, previously reviewed and approved, a new issue regarding medium-sized cars was discussed.

 

The problem was that the organizers had hoped to accept all tourist class cars that had registered, including the smaller cylinder cars, like the Peugeot 750c.c., but didn't know exactly how long it would take each participant to finish the entire 1600 kilometers course.

The press and public opinion believed that it would take at least two days, maybe three, for the slower cars to complete the course of mainly dirt roads filled with dust and mudd, depending on the weather. The teams about to compete were considered «daring and heroic».

Nevertheless, from Maggi's trial results, A.C. Brescia expected and hoped for an incredible outcome.

In the first few months of 1927, the newspapers claimed: «If the winning car finishes the race at a speed of 55/60 km/h, a speed notably higher than that of the fastest trains on routes this long, we can then boast that the automobile is truly a magnificent machine that allows people to ride on common roads, certainly not built for modern means of transportation».

Still in 1927, more news read that the state applied a tax to those who were over 25 and still single (a tax that Castagneto had to pay, while Maggi and Mazzotti escaped it for a couple more years, thanks to their ages).

Overseas news was in an uproar for opposite reasons, different events: feelings were aroused for the injust condemning to the electric chair of two Italian anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti. Hollywood, now the movie capital, announced the arrival of talking films. And other important news came to light about the discovery of new synthetic fibres and the invention of plastic.

Meanwhile, in Brescia, discussions continued with the C.S.A.I. that in a letter dated March 9 stated that no one could participate in the race with a car inferior to 750 c.c., excluding, of course, the official team, Peugeot.

From this point on, correspondence exchanges took place almost daily between Castagneto and the vice-president of C.S.A.I., Arturo Mercanti (yes, the Brescian who founded the Monza racetrack).

Mercanti could do nothing else but communicate in third person the decisions made by the Sports Commission, who was constantly against the Mille Miglia. Until on March 22, four days before the race, a telegram (this time written in first person) announced to the A.C.B.: "I AUTHORIZE THE ENTRY OF THREE CLASS H PEUGEOT IN THE MILLE MIGLIA CUP. STOP. CSAI VICEPRESIDENT MERCANTI. STOP".

Mercanti demonstrated that he did not consider himself an adversary of his own townspeople when he signed up for the first Mille Miglia at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo RLSS; nonetheless, to avoid problems when lining up at the start, he was forced to conceal himself under the pseudonim of "Frate Ignoto", the unknown friar. Canestrini, by now Brescian, gave this conciliatory remark: «His presence as a participant meant that perhaps he would have liked to have organized the event himself and that he approved, because it was in "Brescian style"».

It should be noted that between 1927 and 1935, Arturo Mercanti, had disputed eight Mille Miglia, with his best placement being seventh place. Exactly in 1935, and by now a sixty year-old man, he was called back to the military to participate in the Ethiopian campaign as lieutenant colonel of Somali's indigenous corp. With the war having almost ended, on July 6, 1936, he was killed during on a train in an assault by illegal bandits.

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Note

5 The second "Circuito del Pozzo" of four disputed; a 251 km racecourse with 20 automobiles at the start. The winner: Bona with a Bugatti 1500.