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.
After Mercedes’ departure I was in quite a strong position to put myself on the Formula 1 market for the 1956 season. Still hoping for a British car that would be strong enough to be a consistent winner, I tested for Connaught, BRM – who had a new, much simpler four-cylinder 2½-litre car – and Vanwall. It was Vanwall who looked the most promising, and I actually did a race for them in May.
But in the end I took Maserati’s offer to be confirmed as their team leader, not only in Formula 1 but also in sports car racing, for which they had a strong car in the 300S. In Formula 1 my fees were £500 per Grand Prix, £300 per non-championship race, and 60 per cent of prize and bonus money.
It turned out to be a hectic season, with plenty of ups and downs. But it brought me two World Championship Grand Prix victories. My Monaco win, leading from flag to flag, was particularly satisfying: it was a proper three-hour, 100-lap race in those days. The other win, at Monza, was far from being as straight-forward.
I’ve never set that much store by championship points (apart from in 1958, when I must admit I did get caught up in all that). To me it was always winning a race that mattered, not adding up points at the end of the season. But in 1956 I did end the year second in the World Championship to Fangio, as I had done the previous year and as I would do the following year.
In sports cars, Maserati’s 300S was rather like a 3-litre, wide-bodied version of the 250F, and in its own way was every bit as good. I loved it, and it may be my favourite sports-racing car ever.
The 450S was Maserati’s 1957 attempt to build a really powerful sports-racer that would deal with Ferrari once and for all. Powerful it certainly was, with nearly 400bhp from its thunderous four-cam V8. (But) the coupe version that was hastily prepared for the Le Mans 24 Hours was possibly the most unpleasant car I ever raced. I for one didn’t mourn the 450S’s passing.
The big V8 was also used in a single-seater device called the Eldorado Special, paid for by an Italian ice-cream magnate to take on the visiting Indycar drivers on the Monza banking for the so-called Race of Two Worlds in 1958. This car did its level best to kill me, so that’s another Maserati that I don’t remember with affection.
Tomorrow: Record-breaking with MG
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