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After slowly coming to terms with losing one of Britain’s best ever racing drivers and well-humoured souls in Stirling Moss, we thought it apt to lookback at the sport in which in partook so successfully. It is hard to come by a sport with so much heritage and history, and with that, comes a successful past full of characters, sporting greats and fantastic stories.
Moss himself is often described as the greatest driver never to win a World Championship. In fact, he won a staggering 40% of all 529 races he ever took part in. It wasn’t just his own generation that his talent, competitiveness and kind-heartedness heavily impacted, but future sport-defining characters. Lewis Hamilton and Jackie Stewart both counted him as an inspiration and friend that undoubtedly furthered their careers to dizzying heights.
His camaraderie and arch-nemesis attitude towards fellow racing great Juan Manuel Fangio in the mid 1950s will long stay in the memory along with his patriotism towards his homeland. In his own words, it’s “better to lose honourably in a British car than win in a foreign one.” It was attitudes such as this that allowed him to race in the best that Britain had to offer, whether it be the C-Type Jaguar that he assisted in furthering, the Aston Martin DBR1 or the Cooper-Climax T43, his patriotic nature protruded when racing any one of the 84 different makes of car that he frequented across his career.
It would be fascinating to see how Moss would be regarded if weren’t for the 5 World Championships won by Fangio. In a time where we now expect dominance in F1 racing, with Hamilton preceded by Vettel, who in turn was preceded by Schumacher until we find ourselves back in the late 80s when Ayrton Senna was arguably the first to display such regular dominance in over 30 years… It begs the question of where Moss would have placed against some of the greats in the late 60s and 70s.
Where would he have placed against a Graham Hill (in his prime), Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauder, or Nelson Piquet? Of course, we’ll never truly know, but it does also raise questions over who the greatest driver is to ever partake in the sport.
The hardest part of answering this question is perspective. If a 19-year-old Pele signed for a Premier League club now then there would certainly be question marks over whether or not he’d make the grade, but there is no doubt that he is truly one of the greatest to ever play the game – there is no doubt that of his time period, he was unbeatable. The same is to be said for motor racing. In the same way that Lewis Hamilton would unlikely be challenging for world championships in a car 30 years ago, you can only race against those on the track with the engines provided. And it is for this reason that Moss’ contributions are perhaps forgotten when talking about the very best.
Unfortunately, racing over 60 years ago means that his accomplishments somehow lose relevance – they are incomparable to those who came after him – so for many he is remembered as one of the first sportsmen to make the jump to TV personality as well as a great racer, but never quite the best racer. But for us, we will always remiss over the fact that he was arguably 20 years before his time and his contribution to the sport was not simply sat behind the wheel, but in advancing the whole sport into the limelight with his daredevil nature and sheer trust in his instincts. What would motor vehicles look like now if it weren’t for Moss? The impact that Motor Racing has on our roads is one that is oft-forgotten, but it is an extremely valid question none the less.
All this talk of greatness, however, is mostly in reference to the everchanging world of Formula 1. In terms of all-time racing greats, are there any better than Moss? A man who, the obvious aside, won absolutely everything he could all over the world. From the Silverstone 50 Miler and the Coupe des Alpes all the way to 12-hour races and the 24-hour famous Le Mans, and everything in between. He is yet another example of how to be fantastic at what you do, and how to be revered by the public.
A true instance of excellence both in the car and outside it.
Our thoughts go out to the Moss family.