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Famous Scots. Sir Stirling Moss.


Sir Stirling Craufurd Moss, OBE (17 September 1929 – 12 April 2020) was a British Formula One racing driver. An inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, he won 212 of the 529 races he entered across several categories of competition and has been described as “the greatest driver never to win the World Championship”. In a seven-year span between 1955 and 1961 Moss finished as championship runner-up four times and in third place the other three times.

Moss died in London on 12 April 2020, aged 90, following a long illness.

Early life


Moss was born in London, son of Alfred Moss, a dentist of Bray, Berkshire, and Aileen (née Craufurd). His grandfather was Jewish, from a family that changed their surname from Moses to Moss. He was brought up at Long White Cloud house on the south bank of the River Thames. His father was an amateur racing driver who had come 16th in the 1924 Indianapolis 500. Aileen Moss had also been involved in motorsport, entering prewar hillclimbs at the wheel of a Singer Nine. Stirling was a gifted horse rider as was his younger sister, Pat Moss, who became a successful rally driver and married the Swedish rally driver Erik Carlsson.

Moss was educated at several independent schools: Shrewsbury House School in Surbiton, Clewer Manor Junior School, and the linked senior school, Haileybury and Imperial Service College, located at Hertford Heath, near Hertford.He disliked school and did not attain a good academic performance. At Haileybury, he was subjected to antisemitic bullying because of his Jewish roots. He concealed the bullying from his parents and used it as “motivation to succeed”. Moss received his first car, an Austin 7, from his father at the age of nine, and drove it on the fields around Long White Cloud. He purchased his own car at age 15 after he obtained a driving licence. After the Second World War, Moss was ruled exempt from doing the mandatory two-year national service for men his age because he had nephritis.

Racing career

Moss shared this Vanwall VW5 with Tony Brooks to win the 1957 British Grand Prix.

Moss raced from 1948 to 1962, winning 212 of the 529 races he entered, including 16 Formula One Grands Prix. He competed in as many as 62 races in a single year and drove 84 different makes of car over the course of his racing career. He preferred to race British cars, stating, “Better to lose honourably in a British car than win in a foreign one”. At Vanwall, he was instrumental in breaking the German/Italian stranglehold on F1 racing (as was Jack Brabham at Cooper). He remained the English driver with the most Formula One victories until 1991 when Nigel Mansell overtook him after competing in more races.

“Stirling Moss” script and a British flag on a 1958 Maserati 420M/58 he raced in the Race of Two Worlds on Monza



Moss began his career at the wheel of his father Alfred’s 328 BMW, DPX 653. Moss was one of the Cooper Car Company’s first customers, using winnings from competing in horse-riding events to pay the deposit on a Cooper 500 racing car in 1948. He then persuaded his father, who opposed his racing and wanted him to be a dentist, to let him buy it. He soon demonstrated his ability with numerous wins at national and international levels, and continued to compete in Formula Three,[16] with Coopers and Kiefts, after he had progressed to more senior categories.

His first major international race victory came on the eve of his 21st birthday at the wheel of a borrowed Jaguar XK120 in the 1950 RAC Tourist Trophy on the Dundrod circuit in Northern Ireland. He went on to win the race six more times, in 1951 (Jaguar C-Type), 1955 (Mercedes-Benz 300SLR), 1958 and 1959 (Aston Martin DBR1), and 1960 and 1961 (Ferrari 250 GT). Enzo Ferrari, the founder of Ferrari, approached Moss and offered him a Formula Two car to drive at the 1951 Bari Grand Prix before a full -season in 1952. Moss and his father went to Apulia only to find out that the Ferrari car was to be driven by experienced driver Piero Taruffi and were incensed.

Also a competent rally driver, Moss was one of three people to have won a Coupe d’Or (Gold Cup) for three consecutive penalty-free runs on the Alpine Rally (Coupe des Alpes). He finished second in the 1952 Monte Carlo Rally driving a Sunbeam-Talbot 90 with Desmond Scannell and Autocar magazine editor John Cooper as co-drivers.

In 1954, he became the first non-American to win the 12 Hours of Sebring, sharing the Cunningham team’s 1.5-liter O.S.C.A. MT4 with American Bill Lloyd.

In 1953 Mercedes-Benz racing boss Alfred Neubauer had spoken to Moss’s manager, Ken Gregory, about the possibility of Moss’s joining the Mercedes Grand Prix team. Having seen him do well in a relatively uncompetitive car, and wanting to see how he would perform in a better one, Neubauer suggested Moss buy a Maserati for the 1954 season. He bought a Maserati 250F, and although the car’s unreliability prevented his scoring high points in the 1954 Drivers’ Championship he qualified alongside the Mercedes front runners several times and performed well in the races. He achieved his first Formula One victory when he won the non-Championship Oulton Park International Gold Cup in the Maserati.

In the Italian Grand Prix at Monza he passed both drivers who were regarded as the best in Formula One at the time—Juan Manuel Fangio in a Mercedes and Alberto Ascari in a Ferrari—and took the lead. Ascari retired with engine problems, and Moss led until lap 68 when his engine also failed. Fangio took the victory, and Moss pushed his Maserati to the finish line. Neubauer, already impressed when Moss had tested a Mercedes-Benz W196 at Hockenheim, promptly signed him for 1955.


Moss’s first World Championship victory was in the 1955 British Grand Prix at Aintree, a race he was also the first British driver to win. Leading a 1–2–3–4 finish for Mercedes, it was the first time he beat Fangio, his teammate and arch rival, who was also his friend and mentor. It has been suggested that Fangio sportingly allowed Moss to win in front of his home crowd. Moss himself asked Fangio repeatedly, and Fangio always replied: “No. You were just better than me that day.” The same year, Moss also won the RAC Tourist Trophy, the Targa Florio (sharing the drive with Peter Collins) and the Mille Miglia.

Mille Miglia

In 1955 Moss won Italy’s thousand-mile Mille Miglia road race, an achievement Doug Nye described as the “most iconic single day’s drive in motor racing history.” He was paired with motor racing journalist Denis Jenkinson, who prepared pace note for Moss, and the two completed the race in ten hours and seven minutes. Motor Trend headlined it as “The Most Epic Drive. Ever.” Before the race, he had taken a “magic pill” given to him by Fangio, and he has commented that although he did not know what was in it, “Dexedrine and Benzedrine were commonly used in rallies. The object was simply to keep awake, like wartime bomber crews.” After the win, he spent the night and the following day driving his girlfriend to Cologne, stopping for breakfast in Munich and lunch in Stuttgart.


Moss (left) with Innes Ireland at the 1961 Dutch Grand Prix.


Moss won the Nassau Cup at the 1956 and 1957 Bahamas Speed Week. Also in 1957 he won on the longest circuit ever to hold a World Championship Grand Prix, the 25 km (16 mi) Pescara Circuit, where he again demonstrated his mastery of long-distance racing. The event lasted three hours and Moss beat Fangio, who started from pole position, by a little over 3 minutes.

In 1958, Moss’s forward-thinking attitude made waves in the racing world. Moss won the first race of the season in a rear-engined F1 car, which became the common design by 1961. At Monza that year, he raced in the “Eldorado” Maserati in the Race of Two Worlds, the first single-seater car in Europe to be sponsored by a non-racing brand—the Eldorado Ice Cream Company. This was the first case in Europe of contemporary sponsorship, with the ice cream maker’s colors replacing the ones assigned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).

Moss’s sporting attitude cost him the 1958 Formula One World Championship. When rival Mike Hawthorn was threatened with a penalty after the Portuguese Grand Prix, Moss defended him. Hawthorn was accused of reversing on the track after spinning and stalling his car on an uphill section. Moss had shouted advice to Hawthorn to steer downhill, against traffic, to bump-start the car. Moss’s quick thinking, and his defence of Hawthorn before the stewards, preserved Hawthorn’s 6 points for finishing second behind Moss. Hawthorn went on to beat Moss for the championship title by one point, even though he had won only one race that year to Moss’s four. Moss’s loss in the championship could also be attributed to an error in communication between his pit crew and the driver at one race. A point was given for the fastest lap in each race, and the crew signalled “HAWT REC” meaning Hawthorn had set a record lap. Moss read this as “HAWT REG” and thought Hawthorn was making regular laps, so did not try to set a fast lap. The crew was supposed to signal the time of the lap, so Moss would know what he had to beat.

Moss was as gifted in sports cars as in Grand Prix cars. To his victories in the Tourist Trophy, the Sebring 12 Hours and the Mille Miglia he added three consecutive wins (1958–1960) in the 1000 km Nürburgring, the first two in an Aston Martin (in which he did most of the driving), and the third in a Tipo 61 “birdcage” Maserati, co-driving with the American Dan Gurney. The pair lost time when an oil hose blew off, but despite the wet-weather, they made up the time and took first place.

Moss racing an Aston Martin DBR1 at the 1958 12 Hours of Sebring

In the 1960 Formula One season, Moss won the Monaco Grand Prix in Rob Walker’s Coventry-Climax-powered Lotus 18. Seriously injured in an accident at the Burnenville curve during practice for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, he missed the next three races but recovered sufficiently to win the final one of the season, the United States Grand Prix at Riverside, California.

Moss in his winning Lotus-Climax at the 1961 German Grand Prix.

For the 1961 Formula One season, run under new 1.5-litre rules, Enzo Ferrari fielded the “sharknose” Ferrari 156 with an all-new V6 engine. Moss’s Climax-engined Lotus was comparatively underpowered, but he won the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix by 3.6 seconds, beating the Ferraris of Richie Ginther, Wolfgang von Trips, and Phil Hill, and went on to win the partially wet 1961 German Grand Prix.

In 1962, he crashed his Lotus heavily during the Glover Trophy at Goodwood held on Monday 23 April. The accident put him in a coma for a month, and for six months the left side of his body was partially paralysed.[He recovered, but retired from professional racing after a private test session in a Lotus 19 the following year, when he lapped a few tenths of a second slower than before. He felt he had not regained his previously instinctive command of the car. He had been runner-up in the Drivers’ Championship four years in succession, from 1955 to 1958, and third in each of the next three years.

Speed records


At the Autodrome de Montlhéry, a steeply banked oval track near Paris, Moss and Leslie Johnson took turns at the wheel of the latter’s Jaguar XK120 to average 107.46 mph (172.94 km/h) for 24 hours, including stops for fuel and tyres. Changing drivers every three hours, they covered a total of 2,579.16 miles (4,150.76 km). It was the first time a production car had averaged over 100 mph (160.93 km/h) for 24 hours.


Record-breaking 1952 Jaguar XK120, seen in 2008

Revisiting Montlhéry, Moss was one of a four-driver team, led by Johnson, who drove a factory-owned Jaguar XK120 fixed-head coupé for 7 days and nights at the French track. Moss, Johnson, Bert Hadley and Jack Fairman averaged 100.31 mph (161.43 km/h) to take four World records and five International Class C records, and covered a total of 16,851.73 mi (27,120.23 km).


In August Moss broke five International Class F records in the purpose-built MG EX181 at Bonneville Salt Flats. The streamlined, supercharged car’s speed for the flying kilometer was 245.64 mph, which was the average of two runs in opposite directions.

Broadcasting career

Away from driving, in 1962 he acted as a colour commentator for ABC’s Wide World of Sports for Formula One and NASCAR races. He eventually left ABC in 1980. Moss narrated the official 1988 Formula One season review along with Tony Jardine.

Moss also narrated the popular children’s series Roary the Racing Car, which stars Peter Kay.

Return to racing

Moss racing an OSCA MT4 Spider Morelli at Speed, 2006 Silverstone Classic.

Moss demonstrating his OSCA FS 372 Spider Morelli at the 2011 Bahamas Speed Week

Although ostensibly retired from racing since 1962, Moss did make a number of one-off appearances in professional motorsport events in the following two decades. He also competed in the 1974 London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally in a Mercedes-Benz, but retired from the event in the Algerian Sahara. The Holden Torana he shared with Jack Brabham in the 1976 Bathurst 1000 was hit from behind on the grid and eventually retired with engine failure. Moss, at the wheel of the Torana when the V8 engine let go, was criticised by other drivers for staying on the racing line for over ⅔ of the 6.172 km long circuit while returning to the pits as the car was dropping large amounts of oil onto the road. He also shared a Volkswagen Golf GTI with Denny Hulme in the 1979 Benson & Hedges 500 at Pukekohe Park Raceway in New Zealand.

In 1980 he made a comeback to regular competition, in the British Saloon Car Championship with the works-backed GTi Engineering Audi team.For the 1980 season Moss was the team’s number two driver to team co-owner Richard Lloyd.[For the 1981 season Moss stayed with Audi, as the team moved to Tom Walkinshaw Racing management, driving alongside Martin Brundle.

Throughout his retirement he raced in events for historic cars, driving on behalf of and at the invitation of others, as well as campaigning his own OSCA FS 372 and other vehicles. In 2004, as part of its promotion for the new SLR, Mercedes-Benz reunited Moss with the 300 SLR “No. 722” in which he won the Mille Miglia nearly 50 years earlier. One reporter who rode with Moss that day noted that the 75-year-old driver was “so good . . . that even old and crippled [he was] still better than nearly everyone else”. On 9 June 2011 during qualifying for the Le Mans Legends race, Moss announced on Radio Le Mans that he had finally retired from racing, saying that he had scared himself that afternoon. He was 81.

Post racing career

Moss with Lister Cars CEO Lawrence Whittaker

Lister Cars announced the building for sale of the Lister Knobbly Stirling Moss at the Royal Automobile Club in London in June 2016. The car is built to the exact specification of the 1958 model, is the only magnesium-bodied car in the world, and is the only car that was ever endorsed by Moss. Brian Lister invited Moss to drive for Lister on three separate occasions, at Goodwood in 1954, Silverstone in 1958 and at Sebring in 1959, and to celebrate these races, 10 special edition lightweight Lister Knobbly cars are being built. The company announced that the cars will be available for both road and race use, and Moss would personally be handing over each car.


In 1990, Moss was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

In the New Year Honours 2000 List, Moss was made a Knight Bachelor for services to motor racing. On 21 March 2000, he was knighted by Prince Charles, standing in for the Queen, who was on an official visit to Australia.

He received the 2005 Segrave Trophy.

In 2006, Moss was awarded the FIA gold medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to motorsport.

In December 2008, McLaren-Mercedes unveiled their final model of the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. The model was named in honour of Moss, hence, Mercedes McLaren SLR Stirling Moss, which has a top speed of 217 mph (349 km/h) with wind deflectors instead of a windscreen.

In 2016, in an academic paper that reported a mathematical modelling study that assessed the relative influence of driver and machine, Moss was ranked the 29th best Formula One driver of all time.

Following Moss’ death the Kinrara Trophy race at the Goodwood Revival meeting was renamed in his honour. It is a race for GT cars that competed before 1963.

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