We are in the Piazza della Vittoria in Brescia on April 30, 1955 during scrutineering for the Mille Miglia. Here is handsome Eugenio Castellotti leaning against the Ferrari 121LM he will drive as he signs his autograph for two ladies, obviously delighted by the attention he is receiving.
Castellotti whose race number 723 signified his starting time the next morning, decided to drive flat out from the start, probably because he knew that his big 4.4 liter six-cylinder Ferrari was super-fast but unlikely to last very long. Stirling Moss, the eventual winner at a record pace, was accompanied by journalist Denis Jenkinson as navigator in their Mercedes 300SLR. In the article “Jenks” wrote about their experiences in the Mille Miglia he recalled that Castellotti, driving alone because he was familiar with the route, passed them at high speed, leaving trails of molten rubber from his rear tires as he accelerated away from a corner.
An early stop for Castellotti was at Ravenna along the Adriatic coast. The Ferrari mechanics are already having to change those rear tires. Castellotti is out of the car and visible behind it as he goes to get a bottle of water for a quick drink. Ferrari had abandoned its usual tire supplier, the Belgian Englebert company, in favor of Pirelli because their most important customer, Paolo Marzotto, insisted on the change on behalf of all the Scuderia Ferrari drivers. But even the better quality Pirellis could not withstand what Castellotti had asked of them.
Although Castellotti was in the lead at this point, it did not last. His 121LM expired not long after leaving Ravenna with another tire failure. Basically, the new Ferraris with the larger capacity 4.4 liter motors fitted for this race (although that upgrade was not publicly disclosed) had too much torque for their narrow 16 inch tires which tended to throw treads.
Castellotti would get his chance for Mille Miglia fame in 1956 when he was victorious in a more reliable V12 Ferrari in a race run in terrible wet conditions which placed less stress on the tires.
Photos by Yves Debraine ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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