Remembering Sir Stirling Moss
Paying tribute to Sir Stirling Moss, one of Scuderia Ferrari’s most formidable rivals on track, from 1950 to 1962 and undoubtedly one of the greatest racing drivers of all time. Moss passed away on Easter Sunday at his Mayfair, London home at the age of 90, with his wife Susie, the Lady Moss, by his side.
Sporting family. Stirling was born into a motor sport family. His father Alfred, a wealthy dentist, was a talented amateur racer who could even lay claim to finishing 16th in the 1924 Indianapolis 500, while his mother Eileen used to compete in hillclimbs around the same time. Stirling and his sister Pat were accomplished horse riders, but the boy fell in love with cars and, at the age of 17, secretly ordered himself an MG, signing for it instead of his father, who was far from happy about it. However, realising how keen his son was to race, he decided to go along with it, allowing him to race his BMW sports car. Pat followed suit, but unlike her brother, she opted for rallying and was the most successful woman in this field until the arrival of France’s Michele Mouton.
Road to stardom. Moss came to prominence at the start of the 50s and made his Formula 1 debut in the 1951 Swiss Grand Prix at the wheel of an Alta-powered HWM. His Formula 2 results came to the attention of Enzo Ferrari who put him in one of his cars for the 1951 Bari Formula 1 Grand Prix. When Moss arrived in Puglia after an eventful journey, he discovered his car had been entrusted to Piero Taruffi instead. The 21 year old Englishman was furious and returned home vowing to never drive for the Scuderia. The teams he did drive for were Mercedes, Maserati, Vanwall, BRM, Cooper and Lotus.
Rivalry. Enzo Ferrari, who was usually a good judge of drivers, immediately spotted Moss’ abilities and wrote of him in his book “Piloti, che gente…” “My opinion of Moss is quite simple: this is the man I have often put in the Nuvolari class. He had a passion for speed, drove fast in any car he sat in and he had the great virtue of judging a car only by what he read on the clock, by the time it would give him on any given course. As I also once said, Moss had an uncanny ability to feel his way into a crash. And when he ran out of road, just like Nuvolari did on a number of celebrated occasions, there is an eerie similarity about the way they both came out of it unscathed. If Moss had let his head rule his heart he would have won the world title he so richly deserved.”
Moss is usually known as the best driver never to have won the Formula 1 World Championship: he was runner-up four times in 1955, 1956 and 1957, all behind Juan Manuel Fangio and in 1958, behind fellow countryman and Ferrari driver Mike Hawthorn. He also came third three times.
A rapprochement. The final part of Moss’ career saw him race a Lotus for friend and privateer entrant Rob Walker, who was also heavily involved in sports cars. In fact, with this team, Moss drove several races in Ferraris after sporadic but winning appearances in 1957, winning the Nassau Trophy Race in the Bahamas in a Scuderia Temple Buell 290 MM, and in 1958, with victory in the Cuba GP, at the wheel of a Luigi Chinetti-entered 335 Sport. In 1960, Moss piloted a 250 GT SWB to victory in the Goodwood Tourist Trophy, the Redex Trophy at Brands Hatch and the Nassau Trophy Race. More wins followed in ’61 in the British Empire Trophy, the Peco Trophy and again in Nassau and the Tourist Trophy. Wins in a Ferrari and Walker’s relationship with Enzo Ferrari led to an agreement that should have finally seen Moss drive a Ferrari Formula 1 car under the Walker team banner in 1962. That year, Moss’ sports car season got off to a great start with a win in the Bank Holiday Trophy at Brands Hatch and a class win in the Daytona 3 Hours, as usual at the wheel of the 250 GT SWB. Sadly, the world would never see Moss race a Formula 1 Ferrari as he was seriously injured in a terrible crash, at the wheel of a Lotus, during the Glover Trophy at Goodwood. It left Moss in a coma and after testing a race car in the spring of 1963, he decided to retire from racing.
Life after racing. Moss was hugely popular worldwide, especially here in the UK, where he became a well known personality, appearing on television and in films and also commentating on races for a long while. His thirst for victory knew no bounds, to the extent that he admitted, he had a win-at-all-costs attitude. Up until 1992, he was the most successful British driver ever. In 2000, he was knighted and a few years after that, he visited Maranello were he got back in the cockpit of a 250 GT SWB, entertaining everyone with his reminiscences of his days at the wheel. With Moss’ death, the world of motor racing has lost one of its true legends. Rest in peace Stirling and thanks for all those on-track duels.
Piero Ferrari, Vice President of Ferrari, commented: “Stirling Moss symbolised motor sport. He was a true personality who left an indelible impression on the history of racing. His versatility meant he was able to win in so many different categories, from Formula 1 to sports car endurance races. He also produced incredible performances in road races such as the Mille Miglia, setting a record that was never beaten. Despite not winning the Formula 1 World Championship, he is most definitely a legendary figure and he was a fearsome and formidable rival of Ferrari in Formula 1 and many other categories. His and Ferrari’s paths were about to merge when he had the accident at Goodwood in April 1962 that effectively ended his racing career, at least at a high level. At the time, in Maranello we were preparing a 250 SWB for him in British Racing Green, along with a contract to drive for us, but fate decreed otherwise. My father said that Stirling reminded him of Tazio Nuvolari, because of his love of racing in any type of car, something which stayed with him right to the very end of his career.”