Mark Knopfler driving his Maserati 300S in the Maserati Centenary Trophy race at Donington.Photo: Pete Austin
As a boy, my racing hero was Stirling Moss. I remember watching him on television, in 1959, racing a front-engined BRM, and that was the inspirational moment, the time I became hooked on motor racing—an epiphany. Stirling was taking on Jack Brabham in the Cooper. Cooper had just appeared on the scene with radical new thinking of having the engine in the rear. While it was an important step for the future of motor racing itself, it was Stirling in the BRM who really captured my imagination. I still love looking at front-engined BRMs, there is just something about them.
However, my absolute love is my own 1955 Maserati 300S, while I’ve had it a great number of years now, I don’t spend nearly enough time in it as I’d like to. It’s such a great racecar. So, whenever I can get a day off of work I like to drive it, especially at race meetings like the Donington Historic Festival. I’ve raced it at many other circuits too, both in the UK and Europe. I fell in love with this car many years ago. The thing about Maserati cars of this era is they are all “tool room” built. You just have to look inside the car and see it was crafted in the workshop, everything made “in house” and as you stand back to admire it you can see what a beautiful thing it is. I think the engineers of the day were amazing in their understanding of the technology required to produce such a car as this—and, of course, other racing cars of the era. In today’s world of sophisticated micro electronics I think we lose sight of the abilities of previous engineering feats. The layout of the cockpit reminds me of aircraft-quality engineering, especially the magneto switches. It’s very artistic in its overall design. There’s a certain something that exudes mechanical simplicity and excellence. If you look at the engine it’s just the right size for the car, they went on to build a more powerful car, which I think compromised the handling, whereas this 300S is the right engine in the right chassis. It has the right type of “grunt” for my type of racing, just enough power. I like to keep the engine revs around 7,000. The only modification I’ve made to it is a small padded section where my left knee hits the dashboard—I’m quite tall for the car. Given the opportunity of owning any 1950s front-engined sportscar, the Maserati 300S has to be it. As I say, I really don’t drive the car enough these days.
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