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    Enthusiastic Professionalism

This tribute is written by Rob Halloway, Marketing Director for Mercedes-Benz UK. Rob first met Sir Stirling and Lady Moss in 2002 and shared some incredible times with them both over the years. Posting this blog on Easter Monday is particularly poignant, as it was on Easter Monday in 1962 that Sir Stirling experienced a huge accident in the Glover Trophy at Goodwood.

The storyteller had my full attention. He leaned forward in his seat, and lowered his voice, almost conspiratorially: "Of course, one of the reasons we were so damned fast was because we still had drum brakes, and I couldn't slow down through the towns.  Good job, really!", he chuckled.

It was a great punchline, and one of epic modesty.  For my narrator was Sir Stirling Moss OBE, and he was describing what many people all over the world regard as the greatest motorsport victory of all time - his still unbeaten drive in the 1955 Mille Miglia. Aboard the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR, numbered "722" Moss and navigator Denis Jenkinson entered the history books. 

Later that night, at home, I searched YouTube for some footage of Stirling in the race.  Among the search results was an interview he'd done, recorded sometime in the 1970s. Resplendent with then-fashionable bushy sideburns, Mr Moss was enthusiastically telling the very same story, almost word for word, with the same level of detail and humour. 

The next time we spoke on the phone, a couple of weeks later, I asked Sir Stirling about this. "You must have told that story hundreds of times," I said.  "How on earth aren't you bored of repeating it?"

"Yes, well it was the first time I'd told you, Rob, so I wanted to make it interesting," he replied.  That simple comment taught me a lot about Sir Stirling Moss.  Alongside all his achievements behind the wheel -the amazing feats he accomplished driving in a most dangerous era of motorsport - it was his energy and enthusiastic professionalism that impressed me most of all.

Despite being forced to stop Grand Prix racing following an Easter Monday crash in 1962, "Mr Motorsport" carved a career from being always available, always on the move and always happy to work.  "Movement is tranquillity", he explained, no doubt countless times.

I first met Sir Stirling and Lady Moss (Susie) in 2002, when I worked in the PR department for Mercedes-Benz Cars UK.  Over the years I kept in regular touch with Susie Moss and "The Boss", as she always called him, and I'm fortunate to have shared some wonderful times with them both. 

I've been given the privilege to share a few of my memories here.

Always a three-spoker

If you've seen 722 at events around the world, it's a real treat.  What a glorious machine.  There are countless scale models made of it - I've got a handful of them at work, and at home.  And nearly all of these models are inaccurate. 

They're wrong because they overwhelmingly tend to have a four-spoke steering wheel, like any other Silver Arrow of the 1950s.  Yet Stirling always raced with a three-spoker.  In a "Y" formation, Stirling's incredible peripheral vision meant that he could look at the road ahead and see the instruments in the same view at the same time.  The Y kept the instruments clear. 

After winning on 1 May1955, amid the celebrations, Stirling asked Mercedes-Benz team boss Alfred Neubauer if he could keep his winning car's wheel.  He popped it into his bag, and when a mechanic then needed to move 722, the wheel was gone.  So, the mechanic grabbed a spare from the race truck - and that four spoke wheel is still on the car today. 

Stirling kept his three-spoker in his office at home in Mayfair, London, and it came off its hook every time he drove the car.  While 722 has been in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart for a few years now, its original steering wheel is still tucked away in a quiet corner of central London.

"Point and push. Point and push"

Stirling was approaching his eighties by the time I'd really got to know him, and with Susie by his side, he still travelled all over the world, representing not only brands, but the car companies for which he raced. He always spent hours regaling people with stories and jokes, and signing thousands of autographs. Between them, he and Lady Moss had a warm, wonderful rapport. When I dutifully attempted to give them a briefing on what was happening or what I expected the impending event to be, Susie always laughed: "We'll be alright, just point and push and we'll get on with it." This easy-going approach was disarming, and I never saw either of them make a fuss. 

One summer evening, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the Mosses had been to the famous Saturday night Ball, as had my wife Nicky, and I. Leaving early (I had a very early start the next day), we bumped into Stirling and Susie on the steps of Goodwood House. 

They were waiting for a car to pick them up. So, as my lift was already there, we all squished into the one waiting car, and cruised over to the hotel. En route, we all agreed to have a quick glass of wine in a quiet room at the hotel, and that turned into a couple of hours of stories, jokes and - as always, gales of laughter. So much for the early night...

Much later that evening, offering to chaperone the couple through the packed bar to their room, I saw a sight that has stayed with me ever since.  As Sir Stirling quietly entered, the whole bar fell momentarily silent, before bursting into rapturous applause, along with a spontaneous standing ovation.  Grown men saluted, others shouted "You're a legend, sir". Cheers boomed and hands reached out. Stirling smiled and waved, and Susie happily looked around and chuckled.  He was still very much "Mr Motorsport".

Shadows

Stirling lived in the same central London street for over 60 years, and his famous home has always been packed full of the latest gadgets and gizmos.  One weekend I was round the house to help record a video interview with Stirling for colleagues in America, and after filming he said we should get some lunch.  Over the road from their house is "Piccolo" Bar, a simple eatery beloved by taxi drivers and legendary Grand Prix drivers alike. 

Stirling took his place in the queue, ordered his usual Coronation Chicken sandwiches, and we walked back to his house.  On the asphalt surface of the road, in the cul de sac end of the street upon which they lived, was cast a perfect silhouette of "722", his most famous car.  

Having recently refurbished and updated the property again, the Mosses had the glass on the balcony on one of the upper floors frosted so that in the afternoon on sunny days, the outline of the car was cast onto the road. 

It will no doubt be shining there on this saddest day, when the world says farewell to a legendary figure.  For those of us lucky enough to have known him, we can think of happier times in the company of a wonderful, friendly, funny couple.  I hope that by sharing these memories, you get a glimpse of what Stirling was like to be around.

As Sir Stirling's letters and emails always ended, and always in block capitals:

CIAO, SM.

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