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FEATURE BY MIKE LAWRENCE
13/09/2011

Some years ago I was staying with Les Leston whom I mentioned in a recent piece about a TV documentary 'Grand Prix: The Killer Years'. Les is the guy who did the most to promote fire resistant motor racing clothing in Europe.

He has led a remarkable life. As a teenager, he played drums in the Ambrose Octet, a headline act which featured Anne Shelton as the singer and George Shearing on the piano. After wartime service in the RAF, he did not return to Show Biz.

In 1954, he became the British F3 Champion and drove occasionally in F1 events for BRM, Connaught and Cooper. Then he turned his hand to saloon car racing and was very quick in a Riley 1.5. Then it was on to GT racing with a Frank Costin-modified Lotus Elite which bore the fake registration number DAD 10. He also commentated on motor racing on radio and compered at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London.

I was going through his files when I came across the featured photograph and my reaction was so clearly emotional that Les gave it to me. The quality is not great. it is an amateur snap, but the subject matter was remarkable since it shows Stirling Moss and Tazio Nuvolari together at the 1950 International Trophy at Silverstone.

In separate books on Grand Prix Greats. Alan Henry nominated Moss as the greatest ever, while Mark Hughes nominated Tazio Nuvolari. In his autobiography, 'My Terrible Joys', Enzo Ferrari nominated Nuvolari and Moss as the two greatest drivers.

Stirling was then aged 20 and you can imagine the excitement of the youngster at meeting the man who, at the time, many considered to be the greatest ever. Nuvolari had a mystique which no modern driver has. At every Grand Prix. the leading contenders are interviewed for television. News and gossip about them are in the daily press and on dozens of websites. Most have their own websites and fans know what music and food they like, what is their favourite movie and so on.

Back in the day, there was none of that. Nuvolari was known through magazine reports and the odd newsreel clip. He had hardly ever raced in the United Kingdom, though when he did he usually won. When Stirling met him in 1950, Nuvolari was one of only two drivers to have won the Tourist Trophy twice and, of course, he had won the 1938 Donington Grand Prix.

His exploits were known, but not the man himself, so he was a legend in a way no modern driver can be.

Nuvolari, then 57, was at Silverstone to drive a works Jaguar XK120 in the One Hour Production Car Race. I guess that Jaguar's boss, William Lyons, wanted to experience the personal thrill of seeing Nuvolari race a Jaguar, it was the act of a fan. Nuvolari had the use of an XK 120 (reg. HKV 500) which was painted red in his honour.

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