Remembering a Giant: Stirling Moss, 1929-2020

Reflecting on the life & legacy of one of motor racing’s greatest icons.

Stirling Moss. Credit @f1vintage on Instagram

In April the world bid a sad farewell to Sir Stirling Moss, a giant of the motor racing world and in many peoples’ eyes, the greatest driver never to win a world championship.

That particular blemish on his record is one that always seems to take folks by surprise. After all, few driver’s names are as evocative as that of Moss—all the daring and skill of a fighter pilot, all the brashness of a Hollywood star, and all the honour of the archetypal general.

It’s his honour that seemed to be most commented on when he passed away at the age of 90 in his home in Mayfair, London. A display of noble sportsmanship hindered him from taking home the world title in 1958: Rival driver Mike Hawthorn was on the verge of being disqualified from the Portuguese Grand Prix for pushing his broken down Ferrari in the wrong direction. Moss however, who would go on to win the race, pleaded Hawthorn’s case to avoid any penalty, thus he was allowed to gain six points. Come the end of the racing season at Casablanca, Hawthorn would finish with a single point advantage over Moss. It was Moss’ integrity in Portugal that effectively gifted that world title to Hawthorn.

While such chivalry has propelled Moss to the very heights of motor racing royalty, his greatest achievements were undoubtedly hewn out while behind the wheel.

In 1955, he paired up with the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio to make a Mercedes dream team. That year, Moss became the very first Briton to win the Aintree Grand Prix, though it was his more seasoned team mate Fangio who would take the world championship overall. Also in 1955, he won the fabled Mille Miglia—the 1,000 mile public road dash from Brescia to Rome and back again. The record they set, 10 hours and 7 minutes at an average speed of 97.95mph (167.63kmh), remained unbroken until the race was outlawed two years later. Indeed for this very reason, the record still stands.