“I saw you were having fun, going flat out behind me all the time” Stirling Moss said to me with a broad smile in the Mille Miglia historic edition I drove with my father. We drove the ponton Mercedes 180 D, he drove the Mercedes 300 S, the Le Mans winning car.
The Mercedes Classic Racing team mechanics had advised us. “Sie gehen Stirling hinterher”, “die Strassenlage in schnellen Kurven ist mit dem 180 D ganz gut, also wenn Stirling geht, vollgas hinterher, sie fahren genau dieselbe Linie, das ist spektakulär, auch wenn sie nicht so schnell sind.”
“Go behind Stirling.” “The road holding in fast bends is very good with the 180 D, so when Stirling goes into the curve, follow his ideal line, on full power, just floor the throttle, go flat out behind him”… This is what we did, much to the delight of the tifosi and thousands of bystanders along the route. And also Stirling liked it. What a dream come true it was for us, to be in the same Mercedes Works Racing team as the legendary winner of this iconic race. He with close to 300 horsepower, we with at best 45 from our 1,8 liter Diesel.
An honour we will never forget. The be in the same team, to stand as team members face to face with the man who sped to victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia, a 1000 mile or 1,609 km long race, which he drove from start to finish in merely 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds in the 300SLR.
He passed away on Easter Sunday, April 12, this year, after a long illness.
We will never forget this gentlemen driver, who embodied perfectly the sportiness and fair play of a true racing driver. He will remain an icon for us for ever, and many stories will be told, also by us in the coming months, about his long career and wonderful, long and eventful life. We could be part of it, albeit shortly, and it is an unforgettable memory for us.
Hans Knol ten Bensel