Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson proved technology wasn’t needed in their historic victory at the 1955 Mille Miglia aboard the spirited Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR – just skill and pure determination…
The Mercedes-Benz Museum is currently exhibiting some fascinating automotive history through an interesting display named ’33 Extras’, which includes the first notes used by the legendary Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson in their victory at the 1955 Mille Miglia aboard the 3-litre 2-seat sports racer.
Consisting of two rolls of paper inside an aluminium box with a Plexiglas window, the ingenious device allowed Jenkinson to read the notes written on paper that was fifteen feet long whilst navigating at high speeds and almost intolerable noise levels.
Joining the crack team of drivers all jostling for success in the motorsport endurance race were Juan Manuel Fangio, Karl Kling and Umberto Maglioli – all were defeated by Moss and Jenkinson who were victorious in record time. A time that has never been improved upon.
The idea of developing a racing strategy based on precise knowledge of the track was not new. Czech racing driver Elisabeth Junek (1900 to 1994) is considered the pioneer of this analytical approach in the 1920s.
Rally drivers write down all the details in a ‘road book’ so the co-driver can efficiently deliver information to the driver such as how fast they can go, where and when is the next bend and the type of road surface… Moss and Jenkinson meticulously collected this knowledge during several training sessions in Italy in 1955 in preparation for the gruelling 1,600 kilometres Mille Miglia.
Using notes for the first time since Easter 1955 during training sessions, the dynamic duo were hungry for success and Jenkinson could hardly have turned the pages of a normal book accurately enough in a roadster travelling at break-neck speeds.
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Our route details had been perfected and I wrote them all on a special eighteen-foot long sheet of paper. Moss had an alloy box built, on top of the map roller system, and for our final practice, I used this device, rolling the paper from the bottom to the top roller. The notes were read through a Perspex window, sealed with Sellotape in case the race was run in the rain.
Also, because the noise in the car was so loud, communication by voice was virtually impossible, so co-pilot Jenkinson passed the meticulous details of the route to Moss using various hand signals which consisted of 15 hand signals.
We agreed that it was a better method of communication than any other, having tried open mics, throat mics and other methods.
The reward for their hard work was a record time of 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds, which means that Moss and Jenkinson won the Mille Miglia at an average speed of 157.6 km / h. An incredible achievement that remains intact to this day.