I recently caught up with one of Motorsport’s truest greats, Sir Stirling Moss to discuss his amazing career, Juan Manuel Fangio and what it was like growing up in WWII.
1. Before you became a professional racing driver, what was it like growing up as a teenager in WW2?
WELL TO ME IT WAS EXCITING, ESPECIALLY THE DOODLEBUGS! ALSO MY DAD WAS PART OF WHAT THEY CALLED THE UPPER THAMES PATROL. OUR HOUSE BACKED ON TO THE RIVER AND EVERY TIME THE SIRENS WENT OFF HE WOULD GO UP AND DOWN THE RIVER IN OUR BOAT WHICH WAS NAMED KELPE II TO LOOK OUT FOR PARACHUTISTS WHO MAY HAVE LANDED. IN RETURN HE GOT EXTRA PETROL, WHICH CERTAINLY HELPED US WITH THE RACING!
2. What was it like making your F1 debut at the 1951 Swiss GP against the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari?
VERY FULFILLING TO GET THERE AFTER ALL THE HARD WORK I HAD PUT IN DRIVING IN EVERY OTHER TYPE OF RACING AND HILL CLIMBS ETC. I ENJOY DRIVING IN THE WET AND DURING FIRST PRACTICE IT RAINED, SO I GOT POLE. HOWEVER THE NEXT DAY IT WAS DRY SO MY PRIVATELY OWNED DRIVE COULDN’T COMPETE WITH THE FACTORY CARS.
3. In 1955, you partnered Juan Manuel Fangio at Mercedes for a year before the team withdrew from racing due to the tragic events of that year’s Le Mans. How special was it working alongside the first real star of F1?
HE WAS A GENTLEMAN, BOTH ON AND OFF THE TRACK. MY ONLY REGRET WAS THAT WE COULDN’T COMMUNICATE AS EASILY AS WE WOULD HAVE LIKED TO, AS HE DIDN’T SPEAK ENGLISH AND I DON’T SPEAK SPANISH. WE BOTH SPOKE A BIT OF ITALIAN AND FRENCH SO WE TRIED THAT. HE DIDN’T NEED WORDS TO CHAT UP THE GIRLS THOUGH, AS HE WOULD USE HIS EYES!
4. Over 50 years later, do you now regret helping Mike Hawthorn get reinstated in the classification at the 1958 Portuguese GP not realising that it would cost you your first world championship by a sole point in a year when the top 5 in the world championship standings were all British?
NO, NOT IN THE LEAST. I CERTAINLY DID REALISE IT WOULD MEAN HE WOULD PIP ME BY ONE POINT, BUT HE DIDN’T DESERVE TO BE DISQUALIFIED AND SO I ONLY DID WHAT WAS PROPER.
5. How tough was it retiring from F1 after a crash at Goodwood in 1962 which effectively brought your career to a premature end?
VERY. I SHOULD HAVE WAITED ANOTHER YEAR BEFORE TESTING MYSELF, BUT THE PRESS MADE IT VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME TO IGNORE THE CONSTANT PRESSURE OF THEIR ENQUIRIES AS TO WHEN AND IF I WOULD RETURN.
6. Away from F1, you competed in the Le Mans, Sebring and Reims endurance events. How tough was it adapting from the old F1 cars to the endurance sportscars?
NO PROBLEM! IT CAME NATURALLY TO ME TO DRIVE ANYTHING. I DROVE 108 DIFFERENT CARS THROUGHOUT MY CAREER.
7. Which racing car and track is your favourite to have driven throughout your amazing career?
THE BEST CAR I HAVE EVER DRIVEN IS THE MERCEDES-BENZ 300SLR. AND MY FAVOURITE CIRCUIT IS THE NORDSCHLEIFE, THE OLD NURBURGRING IN GERMANY.
8. How special is it being known as Sir Stirling Moss rather than Stirling Moss O.B.E which you held for 41 years before being knighted as a Sir?
I FEEL VERY PROUD!!
9. Finally, which driver on the current grid do you feel replicates your racing style the closest?
Sir Stirling Moss in the Mercedes Benz 300SLR with Claude the parrot at Pebble Beach, 2011.
With special thanks to Sir Stirling Moss for taking the time to generously answer my questions.