As many motorsport journalists the world over are doing today, and shall continue to do for many years to come, I shall reflect on my encounter with a legend whilst also presenting how Lewis Hamilton responded to hearing the news over the weekend that Sir Stirling Moss passed away after a long battle with illness at the age of 90.
Sir Stirling Moss was widely regarded as the greatest driver never to win the Formula One World Championship - although he was runner up on 4 occasions. The British Grand Prix and Monaco Grand Prix were 2 of his 16 victories at the pinnacle of motorsport and legendary races they certainly were...like most of his exploits on asphalt tended to be.
Despite such fame and talent, Sir Stirling Moss was always approachable whatever stage of life he was in. He also displayed the nature of a gentleman and this made women adore him and men idolize him. One such moment being when Sir Stirling Moss argued the case for his rival Mike Hawthorn to not be disqualified from a World Championship deciding race - as it was the right thing to do.
Sir Stirling Moss was a regular fixture at Goodwood events for decades whether it be the Goodwood Revival, Goodwood Members’ Meeting or the Goodwood Festival of Speed, so it is no surprise that when the event website asked for fans to share their memories of the late Sir Stirling Moss on Twitter - they sent them in in their droves.
Saturday June 28th 2014, a day I shall long remember as it was the only time I had the great pleasure of meeting Sir Stirling Moss. Goodwood Festivals always have a theme and in 2014 the theme was ‘Addicted to Winning – The Unbeatable Champions of Motorsport’ Although, in the record books, many drivers may have beaten Sir Stirling Moss to titles, figuratively speaking, no one came close.
Sir Stirling Moss was a remarkable author and as well as venturing at speed up the famous Goodwood Hillclimb, he was also able to use the event to hold a book signing. Whilst I was, somewhat trembling, in the queue waiting to get his treasured autograph on my book and share a sentence or two, Sir Stirling Moss discussed with a father and young son in front of me that the boy probably does not know who he is – such was the humility of the man.
On this memorable weekend, Sir Stirling Moss was aged 84 so a fair assumption to claim a child of 8 or 9 may be bemused as to who this elderly gentleman is but no one could have predicted what came next.
The father, now at the head of the queue, explained how his son was in fact called Stirling and as such was certainly aware of his namesake. Following this, the young boy had a few moments discussing how he thought Sir Stirling Moss was so brave to drive so fast; that V12s are his favourite engine and that he still thinks Sir Stirling Moss would be quick racing cars today.
When my moment came to meet Sir Stirling Moss, I was treated to my own conversation as he asked me if I was having a nice day, told me how good it was the sun was shining and also that I should come to Goodwood every year. I thanked him for coming and for signing my book and also shared the fact that I too love the sound of the V12s. An encounter which shall last with me a lifetime.
For most of the latest generation of Formula One fans, unless named after the knight of the realm, it is safe to assume that Sir Stirling Moss became largely known to them following an outstanding segment produced by the BBC. This short feature made in 2015 showcased Lewis Hamilton saying how Sir Stirling Moss' generation of racers ‘were the real heroes back then’. The (at that time 2-time) F1 World Champion joined Sir Stirling Moss in Italy as each drove a Mercedes Formula One car from 1955 along the old Monza racetrack - including the infamous banks.
In response to the loss of not just a legend of motor racing but a real gentleman, the (now 6-time) F1 World Champion used his social media to pay tribute:
“Today we say goodbye to Sir Stirling Moss, the racing legend. I think it’s important that we celebrate his incredible life and the great man he was. Saying goodbye is never easy and can be sad but he will always be here, in our memories and will always be such a huge part of British Motorsports Heritage. I certainly will miss our conversations. To be honest, it was such an unusual pairing, our friendship. Two people from massively different times and backgrounds but we clicked and ultimately found that the love for racing we both shared made us comrades. I am truly grateful to have had these special moments with him. Sending my prayers and thoughts to his family. May he rest in peace.”
We are all truly grateful to have had a character such as Sir Stirling Moss in motor racing. He took on European giants of motorsport in British machinery and was viewed as the underdog by many before becoming an inspiration to millions.
So, let us leave the closing lines to the much-loved man himself providing words to live by indeed:
‘I was taught that everything is attainable if you are prepared to give up, to sacrifice to get it. Whatever you want to do, you can do it, if you want it badly enough, and I do believe that.’