My Car Quest

June 29, 2022

The Death of a Champion – Sir Stirling Moss, Age 90

by Wallace Wyss –

It’s possible to be the world’s greatest driver for a time yet never have won the Formula One world title. That’s the story of Sir Stirling Moss who died Sunday April 12, 2020 at his London home after a long illness. “It was one lap too many,” said Lady Moss. “He just closed his eyes.”

As a teenager I reveled in reading his racing exploits. His father encouraged his racing. He raced sports cars as well as F1. He formally retired from the top-level racing after a horrific crash in 1962 but made many appearances in historic racing including several at the Monterey Historics . He was often reunited with cars he drove to victory such as the Mercedes 300SLR that he and “Jenks” drove to first in the Mille Miglia in ’55

In 1961 he was named the BBC’s sports personality of the year. I think his practice of appearing shirtless did a lot to promote the “macho” side of racing. But he was the utmost gentleman when called upon.

Sir Stirling Moss

Photo by Mike Gulett – August 2015

He was one of the first racers of that era to maximize income from commercials and the last few years of his life made many paid appearances.

He didn’t mind signing autographs (though sometimes with just an “m”) and talking about his racing. One story he told me was losing his brakes at 140 mph in the 300SLR in Italy and downshifting down to 15 mph so he could make the next sharp corner.

Moss drove his first professional race in 1948 when he was 18 in a Cooper 500 and during a career that spanned 14 years would go on to win 16 of the 66 F1 races and competed impressively across all categories; of his 529 starts he had 375 finishes and 212 wins.

In 1955 he was signed by Mercedes Benz to race on their F1 team with a team-mate being Juan Manuel Fangio, who won the title. But in the Mille Miglia, Moss won, set a new record and beat Fangio by 32 minutes. Motor Trend wrote it was “The Most Epic Drive. Ever.”

He was a bit of playboy in his youth, and married twice before settling down with Susie. He owned property around the world and tended to business.

He published his autobiography in 2015. In a documentary called The Green Hell, he told some of his favorite racing stories, recalling his win at the Nürburgring in 1961.

He became “Sir” in 2000, received the Segrave Trophy in 2005 and was awarded the FIA gold medal for outstanding contribution.

He is survived by his third wife, Susie, their son Elliot, and daughter Allison from an earlier marriage.

stirling-moss-and-denis-jenkinson-mercedes-benz-300-slr-in-1955-mille-miglia

Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson in a Mercedes-Benz 300SL – Mille Miglia 1955

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The Death of a Champion - Sir Stirling Moss, Age 90
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The Death of a Champion - Sir Stirling Moss, Age 90
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The racing legend Sir Stirling Moss has died at age 90.
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Comments

  1. Earl Waggoner says

    Caio Stirling. I was privileged to be a close friend of him and his family for over 50 years.

    The last two years on life support was a sad ending for
    a legend.

  2. wallace wyss says

    Earl is a friend of mine, I think when Stirling was in Los Angeles he’d stay at Earl’s place and if I remember it right they went someplace, Sitrling drivng,maybe too skillfluly for some cop who pulled him over , and said “Who do you think you are, Stirling Moss? To which Stirling repliied…etc. etc.

    • Bob Wachtel says

      I love that little story. It’s perfect.I met Stirling and his wife at Lime Rock Park where he signed my book of his autobiography. I really couldn’t speak to him because there was a very long line in back of me of fans of his waiting to see him.

  3. I met Sir Stirling and his wife several times when attending the Austrian Ennstal-Classic Rallye. A real gentleman and great racer. My best wishes to his families.
    Attached are some pictures from 2016. Sir Stirling Moss together with Brian Johnson, lead singer AC/DC, driving an Jaguar D-Type at the Ennstal-Classic.

  4. Some more pics:

  5. Stirling, Brian and Helmut Zwickl (Organizer Ennstal-Classic Rallye, Race Driver, Author)

  6. wallace wyss says

    I am happy to see Sir Stirling having such a good laugh two years before he became bedridden. I have a friend 94, and whenever I can get a laugh out of him I’m happy. Stirling was a model race driver in more than just driving. I wish all of them could revisit the racing of their now restored cars and re-live the memories with the newer generations of fans.

  7. Kurt Bauer says

    I met Sir Stirling at Green Valley Raceway in Texas in the fall of 1984. He was there driving a Ferrari 250 GT SWB for Don Walker in an historic event in support of the featured Trans-Am race. My friend and I had pit passes and were wandering through, trying to avoid the crowds that had gathered around the various Corvettes, Camaros, and Mercury Capris that seemed to dominate the series then. I spotted a diminutive but fit-looking older gentleman in a driving suit peeled down to the waist, chewing a sandwich in the blazing sun while he relaxed on a section of Armco. I couldn’t believe it. Here was my father’s hero, Stirling Moss, in the flesh, no one around and utterly ignored by the fans. I approached, apologized for disturbing his lunch, and he just smiled, extended a hand, and happily (or at least so it seemed) chatted about the beautiful Ferrari, the Texas heat, and which British drivers might actually have it in them to win a world championship soon (it had been 8 years since James Hunt’s title; it would be 8 more before Nigel Mansell put together a winning run). An incredibly nice man, very tolerant of a couple of 20-something Texans just looking to bask in his presence. I’ll never for get it. RIP, Sir Stirling.

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