Stirling Moss: Racing Driver

Rading Stirling Moss, the Formula One driver who became known as the best driver never to win the World Championship.

Stirling Moss was born in London 1929 into a family well versed in the workings of motor racing. His father was accomplished enough to have raced at two Indianapolis events in America, and his mother had also taken ladies titles in various events, no mean feat in pre war Britain, where the mother was supposed to stay at home and look after the children.

From an early age Moss was able to test out his driving skills. By the age of nine his father had bought him an old Austin Seven to drive around the surrounding countryside. It became immediately apparent that he had caught the racing bug. But in those days racing automobiles did not pay the bills or feed the family, it was a recreational activity for those people that could afford it. Moss' father was a dentist by trade, and initially Stirling was encouraged to take up the profession himself. But to be brutally honest, he did not command the necessary academic mind to be able to do so. Instead he trained as a hotel waiter, although all the time he still pursued his desire to race cars.

To get going, Stirling Moss borrowed his father's BMW to race in, but on his eighteenth birthday he gathered together every spare penny he had, and purchased a Cooper 500 to compete in hill climbing events. It was the car of his dreams and he used it to good effect winning eleven times from fifteen starts. The talent was obviously there, and with the support of his family he made a bid to making racing motor vehicles his full time occupation.

After progressing through the ranks of Formula Three and Two, 1951 culminated in Moss being offered a Formula One drive with Ferrari. Unfortunately the offer was withdrawn, but undeterred, Moss signed for a lesser British team. Because his car was considerably slower than the leading manufacturers in Formula One, Moss didn't really make an impact. His big chance though, came in 1955.

That was the year that he teamed up with the legendary Juan Fangio for the Mercedes team, a definite possibility of the best driver pairing ever. Moss won his first Grand Prix, at Aintree in Britain, and even though Fangio had slowed and waved him through, it was obviously an excellent moment for the young British driver. Moss finished runner up to the great Fangio for the Driver's World Championship. Tragically, later that year at the Le Mans 24 Hour race, many spectators were killed in an accident that was deemed to be Mercedes fault. Team Mercedes subsequently withdrew from Formula One, and that was the end of the Moss-Fangio pairing.

Over the next five years Moss drove for Maserati and the British team Vanwall. In the years 1957-60, he finished runner up in the Drivers championship all four years, three times to the maestro himself, Fangio. He was perhaps most unlucky in 1958, when he was narrowly beaten for the title by Mike Hawthorn, when Moss had accumulated four race wins to Hawthorns one. When he finished a race, Moss regularly won.

A bad crash in 162, where Stirling Moss suffered head injuries forced him to retire. He was without doubt the best racing driver never to win a World Championship. He is considered the first racing driver to truly bridge the gap between driving merely for pleasure and driving for money. Not one to miss out on an advertising deal, he also dearly loved the sport that he competed in. Stirling Moss was knighted by the Queen in 1999.

© High Speed Ventures 2011