Motor racing," said Stirling Craufurd Moss, the handsome, bony-cheeked lad on the opposite page who at 26 is one of the world's great racing drivers, "isn't one of the arts, but I think it's as near to art as you can get, mechanically. There's a kind of poetry of motion to it, a feeling of rhythm, of perfect balance. When I was a kid, I used to enter a lot of steeplechase races—my sister Pat did too, and the balance between driver and motor, to my mind, is very similar to that between rider and horse.
"I suppose people race because of the terrific challenge involved. You try to conquer something—like climbing Mount Everest. But speed itself isn't the great stimulation. After all, speed's a relative thing—you can get as much thrill spinning at 20 miles an hour as you can get going a hundred on a straightaway. It's really the acceleration that's important. There's what I call the exhilaration of acceleration—and usually it comes when you're going around a corner. One of my most exhilarating experiences was in my first race in a Mercedes, in Argentina last January—when I opened the accelerator while cornering and could feel that the wheels were at their absolute limit of drift and I came within one foot of the side of the road. It is a fantastic experience, when you feel you've reached the absolute speed you can get with the absolute wheelspin."
It is an experience, incidentally, that Moss has enjoyed with satisfying regularity during the past year. In the season just ended he finished second only to the great Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina in the world Grand Prix standings. The two, Moss supposedly not yet ready, Fangio the master, were each other's principal competition, even though, as drivers for Mercedes, they were teammates. Moss beat Fangio four times, once in a Grand Prix event and three times in sports car races. The first and greatest time was last May, when Moss became the first Englishman ever to win the Mille Miglia, racing his sports car over the tortuous, twisting 1,000-mile Italian course at an incredible 98 mph clip, a new record.
Out of his car, Moss hardly slows down. During a recent visit to his office, the walls of which are plastered with pin-ups of scantily clad starlets and pictures of Jaguars, Coopers, Maseratis and Mercedes-Benzes, he moved restlessly about the narrow room as two secretaries batted away furiously on typewriters. Occasionally he brought his lithe-muscled, quarterback frame to a halt behind one or another of the girls, to scan—in a quick, executive moment—the letter she was writing. "We get over 8,000 requests for photographs a year," he said to his American visitor. "We're Stirling Moss, Limited—became a limited company in January '51 and we're equipped to handle anything from a pin to a steam roller. Right now, it's only motor racing—but later on, it might be anything.
"People are much more enthusiastic about racing in England than in the States, you know. The spirit's different. In America you have chiefly Indianapolis and dirt tracks and you can understand why amateurs don't want to race there. We have more opportunities to race here and there's not much difference between a professional and some amateur who spends every spare shilling on cars. Last year, there were over 10,000 competitors' licenses issued in England."
A phone rang. Moss signed to a secretary to take the call.
"Oh, cracky!" he said to his visitor. "We'll never have a chance to talk. Look, let's get out of here and have a cup of tea."
He moved quickly out through the narrow doorway and onto the roof. The office is a kind of modest penthouse above a small building on William IV Street, in downtown London. On the first floor, Moss flipped open a door. "Is Pop here?" he asked a girl in a white nurse's uniform.
"No, Stirling, not yet."
He shut the door. "That's my father's office. At least, one of them. He's a dentist and has eight surgeries scattered around town. You really ought to talk to Pop—he's president of the British Racing and Sports Car Club and, you know, he raced at Indianapolis back in '24 and '25, in a Fronty-Ford. The 'Racing Dentist,' they called him. He won 15th place the first year. And ask him to show you that picture of himself taken with Henry and Edsel Ford, Barney Oldfield, Cliff Durant, the Chevrolet brothers—practically every famous, old-time American automobile figure is in it and it's a collector's item."