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Peter Giddings Racing


1988's Laquna Seca salute to Maserati (at the Monterey Historics) held a very special meaning for me.

Back in the late 1950s I worked during the summer weekends at my local Goodwood circuit as a timekeeper's assistant to Mr.Ebblewhite, son of the crack Brooklands handicapper.

During each racing season I was able to rub shoulders with most of the racing greats, and witness from my best seat in the house atop the timing tower, their style and technique.

One of my heroes (then and now) was Stirling Moss, and unbeknown to him, in my own small way, I tried to follow his example. For me, timekeeping was simply a dress rehearsal prior to my own participation in actual competition.

Moss's first car was a Morgan three wheeler; I compromised on a BSA version. He then graduated to a BMW 328 while I scraped my pennies together to buy a Riley Brooklands 9. His first real racing car was a Cooper 500; mine was a 1926 Frazer Nash known in the days of its youth as "The Union Special".

Moss's first ever circuit success was in 1948 at Goodwood. Thus, it was important to me that my first race ever should also take place at this venerable circuit. There I tussled with the TVRs, Triumphs and AC Bristols of the day with my elderly chain driven car. Today, I race vintage/historic cars by choice. In those days, my friends and I raced old cars by necessity; they were all we could afford!

From 1958 I worked for a Swiss company with offices in London. I toiled long hours and was very ambitious -- how else could I aspire to the cars to which Moss had subsequently graduated: HWMs, Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica (I finally acquired my own three years ago!), Jaguar C and D Types, and most desirable of all, the Maserati 250F. Finally, I was able to set up a meeting with Moss himself.

Knowing that Moss appreciated promptness I arrived at his ingeniously converted mews house a little early. Frankly, I was concerned as to whether he would display any of the aloofness for which he was somewhat, although perhaps unfairly, known. As it turned out, my fears were groundless and in no time at all we were talking electronics and most exciting of all, motor racing. Once Stirling had sized me up I was taken on the grand tour of his amazing home. Remember this was the pre micro chip era, yet, Stirling, at a touch of a button from his office or bedroom could run a bath and select the temperature. Other controls told him whether or not his garage was full. His bedroom was, as we would now say, very "James Bondish". Controls by the side of the bed lowered a television from the ceiling and adjusted its angle relative to whether one was sitting up in bed or laying down.

Finally we settled in Stirling's office. Behind his head on a shelf sat a model of a Maserati 250F. This was all I needed to get the conversation back to my favorite subject and I was fascinated to hear that the 250F was rated by him as the most enjoyable racing car he had ever driven. In his words it was "not over powerful but superbly precise and drivable. An Italian thoroughbred through and through, glorious with its multi riveted fuel and oil tanks, aggressive yet graceful."

I determined there and then that one day I, too, would possess a 250F Maserati, and attempt to vicariously experience what Stirling had so vividly described to me that day.

In August 1960 I was back at Goodwood, timekeeping at the 25th Tourist Trophy race. In between practice I was able to sneak away from my duties and examine closely Rob Walker's blue and white Ferrari 250F Berlinetta Scaglietti which Stirling was to drive. It was the most beautiful racing coupe I had ever seen, the scream of its engine pure animal, arid once again a vow was made to one day own and race such a car. In 1976 this goal was finally realized.

In 1962 I was once again at Goodwood. It was Easter Monday and Stirling was driving his Lotus 18/21 when he came into the pits with a jammed gear box. Stirling's race number was missing from my lap chart for several minutes while his mechanics fought to free the box. After a long delay Stirling's Lotus roared out again, now many laps behind Graham Hill, the leader.

Just as Stirling set a new lap record his car failed to make the slow and tricky St. Mary's bend. Sitting in my cramped quarters I felt my throat tighten as Goodwood's accident officer rushed in to collect the large tube cutters. I glanced inquiringly at Mr. Ebblewhite. It seemed as though our stop watches would drag to a halt, so fearful and oppressive had the atmosphere become. Now as the news trickled in, my chosen sport of motor racing seemed rather meaningless. "He is trapped in the cockpit: legs look bad, one eye could be damaged." Finally Stirling was extricated from his car and rushed to hospital.

I, like thousands of enthusiasts throughout the world, refused to believe that Moss would not be back, but finally after many weeks we sadly accepted, with shocked reluctance, his announced retirement.

As the years went by, and my amateur racing continued, I would search my motoring magazines for news of Moss' re-entry into the sport, but other than the odd, low key rally there was nothing.

Almost nineteen years to the day after my meeting with Stirling and hearing first hand about his beloved 250F, I was at Le Mans for the second round of the FIA European Historical Championship. Unbelievably Stirling was down to compete, not just in any historic car, but in Anthony Bamford's lightweight Maserati 250F (engine/chassis #2534).

Through dint of physical therapy and the sort of grit determination that had won Stirling many an apparently hopeless race, he was back driving once again. Cannily stalking Willy Green who was driving the actual 1957 Le Mans winning Jaguar D Type, the Maserati's 20 year old Borrani wheels strained as Stirling steadily improved upon his 4 minute 49 second practice best to a race record of 4 minutes 36.7 seconds. Stirling was demonstrating again that he had lost none of his competitive edge. As the two cars rushed into the Arnage bend, Stirling somehow out-braked Green, and to the joy of us all, once again took the checkered flag.

1988, and it is time to honor Maserati at Laguna Seca. I have finally achieved my ambition of owning and racing a Maserati 250F (#2501/ 2523), a mere 28 years later!

The anticipation of this weekend to me was almost too delicious to consider. Not only would I be racing my 1933 ex-Whitney Straight Maserati 8CM (chassis/engine #3011) at its premier event in America (I had first seen 3011 and fallen in love with it at the self-same Goodwood track some 30 years previously) but unbelievably Stirling Moss was down to drive his first Maserati 250F, engine/chassis #2508.

Was this really happening to me or was it just a wonderful dream? Four Maserati 250Fs competing in the same race, and not only had I finally aspired to a 250F but Stirling Moss was driving one also in my actual race!

It is now a few weeks after the event but I am still walking on air. Who could have predicted it back in 1959?

Thanks to Steve Earle, and the inspiration of a young man's hero, a dream had become a reality.