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Pat Moss: 1934-2008

  • Pat Moss and husband Erik Carlsson at the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally - 0
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Top horse rider and works rally driver, Pat Moss was an ambassador for women in competitive sports.

Pat Moss-Carlsson who has died, aged 73, was once one of Britain’s top horsewomen and factory-team rally drivers who won the European Ladies Rally Championship five times, won the Coupe des Dames on the Monte Carlo Rally eight times, and scored the Mini Cooper’s first big rally victory when she won the Tulip Rally in 1962.Pat was taught to drive at the age of 11 by her brother, Stirling, in the family Jeep, and was a confident driver of Land Rovers on the family farm by the time she was 17, when her father treated her to her first car, 1936 Morris Ten. Pat enjoyed factory drives in all the major teams of the day non stop for 20 years, after she first set out in a local car club rally near her home in Tring in her own Triumph TR2 in 1954, accompanied by her groom, Ann Riley. They won the event as the pair were the only crew to find both a worm, and a feather. With the success of this treasure-hunt behind her, she then knocked on the doors of all the major car companies offering her services – she badly wanted to drive for Triumph as the two-litre TR2 was now winning all the club rallies of the day, and a major contender on the international scene. When she was turned down by Motor Sport Manager Ken Richardson – rudely, her view – she tried her persuasion out on Marcus Chambers, who had been charged with trying to beat the Triumph team at the Abingdon factory of MG.Marcus took Pat under his wing and gave her the encouragement she needed – first driving the RAC Rally at the end of 1955 in an MG TF, finishing third-best lady, and then riding in the back seat of a three-girl team in an Austin Westminster on the Monte Carlo Rally in January, 1956. The car ran out of brakes on a mountain hairpin, crashed over the edge and finished upside down. Not a great start. Drives in a Morris Minor followed – finishing fourth overall on the 1958 RAC in the Minor, a car Pat nick-named “Granny”  was regarded as outstanding, the BMC team’s best rally result so far. The sister of Stirling Moss, Pat won a string of pony events as an eight year old, competing against her brother – resulting in both Stirling and Pat being presented to King George after they had both won the Victor Ludorum at the 1945 Windsor Cup horse trials.  Pat’s success on horseback continued with her winning the Horse of the Year Show in 1950, and in 1953 was presented to Queen Elizabeth when she won the Queen Elizabeth Cup at White City.When she took to rallying – after driving lessons in an MG TF from brother Stirling, Pat continued with her show jumping, insisting that she be paid by the British Motor Corporation with a cash fee, like all the other drivers, plus the use of a company car, and also the provision of a BMC truck converted as a horse-box by Appleyards of Leeds, then a major BMC distributor. Pat was the only front-line international rallydriver who was ever remunerated with the use of a lorry. Marcus Chambers said many years later that getting the horse-box out of the factory was a “very major hassle – nobody in the top management really understood.”  Pat delivered for BMC in a way no other driver could. Her major achievement was winning outright the hardest, toughest rally in Europe, the 1960 Liege Rome Liege, behind the wheel of the fearsome Austin Healey 3000, then regarded as a particularly hard car to tame. It was the first time any female driver had won an international rally. Her successes rolled on with second on the Alpine Rally the same year, second on the 1961 RAC Rally – Pat reckoned she would have won it outright had she not stopped to loan Erik Carlsson a tyre, such was the camaraderie in rallying at the time stopping to help rivals was regarded as a natural thing to do. Pat was third in the Big Healey on the RAC the following year, but the crowning achievement of ’62 was beating all the other teams to first place on the Tulip Rally in the newly introduced Mini Cooper. This was the first big win for a car that was about to change the face of international rallying, but Pat couldn’t disguise her dislike for the car, “twitchy, and pretty unruly on the limit”, a comment that tended to be dismissed as that was the candid remark all the other drivers said of the Big Healey. In 1963, Pat and fellow Healey driver David Seigle-Morris were persuaded to join Ford with the promise that a Lotus-tuned Cortina would soon be coming along that would help them win events. She also married the rallying ace, Erik Carlsson during 1963, who also managed to woo her away from Ford and into the Saab camp. Pat missed being at the front of the major rallies and felt her career was suffering while Ford nursed engineering problems with the twin-cam engine, the best Pat could manage was 6th in Greece on the Acropolis Rally. Things looked up for Pat when she switched to the Saab team for a full season in 1964 – opening with the Monte Carlo, the brief was to try to beat the new kids on the block, Ford of America had entered a team of V8 Ford Falcons, and employed the likes of Grand Prix driver Graham Hill to “win whatever the cost”. Rallying was changing, with major manufacturers now throwing serious money at what was until now very much an amateur scene.  

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