How I got to know the man behind the myth: Damon Hill on Stirling Moss

Sir Stirling Moss was at Damon Hill’s christening, and he would become an inspiration to the future F1 champion

A young Damon Hill in a toy car with Bruce McLaren Stirling Moss Tony Brooks Graham Hill Jo Bonnier and Wolfgang von Trips

All-star welcome: baby Damon surrounded by left to right: McLaren, Moss, Brooks, Hill, Bonnier, von Trips

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A few years back, I was approached by a company to see if I wanted to endorse an erectile dysfunction product (designed to improve one’s prowess, not cause dysfunction!). Greatly offended by this slight to my masculinity, I declined. And it was for quite a lot of money too. I was amused, but also delighted, to discover that the man who eventually won the contract was none other than the great Sir Stirling Moss. He would have been in his late seventies but clearly more than happy to proclaim his continued and, no doubt, improved virility.

This was entirely in keeping with Stirling’s reputation as a man who loved his life and all the benefits that came the way of a winner and celebrity of his calibre. Unashamedly a man of his era, he still used the dreadfully incorrect term ‘crumpet’ to refer to members of the opposite sex he found attractive. But I feel he could be forgiven because he was after all a true gentleman in every other respect who I never knew to be lewd or ungentlemanly in any company. More than can be said of my father!

I must declare that I did not know Stirling well when I was younger, despite cherishing photos of him holding me as a baby together with a gallery of F1 stars of the early 1960s who my father had invited to my christening. Imagine that, Stirling Moss at your christening! Actually, it is a poignant photo. All but one of them had either fatal accidents or, as was the case with Stirling, career-ending ones. Actually, make that two who survived unscathed, me and Tony Brooks. Tragically, Wolfgang Von Trips would not survive the year. Sadly, we also know the fate of Bruce McLaren and my godfather, Jo Bonnier. But Stirling himself had only one more year left of his career. Doubly poignant would be the fact that he was passing my father at Goodwood when something went wrong.

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