Stirling Moss, who died on Easter Sunday at age 90, was one of the fastest racing drivers of all time. At his peak, after the retirement of Juan Manuel Fangio in 1958 and before his career ended against one of Goodwood’s unforgiving banks in 1962, he was surely the best racing driver in the world.
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I once read that one of his quotes, and I am paraphrasing because I don't have the original text, was:
"You don't know the true sensation of speed until you are in the split second between the edge of the road and the trees."
You gotta love that!
I too met Stirling both on the racetrack in historic racing and professionally when I had an idea back in 1980 to produce a limited edition print by getting selected drivers to nominate their own choice of favourite race. I drew up a list of drivers that would interest me and I thought the public. Top of that list; Stirling Moss but how to contact him? On a guess I looked in the phone book and there he was! A short telephone call later to propose the idea to him and he invited me up to his high tech house in Curzon Street to discuss it further. I went there with the preconception that he would choose the 1955 Mille Miglia in which, he along with pace note reading co-driver Denis Jenkinson, the famed, DSJ, Continental Correspondent of MotorSport magazine, set a never to be beaten winning record time. However to my surprise he chose the 1961 Monaco Gran Prix. When I asked him why that was his preference his answer was that in the Mille Miglia the Mercedes 300 SLR he was driving was certainly one of the best cars whereas at Monaco his Rob Walker Lotus was outdated and outclassed by the Ferraris he was up against and thus the win was entirely due to his own driving talent. He said he had never driven so hard for so long in any other race in his career and that was why it stood out for him. They often say you should never meet your heroes but I’m glad I met mine.
In 1971, I hosted a half-hour weekly television show in Fargo, ND. Moss came through on a trip to publicize an event at Brainerd International Raceway, 100 miles east in Minnesota.
At the conclusion of the interview, I invited him for lunch and he accepted.
We went out to the parking lot to get into my 1966 Corvette roadster, and he asked if he could drive it.
Could Stirling Moss drive my car?
So I got to ride with Stirling Moss in my own car as we drove maybe 15 minutes to have lunch. The meal lasted about 45 minutes, the conversation was great, and on leaving he said he would ride back with me driving.
No -- I didn't do anything stupid, trying to impress him. But I had Stirling Moss in the passenger seat.
In 2010 or 2011, I was within several feet of him at the Goodwood Revival. I thought of reintroducing myself, but let the moment go.
The earlier memory was more than enough, and I figured there was no sense in eliciting a positive response for no reason.
He remains one of the two English drivers on my all-time hero list, right beside Graham Hill.
It's sad to know he's gone. But I'm glad he was here and that I once met him.
Among my racing memorabilia is photo of Stirling Moss standing next to me in front of a MGA I was crewing on at a vintage event in Palm Springs. He was very gracious to pose with us lowly low budget guys. Perhaps because the car was British but I believe he would have stood in front of Subaru 360 if it was a race car. Now for the trivia question: what was the fastest car he ever drove? (clue in my story)