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Peter Giddings Racing


Through a very special car one man lives the dream of being in the shoes of the great Stirling Moss


This article appeared in Issue #11 (Aug-Oct 2010) of Motor Sport Legends Magazine. Our thanks to author David Dowsey and Pole Position Productions of Keilor, Victoria, Australia, the magazine publisher, for permission to reprint the article here. The link to Motor Sport Legends magazine is http://www.motorsportlegends.com.au/


It's an Italian thoroughbred, was driven by British legend Stirling Moss and resides in America, but this magnificent Maserati 250F lives in the hearts of many Aussie motorsport enthusiasts. This stunning red Formula One warrior was the winner of Australia's first 'international' Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne's Olympic year - 1956.

More than 50 years on, it is in the hands of Englishman Peter Giddings who campaigns the 250F at important Historic events the world over. Aware of the car's significance to Australia's motoring heritage, Giddings brings it over regularly for the Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Watching him punt the car around the twisting Albert Park circuit it is clear that he treasures the 250F. But his fascination with this lovely car goes back decades.

"Winding the clock right back," begins Giddings, " I met Stirling Moss when I was a youngster and ended up at his Mews home at Hyde Park Corner where he still is today," he told Motorsport Legends.

" I sat down with him in his study and behind his shoulder on a bookshelf was a little model of a red car. I was quite distracted by it and he noticed that and took it down off the shelf and said, 'Oh you're interested in this red car are you?' I said yes it's beautiful,' and he asked me if I knew what it was. I said, 'yes it is a 250F Maserati'. 'Oh my goodness,' he said, 'you really do know your cars'.

"He then spoke to me and said that it was the best balanced of all the cars and an Italian thoroughbred. What struck me was that he was stroking this toy as if it was a pet cat and it made a very, very deep impression on me." Giddings' passion for the Maserati 250F is as strong today as it was back then.

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But what exactly is it about the 250F that lights Giddings' fire? "They weren't mass produced back then," he explains. "Every car was hand built. They are a visual, aural - and in every other sense - work of art." Enough said. After Giddings' eventful brush with Sir Stirling as a child he eased himself into motorsport.

"Before I got into motor racing - so I could get up close to the cars — I became a time keeper's assistant and then a time keeper at my local circuit; Goodwood in Sussex. I saw Moss racing there many times, for example in the 1961 Tourist Trophy which he won in a competition short wheelbase Scaglietti Ferrari and years later I aspired to one of those. Years later again I aspired to a 250F Maserati."

Someone who enjoyed getting the best out of the 250F in its hey day was Sir Stirling Moss who wowed the crowds at Albert Park more than 50 years ago in this very car. He was so dominant that the jet lagged Brit came out to practice for the first time at the Melbourne circuit and shattered the lap record held by Reg Hunt by 10 seconds.

The Maserati team - including Frenchman Jean Behra — were treated like pop stars by the adoring public. Australia hadn't seen the likes of this team before and the race aces didn't disappoint.

Moss won the Grand Prix race in this 250F and the Australian Tourist Trophy in a Maserati 300S sports car at the same meet setting lap records in both races. Moss was so dominant that his teammate Behra was the only other person on the same lap, some 48 seconds behind in the TT.

In the Grand Prix Moss set pole with a brilliant lminute 49.6 seconds with team mate Behra in second place and led from start to finish in the 80-lap 250-mile race. Moss had lapped every driver in a storming drive and was only seconds off repeating the feat on his teammate Behra. Peter Whitehead finished third a lap down in a Ferrari Monza.

Built between 1954-57 and with only 26 examples built the Maserati 250F is considered by many to be the definitive front-engined Grand Prix car. Even more than 50 years after its debut its on-paper specifications are tantalising. It was based on a multi-tubular ladder-type chassis with wishbone independent front suspension and a de Dion rear end — with the transaxle mounted behind — and (initially) outboard-mounted drum brakes all-round. It was clothed in breathtaking aluminium coachwork of sublime proportions but it was a matter of function before form. The curvaceous tail contained a 200-litre fuel tank and its slippery lines made the most of'50s aerodynamic understanding. The total package weighed only 630kg.

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The interior is pure '50s class. With a leather single seat exhibiting years of patina and a wood-rimmed steering wheel to grip on to the only thing to baffle the novice was the 'Continental-style' pedal layout - central accelerator, brake on the right and clutch on the left. More than one professional driver came a cropper burying what they thought was the brake only to be propelled at lightning speeds into a barrier - including the great Moss.

The Maseratis most potent feature however was its snorting engine. It's a DOHC 2490cc normally-aspirated inline twin-spark six-cylinder with three Weber 45 DC0 3 carburettors developing around 179kW (later versions produced as much as 201kW). Coupled to a four-speed gearbox (five-speeders were used later) the Italian thoroughbred was a potent machine capable of 290kph and holding its end up well enough against cross-town rivals Ferrari and the might of Mercedes-Benz.

Many of the greats drove the machine including Fangio, Behra, Luigi Musso, Ascari and our man Moss. When Motorsport Legends spoke to Sir Stirling at the Australian Grand Prix's Albert Park circuit — the scene of his famous victory - he was full of praise for the 250F 50 years on.

" I remember that car very fondly," recalls the sharp septuagenarian. "It was a wonderfully balanced car; perhaps the best of the lot. It oversteered a bit but it steered beautifully if you know what I mean; it was great to drift through the corners. It was quite powerful although I would have liked a little more -I always did."

Moss is regularly reunited with his Australian GP-winning Maserati but although Giddings offered the car to Moss for demonstration laps on a recent outing at Albert Park Moss insisted Giddings enjoy the limelight while he cruised the course in a similar looking version.

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"It's always nice to be back in Melbourne and to see this wonderful car," he said. " I always enjoy getting back into it and I always enjoy being back in Melbourne."

Listening to Moss speak so enthusiastically about the 250F is enough to stir the blood of any racing enthusiast. But being passionate is one thing; affording this calibre of car is quite another. And for Giddings it wasn't a case of starting at the top. " I started with the old cars because I wanted to race and they were all I could afford," remembers Giddings.

" I started with a chain-driven Frazer-Nash and to my surprise started beating the then-current cars of the day; the Jaguar E-Types, Austin Healeys and the (Triumph) TRs and so on. Later on when I had done reasonably well in business and could afford the later cars, whilst I dabbled in contemporary racing and other current Formulas, I kept coming back to the older cars."

In answer to the question, would his 250F be his ultimate car Giddings says: "It would be right up there. I was privileged to drive a Mercedes-Benz 125 in several races; that was an unbelievable thrill. I still have to get my bum into an Auto Union from that period, so they would be right up there. The cars that I own, the Alfas, the pre-war Maseratis and the post-war Maseratis would all be level pegging.

"It's a thrill and a great privilege to drive. It's a very fine line between putting on a reasonable show and not hurting the vehicle," he says. "Even though I sign the cheques I consider myself as just the custodian of this 2501/2523 and I feel a great responsibility to keep the car intact and to eventually pass it on to the next lucky person.

" I work very hard with young people encouraging them to work hard as I did. I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I delivered newspapers and played gigs as a musician all round London to raise the money to go racing and now encourage young people to go and do likewise to keep the flame burning.

"It is a great thrill but it is a little worrying when I am racing against cars of lesser value. Everyone typically wants to have a go at me saying, ' I beat Giddings in his Maserati'. Other than that I cherish living, in a very minor, amateur way the life of the great Moss and Fangio and Nuvolari."

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Giddings is now used to the attention he garners at racetracks around the world. He enjoys being in the moment but smiles cheekily as he reminisces about the beginnings of his Maserati passion.

" I think if a psychologist stretched me out on a couch and probed he would conclude that Mr Moss has a lot to answer for."