Targa Florio

Classic Sicilian road race in which Mercedes scored a landmark win
Writer Peter Higham

Mercedes-Benz has a habit of winning when it goes motor racing. While its team is currently the class of Formula 1, the marque dominated both that and the World Sports Car Championship 60 years ago – clinching the latter title at the Targa Florio.

The 1955 Mille Miglia, with Jenks guiding him, ranks among Stirling Moss’s finest performances and he was that season’s most successful sports car driver. Victory at Le Mans might well have followed, for Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio led by four laps when Mercedes withdrew following the accident that cost Pierre Levegh and about 80 spectators their lives.

It was September before the championship resumed with the Tourist Trophy at Dundrod. Moss won again to narrow the deficit to Ferrari to three points with one race, the Targa Florio, to go. Count Florio had first organised the race on Sicily’s tight and twisty roads in 1906, but this was the first time it was a round of the world championship. Despite suffering from ’flu and spinning into a field, Moss and co-driver Peter Collins (above) averaged almost 60mph to lead a Mercedes 1-2 and snatch the title.

Having won F1 and sports car titles in the same year – a feat matched only by Ferrari – Mercedes announced its complete withdrawal from the sport. The Targa Florio returned to the World Sports Car Championship in 1958 and was a round every year until 1973, though the race was staged four more times before being suspended on safety grounds.