Legendary Ladies Of Motorsport: Pat Moss
If you’re going to call in sick, do it like Ann Wisdom did and win the 1960 Liege-Rome-Liege rally while you’re pretending to be lying in your deathbed. The win was a double-edged sword. Bad: her boss saw a photograph of her and the driver, Pat Moss in a motoring magazine. Good: Wisdom swapped slow office work for a life in the fast lane. Ironically, Ann really had been sick during the week, although entirely due to Pat’s speed, “I would say to Pat, ‘I’m going to be sick’,” said Wisdom. “She would grab hold of me so I could open the door. It was a problem.”
Pat Moss was the daughter of race car drivers Alfred and Aileen Moss and kid sister to Stirling Moss. While speed was certainly in her blood, Pat was keener on four legs rather than four wheels to begin with. As, in fact, was her older brother. She became well known as a successful show-jumper, competing for the British show jumping team. A passion for horse riding would stay with Pat throughout her life.
Dating her brother’s manager Ken Gregory added another string to her bow when he introduced her to rally driving. After two years of driving in club rallies during which time she continued to compete in show-jumping, Pat bought a Triumph TR2 from her winnings of her equestrian pursuits. She approached Triumph to sponsor her fledgling career as a rally driver. They turned her down. Instead it was MG who would support a career that possibly did more for the visibility of women in motor-racing than any other.
In 1995 the RAC rally was an epic event. It spanned much of Great Britain, barely resembling the rather truncated version of today. While Pat didn’t win the Ladies’ class, her performance attracted the attention of the British Motoring Corporation’s competition manager who arranged for her to compete in the Tulip Rally of that year in an MG Magnette.
The rest of the 50s saw Pat piloting a variety of cars in many rallies. But it was the Liege-Sofia-Liege rally that would reveal Pat’s mettle. In 1958 she made history by finishing the Liège epic in fourth place in an Austin Healey 100/6. No woman had ever come in the top ten. Her finishing position secured enough points to win the Ladies’ European championship.
1960 marked the beginning of a real winning streak for the diminutive driver. Finishing eight for the Geneva and Tulip rallies and second for the Coupe des Alpes, Pat won the Liège outright. This was an outstanding achievement in itself but made more remarkable by what Pat was driving. The Big Healey was not an obvious choice for a rally car. Yet she made it work. Over 40 years later, she saw the same car auctioned in London for £155,000, a tremendous amount for a car at the time.
In 1962 Pat finished the RAC Rally 2nd and 3rd at the East African Safari Rally. In 1963 she and Ann Riley won the Netherlands Tulip Rally in a Mini Cooper. Pat described the car as “twitchy, and pretty unruly on the limit.” That year she also joined Ford of Britain, placing 6th at the Acropolis Rally in her Lotus-tuned Ford Cortina and married fellow rally driver Erik Carlsson. Together they would compete in 11 international rallies. Their most notable achievements were coming 3rd at the Acropolis rally, 4th at the Liège-Sofia-Liège and the RAC Rally and at the Monte Carlo Rally they came 5th and 3rd in 1964 and 1965 respectively.
By 1968, things were beginning to slow down. Moss moved from Saab where her husband was to Lancia to drive the new Fulvia. The car had a strong understeer which did not suit her driving. Nevertheless she came 2nd at the Rally Sanremo, losing out to Pauli Toivonen who drove a Porsche 911. In December 1969 she and Erik became parents to Susan. Pat became less active on the rallying circuit but still managed to squeeze in joining Renault Alpine to place 10th in her Alpine A110 before eventually retiring from rallying in 1974.
Susan was to rekindled Pat’s original passion for horses. Her daughter was also a gifted horsewoman, competing in showjumping. Pat kept horses (and a Mini Cooper in its original green livery). Towards the end of her life she and her husband lived close to their daughter. She died from cancer on 14 October 2008, though not before collecting a speeding ticket while towing a horse-box.