300 SL #317
If the 300S had been a sporty version of the 300 series cars the SL, meaning ‘Sport Leicht’, was an all new lightweight sports car. It may have had some of the ‘ordinary’ Mercedes 300 series parts on board but it was anything but ordinary. It would single handedly re-establish Mercedes-Benz not only in racing but in the exotic sports car market around the world. It was, without doubt, a thoroughbred road racing vehicle made for the rich and famous and loved by them too. Being race bred and having exceptional handling qualities in its own right the 300SL was also used by many private racers in sporting competitions. One particular car, was used by the American John Cooper Fitch and his co-driver Kurt Gesell at the 22nd Mille Miglia, number 317. It arrived fresh from the production line just a couple of days before the race so Fitch and his co-driver Gesell, who was actually a German journalist, had to do all their reconnaissance in an older and much slower Mercedes road car.
The XXII Mille Miglia, held over the 30th April-1st May 1955, has gone down in history for the astounding drive by Stirling Moss and Dennis Jenkinson, but what is often forgotten is that John Fitch was only 84 minutes behind Moss’ racing sports car in what was simply a road car with the bumpers taken off. Moss smashed the race record in the 300slr and Fitch was only three minutes off the race winning time of the 1954 Mille Miglia race winner, Alberto Ascari, who had driven a thoroughbred racing Lancia D24 to a time of 11hr 26:10.
Of the 534 starters, of which 279 classified finishers.
1st overall was Moss/Jenks 300 SLR 10:07:48.00 1st in class S+2.0
2nd overall was Fangio 300 SLR 10:39:33.00 2nd in class S+2.0
5th overall was Fitch/Gesell 300 SL 11:29:21.00 1st in class GT+1.3
7th overall was Gendebien/Washer 300 SL 11:36:00.00 2nd in class GT+1.3
10th overall was Salvatore Casetella 300 SL 12:55:08.00 3rd in class GT+1.3
In an astonishing result for Daimler-Benz and a show of utter domination which astonished the Italians, and the rest of the world alike, five of the top ten finishers overall were driving Mercedes cars. From that day on the success of the 300sl range was assured.
– Edited, The Motor Museum in Miniature
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