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Stirling Moss: Formula One’s best of the rest

india Updated: Jun 11, 2011 00:44 IST
Vinayak Pande
Vinayak Pande
Hindustan Times
Stirling Moss

‘No one remembers who came in second’. It's an oft-used saying in sports that especially rings true in Formula 1, where success is so hard to come by. To everything, however, there are exceptions. And boy was Stirling Moss an exception.

The British racing legend stood atop the podium 16 times in his 67-race F1 world championship career that lasted from 1951 to 1961 and finished runner-up in the championship standings on four occasions. In 1958 he fell short of the top spot by just one point. Proof enough that his unofficial title of ‘best driver to have never won an F1 title’ is justified.

Moss' talents were not restricted to just F1, however. He raced in a time when the F1 championship calendar rarely exceeded 10 races. He and his colleagues would race full-time in other racing disciplines too.

The highlight of his career is, in fact, in sportscar racing with Mercedes-Benz. Moss won the 1955 Mille Miglia, a 1,600 km Italian road race held on public roads that featured sections that were run at night as well as sections where regular traffic was still running. Moss piloted his 300 SLR at a record average speed of 157.65 km/h.

This achievement cemented his place in motor racing history and confirmed his reputation as an exceptionally versatile and skilled driver. Fear meant little to Moss until a near fatal crash at Goodwood in 1962 left him comatose for a month.

Moss made an attempt at a return to racing but felt that he was not the same driver that he used to be. He continued to drive for leisure until this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans but on Friday pulled out of the Legends category after ‘scaring himself’ during qualifying. At the age of 81, Moss can probably be given a pass for that.