2015 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance Honors
Sir Striling Moss, OBE
Sir Stirling Moss is still considered the first true professional racing driver. A teenage Formula 3 prodigy, his name is on the shortest, most honored and revered list in motorsport alongside grand masters Fangio, Nuvolari and Senna. He is the son of two credentialed motoring figures; Stirling’s father Alfred raced in the Indianapolis 500 finishing 14th in 1924. His mother, Aileen, was a trials competitor in the 1930s.
In 1949 Moss was awarded the first of ten BRDC (British Racing Drivers Club) Gold Stars at the age of 20! His driving talent extend beyond the track with a victory in the Coupe des Alpes in the Alpine Rally driving a Sunbeam Talbot.
Victory for Jaguar in the 1953 Reims 12 Hours was his first long distance international sports car success. Moss’ first trip to America in 1954 brought victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring in an underdog 1600cc OSCA. Driving the last hours of the race with no brakes Moss coaxed the little OSCA to a four lap victory over the favored three-car Lancia factory team.
Later that year, a Maserati 250F was the platform for Moss’ earliest F1 victories. That brought the brilliant young Londoner to the attention of none other than Alfred Neubauer, manager of the legendary Mercedes-Benz team who hired Moss for both the 1955 Formula 1 Championship and the new Mercedes World Sports Car Championship team.
Moss didn’t disappoint. Neither was his brilliance overshadowed by his older teammate, reigning F1 World Champion Juan Fangio. Stirling’s first World Championship victory for Mercedes came in the opening race of the 1955 Sports Car World Championship season, the Mille Miglia, the grueling 1000 mile lap of Italy. The record Moss set 60 years ago still stands. Moss won the Sports Car World Championship for Mercedes-Benz in the final round of the title season in Sicily at the Targa Florio. It was his and Mercedes’ third win of the ’55 Sports Car Championship season. Moss won every Mercedes-Benz victory of the 1955 Sports Car World Championship season.
The 1955 season was racing’s darkest year, but Moss’ achievements were the bright spots of that benighted season. In July he won his first World Championship Formula 1 race, his home Grand Prix at Aintree, England in Mercedes’ W196 grand prix racer, the open wheel sister ship to his World Championship 300SLR sports car. He finished second to teammate Juan Fangio in the drivers’ F1 World Championship. Mercedes-Benz retired from racing at the end of the 1955 season and Stirling joined Maserati.
The 1956 season started well with victory in Monaco with Maserati’s elegant 250F. The year ended with a second Moss victory for Maserati at Monza in the Italian Grand Prix. Again, he finished second to Fangio in the F1 World Championship.
Moss’ innate patriotism found him in a British car for the 1957 F1 season. Vanwall was the first serious British threat for the Formula 1 World Championship and Moss won the British, Italian and Pescara Grands Prix. Again, he was second to Fangio and the heir apparent for the world title when Fangio, the 47 year old maestro, Moss’ 1955 Mercedes teammate, announced his retirement.
Moss’ contract with the Vanwall F1 team nearly left him without a seat in the 1958 World Championship’s opening race in Argentina. A drive in a privately entered Cooper netted Moss his seventh career World Championship F1 win. Significantly, it was the first win for nascent Grand Prix power Cooper.
The Moss/Vanwall combination looked like a sure bet for the 1958 Formula 1 World Championship and the Londoner and the dark green cars were constantly at the sharp end of the racing season. Victory in Holland, Portugal and Morocco were not enough to overcome the odd FIA points scoring rules. But Mike Hawthorn won the 1958 World Championship by a single point the day Moss won the season finale’ in Morocco.
It was ultimately Moss’ inborn sense of fair play that cost him the 1958 World Championship that October afternoon. Mike Hawthorn finished second in his Ferrari, but race officials considered disqualifying the tall Englishman over a minor, practically meaningless rules infraction. Moss actually argued in favor of his World Championship rival and countryman! His argument prevailed. His reward was to lose the World Championship by a single point. Mike Hawthorn won the title and promptly retired from racing as Britain’s first World Champion. The international governing body of Formula 1 changed the rules and regulations governing championship scoring for the 1959 season.
Moss was back in another British car for the 1959 season. The rear-engine revolution had changed the face and pace of Formula 1. This time it was the dark blue Cooper of Rob Walker, the gent who provided Moss’ winning ride in the 1958 Argentine GP. He also won the Italian and Portuguese Grands Prix in Walker’s Cooper.
Stirling was in another British car for the World Sports Car Championship. Victory with epic drives in the 1000 Kilometers of the Nurburgring and the championship-deciding Tourist Trophy for Aston Martin. In December Moss had to wait until the final race of the F1 season at Sebring, FL to decide the F1 World Championship. A Cooper won the race, but it was the dark green factory racer of Jack Brabham that won the title.
Moss stayed with Rob Walker for 1960, this time with the new British Lotus. The Moss/Walker/Lotus combo won the Monaco Grand Prix from the pole; his second Monaco GP victory. On June 18 a hideous accident on Formula 1’s bloodiest weekend took Moss out of action and the battle for the World Championship at the Belgian Grand Prix on the ultra-fast 8.761 mile Spa circuit. Moss’ injuries were complex and compound but his fitness and ruthless determination found him back in the cockpit of Walker’s blue Lotus for the Portuguese Grand Prix in August. A superb fifth place was nullified by the stewards who claimed Moss had violated the same rule -- rolling anti-race direction to start his stalled racer -- that nearly cost Hawthorn the world title in Morocco two years earlier.
This time there was no one to argue for Moss. He was disqualified for the same infraction that nearly cost Hawthorn the championship in 1958. There was a small measure of revenge from him in the 1960 season finale at Riverside, CA in the Grand Prix of the United States. A clean victory from the pole ended the 1960 season and the glamorous 2.5 liter F1 era that had seen Stirling rise to the pinnacle of the sport, if not the championship. Beyond his 1960 F1 successes, Moss won the 1000 Km of the Nurburgring (again) and Cuban Grand Prix in a Birdcage Maserati, the Tourist Trophy in Rob Walker’s Ferrari 250GT, the Pacific Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, the Swedish Grand Prix in the new Lotus 19 sports car and the Watkins Glen Formula Libre race with Walker’s Lotus 18.
A rules change for the 1961 season brought less powerful cars to F1. No matter. Moss scored his third Monaco Grand Prix win from the pole to open the Formula 1 World Championship season. To this day people speak of his victory over the Ferrari team at Monaco and the Nurburgring in the German Grand Prix with a reserved awe. It was a combination of experience, superb race craft and Moss’ extraordinary natural gifts that prevailed over superior horsepower, numbers and speed. No one knew that summer that Moss’ greatest F1 triumph would be his last. He won the 1961 Tourist Trophy again in Walker’s blue Ferrari just for good measure, listening to the BBC’s race broadcast on the Ferrari’s radio.
His final season started just as the previous year had: more victories in the aging Lotus. Then, in April, the Glover Trophy at Goodwood. What happened and why still hasn’t been explained. Moss’ Lotus 18/21 propelled by the powerful new Climax V-8 engine crashed at St. Mary’s corner. His physical recovery was slow. Physically healed, he returned to the cockpit of a Lotus sports car to determine if he was still the same Stirling Moss. He found his edge blunted. His once superb, often eerie, reflexes were slowed, his instincts muted. With great but quiet regret, Moss stepped from the cockpit. Almost at once motorsport sport was gifted with one of its greatest, most articulate and heavily credentialed spokesmen and ambassadors. He became an articulate fixture and commentator at Formula 1 and World Championship sports car races; Johnson’s Wax hired him to be the commissioner of the big-purse Can-Am series. His opinion and analysis was in great universal demand.
Moss continued racing in vintage and historic events and he finally left the cockpit in a new century after . . . .“scaring the s--- out of myself” at Le Mans not long ago. By then he was 79 and occasionally walking with the aid of a cane. But when he exited the cockpit of his OSCA to hand over to co-driver Roger Earl, instinct and Moss’ natural competitiveness took over: Sir Stirling pushed the little red racer lustily away from this pits as if the year was 1959, not 2009. (For the record, the British duo scored a third-in-class at the 2009 Le Mans Motor Racing Legends.)
Sir Stirling was Amelia’s first honoree in 1996. We are grateful and humbled that he has chosen to return to Amelia Island to launch our third decade of automotive art, beauty and excellence as only motorsport’s most articulate immortal can.
- 16 World Championship Formula 1 victories
- 16 non-Championship Formula 1 victories 1954-1961
- 12 World Sports Car Championship Victories 1953-1961
- Winner, 1954 12 Hours of Sebring
- Winner, 1955 Mille Miglia
- Scored the first World Championship Formula 1 victories for Vanwall (with Tony Brooks) Cooper and Lotus
- Married - Lady Susie Moss
- B: London, England, Sept 17, 1929
- Domiciled: London, England
- Lucky race number: 7