Sir Stirling Moss has ben described as the greatest Formula One driver to never win a World Championship. He competed in open wheel racing, sports cars, and land speed record vehicles, highlighted by a victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia, considered by many experts to be the greatest one day drive in history. He will be inducted into the British Sports Car Hall of Fame in Petersburg, Virginia on June 2nd.
Moss was born September 17, 1929, into a family where both parents involved in motorsports. His father Alfred Moss raced at Brooklands and when his studies took him to America he raced at Indy. His mother competed in various trials and rallies. Moss started motoring proper at just age nine when his father bought him an old Austin Seven in which to drive around the fields surrounding their home. The family was also involved in horses and competitive riding which saw Stirling and his sister Pat entering various horse show competitions. While his sister continued to compete with horses, Stirling preferred cars. It should be noted that in later years, Pat Moss became quite the competitor herself.
His first proper race car was a Cooper 500 which he used to compete in local hillclimbs. This car and its descendants formed the breeding grounds of future champions. In 1950 Moss got his first works team drive for HWM. Created by John Heath and George Abecassis, partners in Hersham & Walton Motors the team consisted of three four-cylinder Formula 2 cars.
His early career was meteoric, with works drives for both Jaguar and HWM. 1955 was a seminal year; he was signed by Mercedes-Benz, the famed “Silver Arrows”, to partner the legendary World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio. That year saw Stirling shadow the great Argentine in most Grands Prix, famously beating him to win the British Grand Prix at Aintree racing the Mercedes-Benz W196 Monoposto. In that same year, he also won the epic 1,000 mile Mille Miglia road race in the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR at an astonishing average speed of 97.96mph on public roads, the Targa Florio road race, again in the 300 SLR, and the Tourist Trophy at Dundrod.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he led the changeover to rear-engined Formula 1 cars with the Cooper-Climax, achieving the first victory for such a car at the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix, and was in a class of his own during this period. His victory in the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix, racing a Lotus 18 against the more powerful Ferrari’s, was his third Formula 1 victory around Principality and is still regarded as one of the best Formula 1 races ever.
Stirling drove for Rob Walker from 1958 to 1962, taking part in 93 races, finishing 70 of them with 46 first places, and also drove a Maserati in 72 races, finishing in 50 with 25 first places and 31 lap records. Out of the 375 competitive races in which he finished during his professional racing career, he won an astonishing 212, which is more than one win in two! A near-fatal accident at Goodwood in 1962 ended it all.
After retiring, Moss turned his attention to running his property business, which he still operates with his family. For many years, Moss continued to race in historic racing, his familiar White patey helmet and Blue light weight race suit being a regular feature at historic races across the globe. During qualifying for 2011 Le Mans Legends race Stirling made the decision to retire from competitive racing. He continues to demonstrate the cars he raced and take part in car rallies.
In 1990, Moss was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. In the New Year Honours 2000 List, Moss was made a Knight Bachelor for services to motor racing by Prince Charles, standing in for the Queen.
You can read more on Sir Stirling Moss through numerous biographies, such as Stirling Moss: The Definitive Biography by Philip Porter, All But My Life by Ken Purdy, and Stirling Moss: My Racing Life by Moss Simon Taylor. You can also visit websites such as Grand Prix History and Stirling Moss’s own site., from which most of this information was taken.
Note: This is part of an ongoing series focusing on the 23 individuals who will be inducted into the British Sports Car Hall of Fame in ceremonies on June 2nd, 2017, at the Hall of Fame in Petersburg, VA.