Sir Stirling Moss, one of the most celebrated motorsport heroes of all time, turned 90 years old on 17 September. From F1 to sports car racing, the versatile Brit was always a popular front-runner. His name has even been applied to a special edition of the McLaren SLR (the very rare McLaren SLR Stirling Moss, of which only 75 were built).
Knighted in 2000, Sir Stirling Moss is closely associated with Mercedes-Benz. “In 1955, with triumphs such as his overall victory in the Mille Miglia and winning the British Grand Prix, Sir Stirling Moss wrote motorsport history for Mercedes-Benz. He has been closely associated with our brand ever since. We would like to congratulate this outstanding racing driver on his 90th birthday,” said Christian Boucke, head of Mercedes-Benz Classic.
On 1 May 1955, the 25-year old Moss, driving the legendary Mercedes-Benz SLR, won the famous Mille Miglia road race in the best time ever achieved there. He and co-pilot Denis Jenkinson completed the 1 000 mile marathon from Brescia to Rome and back at an average speed of 157,65 km/h.
Moss in the Mercedes-Benz W 196 R on the way to victory at Aintree in 1955.
Another great moment for Moss was his F1 victory at the British Grand Prix at Aintree on 16 July 1955 ahead of his illustrious team mate Juan Manuel Fangio. Driving a Mercedes-Benz W 196 R, it was the first victory ever for a British racing driver at this Grand Prix.
Inspired by the racing successes of his mother Aileen and father Alfred, the young Moss dreamt of becoming a professional racing driver from a young age. With special permission, he already had his driving licence at the age of 15.
Moss and Jenkinson on the way to a famous victory at the 1955 Mille Miglia.
In 1948, things got serious. Moss bought a Cooper 500 racing car and took part in 15 Formula 3 races, winning 12 of them. This was the start of a famous international career. In 1949, the young racing driver became a part of the British H.W.M. works team in Formula 2 and won the English Formula 2 championship title in 1949 and 1950. In 1950, Moss also won the Tourist Trophy in a Jaguar XK 120, beating the works entrant. A year later, he headed the Jaguar team.
Moss was one of motorsport's earliest professionals. He was one of the first professional drivers of his era to hire a manager who dealt with contracts and appearance fees. In 1953 his manager Ken Gregory approached Mercedes-Benz racing manager Alfred Neubauer to hire Moss for its re-entry into Grand Prix motorsport.
Moss in action at the 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed, driving the Mercedes-Benz W 196 R.
For 1954, however, Moss still raced in Formula 1 with his own Maserati 250 F as the private team “Equipe Moss” (later “Stirling Moss Limited”). A duel with the Silver Arrows (Mercedes-Benz) chief driver, Juan Manuel Fangio at the Italian Grand Prix was one of the moments that left a lasting impression of his ability. Moss was in the lead until just twelve laps from the finish, when his car experienced a technical problem. Winner Fangio paid respect to the Brit and called him the actual winner of the race.
By 1954 Neubauer had been convinced of Moss's talents. He invited him for a test drive and hired him for the 1955 season as a works driver. Moss was to complete 17 races with the successful W 196 R Formula 1 racing car as well as the new 300 SLR racing sports car (W 196 S).
Throughout his career, Stirling Moss was one of the most popular (and professional) racers.
Moss made his Formula 1 debut for the Silver Arrows on 16 January 1955 at the Argentinian Grand Prix, where he achieved 4th place. The highlight of the season was his victory at the British Grand Prix. At 2 further Formula 1 races (the Belgian Grand Prix on 5 June 1955 and the Dutch Grand Prix on 19 June 1955), Moss came in second behind Fangio. He ended the season as runner-up in the driver standings.
Sports car racing
Stirling Moss was arguably at the height of his career during 1955 when he raced the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR. The vehicle had an exceptionally successful premiere at the famous (but treacherous) Italian road race, the Mille Miglia. With the 300 SLR Moss also won the Tourist Trophy in Dundrod (Northern Ireland) and the Targa Florio in Sicily. This was enough for him to secure the 1955 sports car world championship for the three-pointed star. Then Mercedes-Benz promptly withdrew from motorsport.
After his motorsport career, Moss was a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz.
Still, Stirling Moss continued his career. He raced for Maserati, Vanwall, Cooper, Porsche, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lotus and B.R.M, amongst others, and again and again proved himself to be a world class driver. Moss attained many victories and excellent finishes in Formula 1 (runner-up in 1956 to 1958, third place in the drivers’ world championship in 1959 to 1961) and in sports car races. After a serious accident at the “100 Miles of Goodwood” on 30 April 1962 that nearly cost him his life, Moss ended his professional racing career at the age of 33.
Moss continued to stay closely connected to motorsport as a writer and a racing expert. He was also a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz for many years. The contemporary witness of one of the most glorious eras of motorsport took part in the Mille Miglia and the Goodwood Festival of Speed, amongst other events, in 2015. At both events, Mercedes-Benz looked back on the successes of 1955, 60 years earlier.
In his home country of Great Britain, Moss is known as “Mr Motor Racing” and “the epitome of speed” during his active career. For his services, Queen Elizabeth II honoured him with “The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” (OBE) in 1959. In 2000, Moss was raised to Knight Bachelor.
Wishing you a blessed birthday week Sir Stirling, and many more to come. Thank you for the memories.