Sir Stirling Moss, 1929-2020

Jeff Bloxham/Motorsport Images

Sir Stirling Moss, 1929-2020

Formula 1

Sir Stirling Moss, 1929-2020


Motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss has passed away at the age of 90, following a long illness.

Moss is widely viewed as the greatest driver never to win the Formula 1 world championship, finishing as runner-up on four consecutive occasions from 1955-58 and then third for the next three seasons.

Born in London in 1929, racing and sport was part of the Moss family, but he was originally working towards a career as a dentist before working in the hotel business. At the age of 16 he turned his attention to racing, by 17 he had a sports car to compete in and was soon finding his way into a Cooper 500 to begin his professional racing career as a teenager.

With his Jaguar XK120, passes T. Flack (MG TD) en route to his first win in Dundrod, Northern Ireland in 1950. Motorsport Images

His first major win came in the 1950 RAC Tourist Trophy at Dundrod when he was still just 20, and he was making his debut in Formula 1 the following year. But before he was mounting championship challenges in F1 he was showing his incredible all-round ability with a second place in the 1952 Monte Carlo Rally and a similar finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans a year later.

With his first grand prix podium under his belt in 1954 — behind Juan Manuel Fangio and Maurice Trintignant at Spa-Francorchamps when driving a Maserati 250F — Moss enjoyed a standout 1955. Joining Mercedes, he took a stunning victory in the Mille Miglia in a 300 SLR and finished as runner-up to team leader Fangio in the F1 world championship, also picking up his first victory at Aintree.

Despite some in-race “modifications,” Moss and teammate John Fitch stormed to another victory at Dundrod in 1955 with this Mercedes 300 SLR. Motorsport Images

Although Mercedes pulled out of motorsport following the Le Mans disaster in 1955, Moss replicated his runner-up finish to Fangio on for each of the next two seasons, winning the Monaco Grand Prix in 1956 and three races in 1957, while 1958 saw a remarkable event that cost Moss the title.

With three rounds to go, Moss, by now racing for Vanwall — showing his preference for British manufacturers — won in Portugal while championship leader Mike Hawthorn was disqualified following a spin. However, Moss sportingly went to the stewards in Hawthorn’s defense, believing the Ferrari driver had done nothing wrong, and duly saw his fellow Brit reinstated.

In the season finale in Morocco, Moss needed to win and set the fastest lap, with championship leader Hawthorn no higher than third. While he duly took a dominant victory, Moss ultimately missed out on the the title by just a single point as Hawthorn finished second.

A sporting gesture by Moss (right) led to his being edged by rival Mike Hawthorn (left) for the F1 crown in 1958. Motorsport Images

Vanwall won the constructors’ championship but the death of Moss’s teammate Stuart Lewis-Evans following a crash in that final race played a part in team owner Tony Vandervell ending his involvement. Moss returned to race for the Rob Walker Racing Team, having won the first race of the 1958 season in Argentina in a Cooper T43.

A gearbox failure ended his title hopes in the 1959 finale as Jack Brabham came out on top in a three-way battle with Moss and Tony Brooks, and then Moss broke both his legs in a serious crash at Spa in 1960. He still managed to finish third in the drivers’ championship despite missing three rounds and being disqualified in Portugal, with wins in Monaco and the USA coming either side of a dominant run of success for Brabham.

1961 yielded another third place in the championship but also one of Moss’s best grand prix wins as he beat the far more powerful Ferraris of Richie Ginther, Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips in his underdog Lotus-Climax.

An epic win for Moss in his Lotus 18 Climax over the likes of Richie Ginther (trailing in his Ferrari 156) at Monaco in 1961. Motorsport Images

A heavy crash in the Glover Trophy — run to F1 rules — at Goodwood in 1962 left Moss in a coma and with serious injuries, and despite recovering he subsequently retired from front-line racing.

Moss went on to become a motorsport commentator — including as a pundit for ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” for F1 and NASCAR — while still making sporadic racing appearances, including two seasons in the British Saloon Car Championship in the 1980s. He made further historic appearances before retiring for good in 2011 at the age of 81.

In 2010, Moss fell down an elevator shaft at his home in London and broke both ankles, a number of bones in his foot and damaged vertebrae, while in 2016 he was admitted to hospital in Singapore with a serious chest infection.

Moss retired from public life in January 2018, and passed away at home in the early hours of April 12. His death was confirmed by his third wife Lady Susie, and he is also survived by his daughter Allison Bradley and son Elliot Moss.

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