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.
Throughout the 1950s the two great British manufacturers battling it out in sports car racing, from Le Mans to Goodwood, from Sebring to Oulton Park, were Jaguar and Aston Martin – the UK equivalent of the perennial Italian rivalry between Ferrari and Maserati.
Ever since that first Tourist Trophy win in Ireland in 1950, Jaguar had been very important to me, right up to the end of the 1954 season. Then, with my move to Mercedes-Benz in 1955, the 300SLR became my sports car mount, and Mike Hawthorn joined Jaguar as their No 1. However, my 1956 deal with Maserati allowed me to race for other manufacturers when they didn’t need me, and Aston Martin were happy to sign me on that basis.
In 1959 Aston Martin were determined to win Le Mans, and were prepared to sacrifice the rest of the season to concentrate on that one goal. But following my win in the previous year’s Nürburgring 1000Kms, I persuaded them to send a single car and a couple of mechanics to that race. And Jack Fairman and I won it, not without considerable drama when, through no fault of his own, he went off the road. Then Astons did win Le Mans at last, although by taking my role as the team ‘hare’ seriously I was out with a blown engine after five hours.
‘Then our race was potentially ruined when our car caught fire in the pits and was almost burned out. But Roy Salvadori and I took over another team car and won the race.’
That victory put them in with a shout of winning the World Sports Car Championship for Manufacturers. Ferrari were the favourites in that series, and it all came down to the final round, the TT at Goodwood.
The full three-car works Aston team faced up to a full team of Ferrari Testa Rossas, but on that track, unlike Le Mans, we had the legs of them. Then our race was potentially ruined when our car caught fire in the pits and was almost burned out. But Roy Salvadori and I took over another team car and won the race – and Aston Martin beat Ferrari to the championship by two points.
Tomorrow: Rob Walker, and the beginning of an extraordinary racing relationship
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