We will remember Easter Sunday 2020 as the day Stirling died. We have lost a dear friend, a man whose first race win came at Goodwood, and whose name is inscribed on so many Goodwood trophies.
Stirling won his first single-seater race here, at the first Goodwood meeting in 1948, and was still racing at the Revival 62 years later. For us he was simply 'Mister Goodwood', a hugely popular presence at all our motorsport events. The Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard and Revival haven’t been the same without him these past few years, though it was still wonderful for me to be able to celebrate his 90th last year by driving Susie around the track in his DBR1. Ever the complete professional, he was our sport's greatest ambassador, an example to every young driver who wants to make his mark in a business that Stirling always said was first and foremost a sport.
Still the world's most famous racing driver, Stirling will forever be revered as the most versatile racing driver ever. Looking back at his Grand Prix career it's hard to believe he never won the World Championship, but that hardly matters when you consider his other achievements. His record-breaking victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia, for example, or beating the Ferraris at Monaco in his little Rob Walker Lotus, winning the World Sports Car Championship for Aston Martin at Goodwood in 1959, and his famous Tourist Trophy win here in the Ferrari 250 SWB – so far ahead of the field he was listening to the race commentary on the radio!
It was at Goodwood, on Easter Monday in 1962, that his extraordinary career came to an end when he was still the man to beat. I was a seven-year-old boy and I remember my grandfather Freddie was distraught. Stirling was in a coma for a month in St Richards hospital just down the road from Goodwood. He tried a racing a car out again much too quickly and almost immediately decided he wasn’t quick enough and would never race again – who knows what might have happened if he had had access to modern methods of recovery and rehabilitation. He remembered nothing of the accident, his love of racing at the circuit undimmed. To watch him drive at the Revival, where his enthusiasm and passion for the sport touched everyone who met him, was a joy and privilege. He just overtook everyone, even when he was more than twice their age!
I am thinking today of his wife Susie who was such a huge source of strength and happiness for Stirling in everything he did. They were wonderful company and I am just pleased that they were together this morning when he died peacefully after a long period of illness.
Mister Goodwood has gone, but he will never be forgotten by anyone who loves the sport of motor racing, or was privileged to see him race. Ciao Stirl, we salute you and we will miss you.