KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- Sir Stirling Moss never won the motor racing world title yet the circuit hero who has died at 90 remains the sport’s greatest British romantic hero.

Moss became a household favourite in the 1950s, in the days when racing drivers ‘owned’ an identity because – to an extent – their faces could be seen in a manner which safety precautions have denied today’s grand prix stars such as even Lewis Hamilton.

Sir Stirling Moss . . . died in London at the age of 90

He won 16 grand prix races in a far shorter schedule and was four times world title runner-up. But he entered all forms of competition – which meant up to 60 races in a year – and drove 84 different makes of car across the course of his career.

He remained the British driver with the most F1 Grand Prix wins until 1991, when he was overtaken by Nigel Mansell.

Vital points

But for his sense of sportsmanship, Moss could have been Britain’s first world champion in 1958 instead of compatriot Mike Hawthorn. He lost the title by a single point that year after asking stewards to reinstate disqualified Hawthorn at the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Moss, who won four races that year to Hawthorn’s one, told Reuters in an interview at his home in 2009: “I felt that it was quite wrong and I went and gave evidence on Mike’s behalf and said no way should he be disqualified. They gave him his points back and that took the title from me.”
Moss drove his first professional race in 1948 when he was 18 in a Cooper 500 and during a career that spanned 14 years would go on to win 16 of the 66 F1 races and competed impressively across all categories of his 375 finishes – he won 212. His sister Pat was a noted rally car driver.

In 1955 he was signed by Mercedes-Benz to race in F1 alongside the great Juan Manuel Fangio, who beat him to the title.

However that year he also delivered one of the most exceptional drives of his generation during the Mille Miglia, a punishing road race in Italy. Driving a Mercedes-Benz 300SLR he set a record and beat Fangio by 32 minutes.

Moss was known for enjoying life to the full in a manner certainly befitting a superstar of today.

He was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1961, the year of his forced retirement after a crash which left him in a coma. He went on to run a property business with his family as well as racing at historic meetings before retiring from race driving in 2011, at the age of 81.

In his later life, he suffered from health problems and spent 134 days in hospital in 2016 after suffering a chest infection in Singapore in 2016.

For the record . . .
  • Second place in F1 drivers championship four times, third overall on three other occasions.
  • First British driver to win a home Grand Prix in 1955 at Aintree.
  • Won the 1955 Mille Miglia — Italy’s 1,000-mile endurance race — in a record time of little over 10 hours, beating then-Mercedes team mate Juan Manuel Fangio by nearly 33 minutes.
  • Nearly became the first British driver to win the F1 world championship in 1958 but lost by one point after sportingly asking Portuguese Grand Prix stewards to reinstate compatriot Mike Hawthorn who had been disqualified.
  • Awarded the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1961.
  • Inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990.
  • Knighted for his services to motor racing in 2000.
  • Received the FIA gold medal in 2006 for his outstanding contribution to motorsport, where he joked: “This is the first FIA award I’ve ever won.”
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