Stirling Moss: The drive of his life

On May 1, 1955, motor racing history was made when Sir Stirling Moss won the Mille Miglia at record speed, the first time in twenty-two years that it had been won by a British driver. Denis Jenkinson, Motor Sport’s Continental Correspondent, was with him as co-driver throughout the 1000-mile epic and filed the following report, which has gone down in racing lore. Here we republish in full his extraordinary account

Stirling Moss and Denis JEnkinson celebrate victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia

Elation: a begrimed Moss radiates delight at being the first Britisher to win the event.

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Let us go back to the beginning, for this win was not a fluke on the spur of the moment, it was the result of weeks, even months, of preparation and planning. My enthusiasm for the Mille Miglia race goes back many years, among the reasons being the fact that it is permissible to carry a passenger, for this event is for all types of road-going cars, from family saloons to grand prix-type racing/ sports cars. When I had my first taste of the Mille Miglia as a competitor last year, with George Abecassis in the HWM, I soon set about making plans for the 1955 event.

Regular Motor Sport readers will remember that last year I enthused over a little private dice that Moss gave me in a Maserati, and at the time I mentioned to him my desire to run in the Mille Miglia again. Then in September, whilst in discussion with the American driver John Fitch, we came to the decision that the only way a non-Italian could win the Mille Miglia was by applying science. At the time he was hoping to be in the official Mercedes-Benz team for the event, and we had long talks about ways in which the driver could use a passenger as a mechanical brain, to remove the responsibility of learning the circuit. When it is realised that the race is over 1000 miles of ordinary, unprepared Italian road, the only concession to racing being that all traffic is removed from the roads for the duration of the race, and the way through towns is lined with straw bales, it will be appreciated that the task of one man learning every corner, every swerve, gradient, hummock, brow and level-crossing is nigh impossible. Even the top Italian drivers, such as Piero Taruffi, Umberto Maglioli, Eugenio Castellotti, etc., only know sections of the route perfectly, and all the time they must concentrate on remembering what lies round the next corner, or over the next brow.

During the last winter, as is well known, Moss joined the Mercedes-Benz team and the firm decided that it would not be possible for Fitch to drive for them in the Mille Miglia, though he would be in the team for Le Mans, so all our plans looked like being of no avail. Then, just before Christmas, a telephone call from Moss invited me to be his passenger in the Mille Miglia in a Mercedes-Benz 300SLR, an invitation which I promptly accepted, John Fitch having sportingly agreed that it would be a good thing for me to try out our plans for beating the Italians with Moss as driver.