Sir Stirling Moss Passes Away At 90
Tributes have been pouring in this morning to honour, Sir Stirling Moss, one of motorsport’s true all-round ‘maestros’.
The announcement was made earlier this morning that Sir Stirling, often considered the greatest driver never to win the Formula 1 World Championship, has succumbed to long-term illness. He was 90 years old.
Born in West Kensington, London, on 17 September 1929 to Aileen and Alfred Moss, the latter a gentleman driver himself, Sir Stirling Moss wrote himself firmly into motorsport’s record books by winning 16 of the 66 Grand Prix he competed at between 1951 and 1961, as well as his rostrum spots at Le Mans , his overall win at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1954, and his Mille Miglia exploits among many, many others. His win at the 1955 Mille Miglia, alongside noted motorsport scribe Dennis Jenkinson, is often regarded as one of the most daring the event has ever seen.
Having first made his name in motor racing’s vast circles in the post-war Formula 5000cc series in 1948, unsurprisingly, winning the British championship twice along the way, Sir Stirling somewhat inevitably made the jump to Formula 1 Grand Prix racing in 1951. Albeit with a loan entry at the season-opening Swiss GP at which the future motorsport colossus finished a solid 8th in an HWM 51.
After claiming his maiden F1 podium at the previous year’s Belgian Grand Prix – still held at the notoriously dangerous 14km Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in those days – Sir Stirling joined the all-conquering Daimler Grand Prix outfit for 1955 to begin his full-time Grand Prix career in earnest. Thus also began a two-year rivalry, and close friendship, with teammate, and five-time World Champion, Juan Manuel Fangio. Despite the great Argentine’s limited English and Sir Stirling’s even rustier Spanish.
In his first full F1 campaign, Sir Stirling finished 2nd twice to Fangio at Belgium and the Netherlands before taking his maiden Grand Prix win, fittingly, at that year’s British Grand Prix at Aintree. Victory was all but assured at that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans too before Mercedes’ withdrawal from the event, in the wake of the hellacious accident that cost Pierre Levegh and more than 80 spectators their lives.
Second place in the standings in 1955 was the first of four consecutive runners-up spots for Sir Stirling Moss in Formula 1, the great Briton finishing 3rd three times thereafter to truly cement his legacy. Easily the most famous of these campaigns was in 1958, when Sir Stirling Moss won four Grand Prix for Cooper and Vanwall – including his now famous win at Monaco against the mighty Ferraris – and looked set to take the championship, only for him to speak as a witness against the disqualification of his nearest championship rival, Mike Hawthorn. It was a decision that ultimately cost Sir Stirling that year’s title, but spoke volumes as to the competitive spirit of the man.
After more than a decade, 16 Grand Prix wins, a further 19 non-championship victories, and innumerable sports car honours, Sir Stirling’s Grand Prix career came to a violent end at the age of 32 at the Glover Trophy at Goodwood in his now infamous accident aboard a Lotus Climax in April 1962. Also, bizarrely, Easter weekend of that year.
Though badly injured, Sir Stirling Moss survived the impact, and has since been honoured at almost every Festival of Speed held at the venue since then.
Returns would later come, most notably in one-off outings at the Bathurst 1000 during the 1970s, and an abortive run with Audi in the British Touring Car Championship in 1980 and 1981. Sir Stirling would later hang up his helmet for good after a historic car race at Le Mans in 2011, retiring from public life altogether in January 2018.
Sir Stirling Moss is survived by his wife, Lady Suzy, his daughter Allison Bradley and son Elliot Moss, to whom everyone at Petrolicious sends their sincerest condolences. Those who were present the day the great man was reunited with the Mercedes-Benz SLR in 2015 will treasure the memories.
*Images courtesy of Stirling Moss LTD, and Daimler via Mercedes-Benz Classic Centre