|Rear View Mirror|
Backward glances at racing history
A Few Thoughts About Those
Famous and Otherwise...
|by Don Capps, U.S.A.|
Jackie Stewart Steps Down
I was filled with mixed feelings when Jackie Stewart announced that he was leaving his active involvement in racing as the chairman of Jaguar Racing now that Ford and Jaguar had absorbed the Stewart team. I was sad to see him go simply because he is one of the best things to happen to Formula One in ages. He is a man without much guile in an age where those without much of the G-word disappear almost immediately, which makes his survival over the past several seasons truly remarkable. It was great to see him leave with the name "Stewart" listed among those marques to win a championship event.
On the other hand, I was happy to see him walk away still being Jackie Stewart. When Jackie raced, he was an extraordinary talent. He was fair and square both on and off the track. As a team owner, he did it the hard way: no tobacco money and that was his way. Jackie is, I feel, largely unappreciated by most of those associated with the sport these days. His last race was in 1973 and that is back there with the history of the Egyptians, Romans, and the Crusades as far most fans are concerned today. Even in his time, Jackie was not appreciated to the extent one would expect.
Stewart often had to deal with the same problem that fellow Scot Jim Clark faced: he made it look easy. He was no Demon Racer sawing at the wheel. He was graceful and smooth. He seemed to be able to glide around the track in much the same manner as Clark. Only when you looked at the stopwatch did you realize just how fast he was. And he was fast, very fast. And he was usually fast when it mattered, during the race.
Like many in his day, he emerged from the lower formulae. In his case, he first came to most people's notice while in Formula 3. For 1964, the year the new F3 was introduced, Stewart was selected by Ken Tyrrell to drive one of the team Cooper-BMC entries. Stewart was a relative unknown at the time. Some recalled his older brother Jimmy, but the younger Stewart was pretty much an unknown. After his performance at the Snetterton meeting in March, the first major race meeting of the season, there were few who weren't aware of Jackie Stewart.
The weather for the meeting was rain and lots of it. The F3 grid lined up and then departed in the usual cloud of spray. It was not a total shock when a single car, Stewart, motored by in the lead after the first lap. The same thought crossed everyone's mind: huge shunt and the rest are off the course. Then the rest of the pack came snarling and slithering by. Then it was a shock! Stewart had simply driven away from the rest of the pack! And it was terrible on the track, what with puddles and buckets of rain pelting down. Stewart finished the race with a huge lead - the next finisher wasn't even in sight, and then asked if there had been a shunt he didn't know about since he didn't see anyone virtually the entire race...
In 1964 Stewart and the Tyrrell Cooper dominated F3 despite the BMC engine not being the ideal weapon against the rapidly improving Ford engines. The engine was good enough, the chassis was good enough, but the driver was clearly superior. Soon Stewart in a Formula 1 car: a Lotus! However, BRM soon reached an agreement with the young driver for the 1965 season and he replaced Richie Ginther - who moved over to Honda - as teammate to Graham Hill. Stewart scored a point in his first Championship event, South Africa, and won a race his rookie season, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza after a close fight with his teammate, Hill.
Then came the 1966 season. Stewart won the only Championship event of the formula that was taken by a machine powered by an engine not the full 3-litres (or 1.5-litres for the turbos), the usual BRM P56 engine taken out to 1,916 cc. And it was only his second F1 race at Monte Carlo. Then came his crash at Spa-Francorchamps. It was nearly the end for our dear Jackie: had Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant not left the track at almost the same point and/or the fuel he was literally sitting in ignited by the battery dangling loose...
Not long after this, Stewart took a long, hard look at safety and didn't like what he saw. In concert with Lou Stanley of BRM and a very few others initially, Stewart launched the Great Safety Crusade. Many took Stewart to task for his demands for better barriers - or barriers at all in some cases! - and safer cars. Many mistook the messenger for the message. Not a few journalists, Denis Jenkinson among them, were scathing in their denunciations of Stewart. Yet, even at circuits he deemed clearly dangerous - Spa, the Nurburgring, and others - Stewart always performed at the maximum level.
His victory in the horrid conditions of the 1968 German Grand Prix truly defy description. And he won on a course that was cloaked in fog, rendering visibility to virtually nil. And also had the occasional river running across it due to the rain that had also fallen over the weekend. It was easily the equal of the similar performance given by Bernd Rosemeyer at the Eifelrennen in 1936 in similar conditions. It certainly ended any doubts I ever had about Stewart. Prior to that race I had liked Stewart, after that race I was in awe of Stewart and a Fan.
In 1971 Stewart won the Grand Prix of Monaco by nearly 30 seconds while physically whipped due to the heat in the cockpit. Now that was a far more challenging drive than most ever realized, then or now. He even won in the March 701, which is really saying something in my book.
I could and would rattle on about Jackie Stewart for hours and hours. He is still one of my favorites and always will be. Perhaps Stewart could be the next F1 Czar. It would certainly make sense, but since when has that determined much these days when fat wads of money are waved around? Whatever. Godspeed, Jackie Stewart. Enjoy life, you have definitely the right to do so.
For only the third season since All-American Racers set up shop in 1965, Dan Gurney will not be fielding a team this season. I still find this amazing. I truly hope that this is only temporary. Dan Gurney is one major reasons that I have enjoyed racing for so many years. I rooted for him in his earliest days in F1 and still think he was one of The Best All-Around Racers Ever - along with Stirling Moss, Parnelli Jones, Mario Andretti, and Mark Donohue. The 1966 through 1969 series of the AAR Eagle in its various guises was easily the best looking race car ever. They were simply great looking machines. And his victory at Spa in 1967 one of my personal favorites.
Man, I am going to miss those neat noses that AAR painted on their CART machines...
What do Alberto Ascari, Jean Behra, Luigi Musso, Nino Farina, Roberto Mieres, Luigi Villoresi, Maurice Trintignant, Eugenio Castellotti, Harry Schell, Cesare Perdisa, Fon de Portago, Louis Rosier, B. Bira, Berardo Taraschi, Lorenzo Girard, and Sergio Mantovani all have in common with your humble Scribe? They were all in the VII Gran Premio del Valentino held in the park of the same name in Torino in March 1955. Except for poor Mantovani who crashed heavily in his Maserati 250F during practice and ended up losing a leg because of it.
It was my first Grand Prix race. Things have definitely changed since then! It is a sobering note to think that Ascari, Behra, Musso, Castellotti, Schell, de Portago, and Rosier would all die in racing cars and Farina in a road accident.
While I often may snivel and whine about Yesterday versus Today, I stop and think about those I just listed and thank Jackie Stewart for stepping forward and ensuring that none of the young people watching their first F1 race this season can tick off the drivers from that grid who are dead within five years and need two hands to do so...
|Don Capps||© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.|
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