The first car, a small diesel-powered Fiat, was off down the starting ramp at 9 o'clock Saturday night. Every half minute or minute thereafter the beam of another car's headlights followed into the night, flicking against the greenery and pink spring blossoms. After the small Fiats, Citr�ens and Renaults came Panhards, Alfa Romeos, small Mercedes, Oscas, Porsches, Maseratis, Gordinis and Ferraris—a noisy field of 521 going away all night and until 8:30 the next morning.
As the gray of dawn turned into a bright day, the rival Ferraris and Mercedes were moving toward the starting ramp. "I feel happy," said Fangio. "It is a lovely day and I am driving a wonderful car." Still smiling, he thundered down the wooden ramp and on to Verona at a "careful" speed of 111 miles an hour. The strategy of the Ferrari team on this first leg came somewhat apart. Paolo Marzotto, generally a conservative back-runner, took the lead at 123 miles an hour. Suddenly the tread left one of his tires. As his engine speed rapidly dropped, the oil cap blew, and the first of the Ferraris was out of it.
Along the road stretches flanking the Adriatic the Ferraris and Mercedes were strung like beads, and Mercedes Manager Neubauer could nod approvingly. Setting the pace through Ancona, at 116 miles an hour, was the gleaming silver Mercedes, No. 722, driven by Stirling Moss, and he was pulling Taruffi, the best hope of Ferrari, with him. Behind Taruffi came Herrmann of Mercedes, and behind him Castellotti of Ferrari. Then came Kling in a Mercedes, Maglioli in a Ferrari and finally Fangio, taking it easy. On the run to Pescara, where the route turns toward the Apennines, Ferrari Driver Taruffi jumps into the lead. This is not according to Mercedes plan, for the Ferrari has more power and better maneuverability in the mountains, and Taruffi is a good mountain driver. Into the mountains, Taruffi is pushed by all four Mercedes. Castellotti is out of it with engine failure on the run to Pescara, so through the mountains there are only two Ferraris against the four Mercedes. Through the Apennines and into Rome and up through the ragged passes of Radicofani, the ironies of this racing business began to show. Taruffi, a better mountain driver in a better mountain car, was passed by Moss before he got to Rome. Kling, who had worked so methodically to know each curve, lost the road on one of them, wrecking his car and breaking three ribs. Between Viterbo and Radicofani, Taruffi's oil pump failed, leaving only Maglioli's Ferrari chasing the three leading Mercedes.
Whether any of Ferrari's grief could be attributed to it or not, Moss had done a splendid job of front running—such a good job that to Florence he had smashed all previous Mille Miglia records with an incredible 97 mph average. He ran a distinct risk of putting himself out of it. Herrmann, also breaking all previous records, did go out with a crippling gas tank leak. On to Bologna Moss continued to pick up time on Fangio in the other remaining Mercedes, while Maglioli hung onto third place in the one remaining team Ferrari. They took the checkered flag at the Brescia finish in that order. Fourth came Francesco Giardini in a Maserati, and fifth, in a small touring Mercedes, came an unballyhooed American, Johnny Fitch.
Winner Moss had averaged an incredible 97.96 miles an hour, covering the 992 miles in 10 hours, 7 minutes, 48 seconds—half an hour better than the record. After red victory flowers were shoved into his hands, Moss explained: "I just drove as fast as I could, following instructions."
It was indeed quite according to Mercedes plan. Moss the rabbit had run the Ferrari hounds ragged to keep them away from Fangio—only the rabbit had kept on running and had beaten even Fangio.
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