Today the world motorsport feels greatly the death of one of its legends. At 90 years of age, Sir Stirling Moss leaves a huge legacy. In Formula 1 he was runner-up four years in a row, from 1955 to 1958. His talent was incredible as was his personality, being admired and praised by his rivals. Unfortunately he became a ‘champion without a crown’.
If Stirling Moss had followed the wishes of his parents, the English born in London on September 17, 1929 and raised in Berkshire, would not have piloted but would have been in a conference room, since the wish of his parents Alfred and Aileen Moss was a dentist, just like them. However, Stirling dreamed of a career as a pilot. This vision was also inspired by his parents’ respectable successes on racing circuits in England and North America, as well as rally and skill competitions.
Moss’s first encounter behind the wheel of a car occurred at the family farm when he was only six years old. He obtained his driver’s license thanks to a special permit at the age of 15. By then, I had already decided that I wanted to become a professional racing driver. In 1948, Moss bought a Cooper 500 racing car and participated in his first race in the British 500cc Formula (Formula 3). He was assisted by the German mechanic Donat Müller, who worked on the farm as a prisoner of war. Moss competed in 15 races, taking the checkered flag in twelve of them. It was the dizzying start of an international career.
In 1949, he was already competing in Formula 2 as a member of the British HWM team, winning the Madgwick Cup at Goodwood in a Cooper T9 on September 17. He became a British Formula 2 champion in 1949 and 1950. The 20-year-old racing driver was not only making his mark on the track: Moss was one of the first professional drivers at the time to become boss, taking charge of his commitments and rates. As such, the British became a pioneer in making motorsports a professional sport. In 1950 Moss took the Tourist Trophy in a privately owned Jaguar XK 120, surpassing even Jaguar’s own race cars. The following year he would lead this team.
Moss piloting the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR (W 196 S) at the Mille Miglia in 1955.
He made his F1 debut at the 1951 Swiss GP driving an HWN. His Formula 2 results caught the attention of Enzo Ferrari, who placed him in one of his cars for the 1951 Bari GP. When Mosso arrived in Puglia after a memorable journey, he discovered that his car had been designated as Piero Taruffi. . The 21-year-old Moss back then was furious and returned home vowing he would never pilot her for the Scuderia.
In 1953 his manager Ken Gregory approached Alfred Neubauer, the racing director of the former Daimler-Benz AG, to ask him about the possibility of hiring Moss. Neubauer had certainly heard of the Brit, but the team’s lineup had already been completed for Mercedes-Benz’s return to F1 racing in 1954. Moss’s successes in racing also seemed too new for Mercedes-Benz to expect a series of results over a long period.
So Moss entered Formula 1 in his own Maserati 250 F in 1954. The private team “Equipe Moss” would later become “Stirling Moss Limited”. Among his triumphs in 1954 was third place at the Belgian Grand Prix. And at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, Moss faced an exciting head-to-head duel with Juan Manuel Fangio, the best Mercedes-Benz driver: Moss remained in the lead, 10 seconds ahead of Fangio, until the last few twelve turns then an oil pipeline broke in the Maserati; the failure immediately left him on the floor. Fangio won, but paid Moss the final tribute, declaring Moss the true winner of the race. Despite his limited options as a private pilot, Moss finished the season in thirteenth place. English fans cheered him on during his victories, and a wax figure of the 25-year-old racing driver took pride of place at the Madame Tussaud wax museum in London.
Stirling Moss win at the British GP in 1955, followed by Juan Manuel Fangio.
Meanwhile, Moss has earned a reputation for hitting his racing cars. However, for the British, the racing car was primarily a powerful tool that allowed him to cross the line as fast as possible. In the next season, this car would carry the Mercedes star and be painted silver. The talented British pilot had left a strong impression on Alfred Neubauer. After a series of successful test drives, Neubauer enrolled him on the Mercedes-Benz task force for the 1955 season in December 1954. Back home, Moss was widely criticized by certain quarters for joining a team. German racing car, and the most successful of the moment. However, the disapproval of the public did not influence the ambitious racing driver, and he entered a total of 17 races in the W 196 R Formula 1, which was so successful in 1954, and in the new 300 SLR.
Moss debuted in Formula 1 at the W 196 R at the Argentine Grand Prix on January 16, 1955, where he was fourth with Hans Herrmann and Karl Kling. The highlight of the season was his victory at the British Grand Prix at Aintree on July 16, ahead of teammate Juan Manuel Fangio. In two other Formula 1 races in 1955 (Belgian Grand Prix, Dutch Grand Prix), Moss crossed the finish line second behind Fangio and finished the season as runner-up.
However, the Brit was really at his time in 1955 when the 300 SLR was developed especially for the season. Mercedes-Benz was still using the W 196 R chassis equipped with the 3-liter engine of the 300 SLR (W 196 S) for the Buenos Aires Grand Prix on January 30, 1955. The 300 SLR debuted at the Mille Miglia from 30 April to May 1, 1955. Moss won the 1000-mile race with his co-driver Denis Jenkinson at the best moment in Mille Miglia’s history. Moss also won the Tourist Trophy in Dundrod (Northern Ireland) and the Targa Florio in Sicily in the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR.
Moss and Fangio with Mille Miglia’s Mercedes 300 SLR (W 196 S) and F1’s W 196 R.
Moss brought home the World Sports Car Championship in 1955 for the Stuttgart-based brand. However, Mercedes-Benz retired from active racing after this successful season, and Moss continued his career with other racing teams, initially at Maserati. In the following years, Stirling Moss drove race cars for teams such as Vanwall, Cooper, Porsche, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lotus, and B.R.M. He constantly proved himself to be a world-class driver who achieved numerous victories and excellent results in Formula 1 and sports car racing.
The final part of Moss’ career saw him compete in a Lotus for his friend Rob Walker, who was also heavily involved in sports cars. In fact, with this team, Moss drove several races for Ferrari in several sporadic but winning appearances in 1957, taking the win at the Nassau Trophy Race in the Bahamas in a Scuderia Temple Buell 290 MM, and in 1958, with victory at the Cuban GP, at the wheel of Luigi Chinetti at 335 Sport. In 1960 Moss piloted a Ferrari 250 GT SWB winning the Goodwood Tourist Trophy, the Redex Trophy at Brands Hatch, and the Nassau Trophy Race.
Stirling Moss piloting the Ferrari 250 GT SWB.
More wins followed in ’61 at the British Empire Trophy, the Peco Trophy and again at Nassau and the Tourist Trophy. The victories in a Ferrari and Walker’s relationship with Enzo Ferrari led to an agreement that should have finally seen Moss driving a Formula 1 Ferrari under the Walker team banner in 1962. That year, Moss’ sports car season had a great start with a win at the Bank Holiday Trophy at Brands Hatch and a win at Daytona 3 hours as usual behind the wheel of the 250 GT SWB.
Sadly, the world would never see Moss racing a Formula 1 Ferrari, as he was seriously injured in a terrible accident, behind the wheel of a Lotus, during the Glover Trophy at Goodwood. He left Moss in a coma and after testing a race car in the spring of 1963, he decided to withdraw from racing.
In his sports career he achieved 222 victories in 495 races in which he participated, in less than 84 different car models. This versatility underlines the immense prestige enjoyed by this motorsport legend, as one of the best drivers of his time.
Stirling Moss and Lewis Hamilton with the F1 Mercedes: W 196 R from 1954 and W04 from 2013.
Stirling Moss, who was knighted by the Queen in 1999, also maintained close ties to different brands and categories, even after the end of his career. With Mercedes-Benz he had an ambassadorial role.
In 2015, the Mercedes team paid tribute to him at Monza. There he was with Lewis Hamilton hanging around with the cars of the time.