Moss relives the madness and magic of Mille Miglia

Thu Apr 30, 2015 8:02pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - A 1,000 mile race through Italian towns and villages, with crowds of excited spectators lining the roads as cars flash past at breakneck speeds, sounds like a recipe for disaster nowadays.

Even now, 60 years on from what many see as the race of his life, Stirling Moss still marvels at the madness and the magic of the Mille Miglia.

"It was the one race of the year, the only one race in fact, that frightened the hell out of me," the 85-year-old Briton told Reuters in an interview ahead of the anniversary on Friday of his epic 1955 victory for Mercedes.

"The Mille Miglia was certainly the greatest road race in the world."

The race, from Brescia in the north down to Rome and back again, also had a reputation as one of the deadliest.

Discontinued in 1957 after 60 deaths in three decades, it saw cars race over public roads at up to 190mph with only hay bales to shield the public -- and sometimes not even that.

Moss, whose 1955 win was achieved in a record time of 10 hours, seven minutes and 48 seconds with an average speed of 98.53 mph (159 kph), recalled spectators spilling out onto the road as he roared past.

For his navigator, Moss had the bespectacled and bearded Motor Sport magazine journalist Denis Jenkinson -- an eccentric whose subsequent chronicle has gone down in motoring lore.   Continued...

Former English Formula One driver Stirling Moss waves to spectators as he sits in his 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza during the Ennstal Classic rally near the Austrian village of Groebming July 20, 2013. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger