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Mille Miglia

The four Musketeers

Getting back to the meeting at Canestrini's home: the rather romantic article written by the person who is considered the "father of automobile journalism" is briming with affection for his three friends, especially Franco Mazzotti, the foursome's charismatic boss who later died in 1942, having been shot down during a mission on board his military plane on the Sicilian Canal.

However, one mustn't believe that in via Bonaventura Cavalieri the idea originated and that the decision was made in only a few minutes. The reason for the visit by the three Brescians to their journalist friend was clear and premeditated. In the numerous meetings among motor enthusiasts many differences emerged that could not be postponed:

1) Brescia, the city they considered to be home to "automobile racing", would have to reclaim its lost record.

2) The Lioness of Italy would need to leave the hub of Milan, with the first step being to create its own Automobile Club that wouldn't have to depend on the Milan branch, as had been happening since1906.

3) The goal was to organize a major event, «a long-distance race open to traffic using the latest model cars, not racecars. A race with a practical purpose and immediate significance, from both a technical and sports standpoint».

4) The type of competition, far away from the circuits, would have to stimulate the return to racing by the national automobile industry, thereby representing an authentic testing ground and trial run.

«It was Brescia, or rather, a group of Brescians, who shook the universal apathy», Canestrini acknowledged, at the time.

The determination to act was carried out by a group of heterogeneous men who were complementary to each other.

Franco Mazzotti, just twenty-two years old in 1926, was urged by his father to get involved in the various initiatives that would eventually prepare him for his role in the numerous financial and industrial activities; his pragmatism and charismatic nature made him standout as the group's leader.

«Franco, having recently returned from the United States, was still feeling the enormous diffusive effect of automobile racing in the life overseas, and with his young enthusiasm seemed taken over by an idea: to do the same in Italy, something that would draw the public in. A race that would attract the huge number of fans that he had seen on American tracks», writes Canestrini.

Aymo Maggi, a twentythree year-old racecar driver with wonderful qualities, was «ruled by his passion for his favorite sport and did not dream that the monster race would be different from all the others».

Thirtyfour year-old daredevil motorcyclist, Renzo Castagneto, was the man who could turn the two young men's aspirations into reality: after having taken part in the organization of the most important races, he «fostered the idea of a longtime project: the return to the radiant Brescian tradition».

The three not only had clear ideas but mostly Mazzotti's financial backing, Maggi's enthusiasm and Castagneto's capabilities. Yet they were missing that something that would allow them to make this winning idea happen. Better yet, they were missing that someone: a person who could mould their idea into something that would attract interest and the backing of the national media. Something we would call today an "expert in communications and public relations".

Who could take on this role better than thirtytwo year-old Giovanni Canestrini, originally from Trento, sports writer for moto news at the Gazzetta dello Sport, and keen expert and friend of so many racecar drivers?