By finishing second at the 24 Hours on July 29, 1956 along with Peter Collins, Sir Stirling Moss matched his best result at Le Mans, achieved in 1953 with Peter Walker. Sixty years later, here are some memories and anecdotes from one of the major players in motorsports during the 1950s and 1960s.
A champion without a crown: it is with this nickname that Sir Stirling Moss, today 88 years young, made motorsports history. But he readily recognizes the paradox "makes [him] a little more unique." It also greatly contributed to his popularity for six decades given that he was one of the biggest drivers of his era.
A 16-time winner (from 1955 to 1961) and four-time vice champion of the world (from 1955 to 1958) in Formula 1, the Britis driver competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans 10 times between 1951 and 1961, finishing only twice, once again in second place, with Jaguar in 1953 then Aston Martin in 1956! "The atmosphere of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1950 was really terrific with so many people coming, camping at night on the circuit, the fairground."
The 24 Hours was also an indicator of the great care Sir Stirling Moss took of his physical condition. His level of preparation made him the fastest during the driver sprint at the start of the race: "I used to practice time and time again half an hour or so, rushing across, jumping in, turning on the ignition. And I was a fast runner on short distances."
Though he was forced to retire eight times in 10 participations, Sir Stirling Moss smiles when talking about a certain special moment that happened at Le Mans: "I think my best achievement in the 24 Hours of Le Mans was meeting my wife there. I was standing waiting for taking the wheel. I looked across the track and I saw a pretty girl. I waved at her, she saw me and waved back. I made a come-over-this-side kind of gesture to her. We made signals and met." Her name was Katie and she became the British driver's wife from 1957 to 1959.
In 10 participations, at the 24 Hours Sir Stirling Moss drove some of the top cars of the day, whether they were developed from aeronautical technical findings (Jaguar Type D) or were sporting icons between the road and competition (Mercedes 300 SLR, Ferrari 250 GT). "There is no doubt that motor racing is here to improve cars, and I think that one of the greatest contributions for that is a race like the 24 Hours of Le Mans," concludes Sir Stirling Moss.
Enjoy more stories about Le Mans from Sir Stirling Moss in the third issue of Spirit of Le Mans, the official magazine of the 24 Hours.
PHOTO (Copyright - Archives/ACO): In 1956, Sir Stirling Moss - here at the wheel of his Aston Martin DB3 S - finished second at the sixth of his 10 participations in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.