Sir Stirling Moss at the 2015 Mille Miglia. Photos courtesy Mercedes-Benz.
Consider this: In his active years as a driver, Sir Stirling Moss won 57-percent of the races he entered, across a variety of series. Though a serious accident at Goodwood in April 1962 cut short his driving career, Moss never really retired from motorsports, serving as an racing’s beloved international spokesman for the next five-plus decades. At age 88, following a difficult recovery from a 2016 respiratory infection, Sir Stirling has finally made the decision to retire from the public eye.
In an announcement posted to the StirlingMoss.com website, son Elliott states,
To all of his many friends and fans around the world, who use this website for regular updates, my father would like to announce that he will be closing it down.
Following his severe infections at the end of 2016 and his subsequent slow and arduous recovery, the decision has been made that, at the age of 88, the indefatigable man will finally retire, so that he and my mother can have some much deserved rest and spend more time with each other and the rest of the family.
The entire and extended Moss clan thank everyone for all their love and support over the years and we wish you all a happy and prosperous 2018.
Often considered to be the greatest driver never to win a Formula 1 championship, his biography would much different had Stirling followed his father’s career advice. Alfred Moss, a successful dentist, expected his son to follow in his footsteps, but Stirling had other plans. After learning to drive on the family estate at age six, Stirling received a driver’s license – by special permit – at age 15. By age 18, he was racing in the British Formula 3 series, where he won 12 of 15 races in his rookie year.
It isn’t likely that his parents remained disappointed for long; both were relatively successful amateur racers, and Alfred Moss even placed 16th in the 1924 running of the Indianapolis 500. By 1949, Stirling’s second full year of competition, he was racing in Formula 2 for the British H.W.M. team, and took the series championship. He repeated this in 1950, but it was a sports car race in September that catapulted his career into the big leagues.
Racing a borrowed Jaguar XK120 in the 1950 RAC Tourist Trophy race at Dundrod, Moss scored his first major international win, besting Jaguar’s own works team. His performance earned him a spot on the Jaguar team beginning in the 1951 season, but his ambitions were to race in Formula 1. To prove his ability, Moss purchased a Maserati 250F with his own money, launching a team to compete in the 1954 F1 season. Though the car lacked the reliability to deliver consistent results, Moss’s talent impressed Mercedes-Benz team manager Alfred Neubauer so much that the Brit was offered a test drive in a Mercedes-Benz W196, quickly followed by a contract for the 1955 season.
Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson at the 1955 Mille Miglia.
That year saw Moss earn his first Formula 1 victory, at Aintree, making him the first British driver to win a British Grand Prix. His most memorable performance of 1955 would come behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR at the Mille Miglia; there, with co-driver Denis Jenkinson, Moss shattered the existing speed record for the event, covering the full race distance of 992 miles in 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds, at an average speed of nearly 98 MPH.
Moss’s crash at Goodwood in the spring of 1962 left him in a coma for a month and partially paralyzed for half a year. Though he tested in a Lotus 19 after his recovery, Moss was wise enough to realize that the accident had impacted his ability to drive a car at the limit, prompting his retirement as a full-time, professional racing driver. He covered racing for ABC’s Wide World of Sports from 1962 to 1980, when he once again returned to the cockpit to compete in the British Saloon Car Championship.
Knighted by Prince Charles in March 2000, Moss continued to serve as a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz. His official retirement as a racing driver finally came in 2011, at age 81.