Jackie Stewart's much-anticipated autobiography is now out
Countless are the drivers remembered only for their results and ubiquitous strong personality, whereas those who have something to say are even more interesting yet sadly all too rare. Thus considering Sir Jackie Stewart is one of the most articulate figures in the history of the sport amongst drivers in general and world champions in particular - some might say in contrast to recent winners - the writings of JYS always make for interesting quotes. The wee Scot was dyslexic which he did not know during his hard school years, but he was a world class shot winning many awards in a sport he still relishes.
His non qualification for the British team headed to the 1960 Olympic games led him to seek another activity and since his brother Jimmy already raced he had a go and thought he took to it rather well. He was soon racing a Marcos and moved up to F3 with Ken Tyrrell with whom he would later achieve great things. He joined BRM for the 1965 season and began making his mark in the highest echelons of the sport accompanied by his glamorous wife Helen and with his own distinctive style featuring sideburns, corduroy cap and sunglasses.
A friendly rivalry developed with fellow Scot Jim Clark though they were never really in equally competitive cars at the same time, some of their better dices taking place in the fondly remembered Tasman winter series in Australia and New Zealand. Alas Clark died early in 1968 before their duel could be concluded, though they were certainly comparable in terms of their extreme smoothness at the wheel. This subtlety led to one of the greatest victories in the history of Formula One when Stewart won the German Grand Prix in pouring rain and fog at the legendary Nürburgring with no less than a four minute lead.
Despite this brave feat his concern for safety increased during the sixties. With its narrow, cigar shaped F1 cars and rapidly improving tyres contrasting old circuits often unlined by barriers and non existent or amateurish medical trackside facilities, this was one of the most fatal decades in the sport’s history. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a major crash at Spa which saw JYS end up in a field with his legs stuck in the bent chassis while fuel leaked around him. To his amazement two nuns were the only people to approach which made him wonder if he had reached the pearly gates of heaven. He wasn’t seriously injured but after this he relentlessly used his position as leading star of the sport to pursue better safety standards. This didn’t make him popular with circuit owners and some members of the media but ultimately paid off. Meanwhile he joined Tyrrell again with the brilliant Matra chassis and proceeded to battle Rindt and then Fittipaldi, conquering three world crowns in 1969, 1971 and 1973, winning 27 Grands Prix in the process.
The ending was sad as Stewart retired one race early following the death at Watkins Glen of his team mate and ‘younger brother’ as he called him, talented charismatic Frenchman François Cevert with whom he had an exceptional rapport of mutual respect.
Far from vanishing into discreet retirement, Jackie then became an articulate ambassador for the sport, representing major companies, commentating for US TV networks, always travelling to the far corners of the world and in 1988 founding Paul Stewart racing for his son. This brought more championships wins including British F3 before joining the F1 grid in 1997, the high point of which was Johnny Herbert’s victory at the 1999 European Grand Prix…at a wet Nürburgring: sometimes history repeats itself. Stewart then sold the team to Ford which renamed it Jaguar before it became Red Bull a few years later. Made Order of the British Empire in 1972 and upgraded to MBE in 2001, Jackie lives in the UK and is much involved in charities and public relations work. The life and times of the lad from Dumbarton make fascinating reading and are highly recommended.
WINNING IS NOT ENOUGH is published in hardback priced £20 and will includes a specially produced DVD – the ViBE or Visual Book Enhancement - featuring rare and previously unseen footage of Sir Jackie’s racing career, personal photographs and conversations with Sir Jackie discussing key moments in his life, plus interviews with business leaders, friends and family.
Photos Credits: MS Productions