Sir Stirling Moss
It was with great sadness that the Board of CMC learnt of the death of Sir Stirling Moss over the weekend. Stirling was a great ambassador for motor racing and for classic cars, always being interested in what was being restored and saved for posterity particularly vehicles that were an important part of this country’s heritage. He supported British manufacturers during his racing career sometimes to his detriment when competing with foreign manufacturers. He was hugely supportive of the UK.
The ultimate ambassador whose activities and that of his motor racing colleagues was of huge benefit from a PR perspective. This can certainly be said of his win in the 1955 Millie Miglia which he won with co-driver Dennis Jenkinson. They completed the 992-mile distance in 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds- an average speed of 99 mph (160 km/h) which was never beaten. It was poignant because a few years before he had tried to win in a Jaguar C-Type with Norman Dewis as a co- driver. They were in third, some said in second when they hit a rock and damaged the suspension, and their race was over. Stirling was somebody who never gave up once he has set himself a goal. He went after it and generally won through but unfortunately never became World Champion.
He could have been had he not handed the trophy to one of his greatest rivals Mike Hawthorn in 1958. It was after the Portuguese Grand Prix on the street circuit at Oporto, the eighth round of the 1958 series, that Moss voluntarily appeared before the stewards to plead the case of Mike Hawthorn, threatened with disqualification from second place for apparently pushing his stalled Ferrari against the direction of the track after spinning on his final lap. Stirling had won the race in his Vanwall, testified that his compatriot had, in fact, pushed the car on the pavement, and had thus not been on the circuit. Hawthorn was reinstated, along with his six championship points. Three months later, when the season ended in Casablanca, he won the title by the margin of a single point from Stirling.
Many of us at CMC came to know Stirling over the years and whenever we did meet him it was a pleasure In 2004 it was decided to do a revival meeting at the famous Grand Prix circuit at Aintree, Liverpool. Our Chairman, Peter Nuemark was then the owner of famous 250F Maserati number 2527, which Stirling had driven in the 1957 Argentinian Grand Prix and offered it to Stirling to drive again. “It was a Sunday and a very cold day. We had to lift Stirling into the car and he shot off round the circuit over what was left of the track some of it extremely bumpy. It was a fast run and brought back many memories, but Stirling had one comment. ‘Those F……..brakes they nearly killed me.’”
Nigel Woodward our Managing Director only met Stirling once when he kindly signed a 1953 DB3S that he drove 1956 and which Nigel had restored 60 years later. But he impressed Nigel with his willingness to engage and chat even though he was already unwell, but he remembered the car.
I worked with Stirling on a number of projects over the years including the opening of a classic car showroom on the outskirts of Bradford. We found a D-Type and asked Stirling if he would come up to Bradford run the car through the town. He readily agreed, and the local police agreed to give him a blue light escort. It started off sedately enough with a police car in front and one behind but steadily got faster as Stirling pushed the car in front and the one behind had to go faster to catch up. Being behind the second police car, I couldn’t help noticing that several speed cameras had gone off not only capturing him but me as well! We had a successful opening, but Stirling didn’t think we had driven fast enough. However just before he was leaving to get the train back to London, we had a conversation about the “speeding tickets” that might arrive on the doormat over the next few days. Stirling approached the police traffic inspector who had run the convoy and was very pleased to be told that any tickets would be torn up.
On another occasion a team from Octane and I had arranged for a D-Type to race the Orient Express from London to Venice. On the morning of the day that we were to set off we took the car and the team to Stirling’s house in Shepherds market in London. I explained to him that we would leave Victoria at exactly the same time as the train and see which would get to Venice first, the car driving not stop during the night through France. “You’re going to be wrecked at the end of that run” said Stirling until I explained that the owner of the car, Jonathan Turner and well-known journalist Robert Coucher would be driving. I would be on the train with a glass of champagne. I always remember his grin and comment – “good man”.
We send our condolences to Lady Susie Moss as we remember a great driver, a great ambassador for the UK and a great man.