Just before the Grand Prix of Germany and Europe on August 6, a confident Enzo Ferrari reportedly ordered one of his drivers, Phil Hill, to hold back so the other, Count Wolfgang von Trips, could clinch the world championship and thus increase Ferrari sales in Germany. Hill declared he would not follow orders, but he still finished behind von Trips. The German did not, however, clinch anything—Britain's hard-driving Stirling Moss, following a plan of his own, won in a dramatic upset, with von Trips second and Hill third. Moss, the No. I money-maker, is an independent. He spends much of his earnings on a staff that helps him operate as a free lance, but he says there is little chance an independent ever will win the championship. Here, with writer John Lovesey, he tells why he prefers it that way.
Even my best friends think I'm mad. They think I am knocking my head against a brick wall because I prefer to race as an independent, even though it means that the racing-car manufacturers will not sell me their latest products. I enjoy racing. If I didn't I would not race any more. In fact, I enjoy fighting it out with the factory entries. I have raced for teams-for instance, with Mercedes when Fangio was their No. 1. It is enjoyable, but sometimes there is strife within the camp, and there are problems involving one car against another—who has the fastest engine and so forth. Personally, I prefer racing within a small group called British Racing Partnership. Its directors are my manager, my father, my ex-mechanic and myself. We race cars for one of the world's largest hire-purchase (installment-plan) companies, United Dominions Trust, together with one of its subsidiary concerns, Laystall Engineering. I also handle the cars owned by the British motorsport enthusiast, Rob Walker, who is a personal friend. In both cases, the arrangements are loose and there is a financial loss, but there are never any arguments.
So far as I am concerned, the biggest drawback to racing independently is that I have been frequently blamed for the breakdown of my cars. The newspapers have made frequent reference to the Moss Jinx. It is not a jinx, but hardly anybody bothers to inquire after the truth. In 1959, for example, the Cooper Car Company sold Rob Walker a car without a gearbox. They were quite frank about it; they could not sell a complete car because of previous commitments. Accordingly, we had to have a special gearbox designed. It had to be produced quickly, and in the end it proved to be not strong enough.
Rivalry in motor racing is friendly but often tough. I bear no grudge; the reasons behind the situation are complex but understandable. The various factory teams range from big organizations like Mercedes, which re-entered the field for two years in 1954 and 1955 and is reputed to have spent $3 million in that time, to the smaller British concerns that budget much less. In fact, motor racing still includes, as in its earliest days, everything from the owner-driver with his one mechanic to the big organization with scores of attendants and a team manager in command.
But make no mistake about it. For large or small it is a business. The large organizations enter the field to gain publicity and prestige and to give the ultimate test to parts they may want to incorporate in their production models at a later date. The smaller companies with fewer resources and less manpower are in it for the same reasons, though for them it is more of a gamble. These smaller companies, however, could not race in Grand Prix events, pay their drivers or otherwise keep up with the giants if it were not for the backing of the oil companies, the tire manufacturers and the makers of components who are interested in the sport.
The oil companies foot the biggest part of the bill, and a lot of oil money goes into the development and production of new cars. And so it is easy to see why one of these companies might object strongly to a factory's selling its latest product to a driver who uses a competitive fuel and oil.
The factories also are under pressure from a number of new nonmanufacturing groups, including large companies like United Dominions Trust, for whom I race. These organizations want to sponsor cars and drivers in return for publicity. But they cannot contract with a concern that is already racing its own team, and so they are faced with the same situation I am when it comes to obtaining a new car. These new groups can often afford to offer bigger retainers to drivers than the factories can. To keep the best men, the factories therefore have responded by guaranteeing exclusive use of their latest car for a year to the drivers who sign with them. With such a promise, the factories can get the best drivers.
So the factories end up far ahead of the other racing organizations. At the Monaco Grand Prix each factory team was invited to enter two drivers, but of the independents only France's Maurice Trintignant and I were allowed an automatic entry. Anybody else who wanted to start had to qualify.
I suppose that if I had been sensible I would have joined Italy's Enzo Ferrari years ago. In my opinion, he builds the world's greatest range of racing cars. But in the early '50s I traveled down to Italy at his invitation, only to find on arrival that he had given a car intended for me to someone else. If it were not for that incident and my real desire to drive English cars, I would no doubt be driving for him today.
But since I remain a lone wolf, what of this year? At the moment I am driving a 1960 Lotus with modified suspension and body. Comparing the models, the back and front suspension and the chassis of the 1961 Lotus are even more modified. The newer model has considerably less frontal area, a different body and a lot of other things that I still cannot buy, beg or borrow. I am not grumbling; I understand why I cannot have them.