Former racing driver, Sir Stirling Moss, 82, relives the horrific crash 50 years ago that put an end to his career
17:28 GMT, 4 November 2012
During the spring of 1962 I was at the height of my motor racing powers. I was the fittest I’d ever been and I was generally considered to be the fastest driver on the circuit.
I’d finished third in the Formula One championship on three occasions, second four times – once by a single point to Mike Hawthorn – and at that point in my career it seemed more likely than not that I would eventually win it.
But everything changed on 23 April – Easter Monday – at Goodwood, where I was competing in the Formula One Glover Trophy. I can’t remember much about the accident itself because I was unconscious from the moment of impact and I spent the next month completely paralysed down my left hand side and in a coma.
In 1962 British racing car driver Stirling Moss is tended in his wrecked Lotus after crashing at the Goodwood racing circuit
What I do know today has been pieced together by speaking to witnesses and watching some distant 8mm footage of me disappearing into a ball of dust as I skidded off the track.
One of the reasons I got into racing was because it was dangerous. About halfway through the race I came into the pits with gearbox trouble. They sent me back out and I’d just broken the lap record and was a lap behind Graham Hill who was leading.
I was about to pass him so I’d then be un-lapped. We were approaching a very fast corner and Graham always used to take a wide line whereas I took a narrow one, so I saw my opportunity to pass him.
But then he came and took the bit of road I needed, which forced me onto the wet grass, so I went straight into this earth bank at 100mph without a seat belt on, as they weren’t compulsory in those days, and that’s the last thing I can remember.
The St John’s Ambulance people took 45 minutes to cut me from the wreckage, which miraculously didn’t catch fire.
'I knew that if I didn’t get out I’d kill
myself and maybe somebody else. So, at 32, my plans of continuing to
race until my late 40s like my hero Fangio were over'
The doctors weren’t sure I’d survive but I woke up in hospital four weeks later. Rather than feeling relieved, however, I was annoyed I was stuck in hospital and not able to get back out on the track. I’d broken my back and legs before and come back so I was determined to do so again – despite my mother not wanting me to.
But when I returned a year later at Goodwood it was obvious the level of concentration needed to compete had gone. I knew that if I didn’t get out I’d kill myself and maybe somebody else. So, at 32, my plans of continuing to race until my late 40s like my hero Fangio were over.
I hope I’ll continue to be described as the greatest driver who never won the world championship but it doesn’t really matter as the most important thing for me was gaining the respect of the other drivers and I think I achieved that. I had a fantastic innings and you couldn’t think of a better life for a young man.
You go to a race, you go out and the girls are after you, and I would sometimes pour water over my overalls so they’d stick to me and hopefully they’d think that was quite sexy. So really I was very lucky.
Watch the final three races of the season live on Sky Sports F1.