Sir Stirling Moss and His Sterling Reputation

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Mille Miglia (Brescia / Italy), May 1, 1955. Drivers team: The later winners Stirling Moss / Denis Jenkinson during the start preparations on Mercedes-Benz race car type 300 SLR. Photo courtesy of Daimler AG.

Channeling the Most Iconic Single Day’s Drive

Sir Stirling Moss is known by fans around the world as a legendary Formula One race driver with an impressive and extensive record on racing. Out of the 375 competitive races he participated in throughout his career, he has won 212 of those and has driven over 107 different makes and models of cars during that time. However impressive, he is best known as the winner of the 1955 Mille Miglia in a record setting run of 10 hours, 7 minutes, and 48 seconds which has been described by British Journalist Dog Nye as, “[the] most iconic single day’s drive in motor racing history.” Today, Sir Moss is enjoying retirement and still takes part in car rallies in support of the racing community while sharing his stories of achievements and adventure.

 “Movement is Tranquility”

Read on in Via Corsa Magazine’s exclusive interview with Sir Stirling Moss

Ron-Let’s begin when you were really young, I understand that you lived in a farmhouse outside of London at around 7 or 8. How did you begin racing?

Sir Stirling Moss- My father raced, so I was brought up with competition cars around. So then of course John Heath came around and approached me and said he was going to go to Europe because in England you’re not allowed to race on the roads except on the Isle of Man and Jersey and there was no racing there. So he said I’m going to go to Europe and would I like to join him and Lance Macklin. I was the driver and we would do the races around Europe. So every weekend we would go to a race and then he’d organize his other races.

Ron- And what year would this have been?

Sir Stirling Moss- That would have been 1949.

Ron- So in 1951 I see you ran you’re first formula 1 race and then from 52’ onwards you participated in several. What was life like on the road as a Formula 1 Driver back then?

Sir Stirling Moss- Well it was different, of course there very little money around and you’d get paid starting money which you needed that so you could pay mechanics, and for the track and fuel and everything. So therefore the organizers would negotiate with you according to box office appeal in that area. I was lucky because I was very young so it gave me something to advertise, we did 50 or 60 races a year, driving around on the road from one place to another and staying in small hotels. Invariably going with John Heath and his car, he had a Citroen and we’d quite often go with him or sometimes we’d take another car.

“If everything is under control you are just not driving fast enough.”

Ron- Let’s talk a little bit about racing in Italy.

Sir Stirling Moss- Race car drivers in Italy are fairly looked up to by the public and they always have been looked up to.

Ron- Right. Let’s talk the Mille Miglia and life before, during, and after the race.

Sir Stirling Moss– We used to stay at the Count Maggi who was very pro-English an Italian Count. Count Maggi was an official but also he was behind the race and organized it. The English drivers which were usually about 50 or 60 would usually stay with him in his castle. (About practicing beforehand for the Mille Miglia) you see to do one lap in the Mille Miglia in normal running would take at least two days you know because it was 500 miles in a day and you start at 6 in the morning and go right through the day and it was pretty hard work. And I’d only do shall we say 5 laps in the year. Practicing and making road notes and things.

“I’m not a driver, I’m a racer.”

Ron- During the actual race around Italy, you would drive along secondary roads, no Autostrada.

Sir Stirling Moss– We didn’t use them and instead used ordinary roads. The amazing thing about them was that they were a 1000 miles long and the roads weren’t closed and of course the Italians were so keen they kept on the roads as much as they could. And there were a lot of trucks on the road and such that they would come up to that were going either way and the Italians would flash their lights or blow their horns at them and such and they would pull over and let you go straight-away. It’s a way of life for the Italians, they have so much enthusiasm for going fast and people would get together and say let’s take part in this event. The first car waited at 9 o’clock at night at half intervals. By the time you’d get to midnight you’d have about 180-360 cars. And then I went at 7:22 in the morning and cars had been leaving at one minute intervals so I’d be the last car you know after 400 or 600 cars. Your confidence as a drive was pretty limited so you were used to racing around in his Fiat. On the road there were no flag marshals at all, because when you pass them you’re not going to see them so there’s no point in that.