Sir Stirling Moss OBE

Whatever your motorsport persuasion, everyone knew and admired Sir Stirling Moss OBE, who died peacefully at his home in Mayfair early Easter Sunday at the age of 90. He was universally acknowledged to be the best driver never to win the Formula One world drivers' championship, a prize that was compromised by his personal preference to race British cars whenever possible. Ironically, it was fifty-eight years ago on Easter Monday 1962 that a high-speed accident during the Glover Trophy at St Mary's corner Goodwood inflicted serious head injuries that ended his driving career at the early age of thirty-two.

Born in London September 1929 to Alfred Moss, a dentist and businessman and Aileen Craufurd, Stirling was brought up at 'Long White Cloud' house on the banks of the River Thames in Bray Berkshire. Alfred had been an enthusiastic amateur racing driver who'd finished 16th in the 1924 Indianapolis 500 and Aileen Moss had driven in prewar hill climbs at the wheel of a Singer Nine. As a youngster, Moss was a gifted horse rider as was his younger sister Pat, who went on to become a successful international rally driver and married Swedish rally legend Eric Carlsson. Stirling was educated at several eminent home-counties preparatory and independent secondary schools.

Starting competition in Alfred's BMW 328, Stirling then used his equine prize money to become one of the Cooper Car Company's first customers for an innovative 500cc F3 cars and soon demonstrated his ability with numerous wins at national and international levels which continued in F3 with Coopers and Kiefts before he progressed into senior categories. Significantly, he'd competed in the first ever race at Silverstone which preceded the memorable Grand Prix in October 1948, just two weeks after his 19th birthday. His Cooper Jap T5 led a quality F3 field until being forced to retire with transmission trouble, but he'd already won 500 cc races at Brough, Goodwood and Dunholme Lodge.

By 1950 Stirling had turned professional, racing for the HWM Formula 2 team at various European road circuits while continuing to race his Cooper-JAP whenever possible, including his first Monaco victory in the 500 cc Prix de Monte Carlo. Unable to secure a drive in the RAC Tourist Trophy in September 1950, the journalist and racing driver Tommy Wisdom offered his Jaguar XK120 to Stirling, who drove through appalling weather to dominate the race and finish a long way ahead of the works Jaguars and the rest of the field. This superb achievement ensured Stirling was lead-driver in the 1951 Jaguar team.

However, Stirling's progression into world championship Grand Prix racing took a little longer, impeded by his disagreement with Enzo Ferrari whose off-hand treatment in 1951 resulted in him resolving never to drive for the Scuderia. This Ferrari episode aside, Stirling raced British Grand Prix cars if possible, but such cars were simply no match for the Ferraris and Maseratis' in 1952/3. For the new 2.5 litre Formula 1 season in 1954 he finally had a car worthy of his ability, in a private Maserati 250F and before the year was out, he'd been asked to lead the factory Maserati team. For 1955, he joined Mercedes-Benz and establish himself, joining Maserati again in 1956, Vanwall in 1957/58 and driving Rob Walker's Coopers and Lotus contenders until the untimely end of his driving career. His first World Championship race victory came at Aintree in the 1955 British Grand Prix, in a W196 for the Mercedes-Benz team, just fending off his team-leader Fangio. Two years later also at Aintree Moss, taking over the unwell Tony Brooks' Vanwall, delivered Tony Vandervell his first Grand Prix victory for a British car in a World Championship Formula 1 race. But he also took Cooper and Lotus's first wins at World Championship level, on both occasions in cars run by Rob Walker's privateer racing team. In 1961 Stirling produced two of his most dazzling drives in the Monaco and German Grands Prix to defeat the vastly more powerful Ferraris, again in RRC Walker's giant-killing Lotus 18.

But Stirling's success was not just confined to single seaters, he was unrivalled in sports cars, with his 1955 Mille Miglia victory in the Mercedes 300SLR regarded as one of the greatest endurance racing victories of all time by a British driver. In 1955 he also won the RAC Tourist Trophy at Dundrod with John Fitch, then the Targa Florio with Peter Collins to secure the World Sports Car Championship for Mercedes. Four years later, he played a major role in securing the WSC for Aston Martin, with his performances in the DBR1/300 at the Nurburgring and the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood standing out among the finest of his career. He made 10 starts at Le Mans and finished 2nd twice; in 1953 in a C-Type Jaguar with Peter Walker and in 1956, with Peter Collins in an Aston Martin DB 3S. He raced in the 12-Hours of Sebring 11 times, winning on his first visit in 1954 driving an Osca MT4 1450 with Bill Lloyd and became the first non-American driver to win this iconic race. He came second in 1957 driving a works Maserati 300S with Harry Schell.

Demonstrating his versatility, Stirling was a competitive rally driver and one of only three people to have won a Coupe d'Or - Coupe des Alpes gold cup, awarded for three consecutive penalty free runs on the gruelling Alpine Rally on the gravel alpine roads the 1950s. He competed in three Monte Carlo rallies, 3-up with BRDC secretary Desmond Scannell and Autocar magazine editor John Cooper as co-drivers each time, in a Rootes Sunbeam-Talbot 90, finishing second in 1952 to Sydney Allard. In 1974 Stirling took part in the London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally in a Mercedes, retiring in the Algerian Sahara and in 1990, he finished in a fine third place on the Pirelli Marathon with American journalist Charles Shields in an MGB. But he went record-breaking successfully too, at Bonneville Salt Flats, Montlhéry, Monza and the Jabbeke, driving for Austin-Healey, MG, Jaguar, Lotus and Sunbeam.

During his remarkable career Stirling took part in 585 events, finishing 387 and winning 216. His major international victories began at the 1952 Swiss Grand Prix in Bern. He started 66 F1 Driver's World Championship races, winning 16 times and was runner up in the Driver's Championship 4 times 1955-58. In 1958 Stirling displayed the sportsmanship that characterised his career by persuading the Portuguese Grand Prix stewards to reinstate Hawthorn's second place and by doing so, lost the Driver's F1 championship by one point, despite winning 4 races to Mike's single victory that season.

Reflecting his popularity, how often did an irate traffic policeman say to a speeding motorist: "who'd you think you are - Stirling Moss?" After retiring from racing in 1963, Stirling remained a global personality and he worked as commentator for ABC's Wide World of Sports for F1 and NASCAR races 1962 ? 1980. He narrated the official 1988 Formula One season review with Tony Jardine and, also narrated for the popular children's TV series Roary the Racing Car.

In 1963 he set up the Stirling Moss Automobile Racing Team, 'SMART', to run GT and Sports Cars for other drivers and eventually resumed racing himself, mainly in historic events but was tempted out of retirement to race an Audi 80 in the 1980/81 British Saloon Car Championship, but found the 15-lap contact-racing environment in a slick tyre, front wheel drive saloon car a tad alien to someone who'd cut his teeth in 1950s 3-hour F1 races. At the peak of his career Stirling had been in a racing car almost every weekend, Europe in summer and the Tasman series down-under in winter.
With his considerable achievements recognised by a knighthood in 2000, Sir Stirling always remained an enthusiastic, down to earth and a well-informed pundit of the F1 scene. In 2008 the newly crowned World Champion Lewis Hamilton, on behalf of the BRDC, presented Sir Stirling with the unique honour of a life Vice-Presidency. He was the oldest living Grand Prix winner and longest-serving BRDC Member, with 10 BRDC Gold Stars between 1950-61, a record only surpassed in 2017 by Lewis Hamilton MBE.

Sir Stirling was a Goodwood and Silverstone Classic regular, owning several historic sports cars including a Porsche RS60 Spyder, of the type he and Graham Hill almost won the 1961 Targa Florio, but during practice for the 2011 Le Mans Legends race, he suddenly decided it was finally time to hang up his helmet at the age of 81. A year earlier he'd sustained severe injuries to his feet from falling down the lift shaft in his beloved Mayfair home, but made a good recovery, only to contract a serious chest infection whilst in Singapore December 2016, from which his recovery had been slow and tiring. This resulted in his decision to withdraw from public life in January 2018.

During his driving career and indeed thereafter, Sir Stirling Moss remained one of the most recognised global celebrities, synonymous for wisdom, good manners and eloquent soundbites. He raised the bar of professionalism among top-flight drivers and was one of the first to employ a dedicated business manager, Ken Gregory, whose perspicacity assisted Stirling's on and off-track career successes.

We offer our sincere condolences to Lady Suzie Moss, their son Elliot and to Allison, Sir Stirling's daughter by his earlier marriage to Elaine, and to his many friends on their loss of a much-loved national hero. Rest in Peace Sir Stirling - a supreme British motor racing legend and ambassador, to whom sportsmanship meant far more than victory garlands!

13th April, 2020