60th anniversary of the record win at the Mille Miglia.
A man’s word is his bond.
There were not many things that Stirling Moss, a bold 25-year-old racing driver, was really afraid of. There was, however, one thing he was truly in awe of, as he admitted several decades later: the Mille Miglia, at the time the most popular road race in the world. 1,600 kilometres from Brescia to Rome and back were a huge challenge for man and machine. The professional racing driver knew that. Yet on 1 May 1955 the Englishman showed no sign of his self-doubt. “I’ll win!” he cried – because after all, he knew what car he was driving; and as is expected of a true British gentleman, he would keep his word.
Starting number 722.
Stirling Moss and his co-driver Denis Jenkinson raced in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR (W 196 S). The car with starting number 722 was basically a W 196 R Formula 1 racing car – with a two-seater sports car body and an especially powerful engine. This fireball was powered by a three-litre version of the Formula 1 eight-cylinder in-line engine.
Unlike the 2.5-litre Grand Prix version, it had light alloy cylinder crankcases and ran not on special methanol-based racing fuel, but on standard high-octane petrol.
World premiere for a quartet.
Once more, Mercedes-Benz presented a masterpiece of technology that was far ahead of its time. Besides Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio, Karl Kling and Hans Hermann also started the race, each in a 300 SLR. All four of them were convinced that this powerful car with an output of up to 228 kW (310 hp) was better than its competitors.
But the world public, still unsuspecting, and about to see the new Silver Arrow for the first time on that day, was to experience a spectacle that would not easily be forgotten.
“The greatest racing car of all times”.
Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson took the breath away from racing spectators: the average speed of 157.65 km/h they showed the public at that legendary race was a record that has remained unbeaten even 60 years on. Second place of the race went to Juan Manuel Fangio also in a 300 SLR, and in the months to follow, the W 196 S was to win every race it completed. So it was not without reason that Stirling Moss, who was knighted by Prince Charles in 2000, decades later was still to call it the “greatest racing car of all time”.