I am indebted to James Beckett and the BRDC Bulletin for reminding me of those racing drivers who have received knighthoods. Sir Stirling Moss, of course, whom I watched racing from the earliest days, when he would be so far ahead of the rest in competitive 500cc racing that he had time to wave to friends at the corners. Before that, Sir Henry Segrave, Sir Malcolm Campbell — but in 1931 not 1933, Sir Jack Brabham and Sir Frank Williams. George Eyston, another LSR-holder, was not knighted, but said that the French appreciated his record-work and he was content with the Legion d’Honneur. In Italy Campari and Minoia became Cavaliere.
Jenks obviously knew Stirling far better than I did but I recall two off-circuit episodes which I don’t suppose Moss remembers and which I hope he will not mind me telling. BMC used to have its Press lunch on the opening day of the London Motor Show, awkward for scribe with urgent stories to pen but essential to attend. One year I was sitting next to Moss, who had another important engagement, so he had planned to leave as soon as expedient.
“But aren’t you waiting for the presents?” I said. “They are usually rather worth having.” Stirling stayed to the end of the last speeches, when the Chairman told us that, this time, with the recession and perhaps the hint of bribery, BMC had decided not to give this presents this year… What Stirling said to me need not be repeated
At another Show preview I was walking along a deserted aisle when Stirling Moss, for the moment unrecognised, asked me where he could get something to eat I told him I was heading for the Fiat stand, where lunch was on the agenda. You were supposed to have a ticket but it was only a moment or two of prompting before the waiter realised who he was refusing. Sir Stirling Moss, as he now rightly is, did not go hungry…
To digress, I have long been envious of the well-known Amilcar driver, Vernon Balls. Imagine being stopped by a policeman and asked for your name! “Now, Sir we don’t want any trouble, do we? I intend to ask you once more…” Better than “Who do you thing you are?” Which, from now on, will be “Sir Stirling Moss”.