Considering the impact of Pat Moss-Carlsson’s career

The sister of Stirling Moss, Pat Moss-Carlsson was one of the original female trailblazers in motorsport

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1955 was a standout year for the Moss family. Of course, you are probably casting your mind back to Sir Stirling Moss’ emphatic victory in the Mille Miglia, driving the infamous ‘722’ Mercedes 300 SLR. You might even be thinking of his victory in the Targa Florio, his win in the Formula 1 British Grand Prix, or the fact he finished runner-up in that year’s championship after appealing a penalty on behalf of his main title rival.

As I say, a great year for the family. But not all the achievements laid at Sir Stirling’s feet, for his younger sister, Pat, also had her own accomplishments that year, making her debut on the international rallying stage.

Pat Moss-Carlsson couldn’t escape the world of motorsport. Not only was her brother at the forefront of every British racing magazine at the time, her father, Alfred Moss, was also an experienced racing driver, having competed in the likes of the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans.

But unlike the rest of her family, Moss-Carlsson opted not to go circuit racing and took up rallying instead.

She began competing on club rallies in 1953 and a year later she stepped up her commitment, using money from her equestrian activities to fund the purchase of a Triumph TR2.

Horses were Moss-Carlsson’s true love, but it didn’t prevent her from developing her addiction to rallying, and like her brother, she had a keen eye for commercial opportunities.

Ahead of the 1955 Rally GB, Moss-Carlsson made enquiries to Triumph to see if the manufacturer would fund her drive. It wouldn’t, but that didn’t mean the game was over. Rather than accepting her fate, she tried a different tact, holding conversations with MG who offered her a drive in an MG TF on the rally.

It was an opportunity Moss-Carlsson did not give away, and she maximized it to her full potential, finishing third in the Ladies’ class.

In some ways, Moss-Carlsson's career is synonymous with her brother’s in that she never won an overall championship

The result itself should have been good enough to capture the attention of many of the teams involved, but the British Motoring Corporation also realized that having a sibling to one of the world’s greatest racing drivers would do it no harm.

It was the beginning of a great partnership between the two parties, but Moss-Carlsson wasn’t destined to live in her brother’s shadow and far exceeded BMC’s expectations, marking herself out as one of rallying’s greatest talents.

Three years later Moss-Carlsson began to hit her stride. She won the Ladies’ class on Rally GB, finishing fourth overall and then repeated the feat later that season in Belgium on the Leige-Rome-Liege Rally.

It was a tremendous season and a second place in class on the season-ending Viking Rally was enough to secure her the first of five European Ladies’ Rally Championships.

1960 Tulip Rally 2-6th May 1960. copyright: Mcklein

The second of Moss-Carlsson’s titles came in 1960, in what was another standout year. After a reasonable start to the season, she kicked her performances up a gear in the second half and incredibly took the overall victory in the Liege-Rome-Leige Rally, beating the Porsche 356 Carrerra of Sander Guy by 6m7s.

It was the first time she had won a European rally overall, and it not only proved the doubters wrong when it came to gender equality, but so often like her brother did, Moss-Carlson had won using machinery inferior to her rivals.

While runner-up Guy had been tackling the event in the Porsche 356, Moss-Carlson had been navigating her way through the stages in a heavy, front-engined Austin-Healey 3000. The 3000 was more a sports car rather than a rally car, making her win even more spectacular.

After a lackluster 1961, Moss-Carlsson returned reinvigorated in 1962 and regularly competed at the sharp end of the field. It was no longer about the ladies’ class. She was aiming for the overall championship.

1962 Monte Carlo RallyeTurini, Peira Cavacopyright: Mcklein

She secured the overall win in the Netherlands Tulip Rally driving a Mini Cooper before also emerging victorious at the Baden-Baden German Rally.

In nine of the ERC championship rounds she competed on that year, she won every event in the Ladies’ class, finished overall in the top three on six occasions, and claimed her third Ladies’ title in the process.

Regardless of her gender, her family connections or her background, Moss-Carlsson was a force to be reckoned with. She had proven beyond doubt that she was one of rallying’s strongest drivers of the era and it didn’t take long before she started to attract the attention of some of the world’s automotive giants.

With three championship titles to her name, Ford came knocking, offering her a Ford Cortina GT for 1963. Moss-Carlsson accepted, but the partnership never really worked. She left Ford at the end of the year and moved to Saab, joining their ranks alongside her husband – the legendary Erik Carlsson.

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The switch was an inspired decision. Driving a 96 Sport, Moss-Carlsson secured overall podiums on three occasions, including a second place on the Fiori Rally in Italy and had her best overall championship finish to date, rounding out the top three in the drivers’ standings.

A year later, Moss-Carlsson claimed her fifth and final Ladies’ ERC title, but from then on priorities began to change. After a few difficult seasons with Saab, she decided to switch to Lancia in 1968, but she was never able to achieve any consistent results, retiring from four of the eight rallies she contested.

In 1969 Moss-Carlsson gave birth to her daughter and after that her outings were limited to a handful a season.

Her final rally was in 1974, driving a Toyota Celica 2000GT on the RAC Rally. Despite the fact she hadn’t been competing full-time for a number of years, she proved that she still had the speed, finishing 28th overall and second in the Ladies’ class.

After that event, Moss-Carlsson decided the time was right to hang up her helmet for good. She had proven she still had the speed and that she could still mix it with the best, but now was the time to focus on her family. And that’s exactly what she did until she sadly lost her battle with cancer in 2008.

Moss-Carlsson might not have had an overall championship to her name, but that pales into signifcance when you consider the impact she had. The inspiration she gave to other female drivers and the legacy she has left behind in the history of rallying more than makes up for the lack of any title.

In some ways, her career is synonymous with her brother’s in that she is one of the greatest rally drivers to have never won an overall championship. Was that F1 equivalent title an issue for Stirling Moss? No. And it’s also why it was never an issue for Moss-Carlsson.

She knew how good she was – everyone did. And a piece of metal was never going to change that.

DirtFish Women’s Month aims to educate and inspire – telling the stories of women involved in all roles of motorsport and culminating in the Women in Motorsport Summit on March 11.