SIR Stirling Moss shared a few minutes with the Adver during a flying visit to Swindon.

He was at Skurrays in Hillmead to help promote a warranty package from Safe and Sound that has been successful at the dealership for the past two years.

Sir Stirling, 84, is widely regarded as Britain’s finest racing driver, as well as being the greatest driver never to take the world championship.

During a career lasting from 1947 to 1962, when he retired following a serious crash, he entered 529 races and won 212, including 16 Grands Prix.

But what are the differences between the skill set of drivers today and those of his era?

Sir Stirling said: “I think they have a lot of things they don’t need to be that good at. I mean, in other words, automatic gearboxes and all that sort of stuff we didn’t have.

“Having said that, of course, we did have things like pre-selector gearboxes and so on.

“I think that they have more adhesion now because, obviously, tyres and suspensions are better than they were. If you’re talking about winning, in my era the driver contributed probably 20 or 30 per cent of the ‘winningness’ whereas now I think it’s probably dropped – not that their skill has dropped but the driver content to win, I think is less.”

When Sir Stirling raced, safety measures were in their infancy, with drivers wearing open-face helmets and racing suits with little or no fireproofing. There was an even bigger difference from racing today, though.

“None of us wore seatbelts. The Americans always did, but in my period I never raced with one.”

Drivers preferred to be thrown from a car in the event of a crash for a simple reason.

“Fear of fire. For instance, if you were driving a Mazerati you had 45 gallons of fuel behind you or over your legs.”

As for his most memorable moments, the first he mentioned happened at Monza many years ago when he hit three posts cornering after a 140mph straight.

“Suddenly my arms cross, but I’m not stupid – I know something’s wrong. I was travelling only about half a metre down from the Armco and I hit three of those things, knocked them out and bent the Armco, spun to the infield and stopped. There was nothing I could do. I can tell you it was... not very pleasant.

“The sensation you get is self-preservation. In other words, what can you instantly do to lessen the problem? You’re almost better to do the wrong thing instantly than you are waiting to do something later.”