Scotsman Jackie Stewart Races into the History Books
Weekend tinkering with the family car is a common hobby for many, but in Jackie Stewart’s family repairing cars was a business. As part of his family Jaguar dealership, Stewart worked as an apprentice mechanic. Indeed, the love of speeds was in Stewart’s blood – his father had been a motorcycle racer and his brother was a successful race car driver before a serious accident at Le Mans plucked him from the dangerous sport permanently. Discouraged by his parents to bypass auto racing, Stewart became an expert target shooter, missing the 1960 Summer Olympic team by a hairs-breath.
The allure of race car driving beckoned, though, and after answering a family friend’s request to test drive a number of his cars. Soon, Stewart was besting established racers’ times and was offered a spot on an international team. Wins accumulated and Stewart became a sensation. His last and at the time record-setting 27th Grand Prix victory, came in Germany. Another fatal crash of his team mate, Francois Cevert, during a practice for the 1973 U.S. Grand Prix led to Stewart’s early retirement, one race shy of his 100th Grand Prix race.
Yet, it was not Stewart’s speed that garnered him a place in the racing history books, but his passionate commitment to revising safety standards for drivers. Prompted by a treacherous accident when Stewart had to be cut out of his racing car with a spanner, he soon became the father of modern-day safety guidelines including a mandate that a spanner be taped to the steering wheels of race cars.
International observers may remember Stewart best as a commentator with NASCAR and the Indianapolis 500 during the 1970s and early 1980s. Recognized for his insightful analysis, his Scottish accent, and rapid fire delivery, some remarked that he spoke almost as fast as he drove. A flying Scotsman, indeed, Jackie Stewart’s legacy stretches far beyond his driving acumen.