Sunday, 8 February 2015

1955 Mille Miglia

2015 marks the anniversary of quite a few significant motor sports milestones … the 50th anniversary Ferrari’s last win at the 24 Heures du Mans, the 50th anniversary of Jim Clark’s win the Formula 1 World Championship, and his win at the Indianapolis 500 (in a green machine!)

Yet I believe the most important by far is the 60th anniversary of Stirling Moss’ along with navigator Denis Jenkinson’s (Jenks) record-breaking win of the 1955 Mille Miglia.

Stirling Moss was part of the powerful Mercedes-Benz motor sports team for 1955, managed by the clever Alfred Neubauer.

They had a fabulous car in the form of the 300 SLR, but that alone did not guarantee success in this annual 1000-mile race held on public roads.

The Italian racers had the advantage of knowing ever inch of the route; Mercedes-Benz had to find a way to equalize the odds.

Moss and Jenks practiced the route a few times weeks before the actual race, with Jenks writing out pace notes all along the way. Mercedes then pasted the notes together into a 15.5-foot roll, which they encased in a glass-fronted, watertight box, permitting Jenks to view and communicate his notes via hand signals to Moss.

Pen&ink, arcrylic and markers on gray archival stock 11.75"x 9" (29.8cm X 22.8cm) © Paul Chenard 2015 
Commissioned piece. Available as a limited edition.

This allowed Moss to drive flat out for the entire race, depending on his trusty navigator for guidance.

They arrived at the finish line in Brescia in a record time of 10 hours 7 minutes 48 seconds, over a half hour ahead of the second-place finisher Juan Manuel Fangio, also racing for Mercedes-Benz.

This amazing record still stands, for the race was shut down following the 1957 Mille Miglia where driver Alfonso de Portago crashed his Scuderia Ferrari 335 S, killing himself, his co-driver (navigator) Edmund Nelson and nine spectators.