Stirling Moss in Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR with starting number 104. Mercedes-Benz's winning team: Stirling Moss/Peter Collins.
Stirling Moss in Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR with starting number 104. Mercedes-Benz's winning team: Stirling Moss/Peter Collins.

Mercedes-Benz Wins 1955 Targa Florio

Setting a blistering pace from the outset, Moss took over a minute off second-placed Eugenio Castellotti in his Ferrari and smashed the existing records — the overall average of 89.929 km/h set by the previous year’s winner, Piero Taruffi, as well as the lap record of 93.116 km/h posted by Castellotti in 1954 in a Lancia. On the third circuit, Moss came off the road, causing his team to drop back to third place. Yet, by the end of the ninth circuit, their Silver Arrow was back in front, thanks not least to a daring show of catch-up racing by Collins. With Kling and Fangio occupying second place, everything seemed to be going to plan.

However, after a jammed tank cap held them up in the pits during a driver change, the Ferrari team of Eugenio Castellotti and Robert Manzon were able to get ahead of Fangio into second place. There now began a breathtaking catch-up chase: driving at top speed, Fangio steadily reduced the gap between him and Castellotti. When, on the eleventh circuit, Manzon clipped a rock and was forced to change a wheel, the Argentinian was able to retake second place, which he successfully defended to the finishing line. Together with the race-winning team of Moss and Collins, this secured the World Sports Car Championship for Mercedes-Benz — just one point ahead of Ferrari.

Winner Stirling Moss (starting number 104) with Mercedes-Benz model 300 SLR racing car during a pit stop for a tyre change.
Winner Stirling Moss (starting number 104) with Mercedes-Benz model 300 SLR racing car during a pit stop for a tyre change.
Peter Collins in Mercedes-Benz model 300 SLR racing car with starting number 104. Mercedes-Benz's winning team: Stirling Moss/Peter Collins.
Winner Peter Collins in Mercedes-Benz model 300 SLR racing car with starting number 104.
Targa Florio 1955: The 300 SLR driven by Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling.
Targa Florio 1955: The 300 SLR driven by Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling finished second overall
John Fitch in the No. 106 Mercedes-Benz 300SLR leading Eugenio Castellotti in his Ferrari 860 Monza through the mountains of Sicily during the 1955 Targa Florio.
John Fitch in the No. 106 Mercedes-Benz 300SLR leading Eugenio Castellotti in his Ferrari 860 Monza through the mountains of Sicily during the 1955 Targa Florio.

With fourth place also going to the third 300 SLR of Titterington and Fitch, all the effort had been worthwhile. As the 1955 season had finished successfully for Mercedes-Benz, everyone expected to see the brand back at the start the next year. However, then came the announcement that Mercedes-Benz was pulling out of motorsport. It is often incorrectly rumored that the tragedy at Le Mans was the reason behind the decision. But the truth was that the company’s engineers and technicians needed to devote their full attention to developing production vehicles.

From early on in 1955 — months before Le Mans — there had been an internal debate at Mercedes-Benz over whether to carry on with the brand’s racing involvement. As reported in the motoring press at the time, Mercedes-Benz had given consideration in April 1955 to taking part once again in the World Sports Car Championship in the 1956 season, but to pulling out of Formula One. That would have seen the racetrack appearance of the coupe version of the 300 SLR, known as the “Uhlenhaut Coupe”, which did not contest a single race in 1955.

The background to the persistent, often heated debate inside the Board of Management was capacity problems in the company’s development department, which repeatedly affected the development and testing of planned new production vehicles, it proving impossible to meet the high demand for specialist staff. And so, on 11 October — just five days before the Targa Florio and, with it, Mercedes-Benz’s final victory of the 1955 season — the Board of Management decided to pull out of racing entirely and to devote the considerable engineering expertise of its motorsport department to the development of production vehicles. However, the decision was not made public until after the Targa Florio.

[Source: Daimler AG]