Amidst so many words written in the past twenty four hours by so many more qualified to do so than I, it is difficult to add anything of great depth or value, but perhaps a small personal reminiscence is fitting here.
When I first started reading about motor racing it was only a year or two after Stirling’s Goodwood crash. My first racing books pointed me to the past with their stories of Nuvolari, and Fangio, but Stirling Moss’ epic drives were already included in racing folklore. Even at that stage his place as one of the very few true greats was already established and despite all the other heroes who have come along in the past six decades nothing has ever diminished his status.
Whilst so often referred to as “ the greatest driver never to win the World Championship”, it has always seemed to me that the other label he is often given, that of “ the greatest all rounder” was more appropriate. In the words of the man who might challenge for that accolade, Mario Andretti, “ If you can drive, you can drive.” Moss exemplified this, in an extraordinarily wide ranging career he excelled in every class of racing he entered.
Many years after those early readings of his exploits in the Mille Miglia, at the Nurburgring and Monaco, it was with great trepidation that we prepared a gallery day for him in 2013. Honestly, I did wonder how he would react to arriving on our industrial estate, not quite the most glamorous venue he and Lady Moss had ever graced. Among many worries, was he likely to see any photograph of interest that he had not seen a thousand times before? By good fortune, the very first photo which caught his eye was a rather grainy one of the young Stirling with Tazio Nuvolari in 1950. He was taken aback by this and told me how much Nuvolari had done for him by telling the Italian press to watch out for this young English driver.
From that point on we were fine. He engaged with the gallery in a way I had not at all expected, he was patient with everyone who asked questions, even though he must have answered them so many times before and he was just great company. After he had gone I noticed that he had taken the trouble to write a short personal note in my own photo album, a very nice touch. And, of course, Lady Moss herself offered me her own comments on various characters as we wandered around the gallery. That in itself was quite an interesting experience!
Immediately prior to this lockdown period we were busy reorganising all the gallery photos. The idea was to bring the various types of racing in any one era together, rather than splitting GP and Sportscar racing as we have done hitherto. Probably the key reason behind this was that I have long thought that we were doing Stirling Moss in particular a disservice. I would guess that there are more photos of Stirling in the collection than of any other driver. Under the new layout we can bring at least some of his varying exploits together much more clearly, even though it still has not quite come together, mainly because his career was so long, so important and so successful.
It is a sad time all round at present. As news of Sir Stirling’s passing appeared yesterday a number of our gallery friends wrote to me. A reminder of our shared enthusiasm and the friendships which have developed over the years. We shall indeed meet again.
All photos courtesy of JARROTTS.com
I apologise for the quality of these examples, they are from my own records which are purely for personal reference. Please contact JARROTTS for any further details.
Martin Jordan of JARROTTS was instrumental in persuading Sir Stirling to venture up to the gallery. My special thanks also for that particular day to Denver Hewlett and Don Law.