Racing lines: Remembering Stirling Moss and #722

Propping up the back of the Moss parade was a humble saloon that at first glance might have been overlooked among such spectacular company. But for those who knew (and there were plenty of them at Goodwood), the Sunbeam Talbot 90 2A absolutely held its own as a delightful representation of Stirling’s wonderfully diverse driving career.

In this little Sunbeam, registered late in 1952, Moss returned to the Monte-Carlo Rally in January 1953 for a second consecutive crack at what was then one of the ‘majors’ of the motorsport season. He had finished a remarkable second in a similar car in 1952 and this time managed sixth, joined once again by Desmond Scannell from the British Racing Drivers’ Club and journalist John Cooper from The Autocar. And it’s that tenuous link through the decades that led me to be invited to drive the very same Sunbeam in the Moss parade this month. It was a privilege and an honour that words struggle to express.

The reminder of Moss’s Monte exploits highlights why he stands out and always will. Not only did he take on such challenges but he also gave them his full attention and therefore tended to achieve wonders. Beyond the Monte, he also took on the Alpine Rally three times in succession between 1952 and 1954, across 31 of Europe’s highest peaks, each time over six gruelling days. Given that this was a summer event, run in July, it must have been fantastic preparation for racing in the British Grand Prix. What do you reckon, Lewis…?

Each time on the Alpine, Moss finished clean (without penalty) and he became only the second driver to earn a Coupe des Alpes – a little gold cup that stood for a great deal more than its humble appearance. On his last Alpine, the conditions were appalling, despite the time of year, and so was the strain on the frazzled driver. According to his diaries, over one final section, Moss “collapsed from nervous strain and couldn’t stop shaking”, having driven for “24 hours solid”. In later years, he even admitted that he had burst into tears. Not even the Mille Miglia or his famous wins at the Nürburgring and Monaco made him cry (heaven forfend). But as he always did when he slid behind a steering wheel, Moss had given his all – and earned what is perhaps his least heralded major achievement. They don’t make them like ‘Mr Motor Racing’ any more – largely because it’s impossible.

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