London - A proud family will wind their way up the spiral staircase of his Mayfair townhouse to celebrate with the living legend on the top floor, Sir Stirling Moss, who turned 90 on Tuesday, September 17.
Moss’s wife Susie, undaunted and indefatigable in the face of the chest illness that confines the great racing driver to his Bond-like barracks, where the TV screens pop out of the ceiling at the touch of a button, has this medical bulletin for you, her fellow devoted Daily Mail readers.
"Your friend," she told me of Sir Stirling, "is a fighter. He is making progress but it is slower going than we would like.
"He is perky. Well, he is usually perky but when he isn’t I jump on to his bed and cuddle him. He is my wonderful husband with those big blue eyes."
Moss was taken ill in December 2016 while on a cruise bound for Singapore, escaping the winter chill of home, and officially retired from public life a little over a year later. He is now looked after by Susie and a team of doting nurses. They told me that however much pain he is sometimes in his manners remain immaculate. He religiously says please and thank you as they fuss over him.
Lady Susie is a constant companion as they share midnight feasts and watch favourite old TV programmes together. They take in F1 races, too, and enjoy visits from friends such as Sir Jackie Stewart. They were delighted when another caller, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, a favourite of theirs among the current crop, sent a handwritten note wishing Stirling all the best for his recovery.
This past weekend Lady Moss tore herself away from her husband’s side to travel to the Goodwood Revival to mark his landmark birthday. Wearing a black-and-white polka dot dress, she blew a kiss to the crowd as they acknowledged the man whose front-rank career began and ended on that West Sussex track.
The tributes were led by the Duke of Richmond, formerly Lord March, the most stylish of hosts, who told the Goodwood throng: "Seventy-one years ago, on September 17, 1948, an aspiring young racing driver celebrated his 19th birthday. The following day the Goodwood motor circuit opened its doors for the very first time and Stirling Craufurd Moss entered his first motor race.
"Driving a Cooper-JAP, Stirling didn’t just win his first race, he overwhelmed the opposition. In a three-lap race lasting just over six minutes, he won by nearly 30 seconds. It was the shape of things to come and the birth of a legend."
Between 1948 and 1962 Moss competed in an eye-watering 529 motor races of every kind, winning a remarkable 212. He would have won more, including the F1 world title, but for his patriotic insistence on driving British cars, sometimes older and often inferior to European marques.
"Better to lose honourably in a British car than to win in a foreign one," he once reasoned.
Yet, after the retirement of Juan Manuel Fangio in 1958 and his own retirement in 1962, following a horrific crash at Goodwood, Moss stood supreme over all contemporaries. As for his versatility in various cars in different formats on myriad terrains, he was the all-time, undisputed master. Never was that more evident than his 1955 Mille Miglia triumph. He covered 1600km of undulating Italian roads in 10 hours, seven minutes and 48 seconds at an average speed of 98.53mph (158km/h). It was perhaps the greatest drive in history. His record still stands.
The race, stained by death and deemed too dangerous for contemplation, was discontinued two years later.
"He had God-given talent to match the very greatest natural drivers," said the Duke. "He combined that with a fierce professionalism and will to win that made him almost unbeatable from 1958 to 1961. If he didn’t win, the car had let him down."
Moss was 32 when he retired after his Goodwood smash, explaining that he could no longer drive and simultaneously wave to a pretty girl in the crowd. The girls, of course, were always ‘crumpet’, in the argot of the Spitfire ace he might have been, and before political correctness took its ghastly hold.
"Stirling is a legend," said Lewis Hamilton, the current world champion. "He is a great ambassador for the sport and for Britain." Indeed so. Happy birthday, old boy.