Friday, May 17, 2013

Stirling Moss Video Biography

This is an hour-long video, but worth the time if you have it:

The main value of the video is the feel it provides for European road racing in the 1950's, particularly in the U.K.  (It was produced for the BBC.)  The sport was then much more a sport, and nationalistic, than it became later as it commercialized.  In many ways, its values were a throwback to the Edwardian Age.  In the modern era, a young Peter Collins would not turn his car over to Juan Fangio so the latter could win a championship "because he deserves it more than I do and my day will come" (1956).  Nor would a Moss try to reverse (successfully) the  disqualification of Mike Hawthorn that would ultimately cost him (Moss) the championship (1958).  Moss would not have won the British GP in 1955 but for Fangio lifting on the run to the checker because he knew a win in his home GP would mean a lot to him.

On the upside, the video is candid about some things that have been swept under the rug in the works I've read by and about Moss, like the anti-semitism he faced (not just as a school boy) and his girl-chasing.  "The man in full" is well-presented, and he's candid in his interviews with Patrick Stewart. Moss often comes across as more self-absorbed than other racing drivers (a self-absorbed bunch to begin with), but he may just less artful in disguising it.  The video also includes some fine old film.
On the downside, many of the talking heads exaggerate.  (Doug Nye is, as usual, excellent.)  And some dubious claims creep in.  For example, that a Moss/Ferrari partnership in 1962 would have been hard to beat.  (The 1962 Ferrari Formula 1 car was uncompetitive.)

Moss was (and is) a tireless self-promoter. He was the first professional driver in the modern sense--which is an interesting contrast with his otherwise Edwardian sporting values.  He's said that being the best driver never to win a World Championship turned out to be a blessing in disguise: it kept his reputation alive long after some World Champions have been forgotten.  Moss has also said that Fangio was better than he was.  This is debatable if sports car racing is included in the record.  What's not debatable is that he was the driver to beat between Fangio's retirement and Jimmy Clark's bursting on the scene after Moss's near-fatal crash.

Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson winning the 1955 Mille Miglia.  The video's presentation of this drive is compelling.

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