Poor old Sir Stirling Moss managed to heap scorn upon himself from the ‘point and shriek’ brigade of Fleet Street who like to pose as motor sport journalists when he suggested that, in his view, women simply didn’t have the mental setup to race a grand prix car.
“I think they have the strength, but I don’t know if they’ve got the mental aptitude to race hard, wheel-to-wheel,” he said – although the full context in which he said it has never been published.
Cue a tidal wave of blistering bile for an elderly gentleman who had accomplished more in his first 40 years on Earth than most of us will if we reach 100 – with the most particularly bilious attacks coming from the left-leaning, supposedly inclusive and tolerant British broadsheets.
Now, if Sir Stirling had said “Well of course girls can’t drive because their knockers get in the way of the seatbelts,” then there may have been some eyebrows raised. But what everyone overlooked in their faux-outrage were two key points:
1) Sir Stirling has no axe to grind when it comes to women drivers. His late sister was just about the most successful female competitor in the history of the sport, including outright victory on the Liège-Sofia-Liège. 2) In the 63 years of the FIA Formula One World Championship there have been only five women to enter the series, of whom only two have even qualified for a race.
All five women to have taken part in Formula One were exceptional talents who starred elsewhere in the sport but not in grand prix racing. Women have repeatedly challenged and beaten assumptions and achievements of men in rallying, drag racing, powerboats, aviation and almost any other branch of petrol-powered sport except in grands prix. In Sir Stirling’s view the glass ceiling above them in this one discipline is not physical and must therefore be mental.
It strikes me that his fundamental point remains to be disproved. In this day and age, with billiard table track surfaces and all mod cons in the cockpit, there is even less reason why a woman can’t manage the physical side of the sport as well as a man. Danica Patrick has made serious inroads both in Europe and America, and someone with the dedication and physical fitness of an Olympic athlete would undoubtedly put the cat amongst the pigeons if they were focused on going racing… but as yet that simply hasn’t happened.
And so, rather than hop on the bandwagon, let us salute Sir Stirling’s ongoing horror of political correctness and for never being shy to voice his own opinion.