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Formula One legend Stirling Moss, ‘Mr. Motor Racing,’ dies at 90

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LONDON — Stirling Moss, a daring, speed-loving Englishman regarded as the greatest Formula One driver never to win the world championship, has died. He was 90.

Mr. Moss died peacefully at his London home following a long illness, his wife, Susan, said Sunday.

“It was one lap too many,” she said. “He just closed his eyes.”

A national treasure affectionately known as “Mr. Motor Racing,” the balding Moss had a taste for adventure that saw him push cars to their limits across many racing categories and competitions. He was fearless, fiercely competitive and often reckless.

British driver Stirling Moss fastens his helmet at the 1961 U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, International (AP Photo/stf FILE).

That attitude took a toll on his slight body. His career ended early at 31, after a horrific crash left him in a coma for a month in April 1962.

“If you’re not trying to win at all costs,” he said, “what on earth are you doing there?”

By the time he retired, Moss had won 16 of the 66 F1 races he entered and established a reputation as a technically excellent and versatile driver.

“The sporting world lost not only a true icon and a legend but a gentleman,” Mercedes, one of the many teams Moss represented, posted on Twitter. “The team and the Mercedes Motorsport family have lost a dear friend. Sir Stirling, we’ll miss you.”

Arguably his greatest achievement was victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia – a 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) road race through Italy – by nearly half an hour over Juan Manuel Fangio, the Argentine great who was Moss’ idol, teammate and rival.

An F1 title didn’t follow, though – a travesty to many in motorsport. Moss finished second in the drivers’ championship four times (1955-58) and third on three occasions.

In 1958, Moss lost out to Ferrari’s Mike Hawthorn by one point despite winning four races to his rival’s one. His sportsmanship cost him the title, with Moss defending the actions of Hawthorn following a spin at the Portuguese Grand Prix, sparing his rival a six-point penalty.

In 1959, Moss’ car failed during the final race at Sebring International Raceway when leading and again in with a chance of the title.

“I hope I’ll continue to be described as the greatest driver who never won the world championship, but it doesn’t really matter,” Moss once said. “The most important thing for me was gaining the respect of the other drivers, and I think I achieved that.”

When his resolve to drive solely for English teams waned, Moss raced for Maserati, Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz – partnering with Fangio in an all-star line-up. In total, Moss raced in 107 types of cars and boasted a record of 212 wins in the 375 competitive races he finished.

“A prodigious competitor, supremely talented racer, and consummate gentleman, he leaves an indelible mark of greatness on the history of international motorsport,” F1 team McLaren said.

Moss was born in 1929 into a racing family. His father, Alfred, competed in the Indianapolis 500; his mother, Aileen, was English women’s champion in 1936. The young Moss learned his trade during a racing boom in England after World War II.

Sir Stirling Moss and Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton shared a moment at Silverstone on May 31, 2013 (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images).

His knowledge of racing cars was second to none and he took his profession to the extreme, experimenting and risking his own safety in the process.

Moss broke both legs and damaged his spine in a crash in 1960. Even worse was the accident in Goodwood, England, two years later, when he smashed into a bank of earth at 100 mph (160 kph) without a seatbelt while competing in the Formula One Glover Trophy.

It took 45 minutes to cut him from the wreckage. He suffered brain injuries, and his body’s left side was partially paralysed for six months. With his eyesight and reflexes also permanently damaged, Moss quit racing.

“I knew that if I didn’t get out, I’d kill myself and maybe somebody else,” Moss said.

Moss then became a successful businessman, selling property and designing gadgets out of his state-of-the-art home in central London and working as a consultant to car manufacturers. He received a knighthood in 1999.

In 2010, he broke both ankles and hurt his back in a fall three floors down an elevator shaft at home.

Six years later, Moss was taken ill with a chest infection while on a cruise in Singapore and was hospitalized for 134 days before he could return home. The family described it as a “subsequent slow and arduous recovery” that led to Moss retiring from public life in 2018 at the age of 88.

Stirling Moss attended the 2009 British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, FILE).

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.