Pat Moss-Carlsson

Pat Moss-Carlsson

27/12/1934 - 14/10/2008

Pat Moss-Carlsson was one of the most famous women in British motorsport.

Pat Moss was born in Thames Ditton in 1934. Sister of Stirling Moss, her rally driving career in the 1950s and 1960s brought her victories in prestigious events such as the Liège-Rome-Liège, the German and Tulip rallies, not to mention countless Coupes des Dames. But her first love was horses and during her early years she regarded cars solely as a means of getting from A to B, preferably with a horse trailer in tow.

Her first driving lesson was taken at the age of seven, from her brother. "It was in a Willys Jeep, on the lawn, and I thought it was very boring," she recalls. Nevertheless, by the age of 13 or 14 she was driving the family Land Rover around the farm. "Driving was part of life because dad used to race and mum was doing rallies and hillclimbs. And Stirling, of course, was car mad - from the age of seven he had an Austin 7 with two seats and no body."

So how did Pat get into motorsport? " When I was 17, Ken Gregory, Stirling's manager, took me on a treasure hunt and I thought it looked fun, so I decided to have a go." She started competing in her own Morris Minor but "thrashed it a bit" and soon wanted something faster. Eventually she managed to buy a Triumph TR2, raising the cash by selling the Minor to her father, along with a half-share in a horse.

She competed in the TR2 and was soon offered a drive in the RAC Rally by the British Motor Corporation. "I suppose it was good publicity. Stirling was getting to be famous, so they gave me a MG TF - and the rest is history."

Real success came when she finally got her hands on an Austin Healey in 1958, finishing eighth in the Alpine Rally and fourth on the Liège, which she won in 1960. She also drove Mini Coopers, Ford Cortinas, Saabs and Lancias.

She respected the Big Healey and admired the Mini, which she describes as a "twitchy little box" whose main redeeming feature was the fact that "you could spin it and not hit anything, because it was so small", but for pure enjoyment she liked the European models. "I loved the Lancia. Everything fell off - the gears jumped out and the co-drivers had to hold it in gear - but I still loved it."

In fact, the way Pat described most of her cars made them sound like people rather than machines. Most of them had names: a Morris 1100 christened "Dirty Gerty", a Saab known as "Bloody Mary" and a Healey called "URX" after its number plate. "We all named them then," she says. "David Seigle-Morris had a Healey called Sophie..."

When Pat talked about her motorsport career, it sounds very different from what goes on today. "We were paid and dedicated but we had camaraderie. Now they're so single-minded, I don't think they enjoy it. If you look at the interviews, none of them would dream of cracking a joke."

It was on the world rally circuit that Pat met her famous Swedish husband, Eric "On the roof" Carlsson, who she married in 1963. "Rallying was like a circus, with groups of Germans and Swedes and French all mingling with each other." She remembered Eric handing her an apple through the Healey's window and having to look right up at him because he was 6ft 3in tall. "Oh, we were dying to beat him and a couple of times we did - when we were both in Saabs, that was really the best. There was no messing about helping one another. If you saw them off the road, you'd just say, `There's one less, thank you very much', unless there was a fire or it was on an easy section. We were both competitive - we were being paid to win."

Pat was always highly competitive, even when playing cards and Scrabble with Stirling (who is terrible at spelling, apparently). But despite the urge to beat her brother, she never took to circuit racing because she found it boring. "You go round and round like a mouse in a wheel and unless you make a mistake there's no shock." Until things go wrong, of course. Indeed, it was when she was racing that she had one of her most frightening accidents. "I was at Solitude in Germany with the Healey and it was bucketing down. I was at the back and there were AC Cobras at the front and all the big stuff, and I managed to pass them all - stupid, I suppose, in the rain - and I aquaplaned on the last bend. So I went into the sleepers and one sleeper went into the front wheel and through the passenger seat and the car turned end over end down the bank. Apparently from the hotel you could see the car in the air, flying over the timing box...That was a nasty one." Despite the seriousness of the accident, Pat's immediate concern at the time was to recover the sidescreens from the Healey because good ones were difficult to come by. "And then Eric came howling down the bank and pulled the sidescreen off so I could get out. I was so angry. I said, 'You've ruined the bloody thing now'.

In the two decades of her career she proved that a woman driver could succeed against the men.

In the 1980s, her interest in showjumping and horses was rekindled as her daughter became involved in the sport.

Pat Moss passed away after a long battle with leukemia and related health problems on 14 October 2008 but will remain forever an icon in the sport of Rallying.

 

Franca Davenport

Leave a comment

Comments