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Friday, June 10, 2011

"It's official the white Patey helmet has been hung up for good...

...Stirling Moss has retired from competitive racing." These were the words of Sir Stirling Moss to his twitter fans informing him of his retirement from racing at the age of 81.

Moss epitomised the spirit of motor-racing believing that how you raced was as important as the final result.

He began his F1 career with HWM, a small team based in a garage in Walton-on-Thames, in 1951 and retired after a heavy crash in a Lotus at Goodwood in 1962.  Over the course of 11 years he raced in a number of great and evocative F1 cars such as Connaught, Cooper, Vanwall, BRM, Mercedes Benz, Maserati, Lotus, and drove alongside some of the greats of the sport, of which he is one, such as Fangio, Peter Collins, Mike Hawthorne, Phil Hill, Von Trips, Dan Guerney, Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Innes Ireland, Bruce McLaren, etc.

He is often regarded as the best driver never to win a world driver's championship but probably should have won the 1958 title with 4 wins that year.  He lost out to Mike Hawthorne by 1 point.

The story goes that Hawthorne was going to be penalised in Portugal for restarting his stalled car by bump-starting it down the hill, against the oncoming race traffic but Moss defended Hawthorne's manoeuvre to the race stewards on the basis that he himself had shouted the advice to Hawthorne.  Moss won the race and Hawthorne came second claiming 6 points.  Hawthorne was the first British World Champion - if things had been different...

I just can't picture any of the modern era guys doing that - Maybe Barrichello, Webbo, Button...maybe.  I'd think the last drivers that you could guarantee would do it would have been the late '80's early '90's guys.  the pre-Schumi group, but that might just be wishful thinking on my part.

Apparently, Enzo Ferrari told Moss that he would build him whatever car he wanted if he would race for Ferrari in 1962 but after the crash at Goodwood Moss was in a coma for a month and spent the rest of the year recovering.  He returned to Goodwood in 1963 but came into the pits almost immediately and announced his retirement.

What can you say about a man who was a renowned master of the Mille Miglia (when it really was a race) and the Nurburgring 1000 km and won the 1957 GP on the Pescara Circuit, the longest ever GP circuit at 16 miles.

Long before my interest in F1, when I was but a child, I read about the Mille Miglia and in my head (whether or not it's true) I associate Moss with that part of the story which remains with me - even though I can't remember the book it was in.  That story refers to Moss? in second place, with darkness falling rapidly, racing towards the finish line without lights so that the leader (Fangio?) wouldn't be aware that he was catching up rapidly, and overtaking him with only a couple of km to go to win the race.  It was a real Boy's Own adventure story and had me racing up and down the drive on my homemade cart with that dangerous image in my head - If only my mother had known!

Moss returned to racing in the BTCC in 1980 unsuccessfully, and has been a regular competitor in historic racing events ever since.  In announcing his retirement during qualifying for the Le Mans Legends race he said "I was frightened before I even got in the car. This afternoon I scared myself and I have always said that if I felt I was not up to it or that I was getting in the way of fellow competitors, then I would retire. I love racing, but now it is time to stop."

For a full biography and all kinds of interesting info about Sir Stirling Moss visit his website.

Thanks for the racing and the attitude - "To me now racing is - the dangers are taken away: if it's difficult, they put in a chicane. So really now the danger is minimal - which is good, because people aren't hurt. But for me the fact that I had danger on my shoulder made it much more exciting" (I'll leave the rest of the quote out!).