Today we celebrate the life and honor the incredible career of racing legend Sir Stirling Moss who passed on April 11, 2020.
Moss is acknowledged as one of the finest drivers in Formula 1 history with 16 wins, 16 poles and 24 podiums in only 66 F1 starts. He is one of only two racing drivers knighted by the Queen of England.
When he was 82 years old — one year after he officially retired from active competition — Moss visited Lime Rock Park during the 30th running of the Historic Festival. (He returned again three years later.) Many of the famous machines that Moss drove throughout his career were on track during the 2012 Historic Festival, including Vanwalls, Coopers, Maseratis, Jaguars and BMWs. It was an honor to have him at the Park to witness some of the cars he made famous that are still competing today.
The British ace is no stranger to the Lime Rock Historic Festival, having competed here in a Maserati 250F in 1989. He also previously competed here in 1985 in a Sports Car Club of America endurance event aboard a Porsche, co-driving with Innes Ireland.
At that time, we asked Moss some questions about his career. Here is a portion of that interview:
How much do you enjoy getting the chance to come to events such as Lime Rock Park’s Historic Festival?
Sir Stirling Moss: “I get to go to about nine or 10 historic events a year and I am very much looking forward to heading to the US and coming back to Lime Rock Park. When I first retired from Formula 1 in 1962 I certainly never envisaged I would be getting back in race cars for another 40 or 50 years. I had quite a serious accident that ended my F1 days and I was probably lucky to still be alive. At that stage, any involvement in getting back behind the wheel was certainly far from my mind and I resigned myself to the fact that, at the age of 32, I would have to work for a living, but that turned out not to be the case.”
How did you come to the decision last year to finally retire?
“At 82 years of age, I figured that was probably a good time to finally retire permanently. I have certainly enjoyed a very long career because I started racing back when I was 17. I felt I had a fairly good innings and left it at that. There really is no point in taking part if you are not competitive and I was racing at Le Mans last year in a historic event when I realized that if I was going to be fast enough I was going to scare myself. Apart from the odd mistake over the years, that had never really happened to me before so I thought it was probably best that I got out.”
Are you still surprised to see some of the cars you drove still competing on track?
“It amazes me to see the cars that I drove over the years still out there competing and they are worth so much more now than back in the day. About 20 years ago I got a call from a man who said he had my old Maserati 250 F and asked me if I would like to buy it. He was trying to sell it for 75,000 pounds and I got my diary out and looked up back to 1954 and found I had only paid 4,000 pounds for it back in the day - there was no way I was going to buy it. Of course now it’s worth about 3.5 million pounds! I would have loved to still owned some of those old machines but I drove 108 different cars over the years and if I only had eight of them I’d have a very valuable collection. Of course back when I was racing you were always looking to the next new car – why would you hold on to last year’s model?”
If you could turn back the hands of time and be in your 20s again, would you want to race the modern F1 cars of today?
“I look back at my F1 career and they really were the golden years of the sport. Of course, they didn’t pay the same as they do now. I got great pleasure from those days. It was fast and quite dangerous, but that was all part of the attraction when you are young. “I certainly wouldn’t want to go back. I don’t think the modern drivers get the same pleasure, thrill and excitement that I got when I was racing. Now the sport has become very safe but I don’t think it provides the same thrill when you are behind the wheel. To my mind it was very much more exciting back then. There were also many more problems with the cars that you had to drive around. It is interesting today, but not as exciting.”
How has historic racing changed over the years from when you first raced vintage cars?
“When I started there were some races for pre-war cars but nothing like historic racing is today. It is great to come to these events and see some of these old machines that I raced many years ago but haven’t seen in a very long time. The amazing thing is they are now worth so much money compared to when they first were built. Putting these cars in a museum I believe is the wrong thing to do. They should be on the race track and I looking forward to seeing them do just that at the Lime Rock Park Festival. These cars were built to be raced and to put them away would be a real shame.”
THINGS TO KNOW
Sir Stirling Craufurd Moss
Born: Sept. 17, 1929
OVERALL CAREER STATS
Racing Career, 1948 – 1962:
Races Entered: 527
Races Finished: 375
Race Wins: 212
Percentage of wins (to finishes): 56.53%
First Race Win: July 4, 1948, Brough Aerodrome, U.K., Cooper JAP 500cc
Last Race Win: February 4, 1962, 100-mile race, Warwick Farm, Australia, Cooper-Climax 2700cc
FORMULA 1 CAREER STATS
F1 Career, 1951 – 1961:
Grand Prix Wins: 16
Podium Finishes: 24
Career GP Points: 185
Pole Positions: 16
Teams: Mercedes-Benz, Maserati, Vanwall, Rob Walker, Cooper and Lotus
First GP Win: 1955 British GP
Last GP Win: 1961 German GP
On-board video of Moss driving and commentating on lapping Donington in an F1 Cooper-Climax: Click here