Moss at 80 – For for my next track...

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In my era we raced more than one type of car in more than one championship – and sometimes on the same day! It was a lot different from the challenge that today’s Grand Prix drivers face. In my new book Stirling Moss: All My Races, written with the help of my good friend Alan Henry, I recount every race from my professional career between 1948-62. This extract, from a month in 1959, shows the variety of cars and events that one could enjoy

Career race number: 441
French Grand Prix, Retired
BRM P25
July 5 1959, Reims (F)
F1 World Championship, round 4
Race distance 50 laps of 5.15-mile circuit Reason for retirement Spin after 42 laps Fastest lap 2min 22.8sec, 130.049mph Car no 2 Entrant BRP

This was the second of three races in which I had agreed to drive the BRM P25 under the BRP banner. In many ways, despite its unreliability, this car represented the ultimate development of the front-engined 2.5-litre Formula 1 concept and it triggered a succession of questions about how difficult it was to make the transition from a front-engined machine to the new generation of rear-engined cars.

I firmly believed that the switch was neither too difficult nor too big. I think a rear-engined car is inherently easier to drive than a front-engined one. But at that time the front-engined cars were fully developed and sorted, and the rear-engined ones were only beginning.

Yet there were exceptions to that rule, most notably the four-wheel-drive Ferguson P99 in which I won the 1961 Oulton Park Gold Cup. The Ferguson was difficult because you could not set it up and throw it around in the same way as you could a Cooper, for example. You could hold a Cooper beautifully balanced in a sideways drift, but you could not do that with the Ferguson. You had to be much more accurate and precise.

I must confess that the BRM felt absolutely superb during practice at Reims. I thought it might be quick enough for the front row of the grid but eventually it was Tony Brooks who took pole in the Fantuzzi-bodied Ferrari Dino 246 ahead of Jack Brabham in the works Cooper and Phil Hill in the other Ferrari. I lined up on the second row alongside Jean Behra’s Ferrari.

Race day was punishingly hot and Tony simply ran away with the race in as unflustered a demonstration of disciplined car control as you could wish to see. The rest of us could not get close to him. I ran second from the start, then dropped to fifth and, despite driving as hard as I could, I found myself making virtually no impression at all on the leading bunch. Eventually I caught Brabham for third place and set off after Phil Hill’s Ferrari.

Then I spun on melted tar at the Thillois hairpin and, because the clutch had packed up, I exhausted myself by fruitlessly attempting to push-start the car while it was in gear. There was simply no chance of achieving that and I was out of the race.

Career race number: 442
Coupe de Vitesse, 1st
F2 Cooper-Borgward
July 5 1959, Reims (F)
Race distance 25 laps of 5.15-mile circuit Race time 1hr 4min 54.2sec Race speed 119.22mph Fastest lap 2min 33.1sec, 121.22mph (record, shared with Hans Herrmann) Car no 8 Entrant R R C  Walker

Makes you think, doesn’t it? After wrestling the BRM in the Grand Prix, I had a short break before it was time to line up for the Formula 2 supporting race, still with the temperature nudging the wrong side of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I had a good start and went straight into the lead, ahead of Hans Herrmann in the Behra Porsche Special, which was a bit quicker than my Cooper. But Herrmann overdid his braking and slid off, so I came home to win, feeling exceedingly tired in that terrific heat.

Career race number: 443
Coupe Delamere Deboutteville, 1st
Maserati Tipo 60
July 12 1959, Rouen-les-Essarts (F)
Race distance 35 laps of 4.05-mile circuit Race time 1hr 29min 40.9sec Race speed 95.18mph Car no 2 Entrant Works

Maserati’s racing programme may have been all but wiped out the previous year after the big crash in Venezuela, but the team still had high-octane fuel coursing through its veins and, after the Monaco Grand Prix, I had been invited to Modena to test its new 2-litre sports car.

It was built around a chassis composed of an incredibly complicated latticework of tubing and clad in what I can only describe as a skimpy aluminium bodyshell. My first impression of this distinctive little machine was that it was absolutely fantastic – responsive and agile in equal measure. I briefly tested it again during practice for the Nürburgring 1000Kms, in which I was driving an Aston Martin, but the engine seized before I could complete a lap.

I persuaded Maserati to let me drive the car at Rouen in the supporting race to the Formula 2 international, in which I was racing Rob Walker’s Cooper-Borgward. I started from pole position and led all the way. What a great little car it was.

Career race number: 444
Rouen Grand Prix, 1st
F2 Cooper-Borgward
July 12 1959, Rouen-les-Essarts (F)
Race distance 35 laps of 4.05-mile circuit Race
time 1hr 28min 5.8sec Race speed 96.9mph Fastest lap 2min 24.9sec, 100.98mph (record) Car no 2 Entrant R R C  Walker

There was an unwelcome glitch with the timing system during practice, with the result that Hans Herrmann, driving the Behra Porsche Special, was credited with pole position, although we were convinced that I had done the fastest time in Rob Walker’s Cooper-Borgward. As events transpired, this mattered precious little because I took the lead from the start and held it throughout to score my second victory of the day at this excellent circuit. I won by half a minute from Harry Schell.

Career race number: 445
Aintree, Retired
Cooper-Monaco
July 18 1959, Aintree, Liverpool (GB)
Race distance 17 laps of 3.0-mile circuit Reason for retirement Burst oil pipe Fastest lap 87.66mph (record) Car no 1 Entrant Stirling Moss Ltd

This really was not too good a start to the day of the British Grand Prix. I qualified on the front row but the car jumped out of gear at the start and I was hit from behind by the Hon Edward Greenall. After a precautionary stop to check for damage, I flew through the field until an oil pipe burst and started a small fire in the cockpit. The fire soon went out, but my race was over.

Career race number: 446
British Grand Prix, 2nd
BRM P25
July 18 1959, Aintree, Liverpool (GB)
F1 World Championship, round 5
Race distance 75 laps of 3.0-mile circuit Race time 2hr 30min 33.8sec Fastest lap 1min 57sec, 92.308mph (shared with Bruce McLaren) Car no 6 Entrant BRP

After that unfortunate spin at Reims, I was looking forward to trying the P25 at Aintree, where I had guarded hopes that I might do reasonably well. I took the short flight from Heathrow to Manchester on the Wednesday evening and was soon comfortably ensconced at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool.

Unfortunately, Thursday dawned grey and rainy, which did not bode well for first practice, although I managed to end up setting the quickest time on 2min 8.4sec, ahead of Carroll Shelby in the Aston Martin (2min 9.2sec), Jack Brabham (2min 9.4sec) and Tony Brooks in one of the old Vanwalls (2min 10.2sec), which had been dusted down for the team’s home GP and, frankly, looked as though it had seen better days.

On the Friday, the weather was patchy, both wet and dry, and I spent a lot of time battling with clutch slip on the BRM. I was disappointed that I had to settle for seventh place on the grid in the middle of the third row. Brabham took pole by a full second from Roy Salvadori’s Aston, with the other BRM P25 driven by Harry Schell on the outside of the front row. I made a good start but lost quite a bit of ground on the opening lap as the damned clutch slipped again.

After about 10 laps I had moved through to second place behind Jack and I pressed on hard until I had reduced his lead to about nine seconds. Then I had to make a pitstop to change worn tyres, followed by another to top up with fuel due to a fuel-feed problem. By the chequered flag, though, I was back up to second place, just ahead of Bruce McLaren’s Cooper.

Career race number: 447
Trophée d’Auvergne, 1st
F1 Cooper-Borgward
July 26 1959, Clermont-Ferrand (F)
Race distance 26 laps of 5.0-mile circuit Race time 1hr 41min 46.1sec Race speed 76.72mph Fastest lap 3min 48.8sec, 78.73mph (record) Car no 14 Entrant R R C  Walker

The thing I remember most about this race was that the start was given by the legendary French official Raymond ‘Toto’ Roche, who usually presided over events at Reims and whose antics on the starting grid in front of the assembled field, seconds before the start, were matched only by the infamous Louis Chiron’s similar behaviour at Monaco through the 1950s and ’60s when he would fumble with the flag and jump about, getting in everyone’s way.

On this occasion, Roche elected to stand right in front of my car, then dropped the flag and ran for his life. That allowed Chris Bristow’s BRP Cooper-Borgward to take the lead from the outside of the front row. Bristow was looking very ragged and I passed him on the sixth lap, leading all the way to the finish to win ahead of Henry Taylor’s Parnell-entered Cooper. Sadly, poor Ivor Bueb crashed heavily and was thrown out of his BRP Cooper, sustaining very serious injuries from which he died a week later.

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