Richard Hammond and Sir Stirling Moss talk about how their lives were changed by terrible car accidents and why the mental injuries took longer to heal than the physical ones.
Browse content similar to Hammond Meets Moss. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
We all know that we use our brains, our minds, all the time.
I'm using mine now, looking at things going past the window,
waving my hands about in the air, talking to you.
You're using yours watching and listening.
But we don't really think about how we use our brains.
We don't think about thinking.
Despite masses of research we're still a long way from
understanding the brain, our minds.
Surprisingly much of what we do know
has been discovered observing the effect of brain damage.
I'm going to spend some time now with Sir Stirling Moss who is
a racing driver of some renown.
You almost certainly know the name, and if you don't, you will soon.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Stirling Moss."
In 1962 he had a crash and damaged his spine.
He did it crashing at 180-mph on a race track.
I did it crashing at hundreds of miles per hour
in a jet propelled dragster.
I know, it was asking for trouble, but people damage their brains
falling off ladders, crashing bicycles.
In fact every year in the UK over one million people will be
hospitalised with brain injury.
But the recovery, the business of getting it working again,
there's a lot of commonalities there,
and I want to talk to Sir Stirling about how he went about it.
I can't believe we're here...
Stirling Moss's house!
Right, let's go meet a legend.
-Hello, it's Richard Hammond.
-Oh, hang on.
Morning, morning, nice to see you Stirling, how are you?
-It's a bit chilly.
-Yes, it is a bit nippy.
-Sorry about them, we're recording everything. Ignore them.
-Right, which one are we going in?
-You're in here, Sir.
Oh, god we've got the...
-See it's comfortable.
On the way to the interview studio, Stirling showed me that even
in his 80s, he's lost none of his boyish enthusiasm for the sport
that made him.
Motor racing, I mean, is exciting and the excitement really is being able
to set a car up and then drive it a bit better than the other guy can.
I can't tell you, there's no other thing that gives me that same lift.
The important thing to me always was to get the respect
of the other drivers.
That is the most important... If they felt that I was the man to beat,
that gave me everything I wanted really.
There's no question - in the late '50s and early '60s Stirling Moss
WAS the man to beat.
So, a fearsome competitor and a charismatic winner.
Mixing fast cars, exotic locations and a glamorous following
meant Stirling Moss became one of the UK's
first sporting superstars.
And in the process, moved motor racing, from a gentlemen's hobby
to the professional, cut-throat circus it is today.
'And Stirling Moss has achieved the ambition of a lifetime.'
This is the make-up suite...
You know you're bald when they continue make up round the back
of your head. It think it's a bit wrong.
-Hello! Pauline, Stirling, Stirling, Pauline.
-Make-up lady? Good.
Please, go first, I'll sit here and annoy you.
What have you got there?
-Do you want some fibre-lift protective volumiser?
-Yeah, I'm a big fan of that.
-Do you eat it or put it on?
I have no idea...
She's got a lot of work to do, to repair up there.
I wish you'd let me do your make up...
I'd like to feel your hands on my head.
And you didn't actually look into the mirror, until afterwards.
-Should we change places, Pauline?
Why does he get the manly, "just slap it on his balding pate...
"there you go that's big mechanical make up" and...
She doesn't go around the back of your head to finish the make up!
Why doesn't she?
If I give you mine, will you clean them for me?
Right, I'll put that there...
My father was a dentist.
Yes, I know. So you lost four?
-And that was an early shunt wasn't it?
-Yes, a wheel came off in Naples.
That night my father flew me home, and two knocked out,
and two broke. And so he pulled the other two out right then and there.
-Right, so how old were you when that came out?
Ah, well, any 19 year old man, losing his teeth is going to feel...
Yes, pretty difficult with girls you know, because of the gap.
Especially with your extra-curricular determination,
-it would have stood in your way.
-Luckily, he was a good dentist
so they matched!
We should go and sit down in that room.
Look at that, magnificent isn't it? Only the best for you.
-Oh, god, it's huge isn't it?
Is it fair to say, Stirling, there's a good place to start,
is it fair to say that you've always considered the reason
for your immense success as a racing driver and accolades
as the greatest ever, it is down to this as much as anything else?
-It's down to what's in there.
-Yes, because that controls everything.
I mean when you... one has to realise that one's brain is what tells
you to move your finger, I mean, it's as simple as that.
Therefore, that brain is telling you how much to turn in, when
to fill her off, when to put the foot down more, so therefore it has to be.
Yeah, but why is your brain able to do that better
than another man's brain.
Is it a better brain or is it a particular type of brain?
I think it's a particular type.
I think you take what you've got, and then you try to improve on it.
So is it then, a result of a crude experience perhaps beyond
simply racing. Is it a combination of experiences outside your box
in the competition?
I know you had a tough time at one of your schools.
Did all these inform you as a man, that that's part of this?
I think they way you are composed which comes from the
life you have led, and the way you have been brought up.
I think all of those things obviously help.
I think the fact I was sympathetic towards what motor racing was,
because of my father and mother being in there, gave me a leg up.
Both of Stirling's parents were into motor sport, his dad was known
as the 'racing dentist'. Winning and being brave was instilled at
an early age, whether on a horse or in a boxing ring... aged four!
My father would put me into the thing, you know four year old
boxing and I went in there and I want to win. I don't want to just
be beaten around, I want to win.
That's what I'm there for.
Whether I like boxing or not
is irrelevant, what I want to do is beat the man I'm against.
Spotting Stirling's competitive streak,
his father let the 18 year old loose in a race car.
He won his first competitive drive and there began a lifetime's craving
for the danger of racing and the joy of winning.
'And the Moroccan Grand Prix of 1958 goes to Stirling Moss.'
I mean, I love motor racing.
I love the sport, I like the danger is an important...
I mean when you're a kid, I was racing because I liked the danger.
The danger was something that made it really important.
It was something, if I make a mistake this is serious, and somehow
that increased my pleasure of being able to race.
I mean if I can go into a corner and come out one yard,
or five feet or something ahead of the man behind or gain that much,
I'd feel like a million dollars.
Our brains have a reward pathway, evolved
to encourage beneficial actions, like eating, sex or winning.
Victory triggers Stirling's brain to release a feel-good
chemical called dopamine.
The sense of satisfaction and wellbeing motivates the desire
to do it again. For top racers like Moss, the pleasure of winning,
is amplified by the adrenaline type rush of risking death.
In the 50s and 60s it was often just around the corner.
In the 50s, because we were racing on ordinary roads,
if you made a mistake, any one mistake could be your last mistake.
There were an average of three to four you know, good drivers,
top drivers killed every year, throughout the '50s.
In 1957 Tony Brooks crashed out at Le Mans.
Less than a month later he and Moss would be team-mates
at the British Grand Prix.
'Tony Brooks' excursion into the sand at Terre Creuse
'and the leg injury he received
'was to have an important bearing on the British Grand Prix at entry.'
Brooks and Moss were racing a car each for the Vanwall team,
but Brooks was still suffering.
Stirling started in poll position, then his car failed.
Drivers could switch cars back then, so Moss took over from Brooks.
'Still stiff and sore from his Le Mans injuries, Tony
'was not sorry to hand over
'to Stirling, who was in the cockpit almost before Tony was out of it.'
The race now became a master class from Stirling.
'Moss is always at his best when the odds are against him and he set off
'on one of the most 'Stirling' drives of his career.'
He gained 12 seconds, four places and went on
to win in a characteristically determined display of concentration.
'He's already acknowledging the cheers of the crowd and they raise
'and cheer to our man, watch it!'
I guess motor racing is unique as a sport because it's
this level of concentration that is sustained for hour after hour
and your races were...
Well, up to ten hours. Although in Mille it was over ten
hours and Formula One were all three hour minimum.
So three to ten hours of concentrating at a level
that you never do in anything else.
Other sports, tennis they concentrate very hard
but then they have a nice sit down and...
Yes, you know in racing obviously you can't, I mean your life's
dependent on it, so that's the one thing in your favour,
is that when you might be killed you pay more attention, know what I mean?
Well, you're really concentrating...
-Exactly. You don't want to go that way.
-Let's just look
at the Mille Miglia.
In the early '50s the race that demanded more concentration
than most was the infamous Italian road race, the Mille Miglia.
Some 800 cars raced 1,000 miles around central Italy,
with excited crowds lining the winding route.
-It was a recipe for disaster!
-Look at the people, do you see?
Look at that. I mean I do not like
driving towards people, you know at that sort of speed I mean it really
is quite an awful thing because you just don't want to touch somebody.
As well as avoiding enthusiastic spectators, the other hazard
needing extra attention,
was the other drivers. The race was open to all-comers.
You might say to your friend, when you're in the pub
let's go in this and have a go, and of course they could.
If you had a car and were around there, you could get a number
on the side and you'd be off!
With all that to contend with, driver concentration was intense.
In the 1955 race, Stirling's extraordinary ability to concentrate
created an unusual problem.
On this concentration point,
the story runs that when in the Mille Miglia they
were attempting a system where by you could communicate
with your co-driver through headphones.
-Quite technologically advanced at the time, I imagine?
Yes, but that didn't work. I mean, we tried that out and I was
speaking to someone long, long after that and they said
when you're really concentrating you don't feel pain or hear things.
I mean it's what you see, so it just wouldn't work.
When concentrating, the higher reasoning part of the brain,
the frontal cortex, diverts attention to inputs demanding
the most thought, the most effort.
The effect is to ignore other inputs.
You know, "men can only do one thing at a time" kind of thing.
Well, it's medical. That's the way our brains work.
Moss was concentrating so much on the road ahead that his brain
was blanking out the sounds around him.
He was even "deaf" to the instructions of his navigator,
Dennis Jenkinson, Jenks, who was in the seat beside him.
You came up with a solution, didn't you to the problem of you couldn't
-hear because your brain zoned it out?
-Yes, we had this thing,
the gadget, we had this thing we called the toilet roll.
Which is this thing here.
Now on that, that was Jenk's information pad.
As we went along he would just wind this on, and he would see
whatever it is coming flat out.
He would interpret that by into hand signals.
If he wanted me to go slower he would go like 'this' slower,
and then he'd speed it up however much more he wanted me to slow.
And this wasn't necessarily because of the noise which was tremendous
I should imagine, this was
because your brain had prioritised visual was all it was interested in.
Exactly, I could see him in the corner of my eye and I'm
concentrating down the road but I could see his signals
because he put his hand far enough forward I could see it.
The brilliant, yet simple hand signals from his navigator
solved the problem of Moss being unable to hear when concentrating.
The pair went on to famously win the Mille Miglia in record time,
clocking an astonishing average speed of 97.8 miles an hour.
But racing at these speeds not only demands extreme concentration,
it also requires that when concentrating, the brain
must process huge quantities of ever changing inputs.
Once the flag falls and then you're off, and you've got to...
you're watching where people are, can I dash in there, should I hold
back here, wait till we go round the corner, you know, all the time
trying to read the track, so you can work out how you're going to
pace yourself, you know watching the temperature gauges and seeing
how the tyres are, so it isn't just a case of being able
to hold your foot on the floor.
This "racing brain",
able to compute lots of data quickly, is a characteristic
of all top drivers, both in Stirling's era and today.
Professor Sid Watkins is motor racing's best known neurosurgeon
and remains astonished by how a driver's brain processes the mass
of information that bombards it.
I make a lot of jokes about, you know what is a neurosurgeon doing round
racing drivers because they've obviously got no brain,
but in fact, they are a very highly intelligent group.
They take all of the data that is coming in to them, from the body,
from the way the head is moving on a neck and their computers
come out with the right solution.
I have first hand experience of this need for high speed data processing
in a race car, and I can safely say it's just like Sid tells it.
And I can't do it.
I'm going to try and... OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD!
No! There's no temperature in the brakes.
My thinking time, that was my problem, where I had a bit of
an off, it's because I thought I'd left it too long to brake.
Then I realised I hadn't, but because I was thinking that, the car
was already around the corner and I was in the wrong gear and I span.
I can't think fast enough, more than anything.
The thing to remember more than anything
is there's professionals and amateur.
That's the point. Of my era, of when you tried,
any time you like, there's a big gap between the very best amateur
and the very poorest, you know, professional.
It's rather like a singer.
I mean, anybody can sing but only a few people sing really well
and they get trained and it gets better,
and I think the same thing with racing, experience
is an enormous benefit.
What I try to do is, against you in the same vehicle,
is I try to say to the car,
OK I'm going to try and benefit from this with my experience, and that is
why I'm likely to get in that car and go faster than you would.
'And the flag falls for Stirling Moss,
'to mark his third victory in the Monaco Grand Prix...'
Monaco's winding street circuit is the most testing
for a driver's brain.
By the time of Stirling's third win here, he had ten years
experience of over 500 races.
His brain had changed... learning to process the data bombarding
his senses more efficiently.
You don't just get in a racing car and become an expert driver,
it's all about, as I suppose in life, it's all about practice.
You know 5 % inspiration, 95% perspiration.
We can assume that racing drivers, those parts of the brain are going
to be more developed than other people, because they have
practised it over and over again,
Practising an action improves the brain's performance...
and the body's. ultimately, we can unconsciously perform complex
actions, they become automatic.
If I swing at you, you're going to duck.
If you don't, you're hit. So obviously you duck.
Well, in motor racing to me, I went out there and I did it automatically.
If you're going to really fast and get things to go with the flow,
then it has be something you do, without realising you're doing it.
And it's well known that a lot of automatic unconscious movement is
actually quicker, than if you actually have to think about moving.
Brain research has proved, unconscious reactions are quicker
than conscious ones.
It's called the gunfighter dilemma and it goes like this.
The gunfighter that draws first draws slower
because he thinks about it.
The automatic reaction of the second guy is quicker.
Experiments have revealed that a reflex reaction takes a different,
shorter pathway through the brain than a conscious thought.
It makes sense, when you think about it.
Thinking about drawing the gun takes longer than just doing it.
Have you ever heard of, it's a theory based around Gunfighters
or Gunslingers and it was an experiment that was done,
the theory runs that the second person to draw in a gunfight,
will actually be faster than the first person.
-Is that relevant to...?
-I think it is.
I think if a driver has to think about it, I mean the reason
I couldn't continue after my accident
is because I knew exactly what to do, but I had to think what to do.
I knew I had to turn in here. Where did I turn in?
I turned in 100 metres away. Where did I aim for?
I aimed for exactly... whereas before it was all automatic.
So Stirling's brain was acting automatically so extra quickly.
Along with his courage, his ability to concentrate with intensity
for long periods, and by now, his considerable experience
it was perhaps inevitable he'd rise to the top of his profession.
'And Stirling with his favourite number seven, wins the Grand Prix
of Europe, by sheer brilliance.'
And he might well have stayed there but for a dark day in 1962.
It was April 24th, Easter Monday.
The top drivers of the day gathered at the Goodwood Race circuit
for the 100 mile Formula One event, the Glover Trophy.
33 years old and in his prime, Stirling strutted his stuff,
sparring with rival Graham Hill even before the race began.
On poll position, in his lucky number seven lotus at the track
that was the scene of his very first circuit victory,
Stirling was bristling with confidence.
what could possibly go wrong? three laps from the finish, not
in contention for a win but as ever pushing hard for a lap record,
Moss went to pass Hill at St Mary's corner.
Going around 100mph he left the track
and ended up smashing head-first into the banking.
Stirling is still unconscious.
He's been unconscious ever since the accident, the mystery as to exactly
what caused this accident remains, but a rather disturbing thought
is that perhaps we shall never know because the chances are that
Stirling who has a concussion,
a broken left leg and a cracked rib, as well as gashes around the face,
might himself never remember.
Your memories of the actual crash?
I have none of them. I have amnesia of four weeks.
I remember chatting up a bird the night before at a cocktail party,
a South African lady,
and then the next thing I remember
is coming to in the hospital, which was a month later.
I mean, I didn't know it was a month, and I assumed straight away
that I would be racing in the next couple,
two or three weeks because I had done that before. That had happened.
Otherwise I don't remember anything else.
That was the most expensive day of my life. I had to work for a living,
until then I was being paid to do what I liked.
Suddenly I had to work for a living so it was pretty
come down to Earth all of a sudden.
So although you can't remember exactly what happened,
there was press coverage and there are some staggering photographs,
if we can find them in here, of you at the time. I'm just...
-So this is immediately after it had happened?
And the interesting thing there, although I was unconscious
I'm actually holding that nurse's hand.
I mean, you can see I'm gripping it, rather than just having it out.
-When they got there did they think, "he's had it"?
-I reckon they did
because I was cramped up, look, the whole front was smashed in,
as you can see look. This...
that is actually before that because
they've obviously just arrived and they haven't pulled my head back.
I've got the steering wheel, you see, this is the wheel,
I'll get it up the right way, so that's the way I'd be driving.
Like this with the thumbs on there, and then my head obviously went
forward because no seat belts, which is amazing I wasn't thrown out.
But anyway I went like that and that obviously gave damage, you know,
struck my head.
So that was straight impact?
Yes, and my brain would have gone 'bah-bom' like that,
when it happened and, you know, that was it.
So what do you now know did happen?
Well, I know I went into the bank,
-I suppose that's the biggest thing.
Well, I was coming up actually, Graham Hill was in front of me...
'Stirling Moss was following me through Fordwater,
'a very fast right hand on the back leg of the circuit...'
And I was a lap behind because I had to stop for the gear box
so I was trying to un-let myself.
We were doing about 140-mph and approaching a right-hand
leading into St. Mary's...
And I came up, and Graham was on the right...
At this point we slowed from 140 to 110, brake and drop
the gear from fifth to fourth.
And I think they probably gave him a flag saying look somebody
is going to pass you.
He may have gone like this because you acknowledge the flag usually,
or I did certainly.
I was on the outside of the circuit when I saw Stirling's car out of the
corner of my eye, on my left with the outside two wheels on the grass.
I probably saw him doing 'this' thinking he said right, pass me here,
for he was on the narrow line and normally Graham was one of those
drivers who went quite wide, took a wide entrance.
I immediately backed off and saw that he was in great trouble
and watched his progress across the grass towards the bank.
You see here's Graham Hill's line, and I would have gone onto the grass,
the grass was damp and of course but that was a werther then I went
straight into the bank and you know,
crashed the car.
I noticed there were flames coming out of the exhaust pipe,
and I thought it was rather strange at the time.
Half an hour went by and we still didn't have any news,
and the first news we got was when it came over the tannoy, that he'd
had this accident and was being cut out of the car and of course we were
shocked and we waited around until we knew what was happening,
and he was taken in the ambulance and somebody drove me to hospital.
And then the long vigil started.
Of course, following your crash there was a lot of photographs of
it, but there wasn't really straight footage of it?
No, it was all from the side.
Because when I did mine, it was being filmed for the television,
so I have got footage
-of mine which I have...
-Yes, I would like to see that actually.
We did show this on the telly,
and we wondered whether to, but do you want the honest truth?
-Why we did it? It was because...
-Because it's interesting.
Yes, and because if just one person watching, one 17 year old kid
thinks, crikey, things can go wrong in the world of television,
even in our silly, controlled world,
they can go wrong in real life.
Maybe they will think twice before going round a corner and think maybe
there will be a tractor with a bailing spike coming round
the other way, so I'll be careful.
You should have seen the palaver when the medics let me watch
this for the first time.
Bloody hell fire, that's a jet engine.
Oh, that was the first run.
Oh, crap. This is terrifying!
And did you hold, you know, on the brakes?
-Yeah? You did?
-Yeah you build it to a certain point and then...
Boy, it gets a move on straight away, eh?
Well, yes, but it accelerates in that way that jet cars do
which is kind of it builds and builds.
The initial acceleration is nothing spectacular.
It doesn't hang about, that.
Now when you put that chute out, how much does it actually stop you?
Do you really feel a big G?
Oh, yes, it's about minus three and a half G it's a proper...
-Oh, is it? Oh, oh.
-But it's quite gentle in its constant, and then it
sort of drops off.
I'm SO alive!
Four months after my accident I returned to the Top Gear studio.
I talked about my early runs in the jet car and then the crash itself.
And we had the runway until 5.30... and...
It is strange watching yourself, when you know you were unwell,
because watching me there then talk, I don't remember that.
-I don't remember sitting at all.
-Oh, don't you?
No, not even slightly, but I know that I wasn't very well then.
Oops. That's when the tyre goes.
-Sends it off.
-And that's the point where it goes down, that's when
I was gone, I thought.
Good Lord! I'm amazed you got away with it at all actually.
-That's more bashed up than mine was, wasn't it?
Mine was only a fragment compared to yours.
I made a more thorough job of the back end of mine compared to yours.
You can see it start to go...
and it's just the track to the right...
And you're trying to steer there.
-Yes, I was steering but clearly that was never going to work, was it?
But now tell me, when the wheel...
when the tyre started to go,
that must have given you notice, my God, something's up.
I can't remember. I can remember...
the problem is you don't know how much your brain reconstructs
afterwards. You said a couple of things you thought,
-you had maybe thought of afterwards.
But in the versions of it that ran through my mind, when I was kind of,
in hospital, in and out of consciousness, there was a real
sense of fighting something,
which was when steering was going on.
I think there was a degree of steering as the tyre fell apart.
But then when it burst...
..there was a sense of "this is an emergency."
I think I had then gone to pull the chute, which didn't deploy
and the tyre burst and it turned round.
And then it started to roll...
As the car achieved that sort of angle I thought, "Well, this is it."
-What I don't get is why did the chute not go?
-I don't know...
And they never found out?
No. It didn't deploy possibly because the car was sideways
and the chute is designed by a drogue to pull it out that way,
and it kind of...wouldn't.
-You must have memories of some of your shunts.
-Oh, I have.
In fact I've seen you say it, on that Face To Face interview,
when you said... He asks you, "Have you ever thought, that's it?"
-And you have?
-Yes, oh sure, when my steering broke.
-Have you ever really thought you were done?
-Yes, I have.
-At Monza, my steering sheared at 165 on this bank track.
I mean, I knew going at 165 or 170 or whatever it was,
suddenly, when my arms crossed, there was something wrong. I'm not stupid.
I'm not normally afraid of killing myself,
I am frightened of being killed
by something over which I have no control.
And I thought, "God this is it."
I mean, that's it. And I remember closing my eyes and forcing back.
I was absolutely convinced that I was a goner.
Well, that's a very similar memory then to when mine went,
that's what happened to me, I did everything I could...
Did you black out at all, do you reckon?
After that, yes, but I've never been able to ask anybody else this,
but when you've really thought it, and really thought, "That's it,"
the thing that came out of that memory, was that there was no fear.
It was the next thing to do on my list.
If I'd had a to-do list it would have said "Get in car, drive car,
"crash car, die." And I would have just...
"Oh, I've got to the die bit now." It felt no more...it felt no more...
Yes, it opens a thing. I must say, I can remember so well
closing my eyes and thinking, "Christ, what's going to happen?"
-I'm going to die.
-And what happens next?
What does it mean? How's it going to be?
Death is something which frightens me,
and by thinking of it isn't going to make it less likely to happen,
therefore I don't think about it.
I was so worried to find out...and that's where the guilt came from.
Ah, things still come back!
-The guilt came from thinking it was my fault.
That's back to what you were saying on the Face To Face interview.
You're not scared of killing yourself
-but you're scared of being killed.
Mechanical failure or whatever. I was so scared...
I felt so guilty that I'd done something wrong, I'd messed it up,
so all I wanted to hear was that I hadn't risked leaving my wife
a widow and daughters without a father because I had cocked up.
-Which is all you could do.
-It's only when they told me
from the telemetry from the car, they confirmed that I had pulled
the parachute lever, that's all I wanted to hear.
I'd rather you than me, old boy.
Ha! Well, let's face it, I didn't dislodge the right-hand side
of my brain so let's not get competitive about shunts!
The papers were full of it,
the news hounds were there camping out on the doorstep
and we told everybody, you know, that there was nothing
that anybody could say - that he was in a coma,
there wasn't any news and we'd let them know when there was.
The state of coma, you were in a coma for a month?
-Yeah, for a month.
-I was only for a day or two. But that's a strange...
-It's not asleep but not awake.
-You don't know what's happened.
-Do you have any coma memories or dreams or anything?
-No, none at all.
'Although a coma appears like a deep sleep,
'and, in fact it's the Greek word for deep sleep,
'the brain activity in a coma is very different.
'It's described as an unconscious state
'where you can't respond physically to light, sound or pain.
'You can't wake a person from a coma,
'they must regain consciousness of their own accord.'
So you're in a coma for a month,
I woke up, I don't, I have no recollection but my wife Mindy has,
she was there when I briefly stirred out of coma...
The first thing he did was just...
there was the tube, the ventilator right down...
and he just got hold of it and was...
Started pulling that out. Just fighting off intervention.
-There was nobody in the room?
-Yeah, my wife and the medics were there.
I was fighting them off at the same time I was trying to pull it out.
I looked at the guy and said, "Well, what...what happens now?
"Can he cope without it?" He said, "Well, we'll wait and see."
I was pulling the pipe, which was not pleasant,
Mindy was saying, "What shall we do?" and they just said, "Well,
"he'll hurt himself if he keeps fighting with us, let him do it."
Then because I pulled it out, I couldn't breathe any more and I keeled over again
I'd rather go the way I did, boy, I wasn't awake to do all that mess.
-A nice sleep for a month!
-Yes, nice and easy.
'Media interest never let up whilst Stirling lay unconscious.
'His father Alfred updated reporters,
'whilst his mother Aileen regularly made visits to be with her son.'
I held his hand, you know,
and squeezed it and he squeezed it back,
and then after a little while
I said to him, "Hello, darling, it's Mum, can you hear me?" And I THINK,
I don't think it was imagination that he just muttered, "Mum."
'Also, in constant attendance, was his secretary and assistant
'Val "Viper" Pirie. As well as dealing with up to 3,000
'letters a day, she tried to be at his bedside as much as possible.'
I was at the hospital and sat with him
during the days after the accident, all during his coma.
You sit there and you were told to talk to him
to try to bring him out of the coma.
I think they thought that hearing a familiar voice
would get the brain going, to help them come out of the coma.
'The common wisdom that talking or reading to someone in a coma
'may help has not been disproven. In fact, although a patient can't
'outwardly respond to stimulation of the senses, some recent research
'has shown that in some cases, the brain is registering inputs.'
I got him to speak to start with,
because I was telling him about a chap that was putting in
an internal vacuum cleaner into the house,
and this chap was not terribly good.
And I was regaling Stirling with the latest up... on-goings of the house
and what this chap had been up to and I said, you know,
"He's a real bastard! A real bastard!"
And I heard this little voice say, ("Bastard, real bastard").
So I thought, "Oh, yes, you're going to be all right then!"
What is your actual first memory of coming out?
Bearing in mind you've been in coma for weeks and weeks.
Yes, I was in a coma for a month, four weeks.
The first thing I remember is waking up, seeing all the flowers in there
and facetiously saying, "They must have thought I was going to die."
-Which of course was pretty near the mark.
I hadn't realised that at the time.
My best friend was there and I remember lifting my arm like this
and he said, "What are you doing that for?" and I said,
"Well, in case you didn't know, I had an accident four weeks ago
"and broke my arm," and he said, "No, no you didn't."
He said, "You banged your head." I said, "Don't be ridiculous,
"how can banging my head mean I've got to lift this arm around?"
He said they wouldn't tell me because they were frightened it'd worry me,
and he said, "I'm afraid that you're paralysed on that side."
I said, "Don't be ridiculous!"
So he said, "All right, move your fingers," and, of course, I couldn't.
That sounds, to me anyway,
as though you were still in a bit of a confused state at that point.
Probably, but you don't see it that way do you?
No, it's reality to you at the time.
Because it's you and that's all you know. Oh, absolutely, I mean
it's quite frightening how you can believe one thing but it isn't right
and I was obviously still, you know, mentally a bit...
Coma, classically will move on and people then tend to come out,
through a period of confusion, and into post traumatic amnesia.
Memory is no one structure,
memory is part of an integral system that goes throughout the brain.
And of course memory is what we judge ourselves by.
That is where we are in life,
that is what happened a few minutes ago, that is what we're worth,
that is who we love, that is what is going on.
It is very integral to our souls.
Did you have, I'm just interested at exploring
different states of mind, post traumatic amnesia?
-I don't know if that hit you at all.
-Yes, yes, I did.
-Obviously if you can't remember...
-I think I've still got it actually!
I think now it's age orientated!
I was going to say, "That's called being 80!"
I think that's the problem now, but certainly, I did. Oh, terrible.
I mean, I met this stunning girl, and I didn't know
where we got along, where to got to in our relationship.
I met her afterwards and I more or less said to her,
had to say to her, you know, "How far had we gone?"
If you know what I mean, which is a pretty difficult place to be,
because I just could not remember.
But that's when it becomes alarming for the people around you.
-Well, yes, yes.
-My wife would come and sit with me
and at first I denied that she was my wife,
-because apparently I said my wife's French.
(Tricky.) I don't know why.
He said to me, when he came round,
"You probably should go cos my wife will be here soon."
I said, "I'm your wife," and he went, "No, you're not. My wife's French."
But she never said, "We have a happy loving relationship,"
because she didn't want to plant... she never wanted years down the road
to think, "He only thinks that because I planted that seed
"in his head when he was vulnerable."
The difficulty is that our memories can be biased,
and we start to incorporate those other people's representations,
into our own feelings of what is true.
I think Mindy was very wise.
She didn't push the point and I think it can be very disturbing
for people whose memories are slowly returning
to have questions and doubts put into their mind,
because they're trying to deal with enough already.
So she let me, and I did thankfully,
fall in love with her again - which is good.
'Feeling oneself stuck in an alternate reality
'or being deeply confused are just some of the symptoms
'of post traumatic amnesia.
'Recovering from brain injury, patients might emerge with
'incomprehensible memories, or inexplicable skills,
'completely changed attitudes.
'Stirling was briefly fluent in a language he can hardly speak.
Well, he was lying asleep one night and he suddenly started to speak
in French with an absolutely superb French accent.
It isn't as though I'm bilingual, I'm not.
I mean I can get away with French if my wife's there to help me.
-It was apparently quite fluent?
I'm not sure it wasn't better than I could speak.
My Birmingham accent returned,
I haven't lived in Birmingham for over 35 years.
-I left when I was a tiny child.
-But you haven't got it now?
-It did return briefly.
-Took about 30 seconds to get rid of it!
The whole of brain injury recovery is a roller-coaster but normally
by the time that the patient comes out into post traumatic amnesia,
he seems to be relatively normal.
So people will come flocking to see him, they'll be elated
by the good news that suddenly he's better and he will be swamped.
Everybody, all of his friends and family were coming to see him,
he didn't feel that he'd had an accident, he couldn't remember
the accident at that point, so he was thinking, "What's going on?"
And it must have been like being in
a bizarre sci-fi movie or something, you know.
"I'm being kept here against my will,
"everybody else is getting on with their lives,
"Why don't I know where I am, or who I am, or what I am?"
'Good morning Dr Artuzzio, I hope we're on time.'
'Good morning. Yes, we have a few minutes yet.'
'Dr Mazir, will you go ahead and prepare this patient?'
What then happens is it's totally overwhelming
and absolutely exhausting.
They can't follow the conversation,
we believe the frontal lobe has a almost filtering effect,
so that it can cut out too many stimuli.
If it has been damaged in the head injury,
that filter doesn't seem to work.
He'd had quite a few visitors one morning,
and then I sort of left him for about 15 minutes,
walked back into his room and he was on his hands and knees on the bed,
elbows and knees rather,
with his hands round the back of his head, going,
"Argh, the pain! My head, my head!"
They feel like they're going crazy.
They feel like their brain is not working,
and it just unfortunately further hinders their progress
because they have this crisis of confidence.
'The threatening clouds which have been there all the morning
'turned this afternoon into rain,
'rain which obviously is going to slow the practice times enormously,
'as we see Graham Hill in the BRM...'
I don't think that he really realised how bad he was.
And it wasn't until he saw the first race,
which I think was Monaco after that, on television,
that he asked for a car and he wanted to go there.
He was a little bit pathetic to start with, you know,
"Oh, I want to go there. Can I go there?"
"No, you're not capable of doing it." "Oh, I can, I can!"
'But also of driver, a test...
'There's Graham Hill coming into the fifth,
'obviously something not quite right, or he may feel,
'and justifiably so, that with these...'
One of the difficulties during recovery from frontal lobe
can be a lack of insight. Patients seem to almost have
a physical centre somewhere within that part of the lobe that enables
them to self-regulate and work out what they can and can't do.
How long do you think this is going to take?
There's talk of you being back to racing in no time at all.
Well, the doctor's are better qualified to answer
but I reckon it may take a month before I'm allowed to go off,
you know, to get fit,
and maybe a month getting fit and then straight in the car.
Are you going to try and persuade him to stop racing after this?
I shall ask him, yes.
I haven't before, but this time I shall, definitely.
What is so often difficult is a patient is desperate to get back
and prove themselves well again and they can have
totally unrealistic expectations as to what is possible.
Stirling, your doctors have been quoted today as saying
that you're still very weak. How do you feel yourself?
Well, there are weaknesses, of course, down this left side.
I mean, this arm is not as strong as this one, but I feel all right.
I feel very well in fact.
How soon do you think you'll be back on the track again?
Well, that depends on the doctors quite honestly,
but I think I'll be back in time for the British Grand Prix,
which is the middle of July. About a month
You reach a point where you think, "I'm fixed, I'm better,"
and then a month goes by and you look back over the previous month
and think, "Cor, I wasn't better then, was I? Now I am."
Then another month goes by and you think,
"Whoa, I was still a bit wonky."
Yes, but I had the paralysis to help me, if you like.
Because it was a physical manifestation?
Yes, because it was there for, you know, for another six months.
And so I think the fact that I obviously was not right,
and I knew I wasn't right until I got rid of that problem.
But the danger there is that was only one manifestation
of the problems that you had.
Did you immediately then think, "That's it, I'm fixed"?
No, because I went and tried myself out with a car
to see if I could race again, and the answer was no.
And I'm the only person who can make that...
The decision of having to say no to myself and think,
"No, I'm not going to do it," caused an enormous change in my life.
What made you decide finally to retire from racing?
Well, I went out today to Goodwood, where I had the crash it so happens,
with a racing sports car and did about 45 minutes of lapping.
And while I was doing that I decided that I would be foolish to continue
because I had lost certain things that I took for granted
such as my dexterity, my concentration
and you know, many things happened that normally I wouldn't even
think about, and today I had to think about doing them.
Do you remember that drive, when you decided?
Yes. Yeah I do, because it was...
I tried not to show the depression but, you know,
realising that this was the only decision I could make
which was obvious to me because I had been...
I knew if I went back to racing I'd either kill myself
or kill somebody else so it was not a difficult decision to make,
because it's something that had to be intuitive
and it was no longer intuitive.
'Now, although apparently fully recovered to normal health,
'Stirling Moss has made the decision to race no more.'
So in Stirling's case,
he was about a year after his accident, wasn't he?
-The paralysis had left him, he was physically OK.
Then he decided
to go for a drive and to make his own assessment.
How do you feel about him doing that? How do you feel about that?
Well, as he says,
he was very glad I wasn't in charge of them in those days,
because I wouldn't have let him get in the car,
and I wouldn't have let him get in the car for two years.
And I wouldn't have let him get in the car until I serially assessed
his psychomotor skills, over a period of time.
He says, "I couldn't wait that long."
It was far too soon to make a decision like that.
I'm not saying that he would have been able to go back
and be competitive for a few years, actually,
but, even so, it was far too early to make that decision.
I mean, I know when I got out of racing I didn't want to leave,
but I left because it was the only intelligent thing for me to do.
Because if you couldn't win, you didn't want to be there?
If I wasn't in there to win... Yeah, exactly. And...
I'm not a good loser, I don't want to go out there and make up the field
and therefore it wasn't that difficult, but it was hard.
-Trying to meet you in that period after, say a year afterwards.
Does this resonate at all with you?
I went through a long phase of wanting to wear a T-shirt,
on the front of which said, "I'm absolutely fine, thanks for asking."
And on the back said, "I'm still poorly you know." Because sometimes,
with recovering from brain injury people will just,
"Wow, he's walking about and moving and everything! He's fine."
As they would with you because by then, you're physically fixed,
still the same robust soul as you were when you hit the bank.
Your T-shirt, the equivalent of mine, would say on the front,
"I'm absolutely fine, thank you - and lucky," on the back...
I think I'd have had on my back I'd think that I had lost, you see.
I'd reckon I wasn't doing what I wanted to do,
therefore my life is not at the moment complete.
You know, that was it, that was the end of it.
-But what had changed? Was it your ability to control your arms?
No what had changed was what I used to do was automatic,
now it was a conscience thought.
Everything had to be thought out.
It was no longer what my life was.
No longer could I write a piece of prose that was really worth reading,
you know what I mean, and so therefore I had changed.
I mean, my life had been changed and I, obviously, along with it.
'The pathways in his brain,
'developed and honed by years of top flight racing,
'had not fully recovered from the accident.
'for Stirling what was once second nature behind the wheel,
'was now a conscious, tiring and slower effort.'
These days what we try to do is,
we try to ensure that people only have positive experiences,
because the risk of a set back is so overwhelming in head injury
because it seems to affect their very entity.
You see when can you go back?
And he couldn't have been an also ran.
And he wouldn't have wanted to tarnish his image, ever.
'Stirling led across the line to win his first Grand Prix and
'to go down in history as the first British driver to win this event.'
And I'm going from being one of the most successful drivers,
at the top of my form,
and now suddenly all that I had worked for was taken away.
And I had to then start building up another life,
which was away from that.
Forget that, I can't, I mustn't look at that any more.
I've got to build an entirely new life. I had nothing.
The only thing I had was my name.
'The new two litre Renault 20,
'is equipped with centralised door locking,
'adjustable head lights, electric windows,
'in fact more luxury features as standard than any car in its class.
'Oh, and of course, a powerful new two litre engine.'
'Who do you think you are, Stirling Moss?'
'His name still sells today
'even though he never made a successful comeback.
'But a little of the old racing Moss can perhaps be glimpsed
'at vintage car rallies which he loves.'
So this DVD is from 92
and this is you in a rerun of the Mille Miglia.
-Right, so this is behind the wheel, 43 years later.
-Why didn't you tell me then, you prat?'
'BLEEP. BLEEP. BLEEP.'
-Straight in, no mercy!
'Put it on your head and then put it on.'
You're back in business here.
You're driving the same route, the same car,
shouting at your co-driver, who is THAT Stirling Moss?
You know, that's the modern one because, you know, it isn't a race.
If it had been a race then obviously I would be very upset,
in this one I was a bit frustrated.
'320. Three kilometres, 20.'
-'No not the kilometres the
It is two men arguing in a car.
So there you are, doing what you do.
I know it's not in a race situation, but seriously,
try and tell me, rummage about in there,
there will be some emotions going on cos I know even you feel emotions.
What were you feeling behind the wheel of that car again
-and doing things like that?
I mean, the Mille Miglia now, of course, is not like it was at all.
It's not a speed event.
But, to go and make mistakes, as we were doing, was very frustrating
quite frankly, and I can't contain myself that well,
I am someone who says what I think, which I shouldn't quite often
and so I'm a bit embarrassed at that actually.
I think the world will forgive you for saying what you think, Stirling.
Then you cross the line and you pretty much nail it on time.
-You're absolutely bang on. How did that feel?
We were ill-prepared and we were very lucky, it was as simple as that.
Lucky is such an interesting word in this context
because I will guarantee you've been told how lucky you are to be here
many, many, many, many times. But lucky?
The world's greatest racing driver can't race anymore?
-That's not luck. That's bad luck, isn't it?
-Yeah, I'm told I'm lucky.
I'd be a hell of a lot luckier if the tyre hadn't blown at 300mph.
-That's unlucky if you ask me!
Do you think you got over yours completely?
I always think that and then a year goes by and you look back
and think, "Oh, you know what? I hadn't."
I met somebody yesterday who I haven't seen for a year,
who said straight away, "Big difference!"
-Yeah. I think it's a very, very long road because of,
because we're not hard-wired are we?
There's not a load of wires and flashing lights in there,
it's a hideously complicated beast in there
made up of experiences and tendencies and inclinations
and it takes a long time to build it
and if you mess it up as heavily and as strongly as we did,
and as a lot of people do,
then I think it takes a commensurately long time to
-settle back down and reboot itself.
-I find it a bit frightening.
Yes, it's frightening because it's something we can't control.
We can't control our brain.
Our brain controls us, doesn't it?
'I said at the start of this programme that much of what
'we know about the brain was learned from observing what happens
'when someone damages it.
'But it's not just medical science that learns.
'Stirling and I have learned a lot about our own brains
'as a result of damaging them.
'OK, so Stirling felt he couldn't react as quickly behind the wheel
'and he gave up racing. But it hasn't stopped him continuing to be
'a much-loved, respected and admired character in the racing world
'about which he's still so passionate.'
'Welcome to the Inaugural Motor Sport Hall of Fame.'
-Is this where we're meant to be?
-That's right, sir.
-Oh, good, what time shall we be here?
-You're absolutely on time, sir.
Sir Jackie Stewart and Sir Stirling Moss.
Nevertheless, you see the difference is we're diametrically opposed,
because I think racing should be dangerous,
because I think to me, that was what it was about.
Here's the thing, Stirling is 80 now.
He's just spent three, four hours in a studio with me
talking pretty intensely, and now he's up there, doing that.
His brain's still absorbing so much,
and then putting out the required output.
I think he got better.
'Ladies and Gentlemen, Sir Stirling Moss.'
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond and motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss share the same life-altering experience - they had their lives changed forever by terrible car accidents.
The pair recovered quickly from their respective physical injuries, but the acquired brain injuries of those major impacts meant their minds took much longer to heal. Why should brain tissue take so much longer to repair itself than skin and bone, and what kind of trauma does the organ go through when trying to 'reboot' itself?
In an engaging and intimate conversation punctuated by some extraordinary medical insights and archive footage of both of their accidents, the two men exchange their experiences.