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The team's leader was a burly, drawling, red-bearded fellow who would fit better in a stock car than a sports car. The No. 2 driver was a ribald Scot named Ireland, an erstwhile Grand Prix driver and lobster fisherman. And the main attraction was a living legend, one of the greatest race drivers of all time, who hadn't been behind the wheel in anger in 23 years. On a recent spring Saturday they drove a Porsche 944 in a six-hour race for showroom-stock sports cars at California's Riverside Raceway. At the very least, they were an odd threesome; at the most, they were a media event; somewhere in between, they were a fast, smooth entry. They finished 17th, but they stole the show.
The legend was England's 55-year-old Stirling Moss. He will tell you that Juan Fangio is the greatest race driver who ever lived. Fangio will tell you that it is Moss. In 1961 alone, Moss received some 7,000 fan letters. But then came April 23, 1962. In a Formula One race at England's Goodwood circuit, Moss's Lotus dived into an embankment, and four days later the race driver woke up paralyzed on the left side. The paralysis went away after five months, but his reflexes, concentration and vision were impaired. His racing career was over, and he was just 32.
Why did Moss decide to make a comeback at 55, when he could have stayed in London doing p.r. work and endorsements? He replies that it's because his old chum Innes Ireland asked him to. Ireland, who's 54, is known for his own impulsive moves; his mum nearly fainted when Innes, at 15, came home with the news that he now had an airplane. Ireland first met Moss in 1959 when they were both driving in the Dutch Grand Prix.
"I can't imagine why I was so taken with you, Inny," replies Moss.
"It was because I always had these great birds, and you hoped you might be able to carry one away."
Moss and Ireland had driven together only once before. It was at Sebring in 1962. They were disqualified for a refueling infraction, and Ireland established his reputation in America by nearly strangling the offending official.
Ireland retired from Grand Prix driving in 1966. "I bought this bloody great Norwegian trawler in a moment of weakness and began a life of lobster fishing off the west coast of Scotland," he says. "Got arrested by one of Her Majesty's warships on the first bloody day out." The story of Ireland's marine exploits wanders on and finally ends "and a bottle of whisky later, he fell over the side, and that was the last we saw of him."
Then there was the team leader, the car's owner and third driver, Joe Cogbill. He is the proprietor of the most exotic junkyard in Georgia, Porschware, which boasts the largest inventory of used Porsche parts in the country. Cogbill is also a two-time SCCA E/production champ, driving a yellow-and-red '58 Porsche Speedster he calls the Bucket.