The man whose name became synonymous with motor racing worldwide, from the 1950’s onwards, was born on 17th September 1929, in Thames Ditton, England. Moss’ father, Alfred, was a dentist and racing driver, who once raced at the Indy 500. His mother, Aileen was a first class trial and rally driver and won the ladies experts’ trial in 1936. Stirling’s sister Pat, who inherited their mother’s love of horses and duly became a noted show jumping champion, drove for British Motor Corporation (BMC) and is the only woman ever to have won the Liege-Rome-Liege outright. The Moss children always knew about tough competition, about success — and the value of good advice and a supportive family.
Having decided that driving racing cars really would be his career, Moss started out at the age of just 18, first in motor cars, then in tiny rear engined single seaters, in 1947. Soon, he was winning regularly, his talent behind the wheel clear to all who watched or read about him. As Britain emerged from WW2, Britain may have enjoyed its great history of pre-war motorsport, but in the late 40’s, the nation had no purpose built race tracks, and little infrastructure. What it did have was a need for heroes, preferably in the mould of the wartime fighter pilots. Thus the 1950’s dawned; the decade of Stirling’s greatest sporting achievements. The main focus of the daily sports pages, and of the watching public, was for years centred on a generation of heroic British racing drivers such as Mike Hawthorn, Peter Collins, and many others – but the one clear, stand-out star was always Stirling Moss.
It was Stirling who was the first true motor sports professional. He had an agent and manager; he even had sponsors and the support of trade suppliers. He ‘managed’ his diary; and he was always reliable -appearing on time and interacting happily with his adoring public. He gave proper time to the press; he mixed with Kings and young race fans alike, on an equal footing. Throughout the 50’s and early 60’s, Moss went on and on winning races, not only in Grand Prix cars, but in saloon cars, GT cars, Le Mans type sports cars, Formula Two, and non-championship Formula One. He raced almost every weekend, right across Europe, North and South America, Africa and Australasia. He had several painful accidents, and yet on he raced, apparently regardless, in what to the modern eye now look like fast, frail, dangerous petrol baths. Stirling lost many friends in accidents in what was then a very harsh sport.
Easter Monday 1962 saw Stirling Moss’s world change for ever. A major accident at the Goodwood race track, which left him unconscious for four weeks, paralysed down the left side for six month and resulted in twelve months of agonising recovery, led to his decision to retire from the sport. Stirling is an active man, with an inquiring, methodical mind – and business came easily to him. But by the early 1980’s, the urge to race remained and some sort of active return to the sport seemed like fun. Fortunately for us all, that Moss thought process linked up with the new wave of interest in racing “historic” cars. Soon Stirling had invitations to compete, in his own and other people’s beautiful old racing cars, all over the world – and he was still racing on his 74th birthday, back at his near nemesis, Goodwood, as recently as September 2003.
Even now Moss relishes a challenge. When confronted by personal medical issues which would have silenced and embarrassed many other men, he simply decided to get it ‘sorted in ten minutes’. That he has done so, and will now speak publicly about this new personal challenge, tells us almost everything about this remarkable man, an icon for every generation.
Sir Stirling Moss – a Look back at his career
Born: Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK, on 17th September 1929
1947 – Debut in competition, trials in a BMW 328, wins first ever event.
1948 – Full season in Formula Three Cooper; wins 5 races, all in UK.
1949 – International racing debut, still in Formula Three, races all over Europe in small family run team, wins 5 times, including in Italy and Holland.
1950 – Races across Europe in over 50 events, including first ‘works’ team drives for HWM. Takes part in Grands Prix in Paris, Rome, Berne, Bari, Naples, and wins 18 races in all, including the prestigious RAC Tourist Trophy in a Jaguar XK120. Still just 21 years old.
1951 – Factory HWM driver in international F.2 car in all European Grands Prix, but car unreliable; wins at Goodwood, Aix-les-Bains, Silverstone, Brands Hatch, and a second Tourist Trophy, on Jaguar C-Type’s debut. 18 race wins in all, many fastest laps.
1952 – 2nd in Monte Carlo, on international rallying debut, then 1st in class on the Alpine Rally. 19 more international race wins, including Jaguar C-Type at Silverstone, many more in the F.3 Kieft Norton, and drives for BRM and ERA (first British GP).
1953 – Moves up career ladder, to become a full time Grand Prix driver, and also wins 9 international races for Jaguar and Cooper.
1954 – First race win in USA, Sebring 12 Hours, buys his own Maserati 250F GP car, wins 5 F One races, retires when leading Italian GP at Monza. 14 international wins overall.
1955 – Becomes a Mercedes Benz factory GP driver, wins British GP. Dominates Mille Miglia to win at 97.96 mph average speed; also wins Targa Florio, Tourist Trophy again and 3 other races, including GP Buenos Aires. Learns from the wheel-tracks of the ‘maestro’, Juan Manuel Fangio.
1956 – Team leader with Maserati in F.1, wins in New Zealand, Goodwood, Aintree, Melbourne, Caracas, and at major wins in Monaco and Monza, both for the first time, in Formula One. 12 wins in all.
1957 – Wins British GP in the Vanwall, again at Monza, and in Nassau, Sweden and Pescara – as well as setting 5 new World Speed records in streamlined MG EX181.
1958 – A ‘British car year’, with Vanwall and Cooper in Grand Prix – wins in Argentine, Holland, Caen and Copenhagen (in JBW), Melbourne and Morocco to finish 2nd in World Championship. 18 international race wins overall.
1959 – Driving for private Rob Walker team, wins in New Zealand, Goodwood, Syracuse, Reims, Rouen, Portugal, Italy and USA, as well as sports car wins for Aston Martin at Nurburgring, Goodwood 9 Hours and Nassau. 20 wins in all.
1960 – For Rob Walker team, wins in New Zealand, South Africa, Brussels, Monaco, Austria, Watkins Glen (New York), Cape Town, Riverside USA; and again wins TT, in Ferrari 250 SWB; US sports car races in USA – 19 wins in all, despite a 2 month mid-season lay-off, injured, following his accident at Spa when a wheel came off his Lotus at 140 mph.
1961 – Stirling’s most successful and busiest ever season; 27 major international race wins, notably at Ardmore, Australia, Austria, Monaco, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, USA West, and Nassau – and the only ever race win for the 4-wheel drive single seater Fergusson.
1962 – A busy 4 months prior to the career-shortening Easter Goodwood accident; wins again in NZ, and Australia, and races across USA and in Europe. Rest of year in hospital and recovery.
1963 – After 12 months, sufficiently recovered from injuries to test drive a Lotus, but decides to retire from Grand Prix racing after a career of 16 seasons and over 200 wins.
1982 – Re-starts a driving career in an Audi touring car in British Championship; chooses instead to take up racing historic cars.
Mid-1980’s – to present day:
A new venture racing in international historic events in various cars; Moss still races for fun, appearing at shows and events worldwide, and takes part in international rallies of all types.
Sir Stirling Moss with Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone