Stirling Moss Is Strong at the 1956 Belgian GP

A Bit about Stirling Moss.

To recall, Stirling Moss won the last Grand Prix, which was at Monaco.  He also put on a good, but ultimately unsuccessful, bid to win the 1956 Belgian Grand Prix.  So, I thought I’d put up a simple post sketching out a bit of what I have learned about Stirling Moss.

For those unfamiliar with Sir Stirling Moss, he has been called, “the greatest driver never to win a championship.”  He was the son of a wealthy dentist and was afforded a relatively comfortable upbringing on an expansive estate.  Stirling Moss is alive and well.  For me, it has been interested to watch modern interviews from Formula 1 driver of this area.  There are few remaining and the danger of driving, in those days, is largely responsible.

Stirling Moss is a gentleman, but also a man of supreme confidence.  For example, he claims to have never made a mistake behind the wheel – citing mechanical failures as the cause of each of his crashes.  But, he would also wave, as a matter of respect, as he overtook competitors.  It was as if he were saying, “Good day, good Sir” before they smelled the fumes of his exhaust.

His parents encouraged him to race.  Both parents had experience behind the wheel in local amateur races.  He spent 1951 through 1953 in British cars, with little chance of success.  The consummate Britain, he had hoped to have his wins cloaked in British racing green.  However, these cars were uncompetitive and Moss had few chances to shine.

In 1954 his parents bought Moss a still-competitive Maserati 250F – only, they purchased it with his money.  The gamble paid off, as Moss was able to show some results in 1954.  In fact, he caught the attention of “the fat man,” Alfred Neubauer.  He was soon called by the Mercedes boys to race in the W196 for the factory team.  He would be teammate to the great Juan-Manuel Fangio.

Just like Mr. Miyagi and the karate kid, Moss learned everything he could from Fangio.  Moss was truly a student of the master, and openly admitted to sitting two car lengths behind Fangio, purely to study his every move.  His respect for Fangio was so great that when Fangio once stole Moss’ girlfriend, Moss responded, “Rather him, I suppose, than anyone else.”

For Mercedes, he won the British Grand Prix.  He had also beat Fangio in a tough race at Monaco.  And, finally, he was to put on a good show at the 1956 Belgian GP.

The 1956 Belgian GP.

It was a wet and overcast morning deep in the ardenne forest on June 3, 1956.  The smell of moist soil and evergreen trees would have permeated the air.  The video covers most of the action.  But, a few notes at the outset:

Juan-Manuel Fangio put his car on pole.  Stirling Moss qualified second; however, he was a full five seconds off of Fangio’s incredible pace.  I note that there are hints of Fangio’s superiority, behind the wheel.  For example, I note that Moss takes Eau Rouge just a little further off the apex than Fangio.

So, Moss came in third, but started strong.  He also repeatedly shattered the fastest race lap as he furiously attempted to catch up after his break down.  All in all, this was a pretty classic race for the era.