Sir Jackie Stewart
Sir Jackie Stewart OBE is a Scottish former Formula One racing driver. During a career spanning 8 years Sir Jackie Stewart won the world F-1 title a total of 3 times. He has also represented his country in clay-pigeon shooting, run his own F1 team and worked as a television racing commentator.
His achievements on and for the race track earned him a royal knighthood in 2001 and he has been labelled as the greatest motor racing personality of all time.
The Wee Boy at the Back
Born John Young Stewart on the 11th June 1939 in Milton, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, Jackie came from humble beginnings. His early life was plagued by undiagnosed dyslexia which caused him to be labelled as stupid and punished at school for not applying himself.
Nevertheless, his harsh Scottish school days are what instilled in Jackie the will to triumph. Like many dyslexics Wee Jackie had an extra desire to prove himself in life. Jackie’s father owned a garage in the small town of Milton and as a young man Jackie loved to tinker around with automobiles. Jackie’s father had once been an amateur motorcycle racer.
His older brother, Jimmy Stewart, was a racing driver moving up through the ranks. A crash at La Mans forced Jimmy to give up racing and young Jackie was likewise banned from the sport by their nervous mother. Jackie was still a keen sportsman, however, and he was destined for success. Oddly enough, this came first in the form of shooting and not driving.
He hurtled to success, becoming Scottish, British then European and Mediterranean clay-pigeon shooting champion. Jackie narrowly missed being selected for the 1960 Olympics due to a poor performance at the selection trials. Nevertheless the loss taught Jackie Stewart to be philosophical in the face of defeat, a sporting trait that was to stay with him throughout life.
Jackie Stewart: Race Car Driver
Jackie’s first shot at car racing came when he agreed to test out the cars of one of his father’s clients, Barry Filer. Despite his mother’s protestations, Jackie was destined to become a racing car driver. To avoid confronting her, Jackie raced under a pseudonym A.N.. It was not until his marriage was listed in the local paper, ‘the marriage of an up and coming race car driver ‘ that his mother found out.
She could not forgive her son for the lies but Jackie continued racing. In 1961 Filer allowed Stewart to race his Marcos GT. Jackie scored four wins in that year and raced another car, an Aston DB4GT. Following his success, a year later in 1962 Stewart decided to put himself to the test and go for pro. He began racing in an E-type and won two races. In 1963 he won fourteen races, coming second once and third twice. He was retired just six times in that year.
The Canny Scot
In 1964 Jackie Stewart made his Formula Three debut at Snetterton with a stunning 44 sec lead. With a performance like that Formula One was on the phone within days. Stewart received an offer to join the Cooper team but he declined their advances, preferring to gain experience in F3 with Tyrell instead. It was a characteristically wise move and the canny Scot dominated the F3 championship.
He failed to win only two races that year (one to a clutch failure) to become Formula Three Champion. After his F3 success Stewart once again declined the advances of Formula One, preferring the incremental step up to Lotus’s Formula Two team instead.
In 1965 Jackie Stewart signed a £4,000 contract with the Formula One Team, British Racing Motors (BRM). Again he made a stunning debut, coming in sixth and winning a championship point in his first Grand Prix in South Africa.
Later that year he won the BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone and first place at the 1965 Italian Grand Prix held at Monza. Jackie Stewart seemed unstoppable and unstoppable he was. Unfortunately the same could not be said for the cars he drove.
A year later in 1966 he almost won the Indianapolis 500 on his very first attempt. He was leading by more than a lap with 8 laps left in the race, when he was hit by a broken scavenge pump. Despite losing out, his magnificent performance won him Rookie of the Year status.
In 1968 Jackie Stewart switched his Formula One allegiances, singing a contract with Tyrell. If his fortune had been good up until now, it only improved. Jackie won the German Formula One Grand Prix in Nurburgring by a margin of four minutes, considered to be his finest win ever.
Just a year later in 1969, with five Grand Prix wins behind him, he earned the ultimate racing title, The World Formula One Champion. This was the first and only time it has been won in a French made car (a Matra). He achieved the title two more times in 1971 and 1973, these times racing a Tyrell car.
Jackie Stewart: Racing Safety Advocate
When Jackie Stewart began his racing career, the chances of a Formula One race car driver who raced for five years being killed in a crash were two in three. At the 1966 Spa-Francorchamps, while racing at 164mph in the rain, Jackie Stewart left the track, crashed into a tree, then a shed, finally coming to a standstill in a farmer’s outbuilding.
He remained in the upturned car while fuselage poured onto him, pinned down by the steering shaft. The tiniest spark would have made him into a human bonfire. The track crews could not get him out as they didn’t have the tools that were needed. Finally Graham and Bob Bondurant, two other drivers who had crashed nearby, borrowed some tools from a spectator and managed to free Stewart.
Jackie was loaded onto a stretcher where he was placed on the ground among cigarette ends and straw. He was then driven to hospital in an ambulance with a police escort but the ambulance lost the escort and its way. Finally a UK Air Ambulance came to the rescue, ferried him to hospital in the UK and is credited with saving his life to this day.
After this near-death experience, Stewart became an outspoken advocate of Racing Safety. In his quest to prevent farcically under-prepared track side safety, he won few friends among track owners and promoters.
Nevertheless, his talent behind the wheel and impeccable public composure saw that he was never silenced. Stewart organised driver boycotts of certain tracks and demanded on-site paramedics and attention to unnecessary hazards. Unthinkable dangers such as grass verges that acted as launch pads, unprotected trees and fuselage canisters randomly lining the pit stops were common in Jackie’s day.
Life after Racing
With three Formula One World Champion titles behind him and scores of other racing titles, Jackie Stewart decided to retire from racing in 1973. He still took first place in five F1 Grand Prix at South Africa, Monaco, Belgium, Austria and Holland that year though.
His teammate, Francois Cevert, died in a fatal crash that same year and so Stewart decided to retire one race earlier than planned, missing what would have been his 100th Grand Prix.
After retirement, Stewart took a position as a consultant for the Ford motor company. From here he went into commentating, where his Scottish accent, rapid fire delivery and insightful analysis made him a favourite in the NASCAR and Indianapolis 500.
In 1997 he made a Formula One comeback but this time as a team owner, in conjunction with his son Paul Stewart. Stewart Grand Prix enjoyed a measure of success, particularly after a new engine design in 1999.
The set-up was happily sold to Ford for a tidy profit in 2000, becoming Jaguar Racing and was then bought by Red Bull in 1995, becoming Red Bull Racing.
Jackie Stewart’s acute business acumen led him to become the first ever millionaire racing car driver, bringing huge sponsorship to the sport as he did so. He received a knighthood in 2001 from HRH Queen Elizabeth II for his services to British Motor Racing Sports, becoming Sir Jackie Stewart.
Throughout the years he has received a number of other accolades, including 1973 Sportsman of the Year (Sports Illustrated), Sports Personality of the Year (BBC Television) and Athlete of the Year (ABC Network).