Damien Smith's Off the line

Moss still boss

‘It strikes me how little Stirling Moss has changed from the sparky 25-year-old who won the 1955 Mille Miglia’

Same old story — everyone wants a piece of him. From the moment Sir Stirling Moss arrives at Goodwood House for the now-traditional season preview he is surrounded by a mini-scrum of old friends, reporters, photographers and well-wishers. Mr Motor Racing is still a big draw.

The biggest, in fact, when it comes to days like this. Moss has not been a well man in recent months, but you wouldn’t know it as he stands chatting to the likes of Jackie Oliver, Willie Green, Barrie Williams, Nick Mason and others outside Lord March’s home. Fresh from a trip to the Australian Grand Prix, the 75-year-old looks trim, fit and tanned (as ever) in his bright red roll-neck. Only a bandage on his left hand — the result of a fall — gives an indication that he might not bounce as well as he used to.

I, like the rest of them, want a piece of him. Motor Sport has been given the use of a room within the house to shoot some portraits of the great man. We’ve got five minutes, 10 at best. “I don’t have much time,” Stirling reminds me as he prises himself away from the clusters of people. Ever the professional, he is polite but to the point, does exactly what the photographer asks and then, with a brief, firm handshake, returns to his friends and admirers.

During the brief calm of that photoshoot it struck me just how little Stirling Moss has changed from the sparky 25-year-old I had been looking at in our selection of Mille Miglia shots from 50 years ago. Re-reading Denis Jenkinson’s memoir of that race, reprinted in our special supplement this month, the magnitude of Moss’s achievement on that May Day in 1955 sinks in. It’s no wonder that his own memories of that race, recorded in this issue by Doug Nye, remain as fresh as if they were yesterday.

Behind the wheel Moss was the ultimate racing hero, for very good reason. Yes, he always raced for money, but he raced for the love of driving too. That’s why I have no doubt that — with the right offer — he would jump at the chance to compete in the new Grand Prix Masters series (see page eight) — if he was 20 years younger.

This concept is an intriguing one, pitching familiar names from the past against each other in identical, modern 600bhp single-seaters. Talk about old meets new! How will a 58-year-old Emerson Fittipaldi match up against a 40-year-old Johnny Herbert? Hardly a fair comparison, but who cares? The hard-earned reputations of the drivers who sign up should not be under scrutiny. This should be for fun — with the usual ego-driven edge!

They often try, but racing drivers just can’t leave it alone. They get older, but they don’t really change.