Fans of motorsports in the UK need no introduction to Sir Stirling Moss.
Inducted into the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame, Moss won 212 of the 529 races he entered across several categories of competition and has even been described by some as “the greatest driver never to win the World Championship.”
Despite that, his record is not to be sniffed at; between 1955 and 1961, Moss finished as runner-up four times and in third-placed the other three times in the World Championship standings. Simply put, he is one of racing’s greats.
We’ve taken a look at some of his best track days and picked out a selection of his iconic motor racing performances from down the decades.
Moss is well known for his exploits in Formula One, but as a member of the Mercedes-Benz works teams, he also excelled in sports car races as well, memorably taking part in the 1,000-mile time trail in Italy.
Moss opted for an open-topped 300SLR for the big race, and had former side champion and journalist, Denis Jenkinson, with him as co-driver.
Setting off at 7:22 am, the pair were the last of the 661 cars to set off from Brescia. Jenkinson’s job was to keep Moss heading in the right direction with a system of hand signals that were taken from detailed notes that the pair had created during their practice runs.
The notes certainly did the trick as well as they raced back to Brescia in just over 10 hours at a staggering 97.95mph average. The circuit was over a course that took them on unguarded public roads through mountain passes, villages and historical Italian cities such as Verona, Ravenna, Rome, Siena, Florence and Bologna. Incredibly, the nearest rival was 32 minutes behind – a solo driver in a similar Mercedes to that used by Moss.
Sadly, the race was cancelled for good two years later, meaning Moss’s record would never be beaten again.
With Mercedes deciding to withdraw from racing not long after the Mille Miglia in 1955, Moss made the switch to drive for Maserati as their number one driver for the 1956 season. Ahead of him was a task to take on a formidable Ferrari team that included Fangio, Eugenio Castellotti, Luigi Musso and Peter Collins.
Two years earlier, Moss had driven his personal Maserati in times better than their official drivers, which impressed the factory enough to secure his services to drive the firm’s showpiece 250F, a car which he’d go on to win with in Monaco.
After that, the season was due to end in Monza, where Ferrari’s drivers were desperate to win their manufactures’ home Grand Prix. In the opening laps, Moss decided to sit behind the leaders and let the Ferrari quartet battle it out of Monza’s harsh surface of high-speed banking.
This paid dividends for Moss, as the Ferrari four destroyed their tyres pretty quickly. A battle with Fangio and Harry Schell’s Vanwall would soon develop at the front of the race before Moss emerged into the lead only to run out of fuel nearing the end of the race.
Thankfully, a refuel was done quickly enough in the pits, allowing Moss to enter the track in front still and become the first British driver to win the Italian Grand Prix.
If fighting against Ferrari on the racetrack for Moss, by the Argentinian Grand Prix in 1958, he was temporarily racing with just one eye. Driving with a patch over his other eye after his wife has accidentally poked it, Moss secured a victory for the ages with tactical drive to rival the very best.
Released from the Vanwall team, whose new cars weren’t ready for the opening round of the season, Moss got behind the wheel of a Cooper-Climax, which was entered by his good friend Rob Walker – heir to the whisky empire of the same surname.
The tiny Cooper was modified into a Formula Two car but wasn’t taken seriously by the other drivers who had the more traditional front-engine machines. However, the lightweight Cooper had the potential to run the entire 200-mile race without refuelling and on one set of Dunlop tyres.
Moss and his team kept the quality of the tyres to themselves, which left the others drivers to think that he’d need to change them at some point, and ultimately put himself out of the race.
Moss played along to that theory as well, with his mechanic, Alf Francis, fooling the others drivers by preparing for a pit stop that never came.
By 1959, Moss was back tackling the long-distance sports car races and in his usually style, was being relied upon to dig a slower co-driver out of a hole.
Driving an Aston Martin DBR1, a car in which he’d drove to plenty of success, Moss was about to achieve one of his greatest ever victories. Winding through the Eifel mountains, the 14-mile circuit brought out some of his finest displays, which in 1959 included setting the fastest lap in qualifying and driving the first three hours without a break before passing over to his co-driver, Jack Fairman, with a five minute lead over the Ferrari’s.
Fairman soon spun into a ditch while lapping a slower car, and eventually gave the car back to Moss with a minute needed to catch up on the leaders. Moss got to work quickly, regaining the lead and extending it to three minutes before returning the wheel back to Fairman.
Once again, he couldn’t handle the pace set by Moss and returned for the second time more than a minute behind the lead. Moss wasn’t in the mood for being second best, and put in one of the greatest ever performances to hit the finish line with a 21-second advantage.
Sir Stirling Moss has inspired many of us over the years, but if reading back on some of his greatest days has made you want to get behind the wheel yourself, then we are here to help you do exactly that.
Just check out our calendar page to find our next available track day, as well as all other upcoming dates. Check out our track car hire page along with DriveDays experiences which include professional instruction as well as the track day itself.