Last week I was invited to meet British racing legend Sir Stirling Moss. In case you’ve been asleep for 64 years (Moss started racing in 1948), Sir Stirling is the bloke who’s often referred to as "the greatest driver never to win the world championship".
In his time, he’s had a colourful career, including winning the 1955 Mille Miglia in a record time of just 10 hours 7 minutes 48 seconds. His first F1 victory came in the same year when he won the British Grand Prix at Aintree and he also claimed victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring in ’54, becoming the first non-American driver to do so.
Following a huge crash in ’64 which left Moss in a coma for a month, he retired from grand prix racing. The dented wooden steering wheel (the damage occurred courtesy of Sir Stirling’s forehead) sits proudly in his home in London.
I was given a precious seven minutes to ask Sir Stirling a few questions that some of you sent me via Twitter. Here are the highlights:
Do you still get a thrill from motoring?
“Not at all. British roads are no fun any more. Look around and you’ll see that all the fun has been engineered out them, whether it be the speed bumps that have sprung out of the tarmac or the amount of traffic lights that halts progress.
“Go up to Scotland and things are different. You can have fun there as long as you’re careful. Tasmania is the same, too, but it’s a bit further away. That’s why, if I’m alone, you’ll see me on my scooter.”
Given the hype surrounding a grand prix in London, what’s your view?
“I think it’s a fantastic idea. Obviously not dead in the centre, but it could work in the East End, maybe by the Blackwall Tunnel.
“There was a plan to host the F1 in London in the 1950s, but the police turned it down because they decided that they wouldn’t be able to control the crowds.”
Inexperienced drivers: should we all share a common licence?
“My idea would be to grade driving licences; as you improve, you move up the ladder. Say you pass your test and reach level one. That will allow you to drive a car of up to 1.0 litre, perhaps. That way, drivers will have an incentive to improve, unlike nowadays.
“I also think we should be getting young drivers to take part in hillclimbs. That way, they’ll understand the limits of a car and the limits of their ability. I doubt that’ll make it past the DVLA, though.”
It's fair to say that Sir Stirling was on entertaining and opinionated form during our brief chat. I was astonished by his sincerity – a true gent and bona fide British legend.