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A phone rang and Moss hopped to it. Then the other one rang, and he was straddling both phones concurrently, like a circus driver mounted on two frisky horses. "Right-ho, old boy!" he chattered into the one phone. "I shouldn't worry if I were you. Just send your photographer over tomorrow morning." And, "That's lovely, just lovely, old bird," he purred into the other. "The 300SL has arrived! I'll test-run her right away. I'm leaving for Germany the day after tomorrow."
"Old boy" turned out to be an anxious local magazine editor and "old bird" the manager of the local Mercedes garage.
Manager Gregory, a slender, dark-haired man of around 28, came in with two fans. They were introduced, looking properly awed, given photographs and sent on their way.
"Racing fans are a very special breed, Stirling said. "But it's the ones who have the cars that pose the biggest problems. They're always asking you to take their cars out—they expect you to just pull the stick back and take off! It's a funny thing, though, you can learn a lot explaining things to an amateur."
The talk turned to Mercedes, the German firm for whom Moss won his finest victories this year to gain second place in world standings.
"For years," he said, "I always insisted on 'driving British'—and I still want to drive British, if I can. But it's in Grand Prix racing that you make your reputation, and Britain's not in a position, unfortunately, to race real Grand Prix cars. We were tops in the 500s and there was Jaguar, of course, for sports meetings—but no British company had succeeded in building a first-rate Formula One racer. If you smash a Cooper, you only smash up 500 quid—but a racer, like Merks, with tooling and so on, costs over �40,000.
"In 1953, Ken went around to see Alfred Neubauer, the Mercedes racing director, to see if he'd give me a drive. 'Let's see what your boy can do with a Grand Prix car first,' Alfred said. So that was when we went out and bought a Maserati and raced her privately. We figured her to be the best Formula One car to have a chance against Merks."
Moss did so well nipping after Fangio and the others that Alfred let him try a test-run last December at the Hockenheim motorcycle track—the first British driver to sit in a Mercedes since 1939. After that drive, Mercedes signed him to a contract.
" Neubauer's like a mother hen," Moss said. "He sees you get to bed on time; and if anything gets in your eye, he'll run you right off to the doctor. They have been wonderful people to drive for, because they're very painstaking and will do anything to please you. The first time I drove the Formula One, I suggested they remove the antiroll bar—they'd lose 12 pounds in weight that way. Some cars need it, like your American cars with their soft suspension—but not the Mercedes. Alfred did it straightway. Then, in Argentina, after a trial run, I happened to mention that the brake was good, but I thought it needed a bit more pressure. He didn't say anything, but next morning there was a servo motor attached to the brake.
"With fast cars, you need stamina and very quick reflexes. You've got to be able to anticipate danger—the faster the car you drive, the faster you have to develop this sense of anticipation. I keep fit with water skiing, jujitsu, table tennis, lots of swimming and plain, old-fashioned physical training exercises. And I get lots of sleep and do very little smoking—I limit myself to five cigarettes a day, always in a filter. Also, no alcohol."