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Mercedes celebrates anniversary of 1955 Mille Miglia victory

Some 60 years after Mercedes-Benz’s triumph at the Mille Miglia, three of the greatest heroes of the thousand-mile race in 1955 are returning to the route between Brescia and Rome: together with the legendary Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR (W 196 S) racing car, Mercedes-Benz racing drivers Stirling Moss and Hans Herrmann are remembering the 1955 race at this year’s Mille Miglia event, which is being held between 14 and 17 May 2015.

Back then the young Brit Moss won this furious Italian road race with his co-driver Denis Jenkinson in the fastest ever time of 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds over a distance of around 1,600 kilometres. Hans Herrmann, on the other hand, was the hapless hero at Mille Miglia 60 years ago as he was in an excellent second place at the wheel of his 300 SLR, likewise with a chance of victory, when an unfortunate defect ended his race on the Passo di Futa.

As a high-ranking regularity race for classic cars, the 33rd nostalgic Mille Miglia in May 2015 – the 60th event overall to bear this name – keeps alive the memory of the historic road race staged between 1927 and 1957. The appearance of the original 300 SLR racing cars with the Mercedes-Benz Brand Ambassadors Sir Stirling Moss, Hans Herrmann, and Ralf Schumacher at the wheel are exclusive highlights of this year’s event.

A poignant reunion in Brescia: at the Mille Miglia 2015, the conquering and hapless heroes of 1955 are returning to the scene of one of the greatest races of all time at the wheel of original Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR racing cars. For this year’s Mille Miglia event staged between 14 and 17 May 2015, Sir Stirling Moss is a guest at the wheel of the very same original car with starting number 722 in which he won the legendary Italian road race from Brescia to Rome and back in the best ever time 60 years ago.

At his side is then team-mate Hans Herrmann – who six decades ago was likewise a hot contender for victory in the thousand-mile race. The talented driver from Stuttgart put in a stunning performance in 1955, but his race ended due to an unfortunate defect on the Passo di Futa while lying in second place. The third Mercedes-Benz Brand Ambassador to line up on the Mille Miglia route is former Mercedes-Benz DTM racing driver Ralf Schumacher, also in the 300 SLR. The authentic racing cars are making their unique guest appearances in Brescia, Sirmione, San Marino, Rome and Siena during the course of the historic regularity race.

“I am so pleased that Sir Stirling Moss, Hans Herrmann and Ralf Schumacher are here with us and the original Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR racing cars to celebrate the legendary win of 1955”, proclaims Michael Bock, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic and Customer Centre. “Mercedes-Benz, principal motor car sponsor of the Mille Miglia, is doing this as a mark of its respect for the unique history of this thousand-mile race – much of which has been written by Mercedes-Benz drivers and cars.”

Around 430 cars from some 70 different brands are taking part in the Mille Miglia this year – the 60th event to be held under this name since 1927 – including almost 40 Mercedes-Benz cars. This strong presence is not a matter of course because only vehicle models that took part in one of the 24 original road races between 1927 and 1957 are allowed to participate in the Mille Miglia.

But thanks to its close and long-standing ties with the Italian road race, Mercedes-Benz has an impressive number of models on this exclusive list. The line-up for the Mille Miglia 2015 includes the supercharged SS and SSK touring sports cars from the late 1920s plus the 300 SL (W 198) and 220 “Ponton” (W 180) models unveiled in 1954.

 

 

Each of the vehicles is associated with its own special moments in the history of the Mille Miglia. The supercharged sports cars, for instance, are a reminder of Rudolf Caracciola’s victory in the Mercedes-Benz SSKL at the Mille Miglia 1931.

At the time, this was the first overall win achieved by a non-Italian driver. The 300 SL “Gullwing” Coupé was a standard-production sports car derived from the 300 SL racing model (W 194) with which Mercedes-Benz returned to international motor sport in 1952, achieving second (Karl Kling) and fourth (Rudolf Caracciola) places overall at that year’s Mille Miglia.

The standard-production sports car then enjoyed its finest hour in 1955 when John Cooper Fitch led a triple victory for the 300 SL in the category for standard-production sports cars with a displacement above 1.3 litres. Similarly the 180 D (W 120) diesel-powered Saloon achieved a triple victory in its category in 1955, adding the perfect finishing touch to the resounding overall victory achieved by Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio in the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR.

Despite the racing department’s withdrawal from motor sport, Mercedes-Benz supported the entry of several 300 SL standard-production sports cars in 1956, although the main emphasis was on preparing three 220 “Ponton” Saloon models for the Mille Miglia.

The Mille Miglia 2015 starts on May 14 in Brescia before initially heading eastwards to Sirmione on Lake Garda. It then continues southwards to stage destination Rimini via Verona, Ferrara and Ravenna. One of the first highlights on 15 May (Friday) is the drive through San Marino. From here, the route runs parallel to the coast via Sengallia, Loreto and Teramo, crossing the Apennines to the west before reaching Rome via Antrodoco and Rieti. On 16 May (Saturday), the route takes the participants from Rome to Parma via Viterbo, legendary passes such as the Radicofani, Siena, Pisa and Lucca. The fourth and last stage on 17 May (Sunday) is from Parma back to Brescia via Piacenza, Monza and Bergamo. People will be able to see the Mercedes-Benz Brand Ambassadors in their authentic 300 SLR models in Brescia, Sirmione, San Marino, Rome, and Siena during the course of the Mille Miglia.

This year too, the “Mercedes-Benz Tribute to Mille Miglia” is adding to the fascination of the regularity race: around 60 Mercedes-Benz models are lining up for this homage to the historic road race. They include models built between 1958 and 1981 plus post-1981 icons of modern sportiness, in particular the SL-Class Roadsters, the range-topping Mercedes-AMG models, and the SLR and SLS super sports cars. Not to mention, making its first appearance here, the SL Special Edition “Mille Miglia 417” – the new limited-edition model in the current SL model series R 231, with which Mercedes-Benz is remembering the outstanding category win achieved by John Fitch and Kurt Gessl 60 years ago. The field takes to the Mille Miglia route around an hour before the official start. With this tribute, the Stuttgart-based brand is building a fascinating bridge between the history – and the stories – of the Mille Miglia on one hand and the aesthetics of modern sportiness on the other.

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