Man for all seasons

24th June 2019

The 2019 Festival of Speed will honour Sir Jackie Stewart, who this summer celebrates both his 80th birthday and the 50-year anniversary of winning his first Formula 1 World Championship. The Duke of Richmond talked to the motor racing icon about his glittering career, early experiences of Goodwood and enduring love of motorsport.

Words by Duke of Richmond

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DUKE OF RICHMOND: Tell me about your earliest memories of Goodwood.

JACKIE STEWART: I first went to Goodwood with my brother Jimmy for the Nine Hour race in the 1950s. Later on I was there with Jimmy when he was racing for David Murray’s Ecurie Ecosse team. We stayed at the Ship Hotel in Chichester, and David took us to some nice pubs and restaurants. Jimmy won his race in a C-Type Jaguar. He wore a visor rather than goggles, I remember that. In 1962 I won at Goodwood in a Cooper T49 with Ecurie Ecosse – that was a big moment. Then in September 1963 I won there again in their Cooper-Monaco, and set a new lap record. The circuit manager Robin Mackay was watching and told Ken Tyrrell he should “have a look at this Jackie Stewart”, and that’s how I came to sign for Ken’s Formula 3 team after a test on a cold winter’s day early in 1964. I knew the circuit but had never driven the car, a new Cooper T72-BMC, and Bruce McLaren was there to set a lap time before I went out. Ken told me to take my time, but I was soon beating Bruce’s times, and John Cooper came running down from Madgwick Corner and I heard him tell Ken: “You gotta sign him, you gotta sign him. Now!” So that day at Goodwood was an incredibly important moment for me. We went on to win the F3 Championship that year, and then of course my three World Championships.

Jackie Stewart in his Team Surtees Lola T70

Jackie Stewart in his Team Surtees Lola T70

DR: You came back to race at Goodwood with BRM in your first year of Formula 1.

JS: Yes, I’d signed for BRM, alongside Graham Hill, and started from pole in the Sunday Mirror Trophy on Easter Monday in 1965. In the race I shared a new lap record of 1:20.4 with my friend Jimmy Clark in the Lotus, who did an identical time, and that remains in your pre-1966 Goodwood record books as the official lap record. Sadly the car broke down and Jimmy won the race. Nobody knew much about me in those days. I was just a young lad starting out, really, so I don’t remember going to your grandfather’s cocktail parties in Goodwood House. I met him, of course, testing and racing there, and he was a lovely man. I know your family have always been great hosts, but neither Ken (Tyrrell) nor I were party animals back then.

Goodwood is a driver’s circuit, you can make a real difference.

Jackie Stewart at Goodwood in 1965

Jackie Stewart at Goodwood in 1965

DR: Tell me about the Goodwood Motor Circuit – why is it a challenge for drivers?

JS: It’s a demanding track, not an easy one. The first corner at Madgwick, for example, the double apex right-hander, you have to know where to put the car and where to brake. You have to carry the speed out of the corner onto the straight towards St Mary’s and then into Lavant. These are demanding corners in a really quick car. In a Can-Am car, for example, it’s mighty – even a wee bit scary. Goodwood is a driver’s circuit, you can make a real difference. It looks easy, but it’s not – it’s so fast. If you go off the road you’re going to hit the bank, and back in my day the chicane was made of bricks… To lap Goodwood at the limit has never been easy, but it’s a wonderful circuit.

Jackie Stewart at Goodwood in 2008 in his record-beating BRM P261

Jackie Stewart at Goodwood in 2008 in his record-beating BRM P261

DR: Why did you never compete after you retired in 1973? Many drivers have come back to do historics.

JS: I made a commitment to myself and my family that I would never race again. I was happy to do demo runs, so the Festival of Speed and Revival have given me so many opportunities to be reunited with lots of the cars I raced. These are such great events, not only because of getting back behind the wheel, but also because of all the people, the drivers and the fans. My sons Paul and Mark and I all drove Tyrrells for a display at Revival and that was such a lovely moment for me. My old mechanics ran the cars for us: Roy Topp, Roger Hill, Roland Law. That was just great – the same guys who prepared my cars in that period. I just wish Ken (Tyrrell) could have been there, too. He was so good at choosing the very best mechanics. That’s what I love about Goodwood, those reunions, seeing the people you remember. All our yesterdays are there again. I sign hundreds of autographs, though the selfie is the big thing these days. I think an autograph is better, much more personal, something to keep for ever. I still have my autograph book from when I was a wee boy.

DR: Is motor-racing still an important part of your life?

JS: Oh, yes, my love of the sport is as deep as it’s ever been. I go to at least ten Grands Prix every year, through my work with Rolex and Heineken. The sport changed everything for me, and has given me and my whole family such a wonderful life. I went to the Members’ Meeting for the first time this year and really enjoyed it, being back at the circuit where that test day launched my career. We must remember how dangerous it was in my day – I lost so many friends. The work we did to make F1 so much safer is perhaps the most important thing we did, the achievement of which I’m most proud, along with my World Championships.

When I raced, I never let emotions distract me but reunions with cars, and the people, bring a smile to my face and maybe, just maybe, a tear to my eye.

DR: You will celebrate your career at the Festival of Speed this year. An emotional milestone for you?

JS: Yes, I’m looking forward to being there. When I slip down into the cockpits of the cars I raced, it’s like putting on a pair of favourite old gloves, especially the Tyrrells and the Matra. It’s 50 years since I won my first World Championship and you know, the Tyrrell has the very same seat that I used all those decades ago. When I raced, I never let emotions distract me but reunions with cars, and the people, bring a smile to my face and maybe, just maybe, a tear to my eye.

Goodwood will celebrate Sir Jackie Stewart’s 80th birthday, and the 50th anniversary of his first Formula 1 World Championship triumph, by featuring some of his most famous cars at this year’s Festival of Speed (which takes place July 4 – 7). The list includes the first car Stewart ever raced – the Marcos Xylon Special – and the BRM P261 in which he took his first Grand Prix victory.

The world of Jackie Stewart 

Jackie Stewart made an impact well beyond the world of motor racing. His friends and admirers have included royalty, TV personalities, pop stars and opera singers…

 

JACKIE ON PRINCESS ANNE

“We’ve been friends since the early 1970s when we were both voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year. When you’re in sport there’s an understanding and a respect for each other. I was certainly impressed by Anne; she did something no member of the Royal Family had ever done before: compete in the Olympics. It’s a friendship that’s lasted all these years and [my wife] Helen is godmother to Zara. The thing about good friends is, you don’t need to see each other all the time. We know we’ll always be there for each other.”

Jackie Stewart and Princess Anne

Jackie Stewart and Princess Anne

JACKIE ON GEORGE HARRISON

“I first met George Harrison when the Beatles turned up at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1969. George enjoyed motor racing. We shared many wonderful times. On one occasion, when he was staying with us in Switzerland, we went to the French Grand Prix in Dijon. It was a clear, warm evening when we arrived home. Helen had prepared a barbecue, and [my son] Paul, who was 12 at the time, brought out his guitar. George started to play, running through all the great Beatles hits, singing parts of the songs, explaining what the lyrics meant to various members of the band. I remember sitting there thinking this had to be one of the greatest privileges anybody could have. George had a great soul. His instinct was to forgive ratherthan to condemn and when people behaved badly he would make excuses for them. I learnt so much from him.”

Jackie Stewart and George Harrison

Jackie Stewart and George Harrison

DAVID COULTHARD ON JACKIE

“Sir Jackie is to my mind one of the greatest ever professional sportspeople. He defined a brand ambassador is, which has benefitted all professional sports, and his contribution to our sport’s safety is immeasurable. I have no doubt that his role in my early career enabled me to race for 15 seasons in F1 while enjoying a second career in broadcasting today.”

He can talk the leg off an iron pot and argue on any subject known to man.

DAME KIRI TE KANAWA ON JACKIE

“Jackie has been a dear friend for many years. Always the consummate gentleman and perfectionist. A very caring, generous man with a great sense of humour.”

SIR MICHAEL PARKINSON ON JACKIE

“I’ve known Jackie Stewart for 50 years or more – long enough to appreciate the fact that of all the people I’ve met over a lifetime of meeting remarkable people, he would be among the four or five most remarkable – not only in conquering the world of Formula 1, but in using his fame and celebrity to make the sport much safer. Successive generations of F1 drivers have good reason to consider him their patron saint. He can talk the leg off an iron pot and argue on any subject known to man. His marriage to Helen has been a rare love story; none better demonstrated over recent years than through his devoted care. He is also a very good golfer and an excellent shot. Proud to call him a friend.”

This article was taken from the Summer 2019 edition of the Goodwood Magazine.

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