TeamsStirling Moss Ltd: 1955 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
Even during the early days of Formula One, being fiercely patriotic had its disadvantages, unless one happened to be Italian. To be successful really tested a driver's loyalty. Stirling Moss would go so far as to buy Italian but adorn the car in British racing livery. But, by abandoning his national interests, doors of opportunity would fly open, not just for himself, but other drivers as well.
Five years before Stirling Craufurd Moss would be born, his father, Alfred Moss, would end up 16th in the 1924 Indianapolis 500. This racing influence would lead to Stirling beginning his racing career when he was just 18 years of age.
Even from the very beginning of his racing career, Stirling would be fiercely loyal to British manufacturers. During the days of driving in Formula 3 this loyalty would be rewarded with Cooper's small, nimble chassis, in which Moss would have considerable success.
Then, in 1951, Stirling would make his Formula One World Championship debut driving for HW Motors. Another British mark, Moss would finish an incredible 8th place in the Swiss Grand Prix.
This success in his debut seemed to mark a bright career in Formula One, but when Alfa Romeo departed the World Championship scene at the end of the 1951 season everything would change. The 1952 and 1953 seasons of the World Championship would change and would be conducted according to Formula 2 regulations. There were many British Formula 2 manufacturers, but none were close to the size and capability of Ferrari. Driving for three different teams during the 1952 season, Moss would suffer failures in every single one of the five rounds in which he entered whereas Alberto Ascari dominated winning six races on the season and taking the World Drivers' Championship by a clear margin.
The 1953 season would see Moss fair much better as he would score a couple of top ten finishes out of the four races he attended. Still, neither the Connaught A-Type nor the Cooper Special he drove had the ability to compete with Ferrari's 500 or Maserati's new A6GCM/A6SSG.
From his very first race back in 1951 Moss had driven a British car. But it was clear the green-livered cars just could not match the pace and reliability of those adorned in red livery. While he certainly was British, Moss still had a racing career to think about. And so, heading into the 1954 season Moss would make a very important decision. Stirling just couldn't hide from the fact Italy was making some of the best grand prix cars in the world. But though he couldn't hide from this fact, he would do his best to hide it from everybody else. Upon taking receipt of his Maserati 250F from the factory Moss would have the car repainted with a British racing green livery. So, while he would purchase an Italian car, he would finish it in such a way as to make it as British as possible.
The move to an Italian grand prix car would pay dividends as he would score his first World Championship points with a 3rd place result in the Belgian Grand Prix. Then, at the Italian Grand Prix he would put together such an impressive performance that he would attract the attention of another foreign manufacturer.
Just a decade earlier, Germany was on England's doorstep, looking to invade and gain an even greater hold on the European continent. Then, after Moss' performance in the 1954 Italian Grand Prix, one Alfred Neubauer, team manager for the Mercedes-Benz team would decide Moss was his man to pair with World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio for the upcoming Formula One season.
This opportunity would be a big one, but not just for Stirling Moss. Yes, the Brit would have the opportunity to drive for the best team in the best car, but it also meant his own Maserati 250F, which was a very good car in its own right, would be available for use as well if Moss was at all interested in lending it out to other drivers. The opportunity to drive, as well as, earn more starting and prize money by entering his own Maserati for other drivers would be an intriguing offer too good to turn down.
But even though Moss would be going and racing for the mighty Mercedes-Benz team, he knew there would be plenty of opportunities to take out the old Maserati in non-championship races and earn some extra prize money. Therefore, in order to provide himself with the best possible chances of success Moss would have the car fitted with SU fuel injection and Dunlop disc brakes to increase the stopping power and endurance of the car's brakes. These changes would make Moss Maserati a very valid challenger in both non-championship and championship contests.
Before Stirling Moss would make his Maserati available to others he would take the car out for a spin early on in the 1955 grand prix season. The first of these opportunities would come on the 11th of April at Goodwood. It was the Easter Monday races. And one of the many events to be held on that day was the 3rd Glover Trophy race.
The Glover Trophy race would be one of the longer races of the day held at Goodwood. At 21 laps, the Glover Trophy race would cover a total distance of just 50 miles, but it would be just long enough of an event that drivers would have to balance all-out performance with some concerns of reliability.
The Easter Monday races would become a very popular event with drivers and spectators alike. Once an auxiliary fighter airfield attached to RAF Tangmere, RAF Westhampnett, as it would be known during the Second World War, would find new life after the conclusion of the war becoming Goodwood. The 2.39 mile perimeter road, once built for the airfield's use, would become the circuit upon which the famed Goodwood 9 Hour and, of course, the Easter Monday races would be held.
One of the early motor racing events on the European continent, the Easter Monday races would always attract a large field of drivers and teams, but still, most would be British in origin. However, the competition would still be quite stiff and a great warm-up for the racing season about to kick into full swing in a month or two.
Disappointing, the Vanwalls would not be ready in time for the event. Therefore, the Glover Trophy race would see a fleet of Formula 2 cars take to practice preparing to go head-to-head with only a few Formula One machines. And Stirling Moss' Maserati would be one of the four in the field.
In practice for the 21 lap event, it would be Moss that would prove to be fastest around the 2.39 mile circuit. He would take pole, but would have the only other Formula One car, the Maserati 250F of Roy Salvadori, starting right beside him in 2nd. The four-wide front row would conclude with Don Beauman starting in 3rd with Bill Holt completing the front row in 4th driving a Connaught A-Type.
A number of cars that took part in practice would not actually start the race. Technical issues, and certainly a sense of futility, would cause a handful of Formula 2 entries not to start the race.
As stated, the Glover Trophy race would be just long enough that drivers had to keep in mind reliability. This would come back to haunt some. Tony Rolt would be the first to pay the price. Driving the new streamlined Connaught B-Type chassis, Rolt's race would last just 8 laps before a fuel pump failure would bring his race to an end. Amazingly, the same problem would strike Moss' Maserati. Therefore, he too would be out of the running after just 12 laps. This left just a single Formula One car in the field and it would be driven by Roy Salvadori.
Salvadori would be out front in his 250F, but he could not relax all that much, not with Bob Gerard following along in 2nd place. Salvadori would respond by posting the fastest lap of the race with an average speed better than 92 mph around the circuit. This would prove to be more than enough for Gerard in his Cooper T23, even despite having a larger displacement engine.
Salvadori would take the victory by more than 30 seconds over Gerard. Less than three seconds would be the margin from Gerard back to Beauman finishing in the 3rd position. It would be an impressive performance by Salvadori given that he averaged a little more than 89 mph over the course of the race.
It would be a less than impressive day for Moss. Though he would start well, the fuel pump issues would certainly lead to his season not starting out on a particularly bright note. His troubles in the first round of the Formula One World Championship back in January would only add to the frustration. Still, it was early on in the season and there would be plenty of opportunities for his, as well as, for his team's season to improve.
A vast majority of the British drivers during the early and mid 1950s would never venture outside of the British Isles. Moss, however, would be one of those that would recognize the increased level of talent to be found in international racing, and therefore, would embrace the challenge of travelling abroad, even if it was just across the Channel, in order to take on some of the best in the world. And, on the 24th of April, the Stirling Moss team would make its first appearance abroad. Moss would arrive in the city of Bordeaux in order to take part in the 4th Grand Prix de Bordeaux.
The center of the wine capital of the world, Bordeaux has remained a center for more than just the wine industry. Steeped in history and art, Bordeaux itself is a grand jewel situated astride the Garonne River in the southwestern region of France. From amazing architecture spanning centuries to a history stretching back into the years before the birth of Christ, Bordeaux has always remained a popular site and residence for some of the wealthiest and royal of France's antiquity.
Along the Garonne and amongst the amazing architecture and sculpture works, the grand prix cars would prepare to run the 4th edition of the Grand Prix de Bordeaux. And because of the location and the importance of the region, the race, historically, had always drawn some of the best teams and drivers known to exist.
Moss had run well here in 1954. He would be up front and in the lead early on in the race until he would be slowed and would end up down in 4th place. One year later, he would be back with his own Maserati once again, looking for retribution for the past.
Measuring just 1.53 miles in length, the Bordeaux circuit had only a couple of notable straights, which ran along the banks of the Garonne. The remainder of the circuit would wind around the Esplanade des Quinconces.
Around this rather slow circuit it would be Jean Behra that would be the quickest around the circuit posting a time of 1:21.7. Luigi Musso would make it two Officine Alfieri Maserati on the front row setting a time just four-tenths of a second slower than Behra. The final spot on the front row would go to Stirling Moss. His best lap time in practice would be just two-tenths slower than Musso and meant the competition at the front of the field was likely to be quite tight.
After his early departure from the race at Goodwood earlier in the month, Moss was looking forward to a much better result. However, the Grand Prix de Bordeaux would certainly be a much tougher test. At 123 laps, Moss and the other drivers had about three hours of racing ahead of them, if they were to make it to the end.
And, as the race began, some would find that even 10 percent of the total race distance would be too much. Giuseppe Farina would be one of these. His race would come to an end after just 14 laps due to a problem with his gearbox. Alfonso de Portago would be another that would be out early. His race would last just 15 laps.
Elie Bayol, one year ago, had been running up near the front of the field at the start of the race. One year later, he would be one of the first to retire leaving the event after just 22 laps with an engine failure.
Moss would start out well and would look good throughout the early going of the race. Of course, Jean Behra, who had just scored a victory at Pau a couple of weeks earlier, would be right up at the front of the field as well in the Maserati.
The Maseratis of Behra, Musso and Moss would run together during the early part of the race. However, the fastest of the three would prove to be Moss. He would set the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:20.9. This was an impressive time as it was eight-tenths of a second faster than Behra's qualifying effort. Unfortunately, even the incredible fastest lap could not break the backs of Behra and Musso, even Maserati's other factory driver, Roberto Mieres, would get into the action and would be tucked right up there with his fellow teammates.
Moss' pace would come to haunt him. He soon would be off the pace and would be seen falling back through the order. Meanwhile, the three Officine Alfieri Maseratis would be leading the way.
Giuseppe Farina would try again after departing the race so early on. He would take over Maurice Trintignant's Ferrari and would be looking good as well. However, after 70 laps, Farina would again be out of the race. This time, brake failure would be the culprit. Moss, however, would remain in the running, but would continue to lose ground to the three factory Maseratis.
It would be incredibly tight at the front of the field, even in the last couple of laps of the race. Behra would lead the way but he would have Musso all over his backside. With French honor at stake, Behra continued to lead as Mieres made it a clean Maserati sweep of the top three positions. Moss would continue to hang on but would end up going a lap down before the end of the race.
Heading down the straight toward the finish line for the final time it would be Behra leading the way. Musso would be right there with him. But as they crossed the line, it would be Behra taking the victory by two-tenths of a second over Musso. Only half a second would be the difference from Musso back to Mieres finishing in 3rd place.
Stirling Moss had looked brilliant early on. His fastest lap time showed he had the pace around the 1.53 mile circuit. Unfortunately, the car just didn't have the endurance to stay up at the front of the field. In the end, he would finish the race a lap down in 4th place.
This result was certainly a vast improvement upon the experience at Goodwood. Over the course of a much tougher contest he would manage to come away with a splendid 4th place finish. Still, this would be a little frustrating given the fact he showed the pace that would have suggested a victory was not out of the realm of possibilities.
The Formula One World Championship season was about to heat up on the European continent. Therefore, Moss would begin to shift his focus over to his responsibilities with the Mercedes-Benz grand prix and sportscar teams. Still, given his reputation for driving anything he could get his hands on, the fact Mercedes-Benz only took part in World Championship or major sportscar events meant there would be still many other races in which Moss could take part, often with his own car.
Fresh from taking the overall victory in the Mille Miglia on the 1st of May with journalist Denis Jenkinson along for the ride, Moss would come back to his own Maserati for the next race on the calendar.
Mercedes-Benz would take victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia with Stirling Moss at the wheel. Still, the factory team would only take part in championship races. Therefore, on the 7th of May, Moss would be busy preparing to take part in yet another race with his own Maserati 250F, chassis number 2508. The event was the 7th BRDC International Trophy race held at Silverstone.
Named for the small village just a couple of miles away, RAF Silverstone had come into existence as a bomber training base during World War II. But, after an impromptu motor race held on the decommissioned airbase in 1947, an event in which would be most memorable for the fact a sheep would be hit and killed, Silverstone, as it would simply become known, would soon become the home to a rather popular non-championship race, the International Trophy race.
From the very beginning of the event, the race had been split up into two heat races and a final. Over the years, this format had produced some interesting and some very controversial moments. One of those controversial moments would happen during the 1954 edition of the race in which Gonzalez would dominate in the rain during the first heat but would take over Trintignant's car for the final after it was suggested Gonzalez's engine totally seized. This was controversial as it would allow Gonzalez to start from the pole instead of further down in the field. It would be made all the more controversial when it was rumored the car started right up when the day's racing was all over.
Whether the 1954 event was the final straw or not the format for the 1955 running of the race would change quite dramatically. Instead of two heat races and a final, the race's format would change to a much more conventional setup wherein there would be a set number of laps. So, instead of two 15 lap heat races and a 35 lap final, the 1955 edition would see a race with a total race distance of more than 170 miles, or what amounted to 60 laps of the 2.88 mile circuit.
In the past, the International Trophy race had always attracted some of the best manufacturers, cars and drivers. Routinely, the International Trophy race was one of the more popular non-championship races, especially in Britain. But though the Equipe Gordini and Ecurie Rosier teams would be present, the International Trophy race would be surprisingly lacking in international talent. Scuderia Ferrari had intended to take part in the race, but, car problems would force the team to fail to show. Still, given the type of race it was, the field would be filled with Formula One cars, very good Formula One cars.
Surprisingly, it would be Roy Salvadori that would surprise all and set the fastest lap time around the circuit during practice. Posting a lap time of 1:48, Salvadori would edge out Hawthorn for the pole by mere hundredths of a second. Stirling Moss would also be quick around the circuit. However, his best lap would end up nearly two seconds slower than Salvadori. Still, the time would be good enough to give Moss the 3rd starting position. He would end up being flanked by Jack Fairman in the streamlined Connaught B-Type in the 4th, and final, starting spot on the front row.
With 22 cars lined up on the grid, the 7th International Trophy race would get underway with Hawthorn roaring into the lead with Moss right there along with Fairman. Salvadori would make a poor getaway from the line and would soon find himself falling out of the top five.
Hawthorn would lead the way in the Vanwall while Moss would be doing his best to keep up. Peter Collins would start the race from 5th place on the grid but would also make a great start to be right up near the front of the field early on. Salvadori would recover from his poor start and would do his best to settle in. He would quickly pick his pace back up to levels near his own qualifying effort.
Meanwhile, Moss would find his pace dropping off dramatically. Then there would be smoke pouring out from underneath the hood of the Maserati. He would bring it around and park it in the pits. With a failed engine, his race would be over.
Moss would lead a trio of retirees that would include Reg Parnell and Alan Brown. Early leader Mike Hawthorn would pass the lead off to those behind him when his race would come to an end after 16 laps with an oil leak. Salvadori, who would recover from his poor start to post some truly flying laps, would go on to set the fastest lap of the race and take the lead when Hawthorn departed.
Averaging more than 98 mph during the course of his fastest lap, it seemed Salvadori was in control but Peter Collins would remain right up there, applying pressure whenever he could. And as the race approached the halfway mark of the race it would become clear the battle was between these two drivers.
Collins would match Salvadori's fastest lap time and would even take over the lead of the race. Not long afterward, Ken Wharton would hit a marker barrel and would crash in a ball of flames off to the side of the circuit.
Once in the lead, Collins would be untouchable. He would continually and gradually pull away from Salvadori to take a commanding lead. Having a lap in hand on everyone else in the field, Collins just needed to focus on making it to the end of the race.
Averaging nearly 99 mph over the course of the 60 laps, making it to the end of the race would be no easy task and some 12 competitors would find it too difficult for them. Just ten cars remained in the race and only two remained on the lead lap. Such was the pace of the race that day.
Collins would enjoy a commanding and comfortable lead over Salvadori heading into the final 10 laps of the race. Having posted a fastest lap time better than Salvadori's own pole time, Collins knew he had the pace if he had to try and answer Salvadori.
But Salvadori would be too far back to do anything with Collins. Having around a lap in hand over 3rd place, Roy would settle in and would focus on making it to the end of the race. And in the end, it would be Collins taking an easy victory finishing some forty seconds ahead of Salvadori in 2nd place. A little more than a lap would be the difference back to Prince Bira finishing in 3rd place.
It would be another frustrating and disappointing result for Moss, especially coming on the heels of the incredible triumph in the Mille Miglia just a week earlier. But for Moss, the Formula One World Championship season was about to resume. This meant getting back to driving for Mercedes. This would be encouraging news for Moss. It would also be encouraging for others when he decided he would open up opportunities for other drivers to race his 250F.
After the bitterly disappointing result at Silverstone in the International Trophy race, Moss would move on and would be back with the Mercedes-Benz team preparing for the second round of the Formula One World Championship just two weeks later. And while Moss would be with the Mercedes-Benz team preparing for the return of the Monaco Grand Prix on the 22nd of May, his own Maserati 250F would also make the trip to the principality.
The last time Monaco had been part of the Formula One season it was the inaugural season of Formula One. In that race a wild pile-up on the first lap would change the complexion of the race a great deal. In all, nine would retire from the race on the very first lap of a race that would eventually be won by Juan Manuel Fangio. Five years later, Fangio would again be the favorite coming into the race but with Mercedes-Benz instead of Alfa Romeo.
Although it was only the second time in which the race would be a part of the Formula One World Championship, Monaco was always something very special and was already the race to win. For some reason, the principality's tight twists and turns of the 1.95 mile circuit had the ability to make or break a career. And, as practice would prove, there was none better around the circuit than the precise ‘El Maestro', Juan Manuel Fangio. He would take his Mercedes-Benz and would end up beating Alberto Ascari in his Lancia by mere hundredths of a second to take the pole. On the other side of Ascari would be Fangio's teammate Moss. Moss would complete a lap just a second slower than Fangio, and therefore, would occupy the final position on the front row.
Stirling Moss' Maserati would be entered in the race with Lance Macklin as its driver. Macklin was something of free spirit in those days and was much better known amongst the sportscar scene. He would find the tight and twisty circuit especially difficult to navigate, at least very quickly. His best effort in practice would end up too slow to qualify for the race. Therefore, Moss' own car would make the trip to the south of France but would come up short in practice and would be unable to take part in the race.
Had he been able to take part, Macklin would have had a chance at a very solid result, had he been able to sustain the fight over the course of the 100 lap race. Fangio would retire, Moss would blow an engine and Ascari would take a dip in the harbor. All of these events would open the door for Ferrari's Maurice Trintignant to take the surprise victory over Eugenio Castellotti and Jean Behra.
The failed attempt to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix meant Stirling Moss Ltd. would only have a couple of weeks before the next race of the Formula One season. And the next round couldn't have been any different than the tight, winding streets of Monaco.
The fourth round of the Formula One World Championship would take place among the rolling foothills of the Belgian Ardennes. There, amongst the heavily-wooded hills, would be found the 8.77 mile long Spa-Francorchamps public road course. And while a lap around Monaco would see a number of turns taken in low gear, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit would be taken almost entirely in high gear. Complete with elevation changes and some beautiful scenery, it would take little imagination to understand why the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps would be a favorite amongst drivers.
Comprised entirely of public roads, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit would be nothing but a flat-out blast around the Belgian countryside. Already dangerous and demanding, the circuit would become absolutely treacherous and suicidal in the rain. And that would be the kind of conditions that greeted teams when they unloaded and set off for practice.
Powering their way around bend after bend, the Formula One cars would dance in the rain and never seemed under control at any moment. Still, as the spray kicked up from the tires, the cars would carry on lap after lap, searching for the best possible lap time.
Once again, Stirling Moss would come to Spa campaigning for the Mercedes-Benz team. And, not surprisingly, the team would be one of the favorites coming into the event. Still, Moss would give permission to enter his Maserati under his own team name. He would give another driver the opportunity to take part in the race using his car. In this instance Moss would give the veteran driver, and Belgian-jazz musician Johnny Claes, the chance to take part in his home grand prix.
It would be a terrible couple of weeks between the Monaco and Belgian Grand Prix. Just a few days after famously dumping the Lancia into the harbor at Monaco, Alberto Ascari would lose his life while testing a Ferrari sportscar at Monza. This would be a terrible lose, especially for the struggling Lancia team. As a result, Lancia would enter just one car for the Belgian Grand Prix. Luigi Villoresi, Ascari's mentor, did have an entry for the Belgian Grand Prix but would not arrive for the race. Instead, it would be just Eugenio Castellotti that would arrive.
Amazingly, and seemingly in honor of the late Ascari, Castellotti would prove fastest around the Spa circuit in practice and would take his first pole position. Fangio would end up a half a second slower and would start in the middle of the front row. Stirling Moss would be a further six-tenths slower and would take the 3rd starting spot, the final on the front row.
Johnny Claes would take part in practice in Moss' Maserati. He was expected to take part in the Belgian Grand Prix one last time. In 1954, Claes had grown seriously ill and would step away from almost every kind of motor racing. However, after taking part in practice, Claes would find himself physically incapable of taking to the wheel. As a result, Claes would be forced to abandon any hope of qualifying for his home grand prix. It would be less than a year later that he would pass away due to tuberculosis.
And so, yet again, Stirling Moss' own Maserati would be missing from a Formula One World Championship grid. It really wouldn't matter all that much for as the cars sprinted toward Eau Rouge for the first time, Castellotti would be out-gunned and would end up splitting the Mercedes going up the hill. Fangio would lead the way with his teammate Moss following along behind Castellotti. Over the course of the long, ultra-fast circuit, Castellotti could do little to deter Moss and, by the end of the first lap, a soon to be familiar sight would be in place with Fangio leading the way and Moss right there on his tail in 2nd.
Once in the lead, Fangio would pull away from the rest of the field and his teammate and would take a commanding lead. Jean Behra would go well at the start but would end up crashing out of the race after 3 laps. Mike Hawthorn would also fall out of the running with gearbox failure. But while Behra would take over Roberto Mieres' Maserati and would return to the race, there would be no hope for Castellotti when his sole Lancia in the field also suffered from gearbox failure after 16 laps.
All of these drivers, even those that would still be running toward the end of the race, would be nothing more than small part actors on the World Championship stage this day as Fangio would dominate the field right from the very start.
Besides being mesmerized by the sheer driving brilliance of Fangio, the crowd would still have reason to remain interested in the race. Paul Frere, a Belgian motor racing journalist, would get his first start with the factory Ferrari team and would be going quite well, even deep into the race.
But it would be Fangio's day. In the end, everyone, spectators, teams and drivers would witness a complete and indomitable performance by Fangio. Leading from the very beginning, Fangio would not put a wheel wrong throughout the 36 lap race and would cruise home to victory crossing the line eight seconds ahead of Moss in 2nd place. Had Kling not retired after 21 laps with an oil leak of some kind it would have been likely Mercedes would have swept the top three. Instead, it would be the former World Champion, Giuseppe Farina, finishing in 3rd place. Belgian, Paul Frere, would delight the crowd finishing a splendid 4th place, the last car still on the lead lap.
While Moss would have no trouble making his way onto the front rows of starting grids, his own Maserati would fail to start two Formula One races in a row. But in a few days, everything would be put into perspective with the tragic accident at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
If the death of Alberto Ascari had been a blow to the world of motorsports, the then tragic affair that would show its face during the 24 Hours of Le Mans would simply be a tragic affair for the world. The death of Pierre Levegh and more than 80 spectators would be a shock that would be felt around the world.
The fallout from the tragic events at Le Mans would be far-reaching. Not only would Mercedes withdraw from the race during the middle of the night but the events would solidify the manufacturer's decision to withdraw from sportscar and Formula One at the end of the season. A number of other races, even on the Formula One calendar, would end up being cancelled as a result of the events. Some races would never return.
Yet, in spite of the tragic events, Dutch organizers would determine to push ahead with plans for the Grand Prix of the Netherlands, which was held on the 19th of June, just one week after Le Mans.
The Dutch Grand Prix would be the fifth round of the 1955 Formula One World Championship, and despite the death of Ascari and the tragedy at Le Mans, the majority of the major players would be present for the race. The only notable exception would be the absence of the Lancia team. This was not all that surprising as the company had been in financial difficulties even before the season began.
While Moss would be one of three Mercedes drivers entered in the race, his own Maserati would again be present hoping to actually get into a race for the first time. But while Johnny Claes would be present, it would not be him that would get the nod to drive the 250F under Moss' team name. Instead, it would be Peter Walker that would earn the right to take to the wheel.
The Maserati 250F was known for being a very stable car that was meant to be slid through corners in order to be fast, and the 2.60 mile Zandvoort circuit fit that description perfectly. Filled with corners like Scheivlak, Tunnel Oost, Panorama and Bosuit, the Zandvoort circuit was a fast circuit that required great bravery to be truly fast. Therefore, walking cars a little sideways was the name of the game.
Still, the presence of the Mercedes team, with its further evolved engines, would more than compensate for any advantage any other car may have had. This would be evident as Fangio would take the pole for the 100 lap race with a time of 1:40.0. As usual, Stirling Moss would be right up there with Fangio setting a time just four-tenths of a second slower. Karl Kling would also be quick around the circuit. Less than a second slower than Moss, Kling would make it an all Mercedes front row.
Despite not having a lot of time behind the wheel, Peter Walker would be rather impressive in Moss' Maserati. His best effort around the fast circuit would be just under five seconds slower than Fangio. This would lead to Walker earning a spot on the fourth row of the grid. Starting 10th overall, Walker would be positioned behind and between Maurice Trintignant and Roberto Mieres who were on the third row.
Being positioned practically on the beach overlooking the North Sea, Zandvoort would become known for its unpredictable weather. Heavy winds, stormy weather and blowing sand all had the potential of wreaking havoc on events. And, as the day of the race would wear on, such changeable weather would come into play.
As usual, the fleet of Mercedes would be up at the front of the line at the start of the race. It would be Fangio leading the way, but it would be Luigi Musso that would also make a fantastic start and would come through in 2nd place at the end of the first lap. Peter Walker would lose a position at the start and would end up coming through the first lap in 11th place following along behind Castellotti.
Heading around for the 2nd lap, Moss would resume his normal position following along behind Fangio. Musso would be forced back to 3rd place. Moss' own Maserati would also be on the move over the course of the 2nd lap. Walker would regain his footing after a slow first lap and would end up getting by Robert Manzon for 10th place.
Finally, Moss' own Maserati had made it to the start of a race and had even completed a couple of laps. However, that would prove to be about all the car would achieve as on the 3rd lap of the race Walker would go sliding off the side of the circuit with some kind of problem. As he stepped out of the car it was noticed the rear wheel had seized due to a failed bearing. So, in three straight World Championship races Stirling Moss Ltd would find itself unable to start or out before even reaching 5 laps of running.
Word would be passed along to Moss that something had happened to his Maserati. He would then be reassured that Walker was alright and he would carry on in the shadow of the Argentinean World Champion.
By the quarter stage of the race it was still Fangio and Moss up front with a comfortable margin in hand over Musso in 3rd place. Behind them, Karl Kling would be out of the running after spinning off the circuit. Horace Gould would also retire after crashing coming out of the pits. In all, five cars would be out of the running due to early retirements. And, given the pace of Fangio and Moss at the front of the field, there would be a number of others that would be out of the running despite still circulating out on the track.
Comfortably in the lead, Fangio and Moss would hold a steady margin over Musso. Musso would not give up, however, and would keep pushing in a vain effort to reel the Silver Arrows in. This was no easy maneuver, and as rain began to fall on the circuit toward the later stages of the race, Musso would find this scenario quite difficult.
Pushing hard to keep pace, Musso would make a misstep in the wet conditions. Though he would spin the car out he would still be able to keep it going once he got his car righted in the correct direction.
But the damage had been done. The spin in the wet conditions would take Musso out of the equation, though he still ran in 3rd position. Recognizing Musso's error and that the treacherous conditions could do the same thing to his cars, Neubauer would send the signal to the drivers to back off and make it to the finish.
Following along just three-tenths of a second behind, Moss would cross the line in 2nd place behind the victor, Juan Manuel Fangio. Musso had almost a lap in hand over Roberto Mieres in 4th place, and therefore, was able to recover and carry on to finish 3rd.
Though Stirling Moss was enjoying great success as a driver in 1955, as a team owner, things could not have been worse. Two failures to start and another retirement after just a couple of laps was not how he envisioned the season going to be sure. It certainly wasn't how the privateer drivers expected things to go, that's for sure. But given the next race on the calendar, it certainly would have been good to take the time to make sure the car was fully prepared and ready to go.
The Le Mans tragedy would change just about everything for 1955. While the Grand Prix of the Netherlands remained on the schedule, the French Grand Prix would not. There would also be no non-championship races in between the fifth and sixth rounds of the World Championship. The reason for this was simple as the French Grand Prix was to have filled the gap. But with the French Grand Prix out of the picture, there would be a span of about a month between races.
Then, around the middle of July, the teams would begin arriving in England and would make their way to the site of the 1955 British Grand Prix to be held on the 16th.
Teams would begin arriving in England but would not make their way to the normal stop at Silverstone. Instead, teams would make their way further to the north to Aintree Racecourse for the sixth round of the Formula One season.
Aintree had held its first Formula One race, a non-championship event, toward the end of 1954. Won by Stirling Moss, the 3.0 mile circuit seemed to be a hit, at least with spectators. Held on the same grounds as the famed Grand National steeplechase, the circuit at Aintree offered a number of advantages over other locations-turned motor racing circuits. Being a famous venue already, grandstands were to be found all around the circuit. This made viewing rather easy and already arranged unlike other circuits where the grandstands had to be built.
Though taking place at a site famous for horsepower, Aintree would not be able to boast of speeds anywhere near the average around Silverstone. Still, it would be a popular site and it would give those to the north of England their first up close glimpse of the famed Mercedes Silver Arrows.
While the majority of the spectators would be enthralled by the mighty Mercs, Stirling Moss' Maserati would also be unloaded and prepared for practice. Lance Macklin had gained the opportunity to drive the Maserati at Monaco back in May but would prove too slow around the circuit to qualify for the race. At Aintree, it was much more likely Macklin would make it into the race. The question was whether or not the car would actually make it to the end or not.
Four Mercedes would be entered in the race. It seemed Germany had finally invaded Britain. But, to great applause and excitement, it would be the Brit Moss that would end up taking the pole for the race. His time of 2:00.4 would end up being just two-tenths of a second faster than Fangio, but still good enough for the honor of pole. Both Karl Kling and Piero Taruffi would be quick in their Mercedes. However, the final spot on the front row would not go to a Silver Arrows but to an Italian-red Maserati driven by Jean Behra.
Lance Macklin would find Aintree a circuit much more to his liking as he carried on through practice. It was clear he was going to make it into the race. And, as his best time of 2:08.4 was recorded down on the timing sheets, it would become apparent he would start the race from the seventh row of the grid in the 16th position overall. After failing to qualify in Monaco, a starting spot around the middle of the 25 car field was a good improvement for Macklin and the team.
If it seemed like a miracle that the Maserati made it into another grand prix, then the hot and dry weather certainly wouldn't help the hopes of Macklin as he lined up on the grid preparing to start the 90 lap, 270 mile, race.
As the flag dropped to start the race, Behra, in 3rd place, would not get away from the grid at all and a number of cars would beat him into the first turn at Waterway. Fangio would also best Moss heading into the first turn and would have the lead over the course of the first lap.
Through the first few corners of the first lap it would be Mercedes 1st through 4th with Behra quickly trying to regain lost ground. Halfway through the first lap, Behra would begin his ascent back up the running order and would find himself back where he started by the end of the first lap. Fangio would hold onto the lead over Moss, and Macklin would also make it through the first lap and would find himself around 15th after starting in 16th.
The next few laps of the race would see Moss begin to challenge, and finally take, the lead away from Fangio. Macklin, who drove well during the first lap would find trouble and would end up being delayed. This would cause him to slip a couple of places in the running order. And, by the end of the 2nd lap, Macklin would be down in outside of the top fifteen.
Trouble would begin to strike the field. Simon's trouble would eventually lead to his retirement. Robert Manzon and Jean Behra would all fall out before reaching the 10 lap mark of the race. Harry Schell, Castellotti, Roy Salvadori and Peter Collins would be just some of the others that would run afoul of trouble over the course of the race and would be forced to retire. Macklin, on the other hand, would not be in any trouble at all, except for going down lap after lap to the leaders.
Besides another brief interlude with Fangio in the lead, Moss would control the proceedings. He would go on to turn the fastest lap of the race with a lap time equal to his own qualifying effort. This would put tremendous pressure on Fangio and the Argentinean would let the Brit go. Moss would build up a bit of a margin but Fangio would do his best to keep his teammate within striking distance.
Speaking of distance, Macklin would be well back in the distance, even by the halfway point in the race. Despite starting out well, Macklin would find himself hanging on in the heat as the race wore on. Just about every 8 or 9 laps, Moss would have the opportunity to see how his own team was fairing as he would come around to put Macklin another lap down.
Still, unlike some 15 others, Macklin was still in the race. And because of the terrible rate of attrition, he would find himself inside the top ten, but too far back to really be classified. It would be a totally different story for the team's owner.
Moss would have the race well under control. Lap after lap, Moss would lead the way with a comfortable margin over Fangio. It was the British Grand Prix and a British driver was leading the field. This would push Moss' adrenaline up even further, but it also had the chance to spell disaster. And in the closing couple of laps, Fangio would go on to show how.
Moss would drive an absolutely superb race. In total, he had led 78 laps. There were just a couple of laps remaining in the race. But there was a problem. Moss' car seemed to be going off a lot more than what Fangio's was. Therefore, the comfortable margin Moss had managed to build up over the course of the race was rapidly beginning to disappear. Then, on the final lap of the race, Fangio would be tucked right up under the backside of Moss' car pressuring the Brit throughout the final lap of the race. Powering down Railway Straight, it seemed Fangio was in the perfect position to make the pass and take the win. Braking for Tatts, Fangio would go in a little slower but would power out of the corner hard. Moss would move to hold his lead but Fangio would be coming up along his outside. Approaching the line, it seemed the British driver would be clipped at just the last moment. Nearly side-by-side, Moss would hold on to take the victory by just a couple of tenths over Fangio.
While the crowd would erupt with pleasure watching a British driver score his first win, and in the British Grand Prix, the Mercedes-Benz team would have even more to celebrate as they would take a fantastic 1st through 4th place finish in the race.
It would be a fantastic day for Stirling Moss, not quite the same sentiment would be shared by his own team, however. Lance Macklin would drive a consistent race and would manage to bring the car home, which had proven to be no easy feat over the course of the season. However, as Macklin crossed the line to end his day, the realization of being 11 laps down in 8th place had to have set in. And so, while it was a good day bringing the car home after a very difficult season, at least to that point, the result wasn't anything to get excited about. In the end, Macklin would finish the race 33 miles behind Moss. Or, to put it into a slightly different perspective, Macklin finished nearly 25 minutes behind. But while most team bosses would be terribly bothered by such a performance, on that day, Macklin would catch Moss in a very good mood.
Upon the conclusion of the British Grand Prix, there would be a large gap of time in between rounds of the World Championship. The cancellation of the German and Swiss Grand Prix would leave drivers, like Moss, without a whole lot to do. Therefore, without Mercedes taking part in any races, Stirling would have to find ways to occupy his time. For one thing, he would take part in a sportcar race held at Monsanto driving a Porsche 550. In that race, he would start on pole and would end up taking the win. Just a few days later, his own grand prix team would depart for another non-championship grand prix.
Right at the end of July, Crystal Palace Park would prepare to play host to the 3rd London Trophy race. Absent of any major championship or non-championship race, the circuit and the race would welcome some of the best drivers and privateer teams in England at the time.
A popular haunt of the less-fortunate before the 19th century, Crystal Palace Park would come to be born and would quickly become popular with people from all over London as a place for recreation and enjoyable weekends away from the busyness of life. Navigated by park roads, a 1.35 mile circuit would be birthed and would initially welcome Formula 2 cars and other lower formulas. However, on the 30th of July, in 1955, the short circuit would welcome a number of Formula 2 and Formula One entries. One of those would be Stirling Moss Ltd and its driver for the race, Mike Hawthorn.
The London Trophy race format followed the same kind of procedure as what the BRDC International Trophy race had before 1955. The race would include a couple of heat races covering a total of 10 laps. It would then be concluded with a 15 lap final. Unlike the Grand Prix of Monza where aggregate scoring would be used, the entire entry field would be split up into two separate heat races. Therefore, Hawthorn would find himself listed in the first heat right along with Roy Salvadori, Horace Gould and others.
Having Hawthorn at the wheel made it possible to see just what Moss' Maserati was capable of doing. Not surprisingly, Hawthorn would turn the fastest lap in practice and would take the pole for the short heat race. Horace Gould would end up 2nd with Tony Brooks completing the front row in 3rd.
Starting from the front row of the grid, Hawthorn knew full well that all he needed to do was to have a clean getaway and he would have a chase a taking a victory in the short 10 lap heat race.
This he would do. Hawthorn would get off the line well and would be right up front from the very beginning. Joined by Salvadori, the two Maserati drivers would leave the third Maserati behind and would become embroiled in their own little duel while the rest of the field fought for the leftovers.
Pressured by Salvadori at just about every turn, Hawthorn would do his best to turn the tables back on the Gilby Engineering driver. Posting the fastest lap with a time over a second quicker than his own pole-winning effort, Hawthorn would put the squeeze on Salvadori. Still, Salvadori would remain right there.
Though Salvadori kept touch, Hawthorn would not seem all that pressured toward the end of the race and he would come through to take the victory beating Salvadori by a little less than two seconds. Nearly fifteen seconds would be the difference back to Gould finishing in 3rd.
The second heat race would see just a couple of Formula One chassis in the race. Harry Schell would take the Vanwall and would put it on pole ahead of Bob Gerard. Paul Emery would complete the front row in the Alta-powered Emery.
Everyone expected a great battle between Schell and Gerard during the second heat race. However, that would not happen as Gerard's Cooper-Bristol would break a half shaft during the first lap of the race. This left Schell to run alone.
Without any competition, Schell would turn the fastest lap of the race and would leave the rest of the field in the distance. Completing the 10 laps in just over 11 minutes, Schell would take the victory by a little more than 35 seconds over Paul Emery. Jack Brabham would finish in 3rd place some 54 seconds behind.
Like the International Trophy race, the starting grid for the 15 lap final would be determined by finishing times. Pushed by Salvadori throughout his heat race, Hawthorn would take the pole for the final having a finishing time of 11 minutes. Roy Salvadori would start in 2nd place having finished just a couple of seconds behind Hawthorn. Not having any competition in his heat race, Schell's finishing time would not be as fast as it probably could have been. Finishing in 11 minutes and 4 seconds, Schell would complete the front row starting in 3rd.
Schell lost his greatest competition in his heat race, but as he lined up on the front row beside Salvadori and Hawthorn, he would have all he could ask for heading into the final. Likewise, Hawthorn knew that with Schell starting up at the front with him he could not sit back at the start.
The start would be everything in the race. Schell was known for his strong starts. If Hawthorn conceded the top spot to him right from the start he would have a terrible time getting the position back. Hawthorn would do what he needed to right from the start and would be right up there at the front of the field leading the way.
Though Hawthorn would be in a position of strength, Schell would be right there applying even greater pressure than what Salvadori had during the first heat. A notoriously hard-charging and relentless driver, Hawthorn knew Schell would be right there for as long as the Vanwall he was driving would last.
Hawthorn could not give an inch. Therefore, he knew he had to fight to put the pressure back on Schell in order to encourage a mistake and a problem with the car. This would lead Hawthorn to pick up the pace and lower the lap times around the 1.35 mile circuit. This, eventually, would lead to Hawthorn turning what would remain the fastest lap of the race. Posting a time nearly two seconds faster than his pole time from the first heat race, Hawthorn would certainly do all that he could to throw the pressure back over onto Schell.
Still, Schell wouldn't back down either. Even coming around on the final lap of the race, Schell would be in an attacking position just looking for the slightest of bobble by Hawthorn. Despite averaging nearly 79 mph, Hawthorn would not make an error over the course of the 15 lap final.
Holding off Schell by a margin of a little more than a second, Hawthorn would bring home Moss' Maserati in 1st place. Roy Salvadori would bring the Gilby Engineering Maserati home in 3rd place over 30 seconds back.
What a change of fortunes for Stirling Moss' own team. Whereas before, Moss' car would barely make it into and through a race, Hawthorn would look unbeatable and totally at ease behind the wheel of the 250F. Able to push as hard as he wanted for seemingly as long as he wanted, Hawthorn would make it seem as though two different cars had been used over the course of the season. Whatever it was, Moss was undoubtedly pleased with the result at Crystal Palace.
Immediately after the success by Hawthorn in London, chassis 2508 would be turned over to Bob Gerard. Gerard was due to take part in a race far to the north, but, when his Cooper-Bristol broke during the second heat race, it seemed impossibly he would make the trip. Some calls would be made. And, instead of heading home, Gerard would be given Moss' Maserati to enter the 3rd Daily Record Trophy race in Charterhall, Scotland on the 6th of August.
Moss would have no use for his Maserati as he would be away with Mercedes-Benz at the Grand Prix of Sverige. Therefore, he would give the okay for Gerard to head north to Scotland with his Maserati. Entering the race under the Stirling Moss Ltd team name, Gerard would have his best opportunity for a victory right there in his hands.
Situated in the border region of Scotland, Charterhall had been a night-fighter training base during the Second World War and had come to earn the dubious nickname 'Slaughterhall' for the numerous training deaths that occurred around the base. A very dangerous career in the air force, night fighting would still be in its infancy during the Second World War, and therefore, led to a number of deaths as inexperienced pilots made critical mistakes that led to tragic results.
Despite such infamous history, Charterhall would become just one of a number of motor racing circuits birthed on former air force bases. Utilizing merely half of the total size of the property, the Charterhall circuit still presented a challenge to drivers. The grid arrangement for the Daily Record Trophy race would be five-by-five. On the long run down one of the major runways, the wide grid would try and funnel into a rather tight bend. This presented a great challenge to drivers to get right with as little damage as possible.
Like the London Trophy race, the Daily Record event would include a couple of heat races and a final. Each of the heat races would be 15 laps. The final would extend to 20 laps of the 2.0 mile circuit.
The grid positions for each of the heat races would be something of a mystery. However, it was known Gerard started in the second heat. In fact, all of the Formula One cars entered in the race would take part in the second heat.
The first heat race would see Mike Anthony pull out the victory in a Lotus-Bristol. Averaging a little more than 78 mph, Anthony would take the victory over Alex McMillan and Jimmy Somervail.
Taking part in the second heat race along with Gerard, and driving Formula One chassis, would be Horace Gould and Leslie Marr. And though the race would take place far away to the north just over the Scottish border, Louis Rosier would be in the field with his own Maserati.
Gerard had always been known as a fighter behind the wheel. And so, heading into the race, Gerard had to be considered one of the favorites to win the whole thing. Things would look good for him about 4 laps into the second heat when Rosier fell out of contention with a fuel system problem.
Averaging nearly six mph faster per lap than the Formula 2 cars, Gerard would pull away from Gould and Marr and would be all by himself toward the later-half of the race. Buoyed by a fastest lap time six seconds faster than Anthony's in the first heat, Gerard would leave everyone else in his heat race in his wake.
Crossing the line, Gerard would take the victory nearly 15 seconds ahead of Gould in 2nd place. Leslie Marr would complete the top three finishing another 22 seconds behind Gould. This result would put Gerard in a strong position for the final.
The final 20 lap race would get underway with a grid determined, just as at the London Trophy race, by finishing times of the competitors. This meant Gerard would start the race from the pole. Joining him on the five-wide front row would be Horace Gould in 2nd, Leslie Marr in 3rd, Jack Brabham in 4th and Michael Young in 5th. Louis Rosier, who would drop out of the heat race with fuel system problems, would rectify the situation and would be allowed to start the final from the tail-end of the field. This would end up being a very important allowance as the final would unfold.
Gerard had proven he had the pace to control the situation as long as he made a good start. This he would do. Therefore, he would be up at the front of the field leading the way with Horace Gould following along in 2nd place. Louis Rosier, having a Formula One car at his disposal, would come flying up through the field to be amongst the front-runners within just a couple of laps.
Rosier would be desperate to take advantage of his second chance. Therefore, he would push and would push hard. He would end up setting the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of 1:23.5 at an average speed pushing 86 mph. This would put Gerard and the others on notice. Marr would fade. Gerard would respond.
Knowing he had the pace, and being the type of driver that he was, Gerard would push Moss' Maserati a bit. He too would set a fastest lap time that would end up being equal to the time Rosier would post. So, while Rosier would be making his way up through the field hand over fist, he would find Gerard to remain just out of his reach. Horace Gould would recognize that he had also better go with Gerard or he too would have come under fire from Rosier before the end. He would do his best to respond. And while he wouldn't be able to match Gerard's pace, he would be able to stave off Rosier's assault over the course of the race.
The race was well and truly Gerard's to lose, and he would do no such thing. Averaging a little more than 83 mph, Gerard would streak to the victory beating Gould and a hard-charging Louis Rosier.
Just like that, the Stirling Moss Ltd entry would go from struggling to even start a race to winning back-to-back events, and in convincing fashion too. And in the team's next race, the car would find itself back in the hands of its owner preparing to do battle once again.
Many of the races set for the summer months, especially those on English soil, would remain on the calendar. Therefore, the months of July and August would be very busy months. But with more than a couple of the World Championship rounds cancelled, this meant a rather large and competitive contingent present at a number of non-championship races. And one of those non-championship Formula One races, the 3rd RedeX Trophy race, held at Snetterton on the 13th of August, would draw some of the best teams and drivers to be found in England.
Without either the German or Swiss Grand Prix to occupy his time, the captain would return home to take to the helm of his old launch. Stirling Moss would enter his own Maserati 250F against a couple of the Vanwalls and a couple of other Maserati 250Fs entered by small teams like Gilby Engineering and Ecurie Rosier.
The RedeX Trophy race would be just one event held at Snetterton on the 13th of August. At just 25 laps, or 68 miles, the race wasn't really one of the longest races of the season, but it was still a popular event nonetheless.
The race took place at Snetterton. Formerly known as RAF Snetterton-Heath during the Second World War, the bomber base would be home to the United States' Army Air Force 96th Heavy Bombardment Group and would a base involved in some of the most famous bombing and ferrying missions conducted during the war. But, like so many others, the base would out-live its usefulness at war's end and would be finally decommissioned in 1948 after five years of service.
Upon its closure, the former bomber base would remain idle and would fall into a terrible state of disrepair. Surely inspired by the rebirth of places like Silverstone, Goodwood and others, the Snetterton base would eventually be purchased and would begin the process of being turned into a motor racing circuit.
The site of the last race, Charterhall, was another of those bases-turned motor racing circuit. However, like Silverstone, Snetterton would differ from Charterhall in that the main runways would not be used. Instead, Snetterton's first circuit layout would merely be the 2.70 miles of perimeter road that once provided access all around the base.
Being back at the helm of the Maserati instead of the Mercedes-Benz, Moss wouldn't look all that uncomfortable during practice and would even end up taking the pole for the race. Harry Schell would be right there in one of the Vanwalls. He would start 2nd. After Horace Gould would be announced the 3rd place starter, the final spot on the front row, it would be found out, would go to the second Vanwall piloted by Ken Wharton.
It was clear the Vanwalls would be strong. However, they had proven to be fragile. But while this would certainly offer some confidence to Moss, he would still have to be concerned with both of the Vanwalls starting right up there at the front of the field.
Moss would do his best to take on the challenge presented by the Vanwalls. Right from the start of the race Moss would be up near the front of the field pushing hard to capture the lead and hold onto it. The pressure of the Vanwalls would cause Moss to increase his pace all the more. Eventually, he would turn the fastest lap of the race with a lap time of 1:56.0 at an average speed of 83.79 mph.
Still, the Vanwalls would be right there. And over the course of the race, Moss would begin to slip backward, losing ground to the two Vanwalls piloted by Schell and Wharton. With Horace Gould out of the race after just 2 laps and Louis Rosier also falling down the running order, the race truly came down to the two Vanwalls and the Maserati of Moss.
Having both Vanwalls starting on the front row would certainly be indicative of the improvements Vandervell and his team had made to their car. And, as it would turn out, Moss would have reason to be concerned about the presence of the Vanwalls. Despite taking pole, Moss would be outclassed by the two Vanwall teammates over the course of the race. And in the end, Moss would be left picking up the leftovers while Schell and Wharton finished the main course 1st and 2nd.
The string of victories would be lost, and by the team's owner no less. Still, two victories and a 3rd is a pretty good run for even the best of teams and it certainly seemed to indicate Stirling's own team was coming online for the last half of the season.
The RedeX Trophy race had to be considered something of a let down after Moss started from pole. Putting the eventual 3rd place behind him, Moss would load up his Maserati and would head home. He would park his Maserati and would get back to a couple of sportscar races, including the Goodwood 9 Hour.
One of the sportscar races Moss would enter was the Oulton Park International sportscar race. Originally, Mercedes-Benz had planned to enter the race. However, this idea would be abandoned by the German manufacturer, but not by Moss. Driving a Connaught ALSR for Peter Bell, Moss would finish the race 1st in class and 7th overall.
The Oulton Park International race wasn't an extremely important race but it did offer some advantages as the 2nd International Gold Cup race would be held there toward the later-part of September. And though Moss had won the race the year before after putting together one of the most splendid drivers ever seen coming from the tail-end of the field, it was always good to get as much experience as possible at a circuit in order to have an advantage over the competition.
But before the International Gold Cup race, Stirling Moss would take his Maserati and would head back to the site of his greatest grand prix triumph. At the end of August, Moss would make his way back to the Aintree Racecourse, the site of his first World Championship victory back in July, in order to take part in another popular non-championship race. Held in 1955 on the 3rd of September, the Daily Telegraph Trophy race had introduced Formula One racing at Aintree the year before.
In the same way that the sportscar races at Oulton Park offered Moss time behind the wheel and even more experience around the circuit, the Daily Telegraph Trophy offered drivers the opportunity to gain even more experience around the same circuit used for the British Grand Prix. This would offer drivers a gauge for their performance. But at a mere 17 laps, the Daily Telegraph Trophy race would be but a mere shadow of the British Grand Prix.
Originally opened in 1829, Aintree Racecourse became the host of the Grand National steeplechase after it had been held in nearby Maghull and would become one of the most difficult courses in the world to complete. Run over 4.5 miles, the Grand National course would actually be longer than the grand prix circuit. However, the grand prix course would feature many more corners and bends to navigate than that found on the course where the real horses compete.
When Stirling Moss was last at Aintree with Mercedes he managed to post the fastest lap time in practice and took the pole from Argentinean World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio. And though he would not be behind the wheel of the mighty Merc, Stirling was still expected to lead the way in practice.
Except for the presence of Ecurie Rosier, the entry list would be filled with British teams that weren't near the might of Scuderia Ferrari or Officine Alfieri Maserati. Still, many of these smaller British teams would enter the race driving the same Maserati 250F Moss had at his disposal. Therefore, Moss couldn't take it for granted that he would lead the way in practice.
But as the times began to be recorded, it would quickly become clear Moss was going to be the man to beat for the pole. Roy Salvadori would look quite good posting a lap time of 2:07.0 around the 3.0 mile circuit. This would end up a couple of seconds quicker than times posted by Horace and Bob Gerard. So, it seemed clear Salvadori would be the greatest threat to Moss for the pole. But then Moss would come across the line to post a lap time of 2:06.4. And like that, Moss would be on the pole, beating Salvadori by six-tenths of a second.
Six-tenths of a second would be anything but a comfortable margin for Moss. The difference was just one little slip at the wrong time. Therefore, Moss knew that he would take care during the race. He would have to be on the limit, but protect from going over the limit or bad things could happen.
The start would not go as expected. While most figured Moss would lead the way, or, that Roy Salvadori would snatch away the point, it would be Reg Parnell, the wily veteran, that would sneak into the lead of the race with Moss following along behind in 2nd place.
Reg Parnell would start the race from the second row of the grid in one of the streamlined Connaught B-Type chassis. The streamlined B-Type was a good car but it did have its short-comings. But on this day, Moss would find the combination of the B-Type and Parnell just too tough to get by.
Once he took the lead of the race, Parnell would doggedly hold onto it greatly frustrating Moss following along behind him. It seemed clear to all that Moss was the faster of the two men, but he just could not get by. Corner after corner and lap after lap, Moss would find himself stuck behind the Connaught.
While Moss would be frustrated behind Parnell, a few others would be bitterly disappointed, not because they couldn't get by a fellow competitor, but because their day was over even before it really ever began. Jimmy Somervail would crash out of the race without having completed even a single lap. Jack Fairman, in another of the streamlined B-Types, would also crash out of the race after just 2 laps. Louis Rosier would burn up his clutch by the 8th lap of the race and would also be out of the running.
It seemed Moss just had to bide his time and the race would come to him. But as the race headed into the final four laps, Moss was quickly beginning to run out of time. A period of 13 laps would be the amount of time in which Parnell would manage to keep Moss behind him, frustrated to no end.
Moss undoubtedly would become very frustrated behind Parnell. He also, undoubtedly, push his car a little beyond the limits at points during the race in an effort to get by the embattled veteran. Unfortunately, it would end up costing Moss. Though he was the fastest car in practice and started from the pole, Parnell managed to frustrate Moss and put him in a compromising position wherein his engine would let go with just 4 laps remaining.
It seemed as though Parnell would pull out one of the most improbably wins of the season. Moss gone from the race, many would have believed Parnell merely had to cruise to the finish. However, Salvadori was still in the running and he would put forth an all-out effort to put Parnell in a compromising position.
It would work. Setting the fastest lap of the race, Salvadori would be pushing hard to try and pull out a late victory. And then, with just one lap remaining in the race, the engine in the Connaught would let go and Salvadori would slide into the lead.
Salvadori wouldn't earn a lucky victory. Posting a fastest lap time faster than Moss' own qualifying effort, Salvadori certainly earned what Providence would give him. Coming around Tatts for the final time, Salvadori would power across the line to take the surprise victory. Bob Gerard would be back at the wheel of his Cooper-Bristol T23 and would come away with the 2nd place result while Horace Gould's sustained performance would land him 3rd.
Things were seemingly heading back downhill for Stirling Moss Ltd. After an absolutely terrible early part of the season, Moss' Maserati would earn two-straight victories. Though bittersweet, the two victories would be followed up with a 3rd place at Snetterton when it seemed highly likely a victory was there for the taking for Moss. But then came the failed engine. It certainly seemed as if the later-part of the season was going to be a tough affair. Moss himself would wonder 'whether my Maserati had picked up something of a jinx' after the failed finish.
Though the retirement would plague Moss' mind he would have reason to put it behind him and find some encouragement. One round of the 1955 Formula One World Championship remained. And at the wheel of the Mercedes W196, Moss would certainly find his confidence return. His own team, on the other hand, would have reason for concern. Not only would the 250F's engine need to be rebuilt, but time was of the essence with the Italian Grand Prix set to take place on the 11th September, just one week after the failure at Aintree.
The car would be loaded on the transporter and would set off for the Channel. Across the Channel and onto the European continent, the car would make its way to the northern part of Italy where it would be repaired and fitted for the final round of the World Championship.
Heading to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, chassis 2508 would need its engine working flawlessly. Monza was an absolute contrast to Monaco. Whereas Monaco was a tight, winding circuit with slow average speeds, Monza would be a nearly all flat-out event with average speeds nearly doubling those achieved in Monaco.
If Monza had been fast before, the 1955 edition promised to be even faster. When the purpose-built circuit had been first built back in the early 1920s it had been built with a number of different layout options. Over time, and due to the dangers associated, the oval-shaped portion of the circuit would no longer be used in collaboration with the 3.91 mile road course. However, in between 1954 and 1955 efforts would be undertaken to enable the oval circuit to return. Crews would set to work and would take the banked oval and would steepen both ends. This would ensure the 6.2 mile circuit would be even faster.
Moss' Maserati would be repaired and readied for the 50 lap, 310 mile, race. Driving the car would be an American that had come to make his home in Switzerland in order to be closer to the European racing scene. John Fitch had been Pierre Levegh's co-driver during the ill-fated 24 Hours of Le Mans when Levegh would be launched into the air and into the crowd off the back of Lance Macklin's Austin-Healey. The accident would take place during the first couple of hours of the race, and therefore, Fitch would never have the opportunity to get behind the wheel and take part in the race. Having been on the Mercedes-Benz team for Le Mans, Moss would give Fitch the opportunity to take part in just his second World Championship race, the first having been the Italian Grand Prix in 1953 driving for HW Motors.
Being on Italian soil, it would be an all-out effort for the Italian firms Ferrari and Maserati. The Maserati factory would officially list six entries. Scuderia Ferrari would also list six entries. Four of the six would be the Ferrari 555. The other two would be the D50 Lancia-Ferrari. Ferrari would purchase the D50s from Lancia when the company turned away from motor racing as a result of financial difficulties. But those in the red livery wouldn't be alone. Mercedes-Benz would come to Italy clearly with the intent of taking away home field advantage. Mercedes would arrive with four cars, two would be streamlined W196s and the other two would feature the more conventional open-wheel design.
Some 22 cars would head out onto the integrated 6.2 mile circuit for practice and Stirling Moss would be right up there with his streamlined W196. However, it would be Fangio that would, once again, set the fastest time and take the pole. Karl Kling would make it clear to all the Italian fans that the Silver Arrows were the safer bet as he would take the 3rd position on the grid, thereby giving Mercedes a clean sweep of the front row.
Fitch was a veteran in the sportscar ranks but rather inexperienced in single-seater grand prix cars. This would bear itself out during practice as he would go on to set a fastest lap time of 3:03.1. This time would be more than 16 seconds slower than Fangio's around the same 6.2 mile circuit. Therefore, Fitch would find himself down on the eighth row of the grid in the 20th starting position.
Besides Mercedes taking the front row, things would not look all that good for the Italian teams, especially Ferrari. The two D50s in the field would end up being withdrawn when Giuseppe Farina crashed hard due to tire problems. The same result would strike Villoresi. Suffering damaged cars, Farina and Villoresi would be out of the race. Farina would be struggling to recover from the injuries.
As usual, the weather for the 1955 Italian Grand Prix would be pleasant and dry. 50 laps awaited the cars and drivers as they settled into their seats on the starting grid. The anticipation and the tension began to mount as the Italian fans would anxiously await to urge the red cars onward. Then, with the drop of the flag, the race would get underway.
And at the start, it would be Moss that would take the lead over Fangio. This was part of the team's plan. The other two Mercedes would fall in line behind their two teammates and the four-car Mercedes train would be underway and immediately hauling, leaving the rest of the cars behind. By the end of the first lap, the more traditional lineup would take shape with Fangio taking over the lead from Moss. Fitch's inexperience would lead him to be much more conservative at the start. This would result in him running toward the tail-end of the field.
Ken Wharton would fall out without having completed a single lap. The four cars from Mercedes, however, were hooked up and running like a tremendous machine leaving everyone else to sort out the details. The four Mercedes pushed the pace upwards. Meanwhile, Fitch would stay put toward the end of the field trusting in steady driving to be the key to survival around the Monza circuit.
This wouldn't be a bad tactic as the attrition levels began to pick up. Jean Lucas, Harry Schell, Peter Collins and Hermanos da Silva Ramos would all be out of the running before the halfway mark of the race. And given Fitch's pace in the Moss Maserati, he too would be considered out of the running for a podium finish, but he would still be in the race.
Despite one lap in the lead, Moss would stay put behind Fangio. But, Moss' pace would push Fangio hard. In fact, Moss would end up setting the fastest lap of the race. Unfortunately for the Brit, this would put too much pressure, not on Fangio, but on his car. And on the 28th lap of the race, Moss would retire with a blown engine. Karl Kling would follow some laps later with a gearbox failure. Still, Fangio would lead the way in the Mercedes and the fourth Mercedes, driven by Piero Taruffi, would be right there in 2nd place. Eugenio Castellotti was keeping the Italian hopes alive as he ran in the 3rd position, but he would be well back and unable to mount any kind of challenge toward the later part of the race.
Despite being 6.2 miles in length, Fitch would see Fangio come and go just about every 12 to 13 laps of the race. But although he was well back in the running order, he was still running. And that was something the car proven incapable of doing during just a 17 lap race at Aintree.
Attrition would wreak havoc on the majority of the contenders. In addition to Moss, Kling, Schell and others, Mike Hawthorn and Luigi Musso would both find themselves out of the race before the end.
On this day, it wouldn't really matter who was in the field as Fangio would be in such formidable form that he likely would have been unbeatable no matter who was in the field, even some like Alberto Ascari would have likely come up short.
Trailed closely by Taruffi in 2nd place, Fangio would lead home a Mercedes one-two. One final victory for the mighty Mercedes factory before it stepped away from Formula One for more than 50 years. Castellotti would hold on to finish a rather quiet 3rd. He would come home nearly 50 seconds behind.
In the case of John Fitch, he too would bring the car home. But, instead of Fangio's margin over Fitch being measured in seconds, it would be more effective to list the rest according to laps or miles. And, in the end, Fitch would finish in 9th place but would be some 4 laps behind Fangio, or, what equaled to about 25 miles.
Fitch couldn't have come away with a more distant top ten, but, he would still manage to finish, whereas the car's owner would not. On top of it all, after the trouble Moss had felt he had been experiencing with the car at Aintree, Fitch's distant 9th would break the downward trend experienced after the failed engine. Unfortunately, being about 25 miles behind wasn't exactly an upswing for Moss' own team either.
The 1955 Formula One World Championship had come to an end. Fangio had won the title again going away. In the case of Stirling Moss Ltd, the best result garnered would be the 9th place earned by Fitch at Monza in what would have to be considered a controlled and careful effort. Upon the conclusion of the Italian Grand Prix the car would be loaded back up and would begin the long haul back to England.
Stirling Moss would also head back to England. He would be on his way to Oulton Park to defend his victory in the International Gold Cup. Chassis 2508 had earned the incredible victory the year before. However, this time, Moss would be heading to the race with a new 250F chassis and would enter the event under the Maserati factory team name.
In the case of chassis 2508, there would be one last race on its calendar. On the 1st of October, the 1.84 mile Castle Combe circuit was to play host to the 1st Avon Trophy race. Stirling Moss Ltd had an entry in the race with Les Leston listed as the driver. Unfortunately, the car and driver would not arrive for the race. The season had come to an end.
Stirling Moss had insisted on driving British throughout the early days of his Formula One career. However, he would soon come to realize that, at the time, some of the most competitive cars out there were coming from Italy. Moss would consider the 250F his first proper grand prix car and it would help carry him to some very famous victories in 1954.
But while 1955 would boast a couple of victories in a row, the season would certainly have to be considered a terrible experience. From failed starts to failed components, the success Moss' own team would have just to finish a race would have to be considered minimal at best. Still, having a 250F for use meant that some of the journey-men of grand prix racing had, perhaps, the best chassis they would ever have in which to compete in a race. In the right hands, Moss' car would shine.
Had it not been for his willingness to abandon patriotism for that brief moment, not only he, but others, would not have had the opportunity to take part in Formula One grand prix motor racing with one of the best chassis of its day. And in that way, Moss' entry would earn its keep and become naturalized.