Sir Stirling Moss OBE - The Quintessential Gentleman Racer
Sir Stirling Moss OBE; ‘Mr Motor Racing,’ ‘The Underdog,’ ‘The Quintessential Gentleman Racer.’ However you remember Sir Stirling, there is without a shadow of a doubt that he is the most iconic British racing driver ever to grace the world of motorsport and more significantly, Formula One.
His ability to communicate with the “four wheels and steering wheel” as he put it, was unforgettable, and accounts for the 212 wins in 529 races he entered across all categories, with 16 of these wins being in Formula One. In a seven-year span in Formula One between 1955 and 1961, Moss finished as championship runner-up four times and in third place the other three times. In 1958 he lost the championship to Mike Hawthorn by only 1 point after controversially and successfully appealing the officials decision to exclude Hawthorn from the Portuguese race for illegally push starting his car, ultimately sacrificing his own title in the name of gentlemanly racing.
Moss’ racing career spanned 14 years from 1948 to 1962 and saw him win the RAC Tourist trophy a total of six times, driving various Jaguars, Aston Martins, Ferraris and Mercedes. 1955 saw him take home pole and the race win at none other than the British Grand Prix at Aintree, in front of his home fans and ahead of his teammate and mentor, Juan Manuel Fangio. 1955 was a historic year for Moss, as he also won Italy’s Mille Miglia in an outstanding time of 10 hours and 7 minutes, of which was headlined by Motor Trend as “the most epic drive, ever."
Almost 60 years to the day, Moss was involved in a career ending accident during the Glover Trophy race at Goodwood in 1962. He was left in a month-long coma and was paralysed in the left side of his body for a total of 6 months.
Once he had recovered, Moss was under immense pressure from the press to get back onto the asphalt and shine as had done - his iconic status somewhat preceded him.
Upon returning to racing in 1963 in Colin Chapman’s mid-engined rear-wheel-drive Lotus 19, he found that he was just not naturally as alert and focused so he decided to hang up his race overalls on competitive racing. His philosophy was always that he would rather lose a race driving fast enough to win, than win a race driving slow enough to lose.
Moss’ desire to be the fastest was his true goal and he often distinguished himself as a racer and not a driver. He lived for the adrenaline rush, he was so competitive he would even “race you on foot to the bottom of the street.”
Being undeniably British from head to toe, Moss would always preferred to drive a British-built car. He thought it would be “better to lose honourably in a British car than win in a foreign one.” For many, this approach on his choice of vehicle was somewhat part of the shortfall in his success, but post his racing retirement in 1962, he held the record for the English driver with the most Formula One wins for a total of 29 years. Nigel Mansell overtook him in 1991 after competing in a higher volume of races.
Since his retirement, Moss has been a pillar in the motorsport world and although deemed as ‘the greatest driver never to win the World Championship’, his legacy has and will live on for years to come.
In the short time after his retirement from racing was announced, many police officers would often fire the rhetorical question to a host of speeding motorists “who do you think you are, Stirling Moss?” To those that follow him, this is still very much a phrase used now.
Moss made his years after racing just as memorable off the track as he did on it. He was electric, infectious and shared his wealth of motorsport blood and cheeky demeanour to anybody who came in contact with him. Sir Jackie Stewart described him as his hero, and “still has his autograph from when he was a young boy.”
In 2015 Lewis Hamilton met with Stirling Moss and journalist Lee Mckenzie to relive the moment of winning the British GP, as the first British driver to win it and the most recent British driver to win it. Lewis Hamilton described Moss as “a real hero from back then.” Stirling Moss described Lewis as “bloody fast.”
The very charming, self-proclaimed ladie’s man would often draw reference to how different it is for modern racing drivers who after winning a race have to spend hours from the moment they get out of the car talking to sponsors where as back in his day they would nip off for a beer and to chase the ‘crumpet’. “I think we had it better” he would say,
From his home in Mayfair, a plethora of James Bond type gadgets and gizmos kept Moss busy outside of his motorsport life and his children and wife, Lady Susie, survive him in the knowledge that he lived his life in full. Lady Moss saying that “he died as he lived, looking wonderful.” RIP Sir Stirling Moss, our iconic British hero forever, you will be missed but never forgotten.