Sir Stirling Moss crosses the finish line at 90
One of the great race car drivers of all time, Sir Stirling Moss, passed away at the age of 90, with his wife, Lady Susie Moss, by his side in his home 12 April 2020, Easter Sunday. The British race car driver was knighted Sir Stirling Craufurd Moss in 2000 for services to motor racing.
Moss won 212 of the 529 races he entered and retired in 1962 after an accident at the iconic Goodwood, Moss served on as a racing legend, attending all the classic races. He was also a judge at the most prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which is where I met him and Lady Susie Moss.
I met Sir Stirling Moss through Denise McCluggage, a female race car driver that had the respect of all her peers. They laughed with and at each other, enjoying the stories of yore while Susie and I sat and watched the two of them enjoy the status they deserved.
Stirling was unaffected by his clear status as a race car driver and an ambassador of the industry. He enjoyed every aspect of the car industry and would laugh with most anyone about his antics during race days.
In tribute to Moss, I have asked some of my journalist friends to talk about their meetings with him. Here are some of the loving memories of Sir Stirling Moss and Lady Moss, from them.
Ken Gross journalist and fellow judge at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
Sir Stirling Moss was unquestionably one of the greatest drivers of all time…a legend has passed.
Fiercely competitive, he could drive anything, always at an incredibly high level.
His extraordinary 1955 Mille Miglia win, averaging nearly 100-mph on public roads, for ten hours, in an open Mercedes-Benz 300SL, was one for the ages.
And he was the only British driver to ever win that grueling 1000-mile race.
Geoff Day, Former head of Mercedes-Benz PR
“A sad, sad day. He was a legend. A childhood hero of mine. A man of myth and legend who appeared in my career. I was awestruck, but he was, without doubt, the kindest, most generous, and gracious “star” I have ever met. And I’ve met a few! He gave of himself in ways no one will ever understand – his time, his experience, his ear, and his genuine interest to people he only met once. He also gambled with his life in every race, at a time long before safety was considered. A true gentleman adventurer. He also gave me the best piece of advice on how to talk to auto journalists ever. After Pulitzer Prize winner Dan Neil hydroplaned a McLaren SLR off the circuit at VIR he took me aside and whispered sagely, “Geoff old boy, you can tell a man he has an ugly wife, but you must never, ever, tell him he’s a bad driver” Miss him!”
Sue Baker – journalist, ex-Top Gear TV presenter, and former UK national newspaper motoring editor
On a flight to Nice, I found myself sitting next to Stirling Moss (before he was ‘Sir,’ knighted for his services to motor racing), at a time when he wrote car reviews for an upmarket magazine. He greeted me warmly, as I had interviewed him several times previously, and said, ‘I don’t know most of the others on this trip, shall we drive together?’ Share a car with a driving legend? Yes, please. What followed was a lifetime highlight of good company and racing anecdotes, driving on the Corniche to Monte Carlo and around roads that form the Monaco Grand Prix, with the man who had famously won it. The car we were in? A Vauxhall!
Barry Toepke – Director of marketing and communications of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and the head of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion
Sir Stirling was a frequent participant and guest at Laguna Seca. We were conducting a Q&A on his birthday when we had Alma Hill (Phil’s wife) come up on stage and present a birthday cake. Alma then led us in a rousing song of Happy Birthday. He laughed his whole way through it, and then leaned over and whispered to me how touched he was by that – A true gentleman.
You could tell Lady Susie adored Stirling. She was always laughing. They seemed to be so in love and having the time of their lives when I visited with them in Monterey and Amelia.
.I talked to Stirling when he just purchased a Porsche rs -60 and raced in Monterey. He spun due to some oil and caused some damage. He knew then that was to be his last race. He raced one more time that year at Goodwood and hung it up. He didn’t want to be “that driver” who caused problems.
Axel E Catton – International motoring journalist
I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Stirling at the oddest of venues: on the Borgward stand of the 2015 Geneva International Auto Show. Stirling Moss had briefly piloted a Cooper-Borgward in 1958 and had won the Grand Prix of Syracuse in Sicily in it.
After the Borgward press conference at the 2015 show where he had said a few words, media had moved on to the next brand, while Sir Stirling and his wife Lady Susie had remained at the stand and sat at a high table by themselves. I first approached Lady Susie as I had heard that she sort of organized access to him – was I able to speak to him for five minutes? And then everything changed. Her face lit up, and with that did his. “Of course, you can.” She didn’t add “young man,” but her whole demeanor would have suited that.
I approached the table and started talking to Stirling Moss, just me by myself. I was unprepared, hadn’t read up on him, was weak on talking points. He made it easy, smiled, was gracious, Susie and he involved me, and didn’t let me feel one minute I was a “business conversation.”
How long would they be here for, could I race down to the lower level of the show hall to buy a book with him in it for him to autograph? Sure, they would be here for at least “ten more minutes.” If you know Geneva, ten minutes doesn’t exactly buy you lots of travel time, especially if you run like me.
I dashed downstairs, where they didn’t have any books on just Stirling Moss. I quickly pressed the French-speaking seller, which racing books would best cover drivers and found one. Bought, raced back up, out of breath, regained composure, and re-joined the two.
I felt like a schoolboy. He was ever so nice, and Susie admired my success to turn this around so quickly. And instead of getting through the job, both pored over the images, and Susie was delighted he would autograph the particular picture I chose. “Look, Stirling,” she said with delight, “it’s with your dad” [Alfred Moss]. She then continued to give him little talking queues about his dad and how much it has pleased him to present his very first race trophies to him (“more than his championships”).
**The picture above shows Stirling Moss in his Cooper 500 race car at the 1948 British GP in Silverstone, taken from H. F. Ullman’s book “Sports Car Racing”. Sir Stirling is shaking hands with his father, Alfred Moss.**
I gratefully said my goodbyes and left the two of them behind on their own at the stand, knowing this was one hell of an unusual encounter with one of the greatest race drivers of all time, but for me, first and foremost an incredibly kind and gentle personality.
Thanks for the memories
I thank my colleagues for their lovely memories of a great race car driver, a true gentleman, and a lovely couple.
According to the Daily Mail, Lady Moss was at his bedside as he died at their central London house. She told the Daily Mail, “He died as he lived, looking wonderful.”
Years ago, at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Darlene Linke, Susie, and I were sitting, looking over the 18th green talking about cookies. We were drinking champagne and giving each other our favorite cookie recipe. I wish I were closer to London now. As in most countries, taking a baked dish to someone and expressing condolences is the least one does as a friend.
I would bake some pecan, cranberry, oatmeal cookies for Lady Susie Moss and take them to her. Those were her favorite.
RIP Sir Stirling Moss.
Our sincere condolences Lady Susie Moss.