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.
Goodwood, Easter Monday, 23 April 1962: the day my professional racing career ended, and the day my life very nearly ended. The annoying thing is, I have no memory of any of it.
Reading the contemporary reports of the Glover Trophy, I see that I was having problems from the start, and after nine laps I came in to have the gear linkage adjusted. I rejoined a long way down.
Graham Hill was leading comfortably from Bruce McLaren, and in that comparatively short race I had no hope of making up the two laps I had lost. But it was always my philosophy to keep racing as long as I had a car under me: I believed I had that duty to the spectators, who had paid to see us in action, and maybe I could end the day with a new lap record. Sure enough, I did set a new outright lap record (also equalled by John Surtees’ Lola), and by lap 30 of the 42 I was back up to seventh place.
Fortunately – this was the first thing I asked the doctors when I was awake enough to think about it – my old man was all right.
On lap 35 I came up behind Graham’s BRM, ready to unlap myself. As we approached the right-hand section of St Mary’s I was on the left of the road, almost alongside Graham – and I shot across the grass and hit the bank head-on.
The photographs that were taken after the accident, with me trapped in the car, look rather lurid, but in fact I find myself able to look at them quite dispassionately. After all, I knew nothing about it. I was trapped in the car for about 45 minutes, I gather, because the chassis had completely folded up over me. Fortunately there was no fire.
I had pretty serious brain injuries, and my face was badly crushed, particularly the left eye socket and cheekbone. My left arm and leg were broken, the leg in two places. I was paralysed down one side for a while, and when I started to wake up I didn’t know how to speak. There were various other bits and pieces to be dealt with. Fortunately – this was the first thing I asked the doctors when I was awake enough to think about it – my old man was all right.
When I had my accident I was 32 years old, and I had been racing for 14 years. I was driving as well as I had ever done, maybe better. Had the accident not happened I firmly believe I would have continued for at least another 14 years, and probably much more.
This is the final extract from Stirling Moss: My Racing Life (£50) which is available from all good book retailers and direct from Evro Publishing, www.evropublishing.com