Sir Stirling Moss was attempting to overtake another driver when he veered off the track in the closing stages of the International 100 race for Formula One cars at Goodwood on April 24, 1962.
Thankfully, the race was attended by nurse Annie Strudwick and her husband Jim, a pathologist and first aid responder, who had met at St Richard’s Hospital, in Chichester, and manned an ambulance at the track, allowing them to enjoy their shared passion for motor racing.
Rushing to the scene of the crash, Emsworth-born nurse Annie was quick to see the driver was moments from death – due to a piece of chewing gum.
The 77-year-old said: "I could see that he was changing colour and he was chocking. There was no paramedics on the scene at the time. Fortunately I was a trained nurse, and I knew all the drivers chewed gum, so I was able to get it out of his mouth pretty quickly.
"The car was on fire and incredibly hot – I still have burns on my hands from that day.’
Jim, 90, said: "She saved his life.
"The crash was quiet a spectacle, and back then cars were lethal.
"But it was a piece of chewing gum that could have killed him."
Sir Moss was rushed to the former Royal West Sussex Hospital, in Chichester, to be treated for cuts, head injuries, and a fractured leg.
He retired from racing later that year, holding a record of winning 212 of his 529 races. The driving legend remained a firm friend to Annie and Jim, inviting them to his London home as well as seeing them at races across the country.
Annie, who still lives in Emsworth with Jim, described the motor sport icon: "He was a real ladies man – he always enjoyed a cuddle. He was lovely. We became very good friends with his wife, Susie.
"The last time I saw him (in 2018), I went up to him and said ‘hello Stirling’, and he looked at me and his face lit up. It’s a lovely memory.
"He always said to us, ‘you were there for me when I needed you.’’
Sir Stirling Moss died at his London home in the early hours of Sunday morning following a long illness.
His wife, Lady Susie Moss, said: "It was one lap too many."