Last week I fulfilled myself a dream. I drove the “1000 Millas Sport” in Bariloche, Argentina. And it is anything but a normal race: it is one of the most famous events, where you drive 1000 miles in a vintage car. Together with my cousin, we chose a Chrysler, which was built in 1928, for thousand miles (around 1.600 kilometres) through the beautiful nature of Patagonia, competing with other historic cars from the early 1900 till the late 1970s. It has been such an amazing experience, so I want to share my memories and adventures of this trip with you.
The Starting Point
Staying at the famous Llao Llao Hotel & Resort, which I had already heard a lot about from all my Argentine friends, was a big highlight of the trip. The hotel is absolutely gorgeous. It has an amazing view on the Lago Nahuel Huapi, with a view on the snow covered Andes. It feels like a block house from Canada. Waking up every morning with the sun reflecting on the lake made the start of the day perfect. At the hotel, all participants of the “1000 Millas Sport” stayed, including all the beautiful old timers, which were parked in front of the hotel. From here we started our journey every morning around Patagonia and finished there with sunset cocktails and delicious dinners. And everyone who was tired after the long day in the car – like me – could relax in the beautiful pool with a view on the mountains.
First: The details of the race
For all of you who have no clue what the 1000 Millas Sport is, here is a small summary. It is an old-timer race, which originally started in Italy, but since 30 years also takes place in Bariloche. The race takes three days and you drive 1000 miles though the beautiful nature of Patagonia. Everyone has to bring their own car and it needs to be an old-timer. Only two people are allowed in each car: the pilot, who does all the driving and the co-pilot, who navigates his team through the given roads and takes the exact time. Of course you can change positions whenever you feel like it. However, you can not change your team. It’s all about time. You need to be at meeting points at certain times and on the way, you also have to participate in short time-races, for example drive 90 meters in 13 seconds or 1,5 kilometers in 2 Minutes and 3 seconds. You have a small computer which tells you the exact seconds. It is not about being the fastest, but it is about making it on the exact time given. This is calculated by driving over a black hose, which will take your time and later be checked on accuracy. If you are only one second before or after the given time, you get penalty points, which will later pull down your overall rating. Since we are talking about old-timers here, the times were calculated that each car could manage them. (I will tell you more about it in the rest of the article).
Our Trip through Patagonia
I don’t even know where to start. Driving around with the historic Chrysler, through the most impressive scenery, is something I will never forget. Since our car was one of the oldest, we started the race with the starting number 7. About 120 cars were racing the 1000 Millas Sport. So as you can see we were very much infront. Since our car had no windshields we were packed in our warmest skiing clothes, especially in the mornings when it had around seven degrees. We had so much luck with the weather (meaning no rain), that we had the perfect car for the race.
The race took three days and every day there was a different route. One day we drove up into the Andes another day to the south to Kartódromo. My favorite route was on the second day, along the seven lakes; Lago Nahuel Huapi, Lago Correntoso, Lago Espejo, Lago Traful, Lago Villarino, Lago Hermoso and Lago Lacar. Absolutely unforgettable. Whoever, has a car and wants to do a road trip should pass by these lakes. I couldn’t stop staring around and taking photos. I have never seen something like it. I am not a big camper but around the seven lakes I’ll quickly change my mind because it’s the most beautiful spot to stay with the most beautiful surrounding. Every day we drove for more or less 10 hours though the land of Patagonia. Many people say Bariloche looks like the Switzerland of Argentina, and they are right. Driving around mountains, forests and lakes reminded me a lot of my home country.
About the Race
My cousin was the pilot and I was the copilot. Every morning we started the race at around 7.30 am – depending which time we received form the organizers. It was very important that each car left on time otherwise you could mess up your time-race challenges. Every car got a starting number (according to when the car was build) and a computer, which was synchronized with the main computer of the organizers. The computer told you when you had to leave the hotel and the different times you had to be at the meeting points and how long the short time-races were on the way. With a small book, where directions where drawn in, I navigated my cousin though the streets of Patagonia. During these hours in the car, you had challenges on the way (as I told you above) that you had to make in a certain time. For example 100 meters in exact 12 seconds or 1,4 Kilometers in 1 minute and 45 seconds. The challenges varied in time. Sometimes we had 6 challenges in a row where the meters were quite short and the time too. However some challenges were over many kilometers, which gave you time to prepare for your exact arrival. The goal was to make it on the second because these times where later analyzed on the hundreds of a second and if you where only one second to late or to early you got points taken of your overall rating. To make it simple: It was all about making these challenges on exactly the second you were told to get a higher ranking to win a trophy at the end.
I always thought that the race would be like a nice drive with some socializing, but no! It is a proper race with times, challenges and a competitive thinking – but absolutely a lot of fun. The fact that it is actually a proper race, makes the whole event even more fun. It was all about timing and team work during the many hours in the car. However, there were many beautiful stops planned in, where we got delicious food and had the most spectacular views. There we met all the drivers and shared our experiences and analyzed our times. Often my cousin and I also stopped, when we had some time, to take photos of the beautiful nature and impressive views.
Even though, we didn’t win a trophy this year: Next year I will definitely come back. And this time and with the experience from this first race, we will make it. For sure.
Photo credit: 1000 Millas Sport and Helena Schoeller