Stirling - Thoughts from 1955
Fangio, Neubauer, and the glamour of motor racing
Stirling on: Fangio
‘One of the first to congratulate me after becoming the first Brit to ever win the British GP was Fangio.
‘I had respect and a sort of love for Fangio but he was quite naughty. Fangio had quite an eye for the ladies. In fact, I have a feeling that he took a fancy to Sally Western, who spoke Spanish. Regrettably, we didn’t have a social life together. Fangio was with Fangina most of the time; that was his lady. I don’t think he actually married her but she was known as his lady. In modern terms, she would be known as his partner.
‘He had quite a presence and a lot of charisma around him and, therefore, when we had interpreters, he fell quite easily into a warm relationship, let’s put it that way. I don’t know, and one doesn’t brag anyway, but certainly Fangio was one of the most humble men one could meet.
‘As a driver he was the tidiest, least ruffled, fastest on corners and most consistently successful, yet always modest. A man of genius, for me he was the very best.’
Stirling on: Alfred Neubauer
‘As a team manager, he has no equal in the history of big-time motor racing. In fact, it was Neubauer who virtually created the role of team manager and made it an indispensable feature of international motor racing.
‘I enjoyed driving in the Mercedes team enormously. This was largely due to my affection for Alfred Neubauer as a man and to my admiration for him as a team-leader. He possessed to a high degree qualities which I particularly respect, combining intelligence with efficiency and scrupulous attention to detail.
‘It seems almost superfluous to mention his genius for organising.
‘This too I appreciated as a Mercedes team driver. Alfred Neubauer’s experience of men and motor racing was so vast that he could read a driver’s thoughts – on or off the job.
‘Everyone who has seen him in action knows what an unpredictable temper he had, but he “exploded” only when people were slow to understand, forgetful or careless; he did not suffer fools gladly.
‘Neubauer, he had a big bark, but really was a very, very kind man. There was only one thing I really disliked about him – he made me (and others) get up too damned early! Karl Kling was a typical Kraut, you know, a typical German. He was given the worst tasks together with Hans Herrmann. Say we were doing testing through the night, Neubauer would make Fangio’s life the easiest, he would have the best draws. I would be number two and then probably Karl would be three and Hans four, because a] he was junior b] he was a German. Fangio was not exactly an early riser.
‘Neubauer is difficult to describe. He told schoolboy jokes. He was not a dirty old man in anyway, he was just funny. He was always laughing. One year he said, ‘You know, I’ve got a 50-year-old secretary. I’m going to get rid of her and have two 25-year-old ones.’ He was very jovial and pulling people’s legs. If you didn’t know him and you were a press guy, you could find him very severe.
‘He ruled very efficiently and the last thing he wanted to do was to find people eking in around the edges. If he said something, that was it.
‘He really liked his grappa. But he was a man of immense size. He was a person one really warmed to, very human; he really was a very, very nice man. He would push people away to give the drivers room and he was very thoughtful. He would try and get quiet rooms for the drivers and all that sort of thing. So he was a very human man and he had always got his stop watch. When he was taking times, he was not taking lap times because he had someone to do that. He was taking time between gear changes, or how long you would stay in a gear to get from this corner to that, so obviously if you’re staying in a gear longer than you had before it meant the engine was being revved higher.
‘As an Englishman I loved his humour and his rare sense of fun. I cannot imagine anyone being unable to enjoy himself in his company, for one of “Don Alfedo’s” accomplishments is that he is a linguist and can be funny in three or four languages! He became a team manager because of his love of cars; I am convinced he could have made a success of almost any career – in business, or even the stage, had he so wished.’
Stirling on: The life of a racing driver in that era
‘I can’t think of any driver of substance who had such a regime of fitness as they do today. They have to put up with was tremendous lateral G forces today and we didn’t, but we did have three-hour races! So our biggest problem in a contest was fatigue and the heat in the car. I mean driving a Mercedes or any of the cars really, when they’ve got good power, isn’t physically very difficult. It is difficult physically purely because of doing it for the length of time we were doing this for.
‘The racing was there as a thing you’d do each week which was the way it got you around the world – going from party to party, and it was fantastic. The life of a racing driver in that era was tremendous. Wherever you went, obviously, you were reasonably feted and it was a very glamorous thing, because of the colour and the sound and the people. Always, somehow, people from showbiz were interested in motor racing, Sinatra and people like that were there. Not that they would go round following motor racing, but you had glamorous type people who set the style. I have 96 scrapbooks, green for my racing, and black for my private life and I have more private life than racing!’
Images and various extracts taken from Stirling Moss Scrapbook 1955 which was compiled from the private scrapbooks, photo albums, diaries and personal recollections of the great man. Moss raced hard and off the track he lived life to the full. The book recaptures the glamour and excitement of the golden era of motor racing and provides a unique insight into Sir Stirling’s career and private life.