Sir Stirling Moss obituary: the life and career of the legendary racing driver

Sit Stirling Moss

Sit Stirling Moss

Steve Kroplya pays tribute to one of Britain's best and most famous racing drivers

Sir Stirling Moss, who died peacefully in the 90s in London on Easter Sunday after a long illness, has always acknowledged the importance of his racing career to his unusual name, believing that it brought him attention as a young driver and the sensation of his instant, 19- summer shine behind the wheel.

For the rest of his life, Moss, who for racing was a shrewd manager and developer, would protest that "all I got was my name, old man," especially if the discussion didn't turn into a scandalous cost of living these days, as it often did. when compensation for his frequent public appearances is discussed.

He went on to explain how his mother (who drove the singer to nine hillclimbs in her youth) wanted to call him hamish, while his father (a Berkshire dentist and amateur racer who finished 16th in the 1924 Indy 500) insisted on Stirling's luck according to its owner.

Moss has always been quiet, domestic and unassuming, but he was also aware from the very first how much in the public eye can help in a career. In this sense, he was much more professional than many of his peers. He became very popular almost immediately after he started racing (first in his father's BMW 328; only one of Cooper's early 500ml single-seat cars) and all his public associations for the rest of his days, mainly because people knew and approved of his lifelong love of racing and because they knew full well that many of his best victories came from cars that weren't the fastest on the grid.

In man-in-the-street terms, Moss was arguably the most famous British racing driver of all time. When he had a career-ending accident at Goodwood in 1962 and was in a coma for a month, London's Evening Standard ran front-page bulletins reporting the public's concern about his condition. And anyone who saw him a couple of years ago at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, sitting on the set of a club driver sticking out, a crowd of well-wishers and fans, and for little champions passed unnoticed, would know that the general connection was not broken.

At the same meeting, enterprising stall-holders were still doing big business by selling T-shirts bearing the branded 1950s remark that all traffic police officers should have been used to speeding motorists: “Who do you think you are, Stirling Moss?”.

Moss's career headlines have passed into legend: he was undoubtedly the greatest driver ever, having never won a Formula One World Championship, falling short in 1 because he disinterestedly opposed the disqualification of eventual world champion Mike Hawthorne from the Portuguese Grand Prix. -When, who regained six points in the Hawthorne result. This meant that the hawthorn became the first British champion in the world. In the seven years between 1958 and 1955, Moss was second in four World Championships and third in the rest.

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In all, Moss scored 212 career wins from 529 races. Sometimes he races six times a day: driving for the love of it and invariably extracting what his car has to offer. He has 16 Grand Prix victories with 66 starts and has been on the podium 40 times. He scored many superb sports car victories and also had an excellent reputation as a rally driver: he won three Alpine Rally gold cups and finished second in the 1952 Monte driving a Sunbeam Talbot 90 (with the then editor of the car as one of his co-drivers).

The two additional races show the moss' most remarkable character traits: his unearthly driving prowess and his vast reserves of courage and determination. The first was his Mercedes win at the 1955 Mille Miglia, in which he and journalist Denis Jenkinson completed the 1000 mile Italian public road course in just 10 hours at an average speed of 98.53 kilometers per hour, a record that still stands today.

The second was his brilliant performance at the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix when he drove a seriously underpowered Rob Walker Lotus 18 three-second victory over a trio of new, much more powerful Shark-nose Ferrari V-6s that were supposed to win on their knees. Both victories will always be a shining example of success entirely put on the ability of the driver.

Moss had a serious crash at Goodwood on Easter Monday in 1962 while driving a Lotus in the International 100. After recovering from a month-long coma, he discovered that one side of his body was paralyzed. He eventually recovered from that too, but after testing out a racing car, he decided to retire, deciding that the old skills and instincts weren't quite there. But the fame has not waned for 60 years, and Moss sometimes express surprise that motorsport is so well remembered for its heroes.

Stirling Moss was a dedicated car reader, having connections here long before the current crew arrived. He understood the journalists and (most of the time) liked them, so he called periodically to ask for more details on stories or to comment on what we were saying. My wife and I have dined at his house several times, which is why we can authoritatively say that Lady Susie is a great cook.

Several copies will always remain in my memory. One was his immediate interest in Renault Twizy's when I took our long termer around the street one evening. Knowing his interest in scooters, tricycles, smarts and other forms of traffic-busting transportation, I believe he might like it. He was supposed to be 80ish at the time, but he was in the driver's seat like a shot. The Twizy's top speed is 51mph and I believe he achieved it all without reaching the end of his narrow and cluttered inner London street. I understand that later he bought one, and rode around with the (gleefully diminutive) Lady Susie clutched behind her back.

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Another memory is his generosity at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone one year: the car was revealed and entertained by its oldest reader. This man saw moss in his first British GP and was a longtime fan. Colin Goodwin had the usually brilliant idea that we should call Stirling, knowing he would be on the chain to see if he would come and meet our guest. Ten minutes later the moss was with us, arm around our shoulders in a delighted photo reader.

It's the discreet nature of Moss that I will always remember best. He always did his best to answer questions: you'll know from the frequent radio and television interviews he gave. Even so, I will never forget how he answered that for me was a burning question, although it was one he must have answered 1000 times.

“Stirling” I asked, “Which do you think was the big win, the 1955 Mille Miglia or the 1961 Monaco GP?” He paused for thought, as if he had asked it for the first time. “Well,” he said, “I assumed it would have to be Millais. It took me longer to do this…”

Perhaps my best driving memory is Moss following him back at the Goodwood Festival One Year's Hill: he had just pulled up he in a Mercedes 300SLR reminiscent of his Mille Miglia winner. I was in one of the D-type Jaguars "legacy". I watched the crowd wave only at him, as if he were alone on the track. There was something in his smile that angled his head and waved languidly in response that said, “Of course it can't be for me”. But it was. And it is right.


Sir Stirling Moss dies at 90

Sir Stirling Moss: behind the wheel of a Maserati on the scene of his success

Sir Stirling Moss: celebrating his epic Mille Miglia victory

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