Rahul Sharma

1955 Mille Miglia

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1955 Mille Miglia

The 22. edizione Mille Miglia was a motor race held on a 992.332 mile (1597 km) course made up entirely of public roads around Italy, mostly on the outer parts of the country on April 30-May 1, 1955. The route was based on a round trip between Brescia and Rome, with start/finish, in Brescia. It was the 3rd round of the 1955 World Sportscar Championship and for the Coppa Franco Mazzotti.

Contents

As in previous years, the event this not strictly a race against each other, this is race against the clock, as the cars are released at one-minute intervals with the larger professional class cars going before the slower cars, in the Mille Miglia, however the smaller displacement slower cars started first. Each car number related to their allocated start time. For example, Luigi Musso’s car had the number 651, he left Brescia at 6:51am, while the first cars had started late in the evening on the previous day. Some drivers went with navigators, others didn't; a number of local Italian drivers had knowledge of the routes being used and felt confident enough that they wouldn't need one.

This race was won by Mercedes-Benz factory driver Stirling Moss with the aid of his navigator Denis Jenkinson. They completed the 992-mile distance in 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds- an average speed of 99 mph (160 km/h). The two Englishmen finished 32 minutes in front of their second-placed teammate, Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio.

Entry

A total of 661 cars were entered for the event, across 12 classes based on engine sizes, ranging from up to 750cc to over 2.0-litre, for Grand Touring Cars, Touring Cars and Sport Cars. Of these, 534 cars started the event.

For this year's Mille Miglia, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Maserati and Aston Martin all came to Brescia wanting to win. Scuderia Ferrari brought cars for Umberto Maglioli, Sergio Sighinolfi, Paolo Marzotto and Piero Taruffi, Aston Martin had a DB3S for Peter Collins and DB2/4s for Paul Frère and Tommy Wisdom; and Maserati only had one 300S for Cesare Perdisa. Daimler Benz AG, who were making their Championship debut in this event, had probably the strongest line-up: Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Hans Herrmann and Karl Kling in their Mercedes-Benz 300 SLRs. Lancia decided to put all their efforts into Grand Prix and did not attend the race.

Race

Moss and Jenkinson were the favourites to win although they had no knowledge of the local roads being used despite this being Moss’s fifth attempt at the Mille Miglia, but Moss was relying entirely on Jenkinson's innovative pace notes (now used ubiquitously in modern rallying) that they spent months accumulating.

Initially, the Mercedes duo didn’t have everything their own way, Eugenio Castellotti simply streaked away from the field in his privately entered Ferrari 121 LM. With its massively powerful 4.4-litre engine, he had sufficient speed to do the job, but he was trying the extract more than the car had to offer. By the time the fastest cars reached the town of Ravenna on the Adriatic Sea, he was two minutes ahead of Moss/Jenkinson, but Castellotti was driving like a madman as he slid his Ferrari through the corners, his tyres leaving large black streaks on the road and enveloping itself in a cloud of dust. However, as the cars streaked down the coastline towards Pescara, Castellotti had simply been pushing too hard, and he ended up breaking his Ferrari. His teammate, Marzotto had a promising start but disaster struck when a tyre threw a tread as he was traveling at 174 mph. He was able to keep the car on the road but as he stopped to grab the spare, he noticed that it was a different size from the others, so he was forced into retirement.

Moss surged into the lead as the fastest Ferrari expired, but still there was opposition to be dealt with – this time from the Scuderia Ferrari driver, Piero Taruffi. Taruffi had averaged a stunning 130 mph on the sprint down to Pescara, leaving all previous Mille Miglia records shattered in the dust of his 118 LM. But only a wafer-thin margin now separated the lead two cars as they refuelled, with Moss snatching the advantage thanks to a quicker stop. Fangio at this stage began to develop engine problems.

The next checkpoint was in the town of L’Aquila, and in order to get there, a 62.5 mile (100 km) route through the mountains had to be bypassed. By the time Moss and Jenkinson reached this town, they were leading by 35 seconds, followed by Herrmann, Taruffi, Fangio and Kling - All the Mercedes cars entered were running 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th.

By this time, Jenkinson’s map-rolling device was paying off well. Moss’s supreme confidence in his co-driver allowed him so slam over blind brows in absolute confidence at around 170 mph, on occasion the Mercedes actually flying for about 200 feet before crashing back on the tarmac. In that 28 second stop at Pescara, the 300SLR was quickly topped with 18 gallons of fuel, sufficient to reach its main stop in Rome.

The next checkpoint was the Italian capital of Rome, which was the halfway point. Moss had taken 1 hour and 6 minutes to reach Rome from L’Aguila and he had extended his lead to 1 minute and 15 seconds over Taruffi. Kling crashed just outside the city and was out. His Mercedes was up against a tree, as he crashed avoiding some spectators. Luckily he only suffered some broken ribs. Meanwhile, Fangio was still struggling with engine problems; his complaints were ignored by Mercedes pit personnel in Rome. But there was no time for Moss buckled down to tackle the most challenging and demanding section of the route. In the back of his mind all the time was a fierce desire to disprove one of the old legends – ‘He who leads at Rome never finishes’.

The mountainous 140 mile (227 km) route from Rome to the next time control in Siena began a rate of attrition. Perdisa and Taruffi both retired, and by the time he reached Siena, Moss had pulled out his lead to 5 minutes and 40 seconds over Herrmann - he had pulled 1 minute and 36 seconds on Herrmann on this section alone. At this point, 690 mi (1,101 km) of distance had been covered in 6 hours, 51 minutes and 16 seconds by Moss and Jenkinson.

The next stage was from Siena to Florence, 44 mi (70 km) long. Moss had pulled out only 8 seconds over Herrmann, who was pushing hard. Fangio's engine began to make unhealthy noises, and when the mechanics checked the engine, one of the very advanced fuel injection pipes had broken; the engine in Fangio's car was running on 7 cylinders.

After Florence was Bologna, 65 miles (107 km) away, through the fearsome Futa Pass in Tuscany - one of the most difficult parts of this race. Bologna was nearby Modena, which was home to Ferrari and Maserati. Herrmann crashed on this stage and was out; Moss was at his best, out to shatter the one-hour bogey, and he was now 27 minutes and 38 seconds ahead of Fangio, and was fastest on this section, 4½ minutes ahead of Magiloli.

By the time Moss and Jenkinson had reached the town of Cremona, they had extended their lead over Fangio to 30 minutes. They were once again fastest over this 115 mile (185 km) stage.

Now Moss/Jenkinson were on the final stage from Cremona to Brescia, but there was no letting up as Moss would the Mercedes round to 170 mph for a glorious finale. Back at the finish, fêted by the Italian fans and surrounded by their team, the Englishmen discovered just how successful they had been. Although they had won the Mille Miglia, but had also left all records shattered in the wake of their victorious 300SLR. Into second place came Fangio driving alone in the only other 300SLR to finish albeit 32 minutes behind. Third was the Ferrari 118 LM of Umberto Maglioli/Gino Monetferrario and fourth Francesco Giardini’s 2-litre Maserati A6GCS. Moss and Jenkinson reached Brescia at 17:29; 10 hours and 7 minutes after they left Brescia at 07:22. Moss became the first and only Briton and one of the few non-Italians to win the Mille Miglia outright. As if that was not enough, Moss also won the Index of Performance, normally the preserve of the smaller capacity cars.

Official Results

Of the 521 starters, 281 were classified as finishers. Therefore, only a selection of notably racers has been listed below.

Class Winners are in Bold text.

Standings after the race

  • Note: Only the top five positions are included in this set of standings.
  • Championship points were awarded for the first six places in each race in the order of 8-6-4-3-2-1. Manufacturers were only awarded points for their highest finishing car with no points awarded for positions filled by additional cars. Only the best 4 results out of the 6 races could be retained by each manufacturer. Points earned but not counted towards the championship totals are listed within brackets in the above table.

    References

    1955 Mille Miglia Wikipedia


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