Monday, June 11, 2012

Sir Jackie Stewart - cool guy

from The Gentleman's Slipper by Fiona Dreesmann

Celebrating his 73rd today is 3 time World Champion Formula One racer Jackie Stewart, The Flying Scotsman. Jackie record of most wins in Formula One (27) stood for 14 years, and his record of most wins by a British driver stood for 19 years. He was a boyhood hero of mine.

During his racing career, the likelihood of a driver who raced in F1 for 5 years being killed racing were two out of three. In a horrific crash in the Belgium Grand Prix of 1966, Stewart was trapped in his car for 25 minutes with leaking fuel over him. He was extricated by other drivers with tools borrowed from spectators. Having no doctors or medical crew at the track, a truck drove him to an ambulance, which then got lost on its way to the hospital. Fortunately he wasn't badly hurt, but the accident changed his life and view of racing. He became racing's most outspoken advocate for safety at the track, and in the cars.

Stewart had earned a reputation as a skilled yet prudent driver. He was popular with racing fans and readily available to the press to clearly articulate his message. His growing victory total proved he was fearless and no one doubted his bravery when he called for greater driver protections (mandatory seat belts and full face helmets) and led successful driver boycotts of race tracks which did not have adequate safety, fire and medical resources available. To quote Jackie "I would have been a much more popular World Champion if I had always said what people wanted to hear. I might have been dead, but definitely more popular." His legacy as a safety advocate is as great as his racing legend.

Throughout it all he has had one great woman by his side, his childhood sweetheart. They'll celebrate their 50th anniversary this year.

Happy Birthday Sir Jackie, thanks for the memories.



Karena said...

An all around class act!

Art by Karena

Old Polo said...

He was a world class skeet shooter before becoming involved in racing at the urging of his older brother. He and Rindt were close friends and lived as neighbors in Switzerland in the late 60's up until Rindts death. A true gentleman who has contributed greatly to Grand Prix racing. Thank you for your post Toad. Always interesting.