Every day this week GRR is reprinting excerpts from the new Stirling Moss book, published to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Sir Stirling’s epic victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia – also to be celebrated at the Festival of Speed on June 26-28.
I had a test at Hockenheim, and quickly realised that the professionalism and sheer substance of the Mercedes effort was unlike anything I had witnessed before. As I got out of the car, a polite Mercedes employee was waiting for me with a bowl of water and a towel. And – the water was hot. I signed.
During 1955 I benefited enormously from the guidance and experience of three very special men. Alfred Neubauer, an enormous figure physically and metaphorically, was pretty daunting at first, and a strict disciplinarian. But he was also a supremely intelligent team manager, and put everything together to giveyou the maximum chance of winning races.
Away from the track he had a rumbustious sense of humour, and didn’t mind a joke at his own expense. I discovered this when we were on a long, boring flight to Argentina for our first race. In mid-air Hans Herrmann and I suddenly heard our names being shouted urgently from the back of the plane: Neubauer had pretended to become stuck in the lavatory. He had, as one would expect, a secretary who was as strict and efficient as he was. He said to me once, with his rumbling laugh: ‘My secretary, she is 42. I am going to exchange her for two secretaries aged 21.’
‘He was a father figure to me, hugely experienced, a wonderful man to work with and, for a racing driver, extraordinarily unselfish.’
The greatest influence of all, of course, came from my team leader, Juan Manuel Fangio. I learned an inestimable amount from following in his wheel-tracks, and also from working with him as part of the team. He was a father figure to me, hugely experienced, a wonderful man to work with and, for a racing driver, extraordinarily unselfish. He didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Spanish, but we managed to converse after a fashion in Italian. We never hid any knowledge from each other, as some team-mates do today: we were friends as well as team-mates, and my respect for him was total. Comparisons across generations are impossible, but he is still, in my opinion, the greatest racing driver of all time.
Tomorrow: A date with destiny at a race called the 1000 Miles…
This is an extract from Stirling Moss: My Racing Life (£50) which is available from all good book retailers and direct from Evro Publishing, www.evropublishing.com.