In 1955 Stirling Moss, navigated by Denis Jenkinson ('Jenks'), drove their works entered Mercedes Benz 300SLR to victory in the 1,000 mile Italian road race, the Mille Miglia. They completed the race, held on public roads in a sensational time of 10 hours 7mins 48secs, averaging no less than 97.90mph (157.65km/h). These figures have since been enshrined in motor racing history and were never beaten
Key to Moss and Jenks legendary performance was the ingenious roller map of route notes compiled by Jenks during pre race reconnaissance. These pioneering ‘pace notes' were unique to them and were hand written in pencil on a long paper scroll which was housed in a specially made waterproof aluminium box, topped by a Perspex window through which Jenks could read his notes as he hand wound the roll in pace with their progress on the road. (the birth of pace notes as still used today in rallying all over the world).
After numerous intercom experiments had all failed due to the sheer volume of the Mercedes engine and exhaust, combined with the colossal wind noise at speeds of over 175mph, Jenks and Moss devised a system of hand signals which would advise Moss of the direction and speed of the road ahead. In addition signals were devised for upcoming hazards and opportunities for time saving.
At 9 p.m. on Saturday the first of the small cars left the starting ramp at Brescia. It was not till 6:30 the next morning that the Mercedes team was warming up for the start. At 6:58 the first of the Mercedes was off, that being the car of Fangio. Kling would leave at 7:01 and Herrmann at 7:04. Moss would leave at 7:22 and their main Ferrari rivals would leave at 7:23 and 7:27, driven by Castellotti and Taruffi. For once the weather held with the promise that it would be a hot day.
From Brescia the road headed east towards Verona. Along the way the Mercedes would reach speeds of 170 mph as it began to reel in the slower cars that had started earlier. Besides serving as Moss' navigator it was also Jenkinson's job to press the horn button, which flashed the headlights as they came upon another car. Cruising at 7,500 rpm or approximately 175 mph when Moss glancing at his mirror saw a red flash. Pointing behind them Jenkinson saw Castellotti's Ferrari gaining on them at an unbelievable speed. Moss tore in to Padova at 150 mph but still the Ferrari came closer.
Too late they realized that they were approaching a sharp bend far too quickly. Moss jumped on the brakes just short of locking the wheels. The left front of the Mercedes just grazed the straw bales and bounced the car into the middle of the road. Moss without a moments hesitation accelerated in 1st gear as the Ferrari shot past, Castellotti's face breaking into a huge grin as he looked over his shoulder. Castellotti was driving like a madman as he slid his Ferrari through the corners, his tires leaving large black streaks on the road and enveloping itself in a great cloud of dust. Not believing that the Ferrari would be able to maintain its pace Moss decided to allow Castellotti to draw ahead.
Ravenna, 188 miles into the route was the site of the first official control. While the Mercedes slowed to have their route card stamped they noticed Castellotti's Ferrari in the service area having it's tires replaced.
Towards Rimini and the Adriatic coast all the thrashing about mixed in with the fumes and the heat from the gear-box finally had its effect on Jenkinson where he proceeded to lose his breakfast over the side as well as his spectacles. Luckily he carried a spare pair.
Reaching Rome they learned that they were now in the lead followed by Taruffi, Herrmann, Kling and Fangio. Moss continued to maintain a brutal pace. Just out of Rome they saw the wreckage of Kling's Mercedes against a tree who had crashed avoiding some spectators. Luckily he only suffered some broken ribs. Moss continued to press on and besides the usual incidents which included some hair-raising escapes the Mercedes didn't miss a beat.
Crossing the finish line at Brescia they were informed that Taruffi's Ferrari was out with a broken transmission and that victory belonged to them. Moss won the race at a record average speed of 157.650kph breaking records for Brescia-Pescara , Brescia-Rome as well as the 'Nuvolari Grand Prix' stretch from Cremona to Brescia .
As if this was not enough, Moss also won the index of performance, normally the preserve of smaller cc cars. Fangio driving a car on seven cylinders finished second overall followed by the last works Ferrari of Maglioli. That night, at the Hotel Vittoria the Mercedes team led by Neubauer were celebrating their second victory at the Mille Miglia, the only foreign manufacturer to ever win the Italian classic.