Legends Joining Hands!
Yet here is a man who loved the excitement of danger, who raced knowing he could die yet to this day
Standing in the Courtyard of the Museo Enzo Ferrari, Modena, Italy, the atmosphere is buzzing. I’m surrounded by a rich mix of beautiful cars, beautiful people and being Italy, those people are clad in beautiful clothes. It’s a well-heeled crowd of busy rather wealthy looking people whose deep seasoned sun tans go with their lifestyles.
Ahead of us on the speaker’s platform, with an accompaniment of dignitaries, is Luca Montezemolo, President of Ferrari. A cultured looking man, Montezemolo regularly checks his smartphone and his watch while waiting to speak, discreetly communicating messages to his entourage whilst Antonio Ghini, the Director of the Museo Enzo Ferrari introduces him. It’s just another day in the life of the most powerful businessman in Italy, yet he speaks with passion and conviction about the purpose of his visit; the celebration of 100 years of Maserati.
Maserati have taken over the Museo Enzo Ferrari for this great celebration, being one of many activities Maserati are staging around the world for this great occasion. Yet the Maserati VIP guest of honour is seated centrally facing centre stage, a small unassuming figure with a very big name: Sir Stirling Moss, the most famous living motor racing driver of all.
Moss turns to Maserati
It was the association with Maserati that turned around a low in Moss’s racing career. In Moss’s own words the great Old Man Enzo Ferrari ‘messed him up’ by rescinding on his initial offer of a drive to Moss at the last minute, offering it instead to the Italian born driver PieroTaruffi. After that Moss vowed never to drive for Ferrari. Returning to Britain, he raced British cars, but reliability problems caused many retirements and his career was taking a downturn.
Moss’s father came to the rescue by going to a rival manufacturer that made cars capable of beating Ferrari at the time, the name of that Company was Maserati. “ I drove the Maserati 250 F, Moss told us…” it was a beautiful car to drive”. In racing terms it was also the key to the world seeing Moss’s genius behind the wheel of a racing car, where he achieved classic race victories against the British Ferrari driver of the time Mike Hawthorn, and the legendary Argentinian racing driver Juan Manuel Fangio.
Looking back to those peak days with Maserati I asked him what in his view makes for a truly great driver? “Concentration is the first thing”…, Moss told me, “…..sustained concentration at high speed together with understanding and fine tuning the setup and balance of the car and exploiting it to the maximum”. Maybe that’s why Moss was able to win races in cars with less power and poorer handling cars than many of his competitors at the time.
And yet Moss carries a reputation for fairness rather than ruthlessness as a racing driver; he objected to a proposed race disqualification of Mike Hawthorn for having his car pushed during a race, succeeding in getting the decision overturned, and resulting in Mike Hawthorn beating Moss in the World Championship that year by just one point. Moss’s view was that it was wrong to disqualify Hawthorn, and it was the right thing for him to do to protest against the decision even though it meant Moss himself losing the World Championship. Can you imagine a driver doing that these days?? In Moss’s view “it was the decent thing to do” and it is probably why this man is so well respected both as an individual and within the industry.
The complete driver
Moss’s time of course was an era where professional drivers drove in every discipline, not only Formula 1. There was no safety to speak of (Moss thought it ‘Sissy’ to where a helmet when he was a young driver, but his father insisted), and the cars had minimal brakes and very poor handling. His Maserati racing success caused Mercedes to come knocking on Moss’s door, and it was in a Mercedes that he won the famous Mille Miglia, which he claims was his most enjoyable victory. “ I had Ferrari right behind me much of the time and it was a most satisfying victory”
Yet here is a man who loved the excitement of danger, who raced knowing he could die yet to this day, apart from that near fatal crash that ended his career in 1962, claims he never had an accident that was his own fault. At that fateful race he lost teeth, and broke his shoulder, legs, and skull, suffering brain damage, laying in a coma for 38 days. “It was a time when we were losing 3 to 4 drivers a year. You knew you could die, but you just didn’t think about it”.
Moss came off at 140 mph “or thereabouts” he claims in that accident with no safety equipment other than a helmet that would just about pass Polo safety regulations these days.
Yet he remains a wonderfully warm and personable man, humble, mentally fit, betrayed only by the inevitable physical ailments of age. Stirling Moss is the proud embodiment of Maserati’s greatest years, but more so a truly deserving legend of Motor racing, a national Pride of Britain who has, maybe more than most, earned his place amongst the handful of truly great racing drivers the world has ever known.
- Kevin Haggarthy