To paraphrase the late and great Denis Jenkinson – surely the finest motor sport journalist ever – on 16 May history was made, for David Coulthard finished first in the Mille Miglia, and I had the very great privilege of sitting beside him.
It was the diminutive Jenkinson who partnered Stirling Moss in possibly his finest hour – victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia. Driving the legendary magnesium-bodied Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR developed by German engineering ace Rudolf Uhlenhaut, with the start number 722 (denoting their starting time in Brescia on 1 May).
They managed to average nearly 98mph over the gruelling 1000-mile course to complete it in 10 hours 07min and 48sec, in the process beating out the great Juan Manuel Fangio in a sister car and Piero Taruffi in a Ferrari. It was an achievement that, even by today’s standards, defies the odds.
Over the weekend I got to relive the broad range of emotions both men must have felt that great day as I partnered Coulthard on this year’s Mille Miglia Historica. Aboard a 300 SLR originally developed for the 1956 season but, owing to Mercedes-Benz’s decision to pull out of motor sport at the end of 1955 never raced in anger, we experienced first hand just what a mighty car it was – and still is.