An integral part of the history of northern Italy will grace the UAE this year as the Mille Miglia race marks the nation's jubilee year with a pan-Emirates grand tour of classic racing cars.
The Mille Miglia is described by motorsport aficionados as the most beautiful race in the world.
For the first time, the lush green of Brescia will be replaced by the sandy deserts of the UAE as the thousand-mile (1,600km) endurance event hits the nation's roads.
In what promises to be a petrolhead’s dream, thousands are expected to turn out to watch a procession of classic cars tour the nation over the course of five days from December 5.
Marwan Al Sarkal, chief executive of Shurooq Investments, who is on the advisory board of organisers Octanium International, said the tour will be more than a race.
“It is about stories and legends, and discovering the UAE,” he said.
“We want to showcase our country to the world in a different way. It is more than just cars driving around cities.
“This is bringing Italy closer to the UAE.”
The original race took place 24 times between 1927 and 1957 to cement its place in motor racing folklore.
The grand tour attracted some of the fastest vehicles in production, piloted by a rare breed of courageous drivers who braved the streets of Italy and its many hazards.
At its pomp, the race attracted about five million spectators across the country.
For five years from 1953, the Mille Miglia achieved global status in the World Sportscar Championship, making famous now established names in the annals of motorsport, such as Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Porsche and Mercedes Benz.
The race cemented the names of racing legends Briton Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio from Argentina and German driver Hans Herrmann.
“At the beginning, the Mille Miglia wanted to achieve the impossible,” said the chairman of Mille Miglia, Franco Beretta.
“It was a fast race on dirt roads. This is what made it so significant at the start of the automotive industry with such technical expertise.
“It attracted the elite of the elite from England, Italy and Germany. The scenery of Italy made it the most beautiful race in the world.”
In the race’s original format and 30 years of existence, it claimed the lives of 56 people. Most were drivers or navigators but some were mere bystanders, drawn to the spectacle but caught up in horrific crashes as vehicles left the road, often at high speed or in flames.
Since 1977, the event was restricted to classic cars constructed no later than 1957 to take in the hairpin roads, autostrade and country lanes between Brescia and Rome.
It has been described as “an attitude of life, a way of being dynamic, elegant and sophisticated”.
Former Formula One driver Jochen Mass, who has competed in the race for three decades, is an advisory board member of Octanium International and won the Spanish Grand Prix in 1975.
“When Mercedes asked me to race the Mille Miglia in the early 1990s it was very special,” he said.
“The experience of driving is one thing, but racing in Italy is wholly different.
“The support from the population in the Italian villages was incredible and something very dear.
“It is what makes the race the most sympathetic in the world. To have it here in the UAE is incredible.”
The UAE project has been three years in the making and will allow design to meet art on the nation's roads, with 50 drivers from the world touring alongside 50 from the Arabian Peninsula.
The tour will take in each of the seven emirates, roaring into luxury hotels and national treasures along the way.
Starting from Yas Marina, home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, on December 5, the UAE tour will take in Dubai Autodrome and then Dubai International Financial Centre.
The second leg of the five-day tour will stop at Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain before departing for Hatta and the Fairmont Fujairah hotel 24 hours later.
The fourth stage of the Mille Miglia experience will take place in Dibba and the mountainous driving road of Jebel Jais, ending at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Ras Al Khaimah.
On the final day of the race’s first pan-Emirates tour, drivers will take in the views of the mangroves of Umm Al Quwain, Ajman, the House of Wisdom in Sharjah before ending back at the starting point, Yas Marina in the capital.
Organisers said the race could become an annual event.
“I am proud to be here with this proud, historical brand,” said Nicola Lener, Italy’s ambassador to the UAE.
“Italy shares many things with the UAE, so to have this race here is a source of pride.
“The speed of the race will match the speed of how the UAE has grown over 50 years.
“This race feels like a historical moment. After everything the world has been through, we are now ready to turn the key and restart."