Moss - Mission Impossible 3, by Philip Porter
(all quotes and illustrations have been taken from the Stirling Moss Scrapbook 1956 - 60)
Continuing our occasional series highlighting that Stirling was, above all, a racer.
1958 Nürburgring 1000Kms in Aston Martin DBR1 with Jack Brabham
After retiring in the Monaco GP and winning the Dutch GP the two preceding weekends, Stirling was at the uniquely challenging Nürburgring with the Aston Martin team for the 1,000 kilometres (625-mile) sports car race in late May.
Three DBR1 Astons were ranged against four V12 Ferraris and three Jaguar D-types, plus sundry Porsches and a large field which amounted to some 50 cars in total. The lesser classes even included a Peugeot and a Volvo, ‘A menace to themselves as well as others,’ stated Moss at the time!
Mike Hawthorn's Ferrari was faster than Moss's leading Aston in practice but Stirling made his usual lightening Le Mans start and had a 100-yard lead when the cars doubled back past the pits. Apart from the Ferraris being faster, Stirling's additional handicap that day was Jack Brabham. Though only a year away from winning his first World Championship, Brabham was still learning the ropes and was new to the DBR1. He was well off the pace.
Above: The challenging nature of the Nürburgring was ideal for Stirling to show all his natural skill and ability, to say nothing of his extraordinary stamina. Though even he suffered some aftereffects of pushing himself so hard for so long.
Stirling had a 12-second lead after the first lap, which increased to 14 after the second. Hawthorn's Ferrari was second, followed by Tony Brooks in another Aston, 'Taffy' von Trips (Ferrari) and Roy Salvadori (Aston). By the end of the third lap, the Moss lead was 21 seconds but both his team mates were in trouble. Breaking the lap record on each of his first 10 flying laps, Stirling handed over to Brabham with a 60-second lead.
Above: The relevant page from Stirling's diary
‘We managed the change-over very quickly, in six and a quarter seconds, with the car still rolling and both of us more or less in it at the same time.’
Jack Brabham, being unfamiliar with the car, lost the lead within a lap and after three was back in third place. After just three laps, to give Moss a breather, Brabham was brought in and Stirling sent off to chase and hunt down the big Ferraris. He soon caught von Trips and then overhauled Hawthorn. By lap 22, the halfway stage, Stirling led by over two minutes. From lap 25 Brabham did another five circuits and, when he pitted, the leading Hawthorn/Collins Ferrari, which had closed right up, stopped at the same time.
Above: In spite of the strain of driving flat out for over 500 miles, Stirling looks his usual calm and relaxed self at the wheel. During his career, he put in so many great drives, often defying the odds such as here at the 'Ring, that it is difficult to single out particular races but this must have been one of his very best displays of skill and tenacious fighting spirit.
Moss once again showed his supreme skill and brushed off the Ferrari threat. By pushing himself and the car hard, he had built a lead of over four minutes by lap 33. The flag fell on the Aston after seven hours 23 minutes 33 seconds of motoring at an average of 84.26mph, with the four works Ferraris in the next four places.
Above: The victors, Stirling and Jack Brabham, share their joy with Aston Martin owner, David Brown.
‘It was a fine victory for Aston Martin and I had enjoyed every minute of it. When it was over, I was quite ill and felt completely beaten up; I had done too much driving - 36 laps [over 500 miles] of the 44. It took me just on a week to get over it, which was even longer than it took me to get over the Mille Miglia. My pulse rate when I got to bed that evening at the Sporthotel was 130, but I learned a lesson from it: I would not do quite so much another time.’
Books by Philip Porter