I have just heard the news that Sir Stirling has decided to fully retire. My immediate reaction is that few people, if anyone ever, have deserved retirement more than Stirling. Full of energy until his illness a year ago, he has rarely relaxed for more than a few minutes. Even in his 80s, he would be emailing at six in the morning and still at his desk at seven in the evening.
I had the great honour to write four books with Stirling and we became close friends. Spending time with him only enhanced my admiration and adoration for my childhood hero. Hard-working and very driven (appropriate!) he undoubtedly was, but he was also light-hearted, fun, quick-witted and up for being teased. Together with Susie and my wife Julie, we had some wonderful times together.
As a driver, it is my contention that he was the greatest of them all. He always argued that point but, in the same Grand Prix car, he could easily keep up with Fangio, the World Champion and team leader. In sports cars, when allowed to, he regularly beat Fangio. In Stirling's very first major rally, he finished second and was unlucky not to win. After Fangio retired in 1958, there was absolutely no question that Moss was in a class of his own until he himself retired in 1962.
He was actually rather proud of not winning the World Championship. Lots of drivers have done that and few, if any, were even in his league.
In his heyday, he was the 'Beckham' of his era, a superstar who transcended his sport and appeared on the front pages of the newspapers as well as featuring in the sports pages at the back. Beloved of almost every British schoolboy, with copious fans around the world, he was the perfect role model - courageous, competitive, super fit, a dogged fighter who never gave up and supremely skilled but, above all, a good sport. He was the James Bond of motor racing. He was, and is, the perfect hero. And it was not fiction.
By Philip Porter