In a famous interview with John Freeman on the BBC back in 1960, just a year before a near fatal accident effectively ended his competitive career, Stirling talks about an incident that might have killed him had he not been extremely lucky. This part of the interview is of particular interest as it confirms the effect of a steering column failure on the reactions of the driver still attempting to steer the car. You can watch and listen here:
Ever since Ayrton Senna's accident at Imola in 1994, there has been endless speculation about what caused his car to career off the road. How could a driver of his genius and natural talent have lost complete control on a seemingly simple corner like Taburello? 'Something must have broken', was the common conclusion. But as a driver who competed at that same event, in an identical car, a Williams Renault FW 16, and as someone who had access to all the available data, I could find nothing that fitted with that commonly held view. And I had every reason to need to know the truth, as I was expected to get back into the car and race it again!
I have been through the whole unfolding of the events at Imola in my autobiography, Watching The Wheels. In there I stated that my opinion was I could find no evidence of a steering column having failed before Ayrton's car left the track. 'Surely' I concluded, 'if the column broke, Ayrton's hands would have crossed over as he tried in vain to get the car to turn into the corner?' In this interview, Sir Stirling Moss confirms that this is precisely what happened to him on the Monza banking.
I would argue, without fear of too much contradiction, that Moss was a driver of similar genius and uncanny instincts to the great Ayrton Senna. Whilst one event can not prove the rule, I think it should at least be of interest to those who continue to want to know what caused Ayrton's accident. For me, steering column failure was not a factor. Ayrton applied opposite lock to control the oversteer before straightening the steering up and hitting the brakes hard to slow the car down. Had the column failed in the corner, his arms would have crossed over in a futile attempt to make the car steer. Just as Moss did.