Sir Stirling Moss has died aged 90
April 13 2020 , 4:24 pm
Sir Stirling Moss, who has died aged 90, personified motorsport to at least two generations of his countrymen after establishing himself as the greatest racing driver of his era in a short but stellar career.
Moss raced in Formula 1 in the sport’s romantic age of the 1950s and early 1960s, winning 16 grands prix. Yet despite his rivals at the time acknowledging he was the best, he never won the World Championship.
Partly, that was to do with bad luck – poor reliability certainly hurt him in the two seasons he should have won the title, in 1958-59.
Partly, it was because of his determination to drive for English, privateer teams, particularly the one run by his friend Rob Walker.
And partly because of a racing driver’s determination to put victory before all else.
Moss’ failure to win the drivers’ World Championship reflects not at all on his ability, and only on the fact that the sport’s greatest prize depends at least as much on a driver’s machinery as it does his talent, and therefore can never be the only gauge of their ability.
In Moss’ case, there was never any doubt how good he was. From 1948 to his enforced retirement in 1962, Moss won 212 of the 529 races he entered across all motorsport categories. Of those who raced against him, only the greats Juan Manuel Fangio and Jim Clark were comparable, and the careers of Moss and Clark only briefly coincided.
Fangio was different – for the two were rivals for six years in the 1950s, and team-mates for one.
Some observers claim Moss was better even than Fangio. Like Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Tazio Nuvolari, each man has advocates who believe he was the greatest racing driver of all time.
Over Easter weekend in 1962, he was driving at Goodwood when he was badly injured in a crash, the cause of which is unknown to this day.
He was in a coma for a month, the left-hand side of his body partially paralysed for six, and it was a year before he tried a comeback.
In a private test session, also at Goodwood, he discovered that while he could still produce the lap times, his concentration had gone and he sadly announced his retirement.
Moss will be remembered for far more than his F1 career. There were many great victories in races elsewhere, but none as impressive as one that has come to define his career as much as any of his grand prix wins.
Moss set about making a career out of being Stirling Moss, and hugely successful he was at it, too.
Moss lived to the end of his life in his house in Mayfair, fitted with any number of innovations that befitted a James Bond movie of the 1970s.
Even into his 80s, 50 years after his enforced retirement, he remained a public figure, his view regularly sought on matters of the day in Formula 1.
In 2016, Moss suffered a chest infection while in hospital in Singapore and spent 134 days in hospital. He was eventually able to return home, but his slow recovery from the illness forced him to withdraw from public life.
Moss’ name continued to resonate, those two words conjuring up the idea of motorsport like almost nothing else, a measure of the impact he made.
He is survived by his third wife, Susie, their son Elliot, and daughter Allison from an earlier marriage.