Sir Stirling Craufurd Moss, OBE FIE (Fellow of the Institute of Engineers) (born 17 September 1929 in London) is a former racing driver from England. His success in a variety of categories placed him among the world's elite—he is often called "the greatest driver never to win the World Championship".
Moss, who raced from 1948 to 1962, won 212 of the 529 races he entered, including 16 Formula One Grands Prix. He would compete in as many as 62 races in a single year and drove 84 different makes of car over the course of his racing career, including Lotus, Vanwall, Maserati, Jaguar, Ferrari and Porsche. Like many drivers of the era, he competed in several formulae—very often on the same day.
He retired in 1962 after a crash left him in a coma for a month, as afterwards he felt unable to continue driving at a professional level. In spite of this early retirement he has remained a well-known figure.
Moss is the son of Alfred Moss, who was placed 16th at the 1924 Indianapolis 500 in a "Fronty" Ford and Aileen (née Craufurd). His younger sister, Pat Moss, also took part in rallying; her widower is rally driver Erik Carlsson. Moss was one of the first customers of the Cooper Car Company when he persuaded his father, Alfred Moss, to get him one of the new Cooper 500 cars. He quickly demonstrated his ability with numerous wins, at national and international level, and continued to compete in Formula Three, both in Coopers and Kieft cars long after graduating to the senior categories.
Moss was a pioneer in the British Formula One racing scene and placed second in the Drivers' Championship four times in a row from 1955 to 1958.
Moss was also a competent rally driver and is one of only three people to have won a Coupe d'Or (Gold Cup) for three consecutive penalty-free runs on the Alpine Rally (Coupe des Alpes). In addition, he finished second in the 1952 Monte Carlo Rally driving a Sunbeam-Talbot 90 with co-driver John Cooper.
In 1954, he became the first foreign driver to win the 12 Hours of Sebring, sharing the Cunningham team's 1.5-liter O.S.C.A. MT4 with American Bill Lloyd.
Moss's first Formula One win was in 1955 at his home race, the British Grand Prix at Aintree. His Mercedes-Benz W196 led home a 1–2–3–4 win for the German marque. This victory made Moss the first British driver to win the British Grand Prix. It was the first race where he finished in front of Juan Manuel Fangio, his teammate, friend, mentor, and arch rival at Mercedes. It is sometimes debated whether Fangio, one of the all-time great gentlemen of sport, yielded the lead at the last corner to let Moss win in front of his home crowd. Moss himself asked Fangio repeatedly, "Did you let me win?" and Fangio always replied, "No. You were just better than me that day."
One of his best remembered drives was in the 1955 Mille Miglia, which he won in the record time of 10 hours 7 minutes 48 seconds, finishing almost half an hour ahead of teammate Fangio in second place. Moss' navigator in the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR #722 (indicating the time of the start) was journalist Denis Jenkinson. As navigator, Jenkinson supported Moss with pace notes in the form of a Roller Map, which listed all the details of the long road trip, then an innovative technique. This assistance helped Moss compete against drivers who had a lot of local knowledge of the route. Jenkinson later wrote extensively about the experience.
In 1957 Moss won on the longest circuit to ever hold a Grand Prix, the daunting 25 km (16 mi) Pescara Circuit, again demonstrating his skills at high speed, long distance driving. He beat Fangio, who started on pole, by a little over 3 minutes over the course of a gruelling 3 hour event.
Moss believed the manner in which the battle was fought was as important as the outcome. This sporting attitude cost him the 1958 Formula 1 World Championship. When rival Mike Hawthorn was threatened with a penalty in the Boavista Urban Circuit in Porto, Portugal, Moss defended Hawthorn's actions. Hawthorn was accused of reversing in the track after spinning and stalling his car on an uphill section of the track. Moss himself shouted the suggestion to Hawthorn that he steer downhill, against traffic, to bump-start the car, which Hawthorn did. Moss's quick thinking and then gracious defence of Hawthorn before the stewards saw Hawthorn's 6 points for his second-place finish (behind Moss) preserved. Hawthorn went on to beat Moss for the title by one point, even though he won only one race that year to Moss's four, making Hawthorn Britain's first World Champion.
Moss was as gifted at the wheel of a sports car as he was in a Grand Prix car. For three consecutive years (1958–1960) he won the gruelling 1,000 km (620 mi) race at Germany's Nürburgring, the first two years in an Aston Martin (where he won almost single-handedly) and the third in the memorable Tipo 61 "birdcage" Maserati, co-driving with young American prospect Dan Gurney. The pair lost nearly six minutes when an oil hose blew off, but in miserable conditions they regained the time and won going away.
In the 1960 Formula One season, Moss took the top step of the podium at Monaco, winning in Rob Walker's Coventry-Climax-powered Lotus 18.Moss had a huge accident at the Burnenville sweep during practice for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps and was severely injured in what was to be one of the darkest weekends in the history of Formula One. He missed 3 races and did not race for most of that year. He recovered sufficiently to return to competition late in the year and won the season-ending U.S. Grand Prix at Riverside, California.
For the 1961 F1 season, which was run under the new 1.5-litre rules, Enzo Ferrari rolled out his state-of-the-art "sharknose" Ferrari 156 with an all-new V6. Moss was stuck with an underpowered Climax-engined Lotus, but managed to win the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix by 3.6 seconds (beating the 156s of Richie Ginther, Wolfgang von Trips, and Phil Hill), and later also the partially wet 1961 German Grand Prix. Some observers have noted that, while taking nothing away from Moss' superlative performances in these races, there were other factors at play. At Monaco, the tight circuit negated the horsepower advantage of the powerful but heavy and ill-handling Ferraris; and at the Nürburgring, Moss and manager Ken Gregory made a risky but inspired decision to fit rain tyres on the Lotus after a pre-race shower had soaked the track. Had the skies cleared and the track dried, the decision would have been disastrous for Moss. When rain returned, Moss was able to drive away from Hill and Trips (while nursing rapidly deteriorating tyres) to take the win.
In 1962, Moss was badly injured in a crash at Goodwood in a Lotus in the Glover Trophy. The accident put him in a coma for one month and partially paralyzed the left side of his body for six months. He recovered but decided to retire from racing after a private test session in a Lotus 19 the next year. During this session, he lapped a few tenths slower than before, and did not feel he had the command of the car to which he was accustomed. Many racing and medical observers have speculated that Moss simply tried to return too soon — that another six months of recovery and training would have allowed him to regain most of the physical acuity that distinguished him. He made a brief comeback in the British Touring Car Championship in 1980 with Audi alongside Martin Brundle, and in recent years has continued to race in historic cars, racing his OSCA FS372 during the 2009 season.
During his career, Moss drove a private Jaguar, and raced for Maserati, Vanwall, Cooper, and Lotus, as well as Mercedes-Benz. He preferred to race British cars, stating, "Better to lose honourably in a British car than win in a foreign one". The British cars were often uncompetitive and this was considered the reason he never won the drivers' championship. At Vanwall, he was instrumental in breaking the German/Italian stranglehold on F1 racing (as was Jack Brabham at Cooper). Moss remained the most successful English driver in terms of wins until 1991 when Nigel Mansell overtook him, after competing in many more races.
After racing career
In recent years, Moss has been an outspoken critic of Michael Schumacher, but in October 2006 Moss ranked Schumacher joint fourth (with Tazio Nuvolari) in the pantheon of all-time great drivers, behind Juan Manuel Fangio, Ayrton Senna and Jim Clark.
On 9 June 2011, during the qualifying session for the Le Mans Legends race, for which he was entered as a driver, Stirling Moss announced his retirement from driving.
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. As Moss drove his Mercedes away from Buckingham Palace after the ceremony, he was stopped by a palace guard who joked: "Who do you think you are? Stirling Moss?" Moss smiled and replied "Sir Stirling Moss, actually."
In June 2005, while appearing at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Moss signed the bonnet of his 1955 Mille Miglia winning Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR which was to be its last year of public appearances it made over numerous years, before retiring to the newly built Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart.
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 has been named in honour of Stirling 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.
His 80th birthday, on 17 September 2009, fell on the eve of the Goodwood Revival, Lord March celebrated Stirling's birthday by having the 80/80 parade on each of the three days of the Revival, comprising 80 cars, one for each of his 80 years. Stirling drove different cars on each of three days, the Mercedes W196 Monoposto, the Lotus 18 he had used to win the 1961 Monaco GP, and the Aston Martin DBR3.
On 7 March 2010 Moss broke both ankles, broke four bones in a foot, chipped four vertebrae and suffered skin damage in an accident at his home when he fell down a lift shaft. Moss has now recovered from his injuries and made an appearance at the 2010 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, presenting Lewis Hamilton with his second place trophy on the podium and appearing in a pre-race interview with the BBC pundits.
In 1963, noted motorsports author and commentator Ken Purdy published a biographical book entitled All But My Life about Stirling Moss (first published by William Kimber & Co., Ltd., London), based on material gathered through interviews with Moss.
For many years during and after his career, the rhetorical phrase "Who do you think you are, Stirling Moss?" was supposedly the standard question all British policemen asked speeding motorists. Moss relates he himself was once stopped for speeding and asked just that; he reports the traffic officer had some difficulty believing him. As related in the book The Life and Times of Private Eye, Moss was the subject of a less than respectful cartoon biography in the magazine Private Eye. The cartoon, drawn by Willie Rushton, showed him continually crashing, having his driving licence revoked and finally "hosting television programmes on subjects he knows nothing about". It also made reference to the amnesia Moss suffered from as a result of head injuries sustained in the crash at Goodwood in 1962. According to the book, Moss responded by offering to buy the original of the cartoon, an outcome the book describes as "depressingly common" for its satirical cartoons about famous people.
In March 1958, Moss was a guest challenger on the TV panel show "What's My Line?" (episode with Anita Ekberg).
Moss was one of the celebrities who made cameo appearances in the 1967 version of the James Bond film Casino Royale. He played Evelyn Tremble's (Peter Sellers) chauffeur.
Moss is the narrator in the popular children's series Roary the Racing Car which stars Peter Kay.
He is one of the few drivers of his era to create a brand from his name for licensing purposes, which was launched when his website was revamped in 2009 with improved content.
Moss is narrator in official 1988 Formula One season review along with Tony Jardine.
On 9 June 2011 during the Le Mans Legends qualifying session Sir Stirling Moss announced his retirement from racing to listeners on Radio Le Mans.
In April 1960, Moss was found guilty of dangerous driving and given a £50 fine and a twelve month ban after an incident near Chetwynd, Shropshire, whilst Moss was test driving a Mini.