Sir Stirling Moss – the man who proudly acknowledges the title of the greatest driver never to have won a World Championship – is celebrating his 81st birthday.
Fresh from his recoveries after tumbling down his elevator shaft at the beginning of the year, a still sprightly Stirling recently graced the F1 grid at the British Grand Prix, and was present on the podium at the end of the race.
A brilliantly versatile driver, Moss was a poet of a driver at the wheel of almost any type of racing car, excelling in Grands Prix and endurance racing alike.
The son of a dentist who dabbled in racing, Moss started down the motorsport path in 1947, cutting his teeth (no pun intended) in Formula 500 before winning the 1950 Tourist Trophy in a Jaguar XJK120.
His Anglophile nature kept him in British cars for the few seasons of F1, but he eventually bit the bullet and purchased a Maserati 250F to improve his results.
The effect was immediate, and Stirling found himself hired by Mercedes-Benz to partner Juan-Manuel Fangio, before moving onto the Vanwall outfit, then Rob Walker’s Cooper and Lotus cars – all three constructors became pivotal in breaking the monopoly of F1 then held by the continental teams.
Allied with a great sense of humour and a taste for ‘”chasing crumpet”, Moss’ sense of fair play was always evident when racing. It was this sporting attitude that cost him the 1958 World Championship to Mike Hawthorn – who won a single race to Moss’ four that year – by one point, when he stood up for his compatriot in a stewards’ hearing at the Portuguese Grand Prix that could have resulted in Hawthorn losing points he had rightly earned.
Moss’ potentially lengthy career came to an end at Easter in 1962, when his Lotus left the Goodwood circuit at high speed and he suffered major head injuries. Incredibly, he survived, but rushed his recovery and got behind the wheel too quickly – a fact he readily admits today. Allayed by doubts that he was no longer competitive, he abruptly retired, and the world has forever wondered if he could indeed have secured the elusive title if he allowed himself that little bit more time…
[Original images via The Cahier Archive]