Mille Miglia UAE: 100 classic cars drive across Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah

Participants of 'most beautiful race in the world' all praise for beautiful scenery and friendly people as works of automotive art circumnavigate country

Photos by Neeraj Murali
Photos by Neeraj Murali

Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Wed 7 Dec 2022, 9:19 PM

Last updated: Thu 8 Dec 2022, 3:41 PM

Yowla dance and cups of kahwah were part of the Arabic hospitality that welcomed the participants of the inaugural Mille Miglia classic car race back to Dubai after their epic 1,600km circumnavigation of the UAE.

With 100 of the most unique and rare vehicles participating at the event's inaugural run in the UAE, the participants of the rally have been on an adventure across the UAE in their classic car. Termed 'the most beautiful race in the world', the Mille Miglia first started in Italy in 1927.

At this UAE edition, the cars were flagged off from Dubai's Park Hyatt on December 5, after which they drove through several key points in the northern emirates, including the majestic Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah, before returning to Flat 12 cafe in Dubai yesterday.

British supermodel David Gandy, who is in the UAE for the first time, said the last two days have been sheer happiness. “Beautiful scenery, hospitable people who have made us feel so welcome and driving fast, beautiful cars… it ticks all the boxes,” he said, speaking to Khaleej Times.

“I didn’t know what to expect when I came here. In Italy, I know all the cities and places, but here I was unsure how the ride was going to be. However, I am pleasantly surprised. The scenery, the desert, are so beautiful and everything is so clean. We absolutely adored everything about it.”

The 42-year-old was excited about driving a custom-made 1954 Jaguar XK120 that he had restored and rebuilt especially for Mille Miglia. At 6-foot-3, it is hard for him to fit into any classic car. So, he found a vehicle that he tweaked and rebuilt for the race in Italy, which he has participated in twice. However, when that race was cancelled due to Covid, the car sat in the garage.

“It is a very unique car that I have named after my daughter Matilda, because my daughter was born when the car was finished. Driving it here in the UAE for the first time was great. Matilda did extremely well today,” said Gandy.

Accompanying him in the navigator's seat is his long-time friend and business partner Charlie Tee, who said: “We have known each other for over 15 years and we both love cars. The whole experience has been amazing.”


Fun ride

In the modern version of the event, competitors follow a road book on public roads to travel from one point to another. Timekeeping is a very important element of the race, and the equipment is flown in from Italy to ensure accuracy. Cars for various categories are required to hand over their notes and times at each checkpoint, where inspectors closely monitor the time they have taken to complete each leg of the race.


Kazhak national Nikolay Miroshnichenko and his son Gennadiy were driving a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing. Having driven in the Italian version of the race earlier, Miroshnichenko said he found the UAE edition a lot more relaxed.

“In Italy we have to work a lot. Here, it is more fun and more relaxed. I really enjoyed it,” he said.

In this inaugural edition, 60 cars are from the Arabian Peninsula and 40 from other countries. They are classified into three categories: Original Mille Miglia class: Manufactured between 1927-1957; Jubilee class: Manufactured between 1957 and 1971, to honour the founding date of the UAE; and Contemporary cars: Hand-picked unique cars manufactured after 1971.

Car enthusiasts Bushra Nasr and Marwa Ba Rahiem joined the race on the second day to test the cars. “I have driven in a lot of track events, but this is the first time I am participating in a classic car rally, and it was so different,” said Nasr. “I was driving a Mercedes 560 SL and it was such a beautiful ride. We were going up to 140kmph and the car was unfazed.”

Having lived in the UAE for over 20 years, the friends admitted that the race had its own set of challenges.

“The limit to using technology is quite hard to get used to,” said Nasr. “It is a very raw experience. You have to follow the points as per the manual so there is a limit to using Google Maps or any technology on your phone. I am an IT person, so for me to break away from technology was a challenge in itself.”

Ba Rahiem said they had seen a lot of classic cars break down during the course of the race. “It is very unpredictable. Some people know how to fix the cars; some aren’t very in-sync with their cars, so they struggled. We have seen a mix of everything," she said.


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