• British Grand Prix

Moss benefits from gentleman Fangio

Martin Williamson July 16, 1955
Stirling Moss on his way to his first grand prix win © Getty Images

By the time the teams gathered at Aintree for the British Grand Prix, the season was in turmoil in the aftermath of the Le Mans tragedy, with three races cancelled. The calendar was looking bare.

Mercedes had dominated the previous two grands prix with Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss effortlessly taking first and second places. In Liverpool there was a complete shut-out with the first five places occupied by Mercedes, but for the home crowd there was one vital difference. Moss, the British driver, won, his first world championship victory and the first time a British driver had triumphed in his home race for 26 years.

As so often the case at the British Grand Prix, the 25-car field contained a fair number of local privateers along with Moss and the other potential front runner Mike Hawthorn in a Ferrari. A record crowd of more than 140,000 packed the circuit which was built inside the famous racecourse.

Fangio led off the line and in the next few laps swapped the lead with Moss a few times. On the 26th lap Moss passed him and remained ahead for the rest of the race. On the last lap Fangio closed and appeared to be making an effort to pass on Tats Corner - Moss pulled over and the cars crossed the line almost together.

Stirling Moss after winning the British Grand Prix at the Aintree circuit © Getty Images
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Moss took to the public address system to say he believed Fangio could have passed but, being the sportsman he was, he had given him the opportunity of realising his ambition of winning the race. Fangio would never comment.

While the crowd left delighted, Moss' win disguised what had otherwise been a poor race. Only Karl Kling had finished on the same lap, and aside from the Mercedes, the reliability of the other competitors, especially the Maseratis, had generally been suspect.

The Vanwall Specials - one, driven by Ken Whatron and Harry Schell came ninth, albeit 18 laps adrift - had attracted the attention of one journalist. In the Daily Express, Basil Cardew wrote: "I am going to confound the critics by napping [them] to win a grand prix next season."

A leading Mercedes team members agreed. "Who will take over the crown when we are not in the jungle battle of grand prix racing next season? From what we have seen we believe it will be the British car."

The predictions were almost right. It took two years for aVanwall to win a grand prix.

And although nobody knew it at the time with the itinerary still up in the air, Fangio's second place meant he had secured his third world title.