Simanaitis Says

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A CHAT WITH STIRLING MOSS

IT WAS THE 1993 Copperstate 1000. The event, the third running of this classic car rally through Arizona, was a particularly special one with famed race driver Stirling Moss and his wife as honored guests. I had become friends with Stirling and Susie through friendship with Innes Ireland, and it was fun to share four days of touring Arizona back roads with them. 

Stirling (Sir, in seven more years) and Susie Moss ran the 1993 Copperstate in a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster. Its No. 722 honors his famed win in the 1955 Mille Miglia. This and other images from R&T, October 1993. 

I had my mini cassette recorder along; and Stirling and Susie agreed to recording a lunch-break chat. Topics ranged from the Phoenix Art Museum, beneficiary of the Copperstate 1000, to Stirling’s career in international motor sports. Here are tidbits on the latter.

Stirling’s Earliest Drives. Stirling was London-born, the son of  dentist (and amateur race driver) Alfred Moss. (His father came 16th in the 1924 Indianapolis 500.) 

Sir Stirling Craufurd Moss, OBE, 1929–2020. British Formula One race driver, winner of 212 of the 529 races entered between 1948 and his 1962 retirement. Image by Anefo, with Innes Ireland, right, at the 1961 Dutch Grand Prix from Wikipedia.

“My mother taught me to steer when I was very young,” Stirling said. “When I was 6, my father bought an Austin 7 to tow a chain harrow across the field. The war was on, and petrol was rationed.” 

Speed Versus Cornering. “A cousin had a license, and he’d let me drive on the road. At the time, I thought speed was exciting, not necessarily cornering. I learned about that later.”

“I had a Morgan 3-wheeler when I was 15,” he said. “I sent in my license application a year early, but they apparently didn’t look very closely and sent it back directly. I didn’t know anybody else around with a car—and I hardly knew anyone with a motor bike.” 

Cornering Had Benefits Too. Stirling recalled, “I got a 328 BMW when I was 17, put the screen down, and taught myself to corner. Before that, it was only straight-line speed. But I came to realize that time had to come from other places: braking into corners, unstabilizing forces  used to position the car.”

An English tourist (named Moss) takes a happy snap of an Arizona canyon. 

A Racing Career Begins. Stirling noted, “When I started [in 1948], all the established drivers were older. There were none in their Twenties and I was in my Teens.”  

When Did Others Recognize Stirling’s Talent? “I suppose in 1950,” he said. “Tommy Wisdom had a Jaguar XK-120 and he offered me a drive. I won outright in the wet and got a Jaguar team ride.” 

When Did He Internalized This Superiority? “Probably,” Stirling said, “when I drove for HWM. We were racing each week in Europe. And we were so outclassed that the only place I could make up was in the corners. I thought ‘My God, if I had power like the others, I reckon I’d be running away from them.”

Moss and the Copperstate’s Marc Cavness. When racing with Mercedes-Benz, Stirling was highly impressed that a team mechanic always met him in the pits with refreshing water, soap, and a towel. At the Wickenburg checkpoint, Stirling remarked, “The soap’s even English!”

On Concentration. “I didn’t analyze that part of it,” he said. “It came naturally…. It’s there; if you fail to concentrate, you hurt yourself.” 

On Hillclimbs. “I started in hillclimbs, and this is good because you’ve got no measure other than the times. Only your own skill.” 

Stirling flags off Wife Dottie and me in our newly acquired Morgan Plus Four Family Tourer at the 1993 Copperstate. Image by Brenda Priddy.

On Learning to Slipstream. Stirling said, “I learned slipstreaming with the HWM at Monza. I remember it so well: I’d come out of a corner behind a guy and going down the straight I looked down and saw I was getting another 4, 500 revs.”

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said, “so I pulled out and, of course, straight down the revs came.” 

Son Elliot’s Karting. Stirling and Susie have a son, Elliot, born in 1980. I recall early on once taking him a wooden-ladder kid’s toy when visiting their Mayfair London home (multi-story digs rich in gadgetry: When assembled, a meal descended by a little lift from the kitchen to the sitting room).

“Elliot is starting some karting with a friend of Stirling’s,” Susie said back in 1993. 

“Younger drivers,” said Stirling, “never existed in the Forties.” 

Well, one did. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022.

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