Stirling Moss and Motor Sport
Gordon Cruickshank remembers a constant presence throughout this magazine’s post-war history
He was simply always there. Over eight decades that name, crisp and snappy as the man himself, never stopped figuring in Motor Sport. We used to comment if an issue went by without the word Moss in it. And that went back even before Stirling – his father Alfred raced at Brooklands where he met Bill Boddy. Naturally, Alfred read Motor Sport, and his young son grew up a keen reader. Once he traded saddle and reins for throttle and steering wheel, his name was set in type forever. We mentioned his very first event, at a 1947 Harrow CC meeting, even if we got it wrong, calling him F C Moss when he took the Cullen Cup in his dad’s BMW 328.
As his career took off, he figured ever more, whether a passing comment about the caravan he fitted out in 1952 to go abroad or a swipe from Boddy about his maths just to show the mag wasn’t in awe of him. Moss was always open to journalists as much as the public but it was with Denis Jenkinson, our GP and Continental Correspondent, that he had a special bond. Both were unsentimental types focused on accuracy, efficiency and honesty, and Jenks’ engineering background chimed with Stirling’s devotion to machinery and gadgets. As Jenks travelled, he was often with Moss, and the new star came to trust him. So when Stirling decided to take a navigator on the 1955 Mille Miglia, the little jazz-loving journo was a perfect fit in the 300SLR.
You all know about Jenks’ report on that epic, 10,000 handwritten words pushed into an Italian postbox in confidence they would arrive. Was DSJ ever scared in those 1000 miles? A shrug. “Why? He was Stirling Moss.” Mutual faith. Moss reckoned praise from Jenks was the highest you could receive.
But Motor Sport always liked being combative and that included sometimes criticising even Moss – he occasionally called us ‘Motor Spite’. Yet he was a faithful reader and involved in many features: in 1975 Jenks and GP reporter Alan Henry let him loose in 50 years of racing cars at Donington; he leapt into all five with gusto. It’s one reason we made him our ‘greatest all- rounder’ in 2003; Susie Moss told us he was especially chuffed at that. As one of our early Lunch With… subjects he just about fitted us in – over a quick sandwich from a local café.
When we had parties at the Chelsea offices Moss was usually there saying “Hallo, old boy!” to all, not to mention our Hall of Fame events – he was one of our founder aces. In 2009, when he was 80, we handed him the reins as guest editor. He threw himself into it (apart from the computers), discussing features with editor Damien Smith, identifying photos with Nigel Roebuck and talking to all in the office. “I can’t remember a time when Motor Sport wasn’t in my house,” he said, “and being part of this issue means a great deal to me”.
Talking with Val Pirie after his death, I said Moss would still be in the mag for years to come. “Thank you, on his behalf,” she said. “He’d be thrilled with that. ‘Thank you, old boy!’ he’d say.”
No, thank you, Stirling. It’s been a privilege.