It’s always a highlight going to the Australian Formula One Grand Prix to watch the historic demonstration. Watching some of the great ex-Formula One cars, sportscars and Le Mans racers make their way around the Melbourne Grand Prix circuit is always memorable for me. In my opinion, the sights and sounds of these cars far exceed what we have currently competing in Formula One. The 2006 edition was certainly a memorable one, as it marked the 50th Anniversary of Sir Stirling Moss driving a Maserati 250F to victory in the 1956 Australian Grand Prix held at Albert Park. The actual 250F driven by Moss to victory was at this event and driven by the Englishman Peter Giddings, the car’s owner. Moss was also at the event and completed demonstration runs in a similar looking version.
Watching the two beautiful red Maserati’s driving side-by-side between turns three and four at the Albert Park circuit was a sight to behold. At a later session, it was obvious that Stirling hadn’t lost much of his touch by drifting the Maserati through the tight turn 15. It was great to hear Moss balancing the car on the throttle with the inline six making a great noise. After the demonstration, I made my way to the paddock where I got the chance to look at the Maserati’s close up.
The cars were built from 1954-1957, with only 26 examples built. They featured wishbone independent front suspension and a de Dion rear end, with aluminium bodywork keeping weight down to only 630kg. The pedal layout of the 250F is unique as it has a central accelerator with the brake on the right and clutch on the left. The engine is a very potent 2.5 Litre DOHC naturally aspirated inline six cylinder with three Weber 45mm carburettors. It develops roughly 180kW of power, giving a great power to weight ratio. The car was more than capable of battling with the Mercedes-Benz W196’s and Ferrari’s in the 1950’s. It would’ve been incredible watching the heroic drivers from this era trying to tame these amazing cars around tracks like Spa-Francorchamps and Monza.
At the 2004 event I met the great Stirling Moss and was lucky enough to obtain his signature. It was great that he was so approachable, humble and still had the time for his fans. I didn’t get the opportunity to talk to him but it’s widely known that he enjoyed the 250F’s balance and has mentioned that it was great to drift through the corners. He’s rated as one of the best drivers to never win a championship, although 16 wins is still a great achievement. The 250F however won the 1957 Championship in the hands of the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio.
Although Stirling hasn’t been to the Australian F1 Grand Prix in a number of years, it was wonderful to see him drive and have the opportunity to meet him.
On April 12th 2020, Stirling sadly passed away at the age of 90, following a long illness. The world of motorsport has lost a true legend and a real gentleman.