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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sir Stirling Moss, OBE, My Hero

Sir Stirling Moss has always been my Hero

In 1958 I was watching something new to me on one of the cinema newsreels at the Bijou Theatre in Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) I began to return to the cinema, not to watch the weekly film, but to watch a gentle man, full of graciousness, win races and eventually only lose the 1958 Formula One championship by one point to rival British driver, Mike Hawthorn. I learned the name of the driver as Stirling Moss. I was amazed to know that he started racing in 1948, the year I was born, and I followed his career which ended prematurely as a Formula One driver in 1962 after that terrible crash that put him in a coma for a month. Sir Stirling raced in more than one marque, including endurance races and rallying. He won 212 of the 529 races he entered, including 16 Formula One Grands Prix. Not being content with just Formula one, he would compete in as many as 62 races in a single year and drove 84 different makes of car over the course of his racing career, including Lotus, Vanwall, Maserati, Jaguar, Ferrari and Porsche.
Although I was saddened to hear he had formally retired from driving professionally in 2011, I was pleased to see his spirit was just the same as it was when I first met him at Silverstone in 1969 during a promotional event. He recently drove the 'reasonably priced car' around the Top Gear track, and was still a very fast driver at 82 years of age. He has that tenacity that just goes on and on, rather like my character, Archie Mellor, still accepting challenges in books like WINDSTORM, when other men may have hung their boots up.
Loving Formula One as I do, Sir Stirling Moss has a very special place in my heart, and I know I am not alone in that. A quiet unassuming man who is a giant casting a massive shadow over modern much younger Formula One drivers. It is true that his accolades do not match those of Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher, but I am convinced they would have been if it hadn't been for that crash in 1962.
Whilst I am so pleased to have met and chatted with Sir Stirling, on the other hand I am saddened by the fact that the few strong women who entered Formula One did not achieve enough to show the World that it ISN'T an man's domain! Had my fictional character ANALISE VAN RENSBERG (Diamond Raiders) gone into Formula One, she would have whipped a few male drivers along the way, that's for sure! So, come on you eight to ten year old girls – get Karting! Let's see you out there showing the boys that you too can do it! 
Sir Stirling, I salute you and wish you an enjoyable 'retirement' (yeah? Right – you can't leave it alone!)

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