Rally racing has come a long way from the days when only men were considered to be good drivers. There have been a number of women who’ve become racing champions and proved their mettle on the road. From Helle Nice, to Shirley Muldowney, history is full of memorable names.
Women Racers is a series that looks at successful female drivers and puts them in the spotlight. One of the best is Pat Moss, sister of Formula 1 legend, Sir Stirling Moss. Moss was the world’s leading female rally driver in the ‘50s and ‘60s, cementing her legacy as an all time great.
Moss was born in Surrey on the 27th December 1934. Her father, Alfred Moss, was a racer, but it was her brother Stirling who taught her how to drive. Moss started out as a horse rider, becoming a successful show-jumper.
In 1953, Moss started driving in rallies after she was introduced to the sport by her boyfriend Ken Gregory, who was her brother’s manager. Moss started out racing a Morris Minor and the British Motoring Corporation wanted her to compete in bigger events. Having a woman as one of the premiere drivers was good publicity for the company, but Moss was able to use it as a platform for success.
Her breakthrough came in 1958 when she drove her Morris Minor to 4th place in the RAC Rally. Two years later, she won the Liege-Rome-Liege while driving an Austin-Healey 3000. Stirling Moss recalls his sister’s fortitude at this time. “She used to say, ‘that damn Healey! ‘I gave it three years to kill me and it nearly did!’ But she was strong, mentally and physically, and therefore she wouldn’t give an inch, and wouldn’t expect to be given an inch. After her win in the Liege, rallying people realised how fast she was, because they knew how hard that event was.”
This set her up for further success, as she won the Netherlands Tulip Rally while driving a Mini Cooper. Moss’s other accomplishments include coming in 2nd at the Coupe Des Alpes, 3rd at the East African Safari Rally and 6th at the Acropolis Rally.
After marrying fellow racer Erik Carlsson in 1963, Moss competed with him as a team in 11 international rallies. They had a daughter in 1969 called Susan and Moss became less active in racing, until she retired in 1974. With her husband she co-authored The Art and Technique of Driving. The book offers driving advice that goes beyond what can be learned for a driver’s test.
Her later years were filled with travelling the world and keeping horses. Moss passed away from cancer in October 2008. She left behind a legacy that made her one of car racing’s most enduring icons.
Moss is one of many women who paved the way for modern champions like Danica Patrick and Courtney Force. Her dedication to the sport has left a lasting impression that will be felt for years to come.