Jackie Stewart: A true Sir...Written by Αυγερινός Δημακόπουλος
Translated by Giannis Binas
When the legendary Murray Walker, racing commentator for 50 years and counting, describes him as the greatest personality that has risen from motorsports, and Prince Charles grants him a knighthood, anyone can understand that Jackie Stewart in more than another successful racing driver.
Date of 1st publication: 01/02/14
Maybe, it’s championships and wins that make write history, but his restless Scottish aura was the one that urged Formula 1 to pass from the amateurism of the past to the complete professionalism of today, changing, by extension, once and for all every sport in which man and machine chase the limit…
The first years
John Young “Jackie” Stewart was born in Milton of West Dunbartonshire of Scotland, on June 11, 1939.
Growing up, he faced learning disabilities due to undetected dyslexia and abandoned school at the age of 16, in order to work at the family business.
‘Dumbuck Garage’, as it was called, was a successful dealership of Austin, and, later, Jaguar cars, at which he worked as a trainee mechanic.
At the same time, he was actively involved with target shooting, winning his first competition at 13.
He became member of the Scottish sharp shooting team with which he competed in many competitions in and out of England.
Actually, for just one shot, he failed to be included in the British national team that would represent the island at the 1960 Olympic Games of Rome.
His brother, Jimmy, was a racing driver with participation at the 1953 British Grand Prix, where he quit after an exit.
He retired after a nearly fatal accident, during which he was injured, an incident that led his parents (especially his mother) to be negative on the possibility for young Jackie to be involved with car racing.
In 1962, he married Helen McGregor with whom he had 2 sons.
The racing career
The scene changed when a customer of the family business, Barry Filer, invited him to test some of his cars at Oulton Park.
He was impressive and started to compete in various races with cars such as Marcos, Aston Martin DB4GT, Jaguar E-Type.
In 1963, Ecurie Ecosse –team for which Jimmy was racing- offered him a Cooper T49 with which he won at Goodwood.
In 1964, Ken Tyrrell, who, back then, was in charge of Cooper Formula Junior, found out about Stewart’s performances by the Goodwood circuit manager and called his brother to ask him if Jackie was interested in testing the team’s car.
Indeed, the young Scot tested the F3 Τ72-BMC at the same day with the legendary Bruce McLaren, who was racing in F1 for 5 years already.
Soon, he started recording faster lap times, which made the later founder of McLaren to return in Goodwood to go faster!
Again, Jackie was quicker, so Tyrrell immediately offered him a place at his team and a great cooperation was beginning.
He makes his debut in F3, on March 15, 1964, at the wet Snetterton, where he emphatically wins with a 44 second margin (!), forcing Cooper to throw him his first F1 offer.
He refuses saying that he wanted to acquire some experience under the directions of Ken Tyrrell and conquers the F3 championship, winning all the races but two!
He tests the Lotus 33 Climax –the single-seater the team was using in F1-, he impresses Colin Chapman and champion Jim Clark, but when the owner of the British team offers him a seat, Jackie refuses again!
Instead, he chooses to make his debut in F2 at the French Grand Prix of Clermont Ferrand, where he finishes second, driving a Lotus 32 Cosworth.
He will realize his F1 entry in 1965, when BRM offered him to drive the P261 alongside Graham Hill, signing a contract that would net him 4000 pounds.
At the first race of the season, in South Africa, he finishes 6th, getting his first point in the Formula 1 world championship.
In a dreamy, for a rookie, season, he will finish 7 times in the points six, claiming 5 podiums and, of course, his first win in Monza, for which he fought to the end with his team-mate in BRM.
He finished 3rd overall with 33 points, behind Hill (40) and dominant for that year, Clark (54).
He also won the annual international race, organized by the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BDRC) at Silverstone.
In 1966, the rules changed in F1 and the 3-liter naturally aspirated engines were established, a fact that caught BRM off guard.
Until the new and complicated 3-liter H16 was evolved –that was meant to be presented 3 races to the end- the single-seaters were racing with 2-liter units.
Jackie claimed the win at the first race, in Monaco (after the retirements of Clark and Surtees, he had no match), with Graham Hill in third.
The next race was the Belgian Grand Prix that was being held at the extended Spa of 14 kilometers.
The start was given under heavy rain and prior to the completion of the first lap, half of the drivers had already retired!
Stewart had an exit at the notorious Masta Kink, hit a telephone pillar and ended in a ditch, where he remained trapped in the car for 25 minutes, soaked in fuel (the fuel tank had cracked), as the marshals didn’t have the means to break him free.
Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant that also had gone off nearby ran to aid and using the tools of a spectator managed to get the wounded Jackie out of the deformed BRM.
An ambulance transported him, with great delay, at the first-aid station and from there, at a Liege hospital, where it was found that he had suffered spine injuries.
The accident stood the cause to begin his campaign in favor of safety in racing, while, because of the accident, he didn’t compete in the French Grand Prix.
The rest of the championship was a disappointment however, as BRM unreliability only allowed him a fourth and a fifth place in the Netherlands and in Germany respectively, resulting in him being classified 7th in the championship.
That year, he competed for the first time in the 500miles of Indianapolis with a Lola T90-Ford and was leading the race by over a lap, until, shortly before the end, his oil pressure dropped too low due to a broken scavenge pump, granting the victory to… Graham Hill!
Nevertheless, he was voted rookie of the year.
He also won the Tasmanian championship (a series of 8 races that were held in Australia and New Zealand, where many F1 teams were competing) and the 12 hour sportscar international race at Surfers Paradise with a Ferrari 250LM.
1967 was equally disappointing for Stewart as BRM’s reliability didn’t improve, resulting in a second and a third place in Belgium and France respectively, as well as 9 retirements.
Meanwhile, he won 4 F2 races for Ken Tyrrell’s team.
He received a proposal by Enzo Ferrari for the next year, and travelled to Maranello in order to talk from up close with ‘commendatore’.
He agreed to race for the Italian team but when he found out that a similar offer was done to Jacky Ickx too, he rejected it, urging at the same time the Belgian to accept it.
Then, Ken Tyrrell decided to create his own team in F1 around Jackie, without his knowing!
First of all, he contacted Ford, asking them the new Cosworth engines, as well as 60.000 dollars for Stewart’s paycheck, and, after they agreed, he collected the signature of him.
With these contracts at hand, Matra granted him the permission to use and evolve its frameworks!
1968 reserved major changes in F1 as extra-racing sponsorship was allowed and the first single-seaters with wings were presented.
The season started in South Africa with Stewart retiring and the great Jim Clark getting the last win of his career.
In a Formula 2 race at Jarama, he was involved in an accident, from where he gained a broken wrist and missed the next two Grands Prix.
That way, he has a troublesome trimester during which he had 5 races without his wrist having the time to heal.
He will return at the one in Belgium, where, having the new Matra MS10 Cosworth (equipped with a 15 kilograms lighter fuel tank, built to aeronautical standards), he finishes 4th.
Dry races tire him more due to the greater strain he has to put on the steering wheel, so in Belgium and Britain, he suffers from pains.
On the contrary, wet races and the mild driving they entail, allow Jackie to claim victories in the Netherlands, Germany and a 3rd place in France.
In fact, at the German Grand Prix that was held under heavy rain and fog, Stewart, taking advantage of Dunlop’s wet tires superiority, he finished first by 4 minutes from the second Hill, even though the huge length of the Nurburgring further stressed his already troubled wrist.
He will later claim that this was one of the best races in his career.
The continuous finishes in the points as well as another victory at Watkins Glen, allowed the Scot to contest for the championship against Graham Hill up to the last race in Mexico, where, after a big fight between them, Jackie slowed down facing a problem with his car, leaving Hill to win the race and the championship.
The 2nd position in the championship was not a bad result, considering that it was the first year of the Tyrrell-Matra-Ford cooperation.
In 1969 though, nothing stood in the way between him and the title.
He began with wins at the first 2 Grands Prix in South Africa and Sain with the MS10, while, with the new MS80, he claimed another 4 wins in the Netherlands, France, England and Italy, leveling the competition.
He collected 63 points over Jacky Ickx’s 37, in second, crowing Matra, alongside, world constructors’ champion.
That year, he met for the first time in an F2 race at Crystal Palace, his later team-meat, Francois Cevert, where the young French didn’t allow him in any point of the race to overtake him, thus attracting both the Scot’s and Ken Tyrrell’s attention.
For 1970, Matra wanted to use its own V12, but Tyrrell, wanting to preserve the ties with Ford, bought frames by March Engineering (as Matra introduced its own team), secretly preparing his own car that would debut near the end of the season.
Even though the season started with a 3rd place in South Africa and a victory in Spain, the follow up was not similar, since he had 2 second places and 8 retirements.
The car’s unreliability was such that hastened the appearance of the Tyrrell 001 with which Jackie raced at the last 3 Grands Prix, revealing excellent potential (especially in Watkins Glen, where he was leading comfortably for 83 laps, until he retired from engine), but also youth problems that didn’t allow him to finish.
He debuted in Can-Am (Canadian – American prototype championship) with the revolutionary Chaparral 2J, which was the first to exploit the ground effect technology, but its poor reliability didn’t allow the Scot for nothing more than 2 pole positions.
He was also planning to race at LeMans with a Porsche 917K and co-driver the legendary Steve McQueen, but the American Hollywood star didn’t manage to secure insurance coverage and that exciting partnership never happened.
Before the start of the 1971 season, he was approached once again by Ferrari, but Jackie preferred to remain at the team that was built around him.
The first Grand Prix of the championship was held in South Africa, with Stewart finishing second, behind Andretti’s Ferrari, while he dominated the next 2 in Spain and Monaco, claiming his first wins at the wheel of the competitive Tyrrell 003.
Even more, at the Principality, he took the pole position 1.2 seconds ahead of the competition, stirring gossip about legality at the paddocks in a year that was expected to be dominated by teams using 12-cylinder engines.
In the Netherlands, the team’s chief designer, Derek Gardner presented for the first time an air duct for the motor above the driver’s head (which would appear as soon as the next race in other cars too), but in the wet race the Scot finishes 11th, since the drivers with Firestone tires had the advantage.
3 consecutive wins followed in France, England and Germany with Tyrrell making the 1-2 at Paul Ricard and Nurburgring.
The other teams couldn’t really digest (!) Stewart’s domination, provoking a fuel check in France and an engine check in Silverstone, during which proved the legality of the car.
He retires in Austria and Italy, but secures his second world title thanks to the misfortunes of Jacky Ickx, who was the only one that could pose a threat.
He wins in Canada and completes the amazing year with a 5th place at Watkins Glen (a race dominated by his team-mate, Francois Cevert), also crowning Tyrrell a constructor’s champion.
He raced again in Can-Am with a Lola T260-Chevrolet by Carl Haas’ team, claiming 2 victories in Mont Tremblant and Mid Ohio, to finish 3rd in the final standings, behind the powerful McLarens of Denny Hulme and Peter Revson.
In 1972, he begins the season with a win in Argentina, as well as 2 retirements in South Africa and Spain.
He finishes 4th in the wet Monaco, but somewhere at that point, the pressure and the fatigue of the racing program in F1 and America stress him out, causing him stomach ulcer.
Because of his condition, he misses the race of Belgium and cancels his Can-Am participation, in which he would race with a McLaren.
He bounces back winning the French Grand Prix, while in England he compromises with 2nd giving a fight to the end with the first in the standings, Emerson Fittipaldi.
At the Nurburgring, he loses second place on the final lap after a collision with Clay Regazzoni, while in Austria, problems with the traction of the new Tyrrell 005, keep him out of the points six.
The retirement in Italy will mean the end of his title defense, something that will not stop him from dominating the last two Grands Prix in Canada and America, taking advantage of 005’s improved competitiveness.
He collects 45 points and finishis 2nd in the final standings behind champion Fittipaldi.
He also takes part in the European touring championship with Ford Capri RS2600 and gets his first honorary award by the British government (OBE).
In the beginning of 1973, aged 34, Stewart decides that it would be his final year as a racing driver, wanting to relieve himself and his family from the stress of the races, but also, from the chances of an accident that could cost his life.
For this decision of his, he informs just two persons, Ken Tyrrell and Walter Hayes, president of Ford Europe.
In a year that proved to be highly competitive, Argentina hosted the inaugural race with Jackie finishing 3rd, behind Fittipaldi and Cevert, while he goes 2nd in Brazil, once again behind the champion’s Lotus.
In South Africa however, the Scot, driving the new Tyrrell 006, claimed the checkered flag, having started from 16th position!
He retires in Spain from a problem with the brakes but wins in Belgium, making the 1-2 with Cevert, whilst, in Monaco, he totally imposes his pace, claiming his 3rd win.
He finishes 5th at the first Swedish Grand Prix, 4th in France, and 11th in the eventful race of his home country, having dropped behind after an exit.
In the Netherlands, Stewart and Cevert make the 1-2 again, but the race is overshadowed by the death of the newcomer to F1, Roger Williamson.
At the Germanό Grand prix of Nurburgring, history repeats itself, as the Tyrrell twin makes the 1-2 with Stewart claiming his 27th win in F1, which was to be the last one
After the race, he admitted to Ken Tyrrell that Francois Cevert was so quick that could have easily prevailed.
It was the result of a cooperation between them that had started when the young French first came to the team, in 1970.
A strong friendship was formed between them, with Jackie acting as Francois’ mentor, teaching him the secrets of championship.
Cevert was taking care of supporting the Scot in his championship claims, in contrast to what was happening at Lotus, where Fittipaldi and Peterson were treated as equals depriving points one from the other.
Stewart finished 2nd in Austria and reached Monza for the Italian race in a position of conquering the championship.
He had a flat tire on the 8th lap and it took 1 minute for his mechanics to change his tires, so, he rejoined the track 20th.
Driving recital followed with Jackie overtaking every single driver that was found in front of him to eventually finish 4th.
Lotus made the 1-2, but Peterson didn’t allow Fittipaldi (who had hopes for the championship) to pass in front, so the Scot sealed his 3rd title.
In the chaotic (because of the weather) Canadian Grand Prix, he finished 5th, and, that way, the F1 circus moved to the state of New York and at Watkins Glen for the American Grand Prix that would mark the end of the season.
In constructors’ points, Lotus and Tyrrell were fighting for the first place and Jackie intended to combine his withdrawal with yet another trophy.
However, on Saturday morning’s qualifying session, Francois Cevert lost his life after a very violent crash and Ken Tyrrell decided to withdraw the team in tribute to Cevert.
Watkins Glen 1973
Stewart wanting to find out exactly what happened, entered the track afterwards and approached the chicane where the accident happened, knowing the speed with which the French driver was passing from that spot.
Realizing that it was a racing incident, he returned to the pits and informed the team’s engineers (that were fearing a mechanical error) about his assumptions.
"It was a horrendous accident which took the life of a wonderfully charming, personable, handsome young man, who was a tremendous friend to both Helen and me," Stewart said about Cevert.
That day, he uncovered to his wife that he was withdrawing from racing and 2 weeks later he announced it officially in a press conference.
Thus, he didn’t race his 100th Grand Prix and his career ended with what was then a record 27 wins in Formula 1, continuing the tradition of great drivers, whose name was beginning with a ‘J’ (Juan Manuel Fangio, Jack Brabham, John Surtees, Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt, Jacky Ickx, James Hunt, Jody Scheckter, Jacques Villeneuve, etc).
How many more of us must die?
In an era when the word ‘safety’ was a taboo and was hiding behind the established excuse on the dangerousness of racing, the Scot was the first to start a campaign in favor of decision making on the improvement of the running conditions of the Grands Prix.
His personal experience after the accident at Spa in 1966, urged him to openly discuss (with the aid of BRM’s manager, Louis Stenley) about the adoption of measures that are taken for granted these days.
He was the first to request the installation of seatbelts to his car, (until then, they weren’t used because the driver wanted to be able to jump out of the car in case of an accident!) and to establish full face helmets.
He was one of the most active members of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA, whose president he was between 1972-1978), organizing the boycott of races that were considered to be dangerous.
At his time, the speed of the cars almost doubled with the tracks remaining the same and without any thoughts of making any radical changes.
Spa in 1969, Nürburgring in 1970, and Zandvoort in 1972 were canceled because organizers and owners were aksing pressure to the installation of barriers, escape exits, firefighting equipment (fire was the drivers’ biggest fear) and medical assistance.
That certainly brought him in a continuous clash with the status quo, which regarded that all these changes were of a high cost and that they offended the character of the races.
A characteristic example is his spat with the –for years- columnist of Motor Sport magazine, Denis Jenkinson, who brought it all against him on the occasion of the transferring of the Belgian race of 1972 from Spa to the safe and “colorless” circuit of Nivelles.
Jackie, who missed that race because of his ulcer, had the answer ready.
“It is very easy to sit on the fence and criticise – notoriously easy,” he goes on. “You can always find faults in what the other people are doing, but at least they are doing something. All Mr Jenkinson seems to do is lament the past and the drivers who have served their time in it. Few of them, however, are alive to read his writings”.
It was for those casualties that made people change their minds about Stewart’s actions, himself saying about 1968 that it was unimaginable for F1 to lose a driver every month!
Clark, Bandini, Schlesser, Courage, McLaren, Rindt, Rodriguez, Siffert, Williamson and of course Francois Cevert paid their passion for speed with the highest price.
Jacky Ickx that didn’t sympathize with Stewart’s views and didn’t even take part in the GPDA, later admitted that the Scot was right, while Jo Ramirez (mechanic at Tyrrell and McLaren from ’65 to 2001) mentioned that Jackie was probably the best ambassador the sport ever had.
His actions nourished people of racing such as Max Mosley, who, when found himself at the presidency of FIA, led F1 to the safety standards of today.
After the races
He was one of the first millionaire athletes, having settled by the end of the 60s in Switzerland for (what else) tax reasons.
The professionalism he showed at his racing days, constituted him highly liked among the sponsors, whilst his business concept allowed him to secure profitable deals.
He served as a consultant and car tester for Ford and starred in many commercials.
He worked in American, Australian and Canadian networks as a NASCAR and Indianapolis 500 Miles broadcaster, getting interviews and commentating many Grands Prix.
Interview with Ayrton Senna
In 1988 he bought an F3 team wanting to support his son Paul’s racing career.
The team’s course proved highly successful, showcasing drivers such as David Coulthard and Gil de Ferran (Champ Car 2000-01 champion) and conquered 8 F3 championships.
In 1996, father and son decided to create their own F1 team, known as Stewart Grand Prix.Το 1988 αγόρασε μία ομάδα F3 θέλοντας να υποστηρίξει την αγωνιστική καριέρα του γιου του, Paul.
Having secured support and engines from Ford, they competed in the 1997 championship, managing, in their fifth race, to claim the second position in Monaco!
However, the first 2 years were marked by poor reliability and results.
In 1999 though, Ford invested in a new engine and the team had its best year with 4 podiums and of course Johnny Herbert’s win at Nurburgring, getting results that many other failed to achieve.
That pushed Ford to get more involved in F1 and bought the team for 90 million dollars, renaming it to Jaguar racing, with the known results, while, in 2005, it was acquired by Dietrich Mateschitz and became Red Bull Racing.
Among the many distinctions and awards he was honored with, the one that stands out of November 23, 2001, when Prince Charles of England knighted him, as well as his inclusion in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990.
His story inspired Robbie Williams’ video clip “Supreme”, while he appeared in “Faster” as George Harrison.
He makes frequent appearances in various Grands Prix, mainly as a representative of sponsors such as RBS and Genii Capital.
If the drivers of today have the ability and comfort to race in 300 km/h, defend their positions and, without giving it a second thought, push their opponents out of the track, but also to chase the limit of man and machine without fearing a fatal injury, there is one man they should be thanking.
Certainly, many put their bits to reach today’s safety levels, but Jackie Stewart was the one that made a stand, choosing action over inaction.
He affected racing like no other before him.
Himself, although his campaign didn’t constitute him particularly popular among the motorsports circles, he doesn’t regret for anything and insists that despite the stress and bitterness he tasted when racing, he enjoyed every moment of it:
Ο ίδιος, παρ'όλο που η εκστρατεία δεν τον έκανε ιδιαίτερα δημοφιλή στους κύκλους του μηχανοκίνητου αθλητισμού, δεν μετανιώνει για τίποτα και επιμένει ότι παρά το άγχος και τις πίκρες που γεύτηκε από τους αγώνες, απόλαυσε την κάθε στιγμή τους: “The years I raced in were fantastic. There was so much change in the cars. We went from treaded tyres to no wings right through the slicks to enormous wings”.
But, above all, he exalted the feeling of driving to the limit.
Being one with car and track.
And he summed it up with one of his best quotes:
“Cornering is like bringing a woman to climax”…
Tribute to Jackie Stewart…
Active years in Formula 1: 1965 – 1973
Teams: BRM, Matra, Tyrrell
World Titles: 3 (1969, 1971, 1973)
Grand Prix: 99
Pole Positions: 17
Fastest laps: 15
- Jackie Stewart
- Murray Walker
- Bruce McLaren
- Ken Tyrrell
- Jim Clark
- Graham Hill
- Bob Bondurant
- Enzo Ferrari
- Jacky Ickx
- Steve McQueen
- Mario Andretti
- Francois Cevert
- Carl Haas
- Denny Hulme
- Peter Revson
- Emerson Fittipaldi
- Roger Williamson
- Ronnie Peterson
- Juan Manuel Fangio
- Jack Brabham
- John Surtees
- Jochen Rindt
- James Hunt
- Jody Scheckter
- Jacques Villeneuve
- David Coulthard
- Gil de Ferran
- Johnny Herbert
- Red Bull