These are tough times for sport. The Tour de France has been blackened and discredited, one of the NFL's best-paid stars has been indicted on dog fighting charges, an NBA referee accused of gambling on the sport and fixing matches, and one of baseball's biggest stars playing his way toward a legendary hitting record under a dark cloud of implied steroid use.

I had the great pleasure last weekend to enjoy a sharp and refreshing contrast to the bad odour of so much modern sport. The healthy elixir was provided by the inaugural William K Vanderbilt Jr Concours d'Elegance in historic Newport, Rhode Island. The Vanderbilt family was essential to the early days of American automobile racing with family scion 'Willie K' Vanderbilt competing in some of the pioneer American auto races and creating the Vanderbilt Cup race in 1904 on an open road course on New York's Long Island.

A little over a hundred years later, The Preservation Society of Newport County has begun to acknowledge the Vanderbilt family's contribution to the sport by establishing the Vanderbilt Concours d'Elegance in Newport at, and adjacent to, 'The Breakers', the family's summer house.

This year's inaugural event hosted a superb collection of classic and historic cars and a smaller selection of racing cars. Many of the latter were driven by Dan Gurney or Stirling Moss, who were chosen as the first honourees of the event. Dan and Stirling were on hand to receive lifetime achievement awards at a 'Racing Legends' dinner on Friday night at 'The Breakers', and future events will continue to recognise American and international racing greats.

Moss and Gurney were two of the greatest drivers of their generation, and of all-time too. Neither won the Formula One world championship, but both were considered by their competitors, the media and fans to be among the fastest, smartest, most successful and most admired drivers of their times.

Stirling and Dan won races aboard many types of cars and are celebrated as two of the most versatile drivers in the hundred-year history of motor racing. Back in the Fifties and Sixties, they were icons of the sport - as big, if not bigger, than Michael Schumacher and Jeff Gordon today. Moss and Gurney were national heroes in their respective home countries, England and the United States, and equally famous around the world because they raced, and won, in a stupefyingly wide range of cars.

To read the rest of this Gordon Kirby column and other 'The Way It Is' columns go to www.gordonkirby.com

 

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