Every day this week GRR is reprinting excerpts from the new Stirling Moss book, published to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Sir Stirling’s epic victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia – also to be celebrated at the Festival of Speed on June 26-28.
Denis Jenkinson and I prepared for the Mille Miglia relentlessly, first in my own Mercedes 220SE saloon, then at higher speed around the entire route in a 300SL Gullwing, and in sections in a 300SLR practice car.
Gradually we built up a record of the entire 1000-mile route, which Jenks transposed onto an 18ft-long ribbon of paper that rolled behind the Perspex window of the sealed box we’d come up with. As voice communication was impossible in the sound and fury of the cockpit, we devised a simple language of 15 different hand signals so that he could indicate to me every corner, every serious bump, every hazard. Each corner was graded into one of three categories – Saucy, Dodgy and Very Dangerous – with a different hand signal for each type.
‘Ten hours, seven minutes and 48 seconds after leaving Brescia at 7.22am, we storm into Brescia once more, having averaged nearly 98mph up and down mountains, through narrow village streets, and on fast stretches up to 170mph.’
Jenks had been a sidecar rider with world champion motorcyclist Eric Oliver, so he was uniquely qualif ied to travel with me in a race. The seats had been tailor-made to fit us and Jenks had his own horn button, which not only blasted the air horns but also flashed the lights.
Any other detail changes either of us wanted in the cockpit to help us in our long Italian day were immediately carried out. The W196s and 300SLRs all had quick-release four-spoke steering wheels, but I preferred three spokes. I always used the same three-spoke wheel while I was at Mercedes, and during pre-race preparation it would be transferred from car to car. Six decades later I still have it, hanging on my study wall.
Ten hours, seven minutes and 48 seconds after leaving Brescia at 7.22am, we storm into Brescia once more, having averaged nearly 98mph up and down mountains, through narrow village streets, and on fast stretches up to 170mph. And that included refuelling, fresh tyres at Rome, and slithering to a halt at each control to get our card stamped. On the 83-mile stretch from Cremona to Brescia, where the roads are fast and open, we’d averaged over 165mph. Fangio finished second, and we had beaten him by more than half an hour.
It was without doubt the race of my life.
Tomorrow: Becoming the first Brit to win the British Grand Prix
This is an extract from Stirling Moss: My Racing Life (£50) which is available from all good book retailers and direct from Evro Publishing , www.evropublishing.com