Motorsport 'icon and legend' Stirling Moss dies at 90

By: AFP      Published: 02:02 AM, 13 Apr, 2020
Motorsport 'icon and legend' Stirling Moss dies at 90
In this file photo taken on October 22, 2001 British motor-racing legend Stirling Moss (L) and his wife Susie Moss (R) pose beside their 1957 Maserati 200 Si prior to start the vintage car rally festival, La Festa Mille Miglia 2001 in Tokyo.–AFP

Stirling Moss, widely-regarded as the greatest motor racing driver never to win the world title, has died aged 90 following a long illness.

"It was one lap too many," his wife Susie Moss told Britain's Press Association on Sunday.

"He just closed his eyes."

Tributes flooded in from the world of motorsport and beyond to the gifted and revered driver who never won the Formula One title, finishing runner-up four times and third three times.

"Today we say goodbye to Sir Stirling Moss, the racing legend," reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton wrote on Instagram.

"Two people from massively different times and backgrounds but we clicked and ultimately found that the love for racing we both shared made us comrades," added the six-time world champion.

Meanwhile, three-time world champion Jackie Stewart, who came into Grand Prix racing shortly after Moss's injury-enforced retirement in the early 1960s, told the BBC: "I think he's probably the best example of a racing driver there's ever been.

"He walked like a racing driver, he talked like a racing driver, he behaved like a racing driver should behave."

Former England striker Gary Lineker posted on Instagram: "Sir Stirling Moss has reached life's checkered flag, and what a race he drove. Wonderful driver and a lovely man. RIP."

British media reported Moss had succumbed to a chest infection he caught in Singapore in December 2016 that saw him retire from public life two years later. 

There is no suggestion his death was linked to the coronavirus.

In an era when it was common for drivers to race in different disciplines, Moss won 212 of the 529 races he entered over a 14-year career that started in 1948.

His victories included the 1955 Mille Miglia, where he set a course record in the 1,000 mile event, which took place on public roads in Italy.

Renowned sportsmanship 

In Formula One, Moss won 16 races, with his first victory coming in the 1955 British Grand Prix at Liverpool that saw him become the first British winner.

Moss had the misfortune to compete in the same era as the great Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio, who won the F1 championship five times.

His renowned sportsmanship cost Moss the 1958 title when he defended the conduct of British rival Mike Hawthorn following a spin at the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Moss's action helped spare Hawthorn a six-point penalty, with Hawthorn winning the title by a single point.

"I had no hesitation in doing it," Moss recalled. "I can't see how this is open to debate. The fact that he was my only rival in the championship didn't come into my thinking. Absolutely not."

His top-level career in motorsport came to an end in 1962 following a crash at the Goodwood track in Sussex, southern England, that left Moss in a coma for a month and partially paralysed for six months.

But such was the enduring fame of the debonair driver that, for decades afterwards, the rhetorical phrase "Who do you think you are, Stirling Moss?" was supposedly the standard question all British policemen asked speeding motorists.

"Yes a policeman did once ask me," Moss told the Daily Telegraph in a 2012 interview. 

"But I couldn't work out if he was taking the mick (joking)."

He was knighted in the New Year Honours list in 2000 for services to motor racing.

For F1 pundit and former driver Martin Brundle, Moss was "a mighty racer and gentleman".

"He had a press on style on the track and in life," Brundle posted on Twitter.

"Remarkable man. Survived the most dangerous era of motorsport and died today aged 90. He had such great stories to tell, and it was a privilege to know him."

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Frank Bruno revealed that Moss had "privately supported me over many years".

"My thoughts are with his family and all that had the pleasure of knowing him".