Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Mercedes-Benz 300SLR

The theme for the Coys International Historic Festival meeting at Silverstone in July 1994 was Juan Manuel Fangio, and there was a display of several of the cars he drove during a career in which he won the Formula One Drivers' World Championship five times. He also finished in second place in the 1955 Mille Miglia and on display at Silverstone was the car with which his teammate Stirling Moss won that race - the Mercedes Benz 300 SLR.
The Mille Miglia was run on one lap of a course of almost 1000 miles from Brescia, down the east coast of Italy, across to Rome, then back to Brescia up the west coast. Excluding the wartime 1940 Mille Miglia which took place over nine laps of a course between Brescia, Cremona and Mantua and was won by Huschke von Hanstein and Walter Bäumer in a BMW 328 Berlinetta Touring, the Mille Miglia was only won twice by a non-Italian - in 1931 by Rudolf Caracciola and Wilhelm Sebastian in a Mercedes-Benz SSK, and in 1955 by Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson in the 300 SLR.
The cars started at 1 minute intervals and the number 722 on this car indicates that Stirling Moss started the race at 7.22am. Fangio opted not to have a co-driver and his car was only fitted with a single headrest. It was numbered 658 indicating a 6.58am start, but after mechanical problems he finished 8 minutes after the winning car, in second place but 32 minutes behind Moss.
I seem to recall that until the mid 1950s it was compulsory to have a co-driver in the Mille Miglia, but I can't find anything saying when that rule was changed. The first race I can find where the results list shows cars without co-drivers is the 1954 race which was won by Alberto Ascari driving alone in a Lancia D24.

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