Such is the enduring fame of Sir Stirling, or Mister Motor Racing as he is affectionately known by his millions of fans worldwide. Now, at the age of 88, and after many months of poor health, this extraordinary man has announced his retirement from public life. No longer will he be the go-to for the media when they need a quote from a racing legend. And, more significantly for us at Goodwood, there is sadness that he will no longer be a central figure at the Festival of Speed and the Revival.
Stirling, with his wife Susie never far from his side, has been such an important part of our events, always supportive, and so professional in his no-nonsense approach to whatever we asked him to do. Typically, Stirling was ready to drive whatever came his way, and none of us will ever forget the day he and Denis Jenkinson drove up the Festival hill together in the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR in which they so famously won the Mille Miglia in 1955. Then there was the time he and Tony Brooks drove their Vanwalls in convoy to celebrate their shared victory in the 1957 British Grand Prix. So many great memories. Neither the Festival nor the Revival will be the same without him.
Stirling will, however, never be far from our thoughts. He has been to almost every single Festival of Speed and Revival we have done since 1993 when he became, along with John Surtees, a Patron of the Festival.
His connections with Goodwood go back to the earliest days of the circuit. It was at Goodwood in 1948 that Stirling won his first ever race, driving his privately entered 500cc Cooper-Norton Formula 3 car. Throughout the 1950s he was a Goodwood winner in Formula One, in the Tourist Trophy, in GT cars, and in sportscars with Aston Martin with whom he won the World Sportscar Championship in1959. One of his greatest victories was in the 1961 Tourist Trophy, racing Rob Walker's Ferrari 250 SWB. So far ahead of the field was he that he was listening to the race commentary on the car radio... and he crossed the line a lap ahead of the field for his seventh TT victory. He would later race at the Revival, a challenge he relished until his health prevented even this incredible man from showing the others how Goodwood should be driven.
Wherever he went, he won, and usually with his favourite number 7 on the car. Goodwood was a circuit he loved, with its fast, flowing corners, and this despite the accident that so abruptly ended his career in 1962. " I don't remember it old boy," he always tells me, " but when I came back to the circuit for a day, to see if I still had what it takes, I realised there was something missing. If you're not there to win, there's no point being there." Having won his first race at Goodwood he was chasing Graham Hill that afternoon, on his way to winning, but he inexplicably crashed on the entry to St Mary's corner. Nobody knows why to this day.
I went to see Stirling and Susie just a couple of weeks ago and together they are managing his illness with the bravery and fortitude that has seen them survive so many of Stirling's scrapes over the years. He won't be coming back to Goodwood, he won't be imparting his wisdom in public anymore, but for me, he will always be Mister Goodwood, inextricably a part of our motorsport history. In Goodwood's heyday, Stirling was at the height of his powers, a towering talent who, thanks to his insistence on driving British cars, never won a World Championship but who was adored and revered the world over.
The Festival, and especially the Revival, will simply not be the same without him. We will miss the most versatile driver the world has ever seen. His spirit, however, will always be felt at the motor circuit where both my Grandfather and I have been privileged to count him as a friend. For now, all of us wish this truly great character a speedy recovery.