My favorite room
Stirling Moss

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 37, Winter 2013

Page 79

Sir Stirling Moss,one of Britain's most famous racing drivers, on how he conquered the exhilarating Nürburgring

My favorite track is Germany's Nürburgring. I'm talking about the traditional old North Circuit – the Nordschleife they called it – not the boring piece they added in the 1980s, which is still used for modern racing. The old Nürburgring Nordschleife was 14.2 miles round, about a thousand feet up and down – and with some 172 corners. It was the world's most exhilarating – and dangerous – race circuit. I loved it. There was only one real straight and even that was a switchback affair over innumerable humps. The rest involved pure breakneck curves, lined by springy hedgerows and often just the tops of enormous trees rooted in deep ravines around the course.

I didn't race at 'The Ring' until 1951, when I was 21. I was staying in the Sporthotel, underneath the main, wooden grandstand. I was woken at 3am by pounding rain, and thought, "I might as well learn the circuit." So I got dressed and climbed into my road car and drove round the deserted track. It worked: later that day, after qualifying on pole position in my tiny little 500cc Formula 3 Kieft – which had a Norton motorcycle engine in the back driving by chain to the rear axle – I broke the lap record and led by about 40 seconds ending the second lap. Just as I thought I had it made... a steering arm broke. It was an early disappointment. To win at the Nürburgring, I had to wait until May 1953 when I won the Eifelrennen 500cc Formula 3 race there in a new Cooper-Norton.

My last big race at the Ring was the World Championship German Grand Prix in 1961. Dunlop had introduced what we called a 'green spot' wet-weather tire. Its sticky rubber tread was a great step forward, though it wore rapidly. I was driving Rob Walker's year-old Lotus with a 4-cylinder Climax engine. Practice showed I could not compete with the V6-engined works Ferraris. The Nordschleife was wet but rapidly drying out on race-day morning so I decided to take my chance on these 'wet' tires. Dunlop's manager said, "No way! They'll wear out as the track dries, they'll burst and you'll crash." I assured him I'd look after them, and I managed to get into the lead on the early wet bits, then had to hold off 'Taffy' von Trips and Phil Hill in the much more powerful V6 Ferraris as the track dried. I accumulated enough lead on the circuit's twisty bits so that by the time I got on to the main straight, I could see them in my mirror, about 300 yards behind. By the end of the humpback straight they had almost caught up, but I got through the very difficult high-speed bend quicker, and by pushing on as hard as I possibly could, I clinched my last-ever Grand Prix win.

I wrote in my diary that night: "I had 1mm (tire tread) left. Really drove hard. Flat out all over the place... Bed at 2am." A great Grand Prix demands a great stage. The old Nordschleife provided it.

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