I was surprised by my reaction to the news that Sir Stirling Moss has hung up the Herbert Johnson after 63 years of racing. I thought I would be sad, for truly an era has ended. But I’m not: I’m overjoyed that Stirling has walked away on his own terms and in a manner of his choosing. A career that so nearly took him from us on more than one occasion has concluded in the happiest way.
Retirement from racing, I know, is something that has been on Stirling’s mind for a while. I think the only fear he ever had behind a wheel was that the day would come when he might hold someone up or get in their way and now it never will. I imagine it has not even occurred to him that almost any one of us would pay a sizeable sum to follow Stirling Moss around a track.
Still the decision to quit must have been terribly tough. More than anyone else I have met save Senna, Stirling is defined by his sport. They even called him Mr Motor Racing for goodness sake. I remember talking to Tony Brooks about why he never looked back after quitting in 1961 and he said simply “racing was only ever going to be part of my life and that part was over. Unlike Stirling: racing is his life”.
How will he take to retirement? Well, he might have retired from racing, but I imagine the rest of his life will continue at the same frenetic pace. He will be as in demand as ever and I cannot see him withdrawing from public life for a moment. And I look forward to seeing what kind of celebration of his career will be staged at the Goodwood Festival of Speed next month.
In the meantime, perhaps you’d care to share your best Stirling moment with us? Mine is watching him coax a Lotus Cortina into a drift through Goodwood’s Fordwater kink at a hundred and goodness knows how many miles per hour. It was pure mastery from a man who, at the time, was just a few days short of his 77th birthday.
Stirling, I’m not going to say we’ll miss you because I’m sure you’re not going anywhere. Instead I’ll just say thanks for everything and hope to see you, if not actually on, then at least at the track for many, many years to come.