Hello to Sir Stirling Moss

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I’m meeting Sir Stirling Moss on Wednesday for the first time for an interview for my motorsport column Trackside over at Autotrader.co.uk.

I don’t mind admitting I’m a little bit nervous about meeting one of Britain’s greatest racing drivers. Words and phrases like “legend” and “national institution” are bandied around too freely, but all the usual superlatives genuinely apply to Moss – and many more besides.

Even though 47 years have passed since his last Grand Prix, Moss’s unfortunate claim to be the best F1 driver never to win the title has never been challenged. Not for nothing did veteran F1 journalist Alan Henry recently write a book arguing Moss was the greatest Formula 1 driver ever.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the world championship Moss really should have won above all others. But the 1958 title went to Mike Hawthorn:

1Mike Hawthorn421: France
2Stirling Moss414: Argentina, Netherlands, Portugal, Morocco

When Moss was at his peak, from the mid-1950s until his career-ending accident at Goodwood in 1962, Formula 1 drivers regularly competed in range of different series. His was one of the great versatile talents and he won time trials, endurance sports car races, road rallies, record attempts and much more besides Grands Prix. As Robert Edwards described in Moss’s authorised biography:

Counting all heats and finals, but discouting speed trials, rallies, record attempts and hill climbs, Stirling Moss entered 529 racing events. He won 212 of them: 40.075% of those entered.

It’s hard to quantify genius, but that comes close. Another measure is the staggering speed at which he scored one of his most celebrated victories, the 1955 Mille Miglia (below). Racing along almost 1,000 miles of bumpy, narrow, and often perilous Italian roads, his average speed of 97.96mph would never be beaten.

I can think of a million things to ask him. Unfortunately I’ve only got 20 minutes. Where do I start?

More about Stirling Moss

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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8 comments on “Hello to Sir Stirling Moss”

  1. Out of curiosity, why the passenger? I assume they switched off occasionally?

    I’m head over to read (and be jealous of) the interview now.

  2. I’d ask about the handling of Merc 196Ws and 300SLRs compared to the Vanwall and other cars he raced after M-B pulled out of racing in 1955.

  3. Nice one Kije!

    Dan, not all the drivers took someone with them. Fangio, for example, stopped taking one after his former co-driver, Daniel Urrutia, died in a crash when they were competing in the 1948 Gran Premio de la America del Sur.

    Moss took famed motor racing journalist Denis Jenkinson with him in the ’55 Mille Miglia. Despite how hectic his schedule was they managed to fit in a few reconnaissance tours of the circuit and compiled rally-style pace notes, which Jenkinson relayed to Moss during the event. Previously the passengers had usually been mechanics although the drivers would typically have strong mechanical knowledge as well, as Fangio did.

  4. Paul Sainsbury
    5th May 2008, 18:45

    Hi Keith, I met Stirling at Goodwood a couple of years back. I was totally in awe, of course, but hopefully managed to act normal……..

    I would like to know if he thinks if he were driving today, in modern F1, whether he would still have his exemplary levels of integrity and sportsmanship, or whether instead those values reflected the era in which he drove.

    Good luck with the interview.

  5. Dan Brunell
    5th May 2008, 18:48

    Oh, am I envious… 20 minutes isn’t nearly enough with him.

    So many things, here are a few of the things I would ask him:

    – Barring the technical advancements, what is the biggest difference you see from the drivers of your era and of today?

    – As an important part of Formula One’ legacy, do you feel the sport does enough to recognize the achievements and sacrifices of the people who made this sport what it is today?

    – How would you describe the working relationship between the drivers of Mercedes Benz and Rudolf Uhlenhaut?

    – In your opinion what are the things that made Fangio really standout from his peers?

    – Mike Hawthorn seems to be the “forgotten driver” of British motor racing. It seems everyone has a story with him, what is you favorite memory of Mike?

    – There is an overwhelming sentiment that you are the greatest F1 driver never to win the world championship. Barring yourself, who do you think deserves that title?

    – Finally, if god came down and said he would let you take one last drive before he took you to heaven, what car would you drive and what road/track would you drive on?

  6. Michael Counsell
    6th May 2008, 3:23

    Kind of a big one, but if motor racing banned everywhere, not just in Switzerland what would you have done instead and how would the world be different today?

  7. I’m of the generation, when someone’s driving too fast, we say, “Who do you think you are, Stirling Moss?” I think he could make a bathtub go fast.

    He is most famous here in Cape Town for crashing a road-going Porsche and a magistrate stripping him of his driver’s license. (Don’t ask him about that.)

    I’m interested in what he has to say about high-downforce cars. The cars of his day must have been ready to skate off the roads at any instant with their skinny tyres and no downforce.

    Also, does he have any ideas how to get more overtaking, to make modern-day F1 more of a spectacle?

    Also, what formula does he think is the ultimate test of a racing driver? (Perhaps a mix of formulas and track types to win a Triple Crown?)

  8. Okay, I see the Triple Crown idea has been covered in the Hamilton/Kubica thread.

    A couple of other questions:

    – Now that the drivers are all so fit, what about going back to a Le Mans start? I think it would be a lot of fun.

    – How does Stirling rate the F1 tracks? Most boring, most exciting, most challenging etc?

    – Racing in the wet: Is it really racing? There’s so much spray they can’t see and they can’t use full power because there’s no grip, and as a spectator I don’t like seeing them tip-toeing around. But perhaps drivers need to prove they can race in wet conditions?

    – Does Stirling have any thoughts on KERS? It’s a truly new innovation. Other rule changes are just tinkerings/modifications of existing technology.

    – In his day a sufficiently dedicated team could build a competitive car on a small budget. Nowadays it’s so big-budget and corporate, an enthusiastic amateur hasn’t got a hope of competing. Some of that pioneer spirit is lost. Good thing/bad thing/inevitable?

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