So Wyer obviously turned to his quickest driver and told him to go out and do all he could to break the opposition. But he did more than that: he installed into Stirling’s DBR1 an engine with not only a higher compression ratio but just four main bearings, as opposed to the full seven found in both other DBR1s. Fewer bearings meant less friction meant more power, which was good. But it also meant less bottom-end strength. Wyer was entirely aware of this weakness and actually told Moss to regard the car as ‘semi-expendable.’ So Stirling went out, setting a phenomenal pace in an old car on a circuit to which it was not suited, taking and holding the lead.
It was never going to last and the car retired after just 70 laps, but not before putting in a performance that was, in Wyer’s view, ‘responsible for the failure of the Behra/Gurney Ferrari’. Which was the team’s biggest threat. All the other Ferrari sports car would go on to retire though whether even in part through the rigours of keeping up with Moss, it is hard to say. But to this day few appreciate the contribution Moss made. But Wyer, probably the best placed to judge of all, is clear: ‘It is impossible to over-estimate the part played by Moss in our success at Le Mans.’ So Stirling may never have won Le Mans in 1959, but never let it said he was not instrumental in Le Mans being won that year. I shall be raising a glass to him next weekend.