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For the Club’s London Motor Week Dinner, Sir Jackie Stewart OBE joined Club members and some very special guests to celebrate his career in motorsport. Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, who has been a friend of Sir Jackie’s for 50 years, was also present to take part in the celebration.
HRH The Princess Royal
After dinner, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal took to the stage to talk about the man whose life was being celebrated.
Her Royal Highness spoke fondly of knowing Sir Jackie when he was a star of the shooting world – so good, that it almost led to him competing in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. Luckily for motor racing, he eventually gave up the sport to race cars.
Although Her Royal Highness is more familiar with the traditional single ‘horse’ power, she commented that there ‘were some similarities between the feel of a horse and the feel of a fast car.’ Her claim to fame in the racing world was that she’d managed to drive a racing car around the Silverstone circuit without stalling it.
She cited the ‘Stewart Grand Prix’ racing team as an example of Jackie’s accomplished understanding of both the business and racing world and moved on to talk about his continued efforts to improve track safety and the more recent work of the charity he set up called Race Against Dementia. Her Royal Highness remarked; ‘he might never have raced a car in 40 years, but he certainly hasn’t slowed down.’
On His Friends
Journalist and broadcaster Simon Taylor chatted with Sir Jackie after dinner on several topics relating to his life in motorsport.
Sir Jackie spoke about his close friendships with both Jim Clark and Graham Hill. They holidayed together, lived together and all had ‘a great camaraderie’. He remembered Jim Clark as a ‘true Scot’, and always the relaxed one.
But whilst they were close friends, Jim knew how to be a winner – he didn’t give away his secrets of how to get the best out of his car very easily, despite Sir Jackie trying to extract them from him. He once asked Jim for advice about when to brake at a particular corner at Monza but Jim never revealed his secrets and went on to win the race.
When speaking about today’s drivers, Jackie described them as the same ‘animals’, but ones that can now, luckily, be less fearful about safety.
On Ken Tyrrell
Ken Tyrrell was the man who convinced Jackie to switch from shooting to driving. Ken tempted him into a car and, after he bettered Bruce McLaren’s times during testing at Goodwood, he gave Jackie his big break – a spot in his Formula 3 team.
Jackie described Ken as ‘one of the greatest men I’ve ever worked with’, words that brought a smile to Ken’s grandson, Adam Tyrrell, who joined us for the evening. The pair had a very trusting relationship – they had a contract for the first year, but after that were happy to work on each other’s word and a simple handshake.
But it wasn’t all work. Jackie remembered one exchange the pair had had after Jackie had struggled with the Tyrrell 003 in testing. After some strong complaints from Jackie about the car, Ken’s only reply was ‘you think you’re having trouble, the English are getting thrashed by the Australians in the cricket!’
Jackie also described Ken as thoughtful and forward-thinking for his time – he used to purchase insurance for all members of his race teams, a rarity for the time.
Jackie noted that one of the largest safety hazards for drivers was that fuel tanks surrounded them whilst they were seated in their cars. They were positioned under the legs, either side of their seat and behind them.
There was no carbon fibre in Sir Jackie’s day to protect the driver and fuel tanks, so when they crashed, they could easily catch fire, which was a large reason for cars going up in flames so easily and so regularly. In total Jackie lost dozens of friends to racing accidents, and he knew that things had to change.
A turning point for him was when he was in discussion with fellow drivers at a meeting on safety. More deaths happened at the Nürburgring circuit compared to anywhere else, and Jackie called for the race to be abandoned.
Despite fierce opposition from many of his fellow drivers, Jack Brabham was the first driver to agree and implored the other drivers to support and follow Jackie’s lead. From then on, safety standards gradually began to improve within the sport and Jackie was at the centre of the campaign.
On His Rivals & His Dream Team
His biggest rivals? Jim Clark and Jochen Rindt – ‘the others I could deal with’. When asked what team he would love to drive for today his answer was instant – the current Mercedes team.
It was an extremely memorable London Motor Week Dinner for the Club and all those who attended, made all the more special by the presence of Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.