WHAT Sir Stirling Moss’s breakout season
WHERE All across Europe
t’s hard to describe 1955 as anything
other than traumatic for motorsport fans.
The fastest driver in an Indy car, Bill
Vukovich (see sidebar, right) and the
fastest driver in Formula 1, Alberto
Ascari, were killed within four days of
each other at the end of a hideous May.
Then, just two weeks later, came the
worst disaster in motorsport history,
when Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes 300SLR
was launched into the crowd during the
24 Hours of Le Mans, killing the French
veteran and 83 spectators.
That accident would trigger Switzerland
into banning auto racing (a ban which
stands to this day), and Spain, France and
Germany temporarily followed suit. Then, at
year’s end, Mercedes-Benz would withdraw
from racing for more than three decades.
On either side of this horrific two-week
period, there was at least a glimmer of
hope for racing’s future: Mercedes had
effectively relaunched the career of a
25-year-old racer named Stirling Moss.
Chances are that his truly exceptional
talent would eventually have been
noticed, acquired and given a chance, but
no question that it was from a silver
July 16, 1955:
Aintree, Great Britain.
From his first F1 pole,
Moss (No. 12) heads
for his first grand prix
victory. He would go
on to finish in the
top-three in the World
seven straight years.
May 1, 1955: Mille Miglia. Moss revelled in the
300SLR’s 290hp and gearing that allowed
speeds of up to 175mph on public roads.
The man who gave Moss the faith to literally
fly over blind crests was part-time navigator
and full-time journalist Denis Jenkinson.
platform that European racing’s new
golden boy started shining brightly.
A fuel-feed problem with his W196 in
the broiling heat of Argentina in January
had ended Moss’s Benz grand prix debut
early, but by the second round of the F1
season (four months later!), Moss had
become an M-B icon with his sports car
victory in the Mille Miglia. Driving the
mighty and sexy 300SLR, Stirling
completed the 992-mile race – on public
roads – at an average of 98.53mph!
Simultaneously, his F1 career gained
momentum. At Monaco, Moss only retired
from the lead when his engine expired,
and at Spa and Zandvoort, he chased
home his World Champion teammate
Juan Manuel Fangio. Finally, at the British
GP held at Aintree, Stirling became a grand
prix winner. That was enough to earn him
second in the World Championship behind
Fangio, and he also scored two more huge
sports car wins – the Tourist Trophy and
the Targa Florio – to help the Three-Pointed
Star clinch the Manufacturers’ crown.
So although Mercedes-Benz uprooted
and quit the sport at season’s end, it had
already laid the foundations for a legend.