Never EQUALED

Alex Moline posted in Icons

1y ago

719

Today no driver is more respected or revered as Sir Stirling Moss. He was one of the best post-World War Two racing drivers and his story has drawn thousands of people, myself included, to the fascinating world of Motorsports. It would take far to0 long to tell his life here. Therefore I believe it is appropriate that we discuss the story of the 1955 Mille Miglia, one of Moss' greatest victories. However, before one can truly understand why Moss' victory is so impressive, one must understand why the Mille Miglia was created and why it was considered one of the world's hardest races.

The Mille Miglia was started in the mid 1920's by a group of Italian racing enthusiasts who wanted to help improve the quality of the Italian automotive industry. In order to do achieve this goal, the Mille Miglia would have to standout among all other races, "It had to be a race that captured the imagination of the Italian people." (GrandPrixHistory.org, 2). Without popular support there would be no incentive for manufactures or race teams to enter vehicles. Therefore it was decided to have the race run in loop that stretched the length of Italy in order to expose as much of the country to the race as possible. The race would start in Rome, in the north, run south to the city of Brescia and back again. This meant that public roads would have to be used and that race crews would race through various terrain. This included flat farm country, hills, mountains, and towns. At times the road would be smooth and well kept. At other times the roads would be poorly maintained and rough. In addition the roads were not always straight lines. More often than not they contained thousands of twists and turns that could prove fatal if not treated with respect. Drivers would have to keep all of these factors in mind as they drove across Italy at high speed. However, these where not the only obstacles that could be encountered during the race.

At one stage during our recce I spun the 300SL practice car gently into a ditch after I hit a sheep wandering in the road.

Stirling Moss, page 126.

One should keep in mind that drivers also had to watch out for other cars, spectators, walls, buildings, trees, rocks in addition to farm animals. Keep in mind that the cars and their crews were expected to drive at high speed over varying terrain for 1,000 miles. Tiredness and the possibility of mechanical failure, risks found across all forms of racing, were certainly present in the Mille Miglia.

The dangers present in the Mille Miglia meant that most drivers raced with a navigator. In Moss' case that man was Denis Jenkinson, a well known automotive journalist. Together the two men studied the entire route in a Mercedes-Benz 300SL sports car noting all the dangerous along the way. Jenkinson later used the information gathered on these trips to create pace notes which would prove invaluable during the race.

As voice communication was impossible in the sound and fury of the cockpit, we devised a simple language of 15 different hand signals so that he could indicate to me every corner, every serious bump, every hazard. Each corner was graded into one of three categories - Saucy, Dodgy and Very Dangerous - with a different hand signal for each type.

Stirling Moss, page 126.

Thanks to their preparation, as well as the support of the Mercedes-Benz works team, Moss and Jenkinson won the race in "Ten hours, seven minutes and 48 seconds." (Moss, 128). This is despite having bumped into hay bales, sliding into a ditch and rubbing the car up against a wall. In fact Moss and Jenkinson set the recorded for the fastest completion of the race, a feat that was never broken.

Moss was able to drive at an average speed of just shy of 100mph an a 1,000 mile course that consisted of rough public roads. By doing this he not only won what many considered to be the world's hardest motor race, but he cemented his reputation as one of the greatest drivers of his generation. A title that he certainly deserves.

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