Discovering what made Stirling tick: the final interview

F1

The story behind Stirling Moss's final in-depth interview: how Mia Forbes Pirie brought new insight into the character of the racing great

Mia Stirling interview

As the daughter of Stirling Moss’s former secretary, Mia Forbes Pirie grew up in the company of the racing great. Seeking to know more about the man behind the fame, she arranged to meet at his home and arrived with a list of revealing questions. Unknown to both at the time, this would be his final in-depth interview.

Stirling had many remarkable qualities – unsurprisingly, patience was not usually one of them.  On the day I interviewed him, however, he showed a surprising amount of patience with me. I call that love. He did not get frustrated when the tripod didn’t work properly. Nor did he seem to mind when I fumbled with the recording device for the second camera. I had never videoed-interviewed anyone before. This was a first.

I knew, however, that we all had something to learn from this man. A man I had known since I was born. This man who was my mother’s best friend and with whom, on occasion, I had negotiated my Christmas stocking. I was determined to dig deeper and find out what.

Motor racing is not really my thing. I have spent much of my time with the Mosses trying to avoid watching motor racing and only recently become more engaged with it. As a mediator and a coach, human beings are what I am interested in. So I had my questions ready. Susie (his wife) had helped me set up the lighting and, eventually, we were good to go.

How did Stirling achieve what he achieved?  What were the characteristics that made up this man? What made him tick? How had he made the most difficult decisions in his life? What was he afraid of? What mattered to him?  I wanted to talk to him about all of these things, and more.

We spoke about death, and life. Things that are important to all of us. About his unusual lack of fear – and what had helped him seemingly to become fearless.  I tried to understand how and why he had put in so much effort and planning and preparation for things that mattered to him and what made winning so important to him.  Sometimes the people who are most talented at things do not really know why or how to break them down.  Through nurture or nature Stirling had an extraordinary ability to focus and an enormous drive to win. I asked him three times why winning was so important to him.  It was so central to his psyche that, despite the best will in the world, he did not really understand the question.

Related article

We talked about money, about fame, about the people he had loved. We talked about choosing a new career after losing the one you love (after his accident) and about how things could have turned out differently. I could tell that he enjoyed the interview.

Afterwards we went up into the kitchen and his assistant said something along the lines of “same old questions, Stirling?”. He looked at me knowingly: we had a secret. These were not the questions he had been asked before. In fact, he had had to think quite hard to answer many of them.

There are questions I did not ask because I thought we would have more time. I thought we would get another chance. But then Stirling got sick. I’ve seen him recover from many accidents, including a 50ft fall down a lift shaft. I’ve never seen someone so determined to live and to heal. The last three years must have been the most difficult of his life. He was a fighter. I hoped against hope that he would come back one more time. I told him he had to hold on so that he could give me away if I ever got married. Susie was always by his side and I know, as he says in the interview, that meant the world to him. I learnt from my mum’s book that he did not like to be alone. And he loved sharing his life with Susie.

During that time, it did not seem right to share this material with the world. Now it does. I hope that people will enjoy it and perhaps learn a few things that will help them live better, more fulfilled lives like this great man, whose integrity is an example to us all.

You may also like