SIR STIRLING MOSS – 1929-2020
The BRSCC was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of British motor racing legend and club vice president Sir Stirling Moss on Easter Sunday, aged 90 years old.
Sir Stirling is acknowledged as one of the best drivers in motorsport history, one of the greatest racers that Britain has ever produced and arguably the best driver never to win the Formula 1 World Championship. Known to be incredibly versatile in a variety of racing disciplines, his exploits in Formula 1, Formula 2, sports cars, GTs and saloons earned him the nickname “Mr Motor Racing”. He garnered a reputation as the embodiment of a true gentleman racer and was respected by just about every great driver the sport has ever produced.
From humble beginnings racing a Cooper 500, Moss progressed through racing for HWM and then buying a Maserati 250F which he then painted in British Racing Green and raced in Formula 1. At one stage, the great Enzo Ferrari even offered Sir Stirling a drive in one of his grand prix cars, but after being snubbed at the last minute Moss vowed never to drive for Ferrari in his career. The defining year of his motor racing CV was undoubtedly 1955, where he joined Alfred Neubauer’s Mercedes team to join up with Juan Manuel Fangio for his first full F1 season. That year, Moss claimed his first GP victory at the British Grand Prix at Aintree and went on to finish runner up to Fangio in the championship, the first of four times in a row he would finish 2nd in the standings.
In the same year, Moss competed in the epic Mille Migila long-distance sportscar race for Mercedes with navigator Denis Jenkinson. Together, they crushed the competition to win at an average speed just shy of 100mph in one of the most memorable driving performances of his career. After Mercedes left motor racing, Moss raced a Maserati in F1 in 1956, winning the Monaco Grand Prix as the first British driver to do so, before the next two seasons saw him fight for the title in Tony Vandervell’s Vanwall. The closest he came to becoming world champion was in 1958, when he battled with Mike Hawthorn all year but protested against Hawthorn being disqualified in Portugal for receiving a bump start after going off the circuit. In the end, this led to Moss losing the title by just one point, but it’s something Moss never regretted as he always wished to win the title fair and square in pure competition. Sir Stirling also made history that year when he took the first victory for a mid-engined grand prix car driving a Cooper in Argentina.
In his final three seasons in Formula 1, Moss joined Rob Walker Racing and drove Cooper, BRM and Lotus chassis. All three times he finished 3rd in the standings and his greatest drive arguably came at the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix when he beat Ferrari’s new “shark-nosed” 156s and drove almost the entire race flat out to win. Going into 1962, Enzo Ferrari allegedly reached out to Moss once again to offer him a drive for the new season, but sadly it never came to pass. At Goodwood on Easter weekend in a Formula 2 race, Sir Stirling was recovering from an early spin when his car inexplicably ran off the road and crashed. After being rescued from the accident and subsequently spending nearly 40 days in recovery, Moss elected to test a race car again but afterwards, he felt as though his abilities weren’t the same as they had been before the crash. As a result, he announced his retirement from professional motor racing in 1963.
In the years that followed, Moss became an honorary vice president of the BRSCC, alongside working in television coverage for motorsport and even making brief returns to the track in touring cars, most notably in an Audi in the British Touring Car Championship in 1980 and 1981. He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990 and in 2000 he received his knighthood, officially declaring him as Sir Stirling Moss. He continued to be a regular presence at some of the biggest motorsport events in the UK, and officially retired from racing altogether in 2011 during qualifying at the Le Mans Classic.
The word legend is sometimes used all too sparingly, but in this instance, Sir Stirling was just that – a true legend. His achievements behind the wheel made him a household name and a figure of motorsport that practically every racing fan knows. He was admired and held in great esteem by the likes of Sir Jackie Stewart and Juan Manuel Fangio, two greats of the sport in their own right, and he inspired countless other drivers both in the UK and around the world to follow in his wheel tracks. And he did this all in his typical style, with panache, elan, sophistication and a passion for the sport and for his country.
On behalf of all of its club members, volunteers and the hundreds of drivers that he no doubt inspired, we send forth our most sincere and heartfelt thoughts and condolences to Sir Stirling’s wife Lady Moss, his family and friends at this difficult time. If one thing is for certain, it’s this – there will never be another driver, or person for that matter, quite like him. He truly was, in every sense of the phrase, one of a kind. The motorsport world is sad to see him leave, but at the same time will be eternally grateful for everything he contributed to it and the legacy he leaves behind.
Rest in peace, Sir Stirling – and thank you.