In the hot seat
He’s the greatest driver never to have been world champion — a star in all cars in all conditions. But now Sir Stirling Moss faces his toughest task yet — your probing questions!
What happened to you on the 1965 Safari?
Duncan Rollo, Coulsdon
I did it with Erik Carlsson, my brother-in-law. The problem we had was that our Halda went down. I said to Erik, ‘We know roughly our average speed and so I will start the stopwatch and try to work out when we should turn left or right.’ We were lost in other words. But it did give me the opportunity to drive with him, and seeing the skill of a man of his aptitude on the loose was incredible.
Could you please clarify the team-order situation at Mercedes in 1955…
Steven Tomlinson, Moseley
The only time I was told by Mercedes that they would like Fangio to win was at a sportscar race in Sweden. The standard team orders were this: when we were 30sec ahead of the other teams we were shown REG, regulare, hold your position. At the British GP I was shown PI, piano, go slower. I was leading and had been going like hell, but I was happy to respect this. Fangio closed and, coming into the last corner, I was in front by a car’s length or so. I remember vividly putting my accelerator to the floor, pulling over to the right and waving him past on the left, all the time thinking, ‘Oh boy, are we going to see if you have more horsepower than me.’ I didn’t see how he could possibly come past me. It would have shocked me rigid if he’d overtaken. Fangio may have had orders, but when I asked him he said that it was my day, that I had been driving really well and that’s it. I honestly don’t know the team-order situation and it really doesn’t worry me either way.
You were often used by sportscar teams as the ‘hare’ in a bid to break the opposition. Was this a frustrating role because it lessened your chances of winning?
Robert Miller, Chatham
I am a racer not a driver, which is why I disliked Le Mans. If I made a contract with Aston or Jaguar, I would make an extra charge if they wanted me to do Le Mans. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great event, it’s just that you’re not allowed to race. Teams would limit your revs and I found it boring. But frankly, every race I started I truly wanted to win, and so I would drive at Le Mans with the same rev limit as the rest. I was the ‘hare’ only because I was the fastest and would always have a go.
Do you think the 4WD Ferguson could have won GPs with a bit more development?
Aongus MacCana, Galway
I believe I could have won the 1961 British GP in it. That was when Charlie Cooper got me disqualified for not qualifying the car. I was going quite a lot quicker in the wet than the rest at the time. The car was difficult to drive — unconventional rather than bad. It was very different to rear-wheel drive in that you had to steer it with the wheel rather than the throttle. I enjoyed the challenge.
How did you become team manager of the AC Cobra outfit at Le Mans in 1963?
Paul House, Southampton
Money! They asked me to do it and they seemed like nice people. I enjoyed it. I was a figurehead mainly, but I could put in my two cents regarding race tactics.
I was in the pits at Monte Carlo in 1960 when you gave Lotus its first GP win. We were all overjoyed except for Colin Chapman. Were you aware of his reaction?
Peter Ross, Falmouth
No. Nor would I really have cared. I quite liked Colin, but he didn’t have much of a sense of humour. When I won the US GP on my birthday they gave me a cake with a Lotus on top of it. I cut a wheel off it and he didn’t think it was funny.
Were you ever aware of having dropped into an altered state of consciousness when pushing to the limit?
Lance Chapman, Bourne
I know exactly what you are saying. You get into a rhythm. Monaco 1961 was an example of this. I was constantly searching for the perfect lap. I’d ‘start’ a lap, say at the Station Hairpin, but as soon as I came out of a corner with 6in or so to spare, whatever corner it was, I would begin the ‘lap’ afresh. It was my way of keeping up my concentration.
Was Tony Brooks quicker than you at Spa in ’58, and did that make you miss that gear?
Derek Howarth, Ealing
What caused me to miss that gear was a not very nice gearbox. Tony was exceptional; I was aware of his ability at every race.
You were planning to race a Ferrari in 1962, which even with you aboard would not have been competitive. What do you think you would have done for ’63 — Ferrari or Lotus?
Howard Gardiner, Heywood
I would have never left Rob Walker. If I could have got hold of a car via the clout I had with certain manufacturers, I would have had Rob run it for me. I could see that Jimmy Clark was going to be difficult to beat, but I really believe that if we’d got the Ferrari and all worked together that we could have made it a winner. Look at the difference Schumacher makes to any team he joins; I like to think that I could have done a similar thing.
Without your Goodwood crash how long do you think you would have continued?
Frazer Bragg, Sheffield
Ten years. Perhaps 15. I was younger than Graham Hill at the time of that accident I had said to myself that I would get out as soon as I found myself holding up another driver. But I am sure that was some way off because I felt that I was at my zenith. I was 32 when I retired; Fangio was 47 when he retired…
If you were to take the best bits of all the front-engined sportscars you drove, which would you choose to make the ultimate car?
Russ Arundell, Oldham
The strength and reliability of the Mercedes 300SLR, the brakes and gearbox of the Maserati Birdcage and the chuckability of the Aston Martin DBR1. Not a bad car, that.
Could you have won the 1955 Mille Miglia without Denis Jenkinson alongside you?
Paul Black, Portsmouth
I don’t think so. I’d have gone off without him. Let’s face it, where we did go off was at one of the few corners I thought I knew!
Is not doing an Indianapolis 500 a regret?
lain McLaren, Heston
Yes. One of the reasons I didn’t go was that it would have meant missing four races that I might win in Europe. It was the day of the Roadster, remember, and they were quite a lot different from what I was used to. Jack Brabham showed the way with his Cooper in 1962, and I would probably have done the race when the Indycars and GP cars were very similar, like in Jimmy Clark’s day.
What do you remember of Stanmer Park hillclimb in Brighton?
David Clawley, Bristol
I think I won that. I don’t remember much now, but it would have been very important to me at that time, the start of my career.
Do you own a copy of Peter Ustinov’s Grand Prix of Gibraltar, and if you do what do you make of the Girling Foss character?
Tom Wesley, London
I think Ustinov is brilliant, and I’m flattered to have him doing engine noises and making up names that sound like mine.
How much did you earn for your first GP start?
Peter Higharn, Chelsea
At the 1951 Swiss GP, driving for HWM, I got 25 per cent of the start money: £50.
Were you fitter than your rivals in the 1950s?
Bryn Robertson, South Shields
I remember racing in Australia in a temperature of more than 100 degrees. I jumped out at the finish and ran to congratulate Innes Ireland; he was slumped over his wheel. I thought then that maybe I had an advantage.
Does it help having such a memorable name?
Martin Chatterton, Broughton-in-Furness
Oh yes. I’m lucky that my father didn’t let my mother call me Hamish. It would’ve been awful. He told her to think of something else, and she was brought up near Stirling…