Sir John Young “Jackie” Stewart, also known as the “Flying Scot”, is a British former Formula One racing driver from Scotland, who won the world drivers championship three times in his racing career.
Stewart was born in Milton, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland on 11th June, 1939. Stewart’s family were Austin, later Jaguar, car dealers and had built up a successful business. His father had been an amateur motorcycle racer, and his brother Jimmy was a racing driver with a growing local reputation who drove for Ecurie Ecosse and competed in the 1953 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. He experienced learning difficulties owing to undiagnosed dyslexia, and due to the condition not being understood or even widely known about at the time, he was regularly berated and humiliated by teachers and peers alike for being “dumb” and “thick”. Stewart was unable to continue his secondary education past the age of 16, and began working in his father’s garage as an apprentice mechanic. He was not actually diagnosed with dyslexia until 1980, when his oldest son Mark was diagnosed with the condition. On learning that dyslexia can be genetically passed on, and seeing very similar symptoms with his son that he had experienced himself as a child, Stewart asked if he could be tested, and was diagnosed with the disorder, by which time he was 41 years old. He has said: “When you’ve got dyslexia and you find something you’re good at, you put more into it than anyone else; you can’t think the way of the clever folk, so you’re always thinking out of the box.”
At the age of 13 he had won a clay pigeon shooting competition and then went on to become a prize-winning member of the Scottish shooting team, competing in the United Kingdom and abroad. He won the British, Irish, Welsh and Scottish skeet shooting championships and twice won the “Coupe de Nations” European championship. He competed for a place in the British trap shooting team for the 1960 Summer Olympics, but finished third behind Joseph Wheater and Brett Huthart.
He took up an offer from Barry Filer, a customer of his family business, to test in a number of his cars at Oulton Park. For 1961, Filer provided a Marcos, in which Stewart scored four wins, and competed once in Filer’s Aston DB4GT. In 1962, to decide if he was ready to become a professional driver, tested a Jaguar E-type at Oulton Park, matching Roy Salvadori’s times in a similar car the year before. He won two races, his first in England, in the E-type, and David Murray of Ecurie Ecosse offered him a ride in the Tojeiro EE Mk2, then their Cooper T49, in which he won at Goodwood. For 1963, he earned fourteen wins, a second, and two thirds, with six retirements.
In 1964, he again signed with Ecurie Ecosse. Ken Tyrrell, then running the Formula Junior team for the Cooper Car Company, heard of the young Scotsman from Goodwood’s track manager and called up Jimmy Stewart to see if his younger brother was interested in a tryout. Jackie came down for the test at Goodwood, taking over a new, and very competitive, Formula Three T72-BMC which Bruce McLaren was testing. Soon Stewart was bettering McLaren’s times, causing McLaren to return to the track for some quicker laps. Again, Stewart was quicker, and Tyrrell offered Stewart a spot on the team.
In 1964 he drove in Formula Three for Tyrrell and won his first race. On his F1 debut in South Africa, he scored his first Championship point, finishing sixth, racing for March. He switched to Tyrrell’s Matra International team, where he drove a Matra MS10-Cosworth for the 1968 and 1969 seasons. Skill (and improving tyres from Dunlop) brought a win in heavy rain at Zandvoort. Another win in rain and fog at the Nürburgring, where he won by a margin of four minutes. He also won at Watkins Glen.
In 1969, Stewart had a number of races where he completely dominated the opposition, such as winning by over 2 laps at Montjuïc, a minute at Clemont-Ferrand and more than a lap at Silverstone. With additional wins at Kyalami, Zandvoort, and Monza, Stewart became world champion in 1969 in a Matra MS80-Cosworth.
Stewart went on to win the Formula One world championship in 1971 using the Tyrrell 003-Cosworth, winning Spain, Monaco, France, Britain, Germany, and Canada. He also did a full season in Can-Am, driving a Carl Haas sponsored Lola T260-Chevrolet. and again in 1973.
Entering the 1973 season, Stewart had decided to retire. He nevertheless won at South Africa, Belgium, Monaco, the Netherlands, and Austria. His last (and then record-setting) 27th victory came at the Nürburgring with a 1–2 for Tyrrell. “Nothing gave me more satisfaction than to win at the Nürburgring and yet, I was always afraid.” Stewart later said. “When I left home for the German Grand Prix I always used to pause at the end of the driveway and take a long look back. I was never sure I’d come home again.” After the fatal crash of his teammate François Cevert in practice for the 1973 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, Stewart retired one race earlier than intended and missed what would have been his 100th Grand Prix. Nevertheless, Stewart still won the drivers’ championship for the year.
Stewart also became the face of safety in motorsports during his time of dangerous racing, at a time when drivers had 2/3rds of a chance of getting killed. He mandated the sport to provide top class medical assistance, armco barriers and cutting down of trees at dangerous parts of any particular track. Drivers also had to start wearing six point safet harness. He even went as far as to boycott races with the consent of other drivers to demand that the tracks evolve in safety aspects with the increasing power of the cars.
In 1997 Stewart returned to Formula One, with Stewart Grand Prix, as a team owner in partnership with his son, Paul. As the works Ford team, their first race was the 1997 Australian Grand Prix. The only success of their first year came at the rain-affected Monaco Grand Prix where Rubens Barrichello finished second. The following year, 1998, was less competitive, with no podiums and few points.
However, after Ford acquired Cosworth in July 1998, the team risked designing and building a new engine for 1999. The SF3 was consistently competitive throughout the season. The team won one race at the European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring with Johnny Herbert, while Barrichello took three 3rd places, pole in France, and briefly led his home race at Interlagos. The team was later bought by Ford and became Jaguar Racing in 2000 (which became Red Bull Racing in 2005).
Sir Jackie Stewart is also one of the brand ambassador of Rolex, the pioneer of Swiss Luxury Wrist Watch Royalty. He signed with them back in 1968 and still hold the position. He is also the brand ambassador for Formula One’s global partner, the investment giant UBS.
Picture source : motorsport.com
For a dyslexic Scot, Sir Jackie Stewart has earned a life that most dream of. It didn’t come easy and it didn’t come cheap, but he fought the odds and became a successful driver, business man, and a family man. Let the Flying Scots story of hurdle and hard ships motivate anyone to achieve their goals.