My Car Quest

June 12, 2024

The Mille Miglia And Jay Leno

by Mike –

This year American talk show host and notoriously hard-core classic car collector Jay Leno tried his hand at the iconic 1,000 mile Italian race event, the Mille Miglia.

The Mille Miglia sends its drivers along a winding route through some of the most charming villages, towns and cities that Italy has to offer.

Starting at the city of Brescia and cutting through the gorgeously romantic Verona, through the tucked-away mountain republic of San Marino and past Assisi to finally reach the beating heart of Rome.

Mille Miglia Route

Mille Miglia Route

The race is only half-done at this point, however, as the drivers then head back North into Siena and beat a path through Florence and Bologna before charging through the Po Valley and finally arriving back in Brescia.

Although the Mille Miglia still runs annually, it is no longer a race, per se. The high speeds and gruelling distance involved meant that the event saw 56 people killed before road racing was ended in Italy for good in 1957. However, the indomitable spirit of the event lives on thanks to its resurrection in the 1970s.

Today it stands as an incredible opportunity for drivers to experience the stunning beauty of Italy’s most scenic roadways while testing the mettle of their chosen vehicle (not to mention their own energy reserves!).


Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson in a Mercedes-Benz 300SLR Set The Record Time – Mille Miglia 1955

The only models that can enter the Mille Miglia are those of which at least one specimen took part in one of the speed editions (1927-1957), or completed the registration formalities for one of these editions. So the event is packed with classic Alfa Romeos, Aston Martins, Bugattis, Ferarris and Jaguars of every stripe.

This makes the Mille Miglia an absolute treat for classic car fans to watch and for those lucky few to actually participate in.

Enter Jay Leno, who was asked by Jaguar to drive one of their 1951 XK120s (worth $3 million) along with their Design Director Ian Callum who would navigate. You can read a full account of his exploits in the Mille Miglia on “Driving” but suffice it to say that Leno and Callum managed to make it through the 1,000 miles unscathed and take home some unforgettable memories.

While the ‘race’ takes place on public roads, the participants do maintain high speeds and even the normal traffic laws are overturned. Jay Leno said,

My favorite part was when I asked the policeman what to do at a red light. He told me not to slow down, “just go right through.”

“Whoa – what?!”

“It’s the Mille Miglia – just go through the red light.”

“What happens with people who have a green light?”

“Oh, they stop.”


“Because they know nobody stops for the red light.”

“OK, so what you’re saying is you go through the red and stop for the green, because nobody stops for the red.”

And when you’re out there, it makes perfect sense.

Jay Leno and Ian Callum driving the Jaguar XK 120 across the finish line in Brescia. Jeremy Hart, Driving

Jay Leno and Ian Callum driving the Jaguar XK 120 across the finish line in Brescia. (photo by Jeremy Hart, Driving)

Despite four or five crashes from over-enthusiastic drivers, no serious injuries were sustained this year, thanks to the cars’ top mechanical maintenance and reliable tires. Learn more about tires suitable for classic car models from quality providers like BF Goodrich.

Somehow, I doubt that this will be the last time that Jay Leno is seen tearing through the highways of Italy, as he seems to have caught the bug. He also has the 10-hour record time of one of his racing heroes, Stirling Moss, to break. Although, given the more relaxed nature of the modernized Mille Miglia, this is something of a big ask!


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The Mille Miglia And Jay Leno
Article Name
The Mille Miglia And Jay Leno
Jay Leno takes the drive of a lifetime!


  1. The video on the Driving link that you posted is excellent

  2. optimader says

    Jay Leno fits behind the wheel of a XK-120? (it’s a rhetorical question )

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