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How Stirling Moss' Dundrod victory was overshadowed by triple death tragedy and signalled the end of the Tourist Trophy

 

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First class: Stirling Moss takes the chequered flag to win the 1955 RAC
Tourist Trophy race, the last to be staged at Dundrod

First class: Stirling Moss takes the chequered flag to win the 1955 RAC Tourist Trophy race, the last to be staged at Dundrod

First class: Stirling Moss takes the chequered flag to win the 1955 RAC Tourist Trophy race, the last to be staged at Dundrod

Stirling Moss was just 21 when he wrote his name into the history of Ulster motorsport, winning the first RAC Tourist Trophy race to be staged at Dundrod.

He was to win at Dundrod two more times, most famously in 1955 when he took the chequered flag long after three drivers had been killed. Thereafter, the circuit was closed to cars and the Tourist Trophy moved back to England.

Originally held on the old Ards circuit in the 1930s, the races were abandoned during the Second World War and only restarted under the direction of the Ulster Automobile Club in 1950 with Dundrod the new venue.

A precocious new British talent, Moss dominated a rain-soaked race in a privately-entered Jaguar XK120, winning by a margin of more than two miles from the similar car of Peter Whitehead.

He returned to win again the following year, this time driving a factory-entered C-Type Jaguar with team-mate Peter Walker second.

There was no race in 1952 but by 1953 it had been elevated to a round of the World Sports Car Championship and saw Peter Collins and Pat Griffiths win in an Aston Martin. This time, Moss shared a C-Type Jaguar with Walker and they finished third after nine hours of racing.

It was the French partnership of Paul Armagnac and Gerard Laureau who were awarded victory on the handicap system in '54 driving a Panhard, although the winners on the road were Mike Hawthorn and Maurice Trintignant in a Ferrari 750 Monza.

Moss and Walker had a troubled race and finished in 14th.

By 1955 Moss had switched teams, joining the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio at Mercedes and was paired with American John Fitch for the Dundrod race. Hawthorn had replaced him at Jaguar and was teamed with rising Ulster star Desmond Titterington.

But it was Moss, starting from pole position, who stormed away into the lead of a race which was allowed to continue despite two drivers, Tim Mayers and William Smith, dying in a fireball crash at the Deer's Leap. Later, Richard Manwaring would also be killed.

Still the race went on, Moss battling Hawthorn at the front until he suffered a tyre blow out at 130mph, forcing him to nurse it back to the pits.

Hawthorn and Titterington were now in control and, although an impatient Moss allowed Fitch just seven laps in the pouring rain before he reclaimed the Mercedes, even he couldn't reel in the Jaguar.

He was still a distant second when, close to the end, the engine of Hawthorn's Jaguar seized, forcing his retirement and gifting Moss his third Dundrod win.

It was a hollow victory as well as a tragic one, the deaths of the three drivers overshadowing a race many believed should have been stopped.

It did, however, signal the end of the Tourist Trophy in Northern Ireland and the end of cars racing at Dundrod.

Belfast Telegraph