Sir Jackie Stewart – Speaking Out of The Box – Page Three
I made two television documentary films involving Stewart in Can-Am racing during 1971, the first in July at Road Atlanta, another in October at Laguna Seca. Peter Revson won both in Team McLaren’s M8F.
“Doing Can-Am with Carl Haas was good,” Stewart tells me as our conversation continues about cars he raced other than Formula One. “Eric Broadley made the Can-Am car, which was not a good car. It was called the T260 Lola and it was not an easy car to drive. It was short wheel base, very twitchy, very demanding. I won a couple of Can-Am races. But, at the same time, again, it was using up a lot of time in a plane.
“Revvy was a good racing driver. I think he was also good for racing. He was a very good-looking guy, he had the Revson name and the Revlon identity, he was very cultured, and, well, he ‘did a lot of damage with the girls.’ It was a great contrast between him and Denny Hulme for example. Denny was the very basic New Zealander, a great guy of course, and a very good driver. So Peter got a very good ride there to be with McLaren, and he drove well. The top Can-Am drivers after Bruce died were Denny, and Revvy I suppose, and myself.
“I didn’t do Le Mans with Steve McQueen [The plan was for Stewart and McQueen to co-drive a Porsche 917 for the 24-Hour race in 1970.—Ed.] There was a point where I might have been doing it, but then I chose not to do it. I only did Le Mans once, and that was in ’65 with the gas turbine, Rover-DRM, where we finished the race as the highest placed British car, in tenth or eleventh, I can’t remember. My co-driver was Graham Hill.
“I drove the Ferrari P4 with Chris Amon at Brands Hatch for the BOAC Six-Hour in 1967. Chris took ill and was only able to do a small amount of the driving. I mean he was really ill, so I had to do most of that, and that was a fantastic car, a beautiful car to drive, and probably the most attractive racing car I’ve ever driven, in addition to which Mauro Forghieri was engineering it. I had never been able to get a car to go around Brand Hatch comfortably—it was always too bumpy and just wasn’t a track that I could get a car set up on. And Mauro got that one set-up for me perfectly. That was a 4-liter V12 works car, and we were a second place finish to the Chaparral [Phil Hill in this race, his last professional competition, co-drove the 7-liter V8 Jim Hall Chaparral 2F with Mike Spence for the win.—Ed.] We could never have matched it, but we finished ahead of all the Porsches and we secured the World Championship for Sports Cars for Ferrari. I was given ‘Grazie Stewart!’ on the front page picture of Autosprint. And certainly it was the only time I ever drove for Ferrari. I met Enzo many times. He was a very unusual man, but nevertheless dynamic, and nobody better known in the world.
“I later drove a Chaparral, the ‘vacuum cleaner’ as they called it. I drove it at Watkins Glen in a Can-Am race. I liked Phil Hill. He was a wonderful man—perfect manners, and a great deal of culture in him, a great ambassador for the United States of America. You couldn’t’ have done better than Phil Hill and Dan Gurney. They were really both true Americans with a love for Europe, and Europe loved them. I had good times with them both. I drove against Phil, but not very much. I did drive quite a lot against Dan Gurney, and he was the perfect gentleman on the race track. There was Jim Clark and Dan Gurney, and Denny Hulme was very good. Jochen Rindt was very good with impeccable manners on the track, just good to race with.
“I drove a Porsche Super-90 in my first ever competition of any kind. It was a sprint in Scotland, and that was my first competition as a driver but after that I never drove a Porsche at all.”
In Formula One, between 1965 and when he retired in 1973, Jackie Stewart won 27 Grands Prix in 99 starts. Many agree that perhaps his most notable Formula One win was at the full-course 14-mile 14-lap Nürburgring on August 4, 1968. With a broken wrist and in the worst of foggy and wet weather, Stewart brought his Matra-Ford first to the finish 4 minutes and 3 seconds ahead of the second place Lotus-Ford of his former teammate Graham Hill, followed 6 seconds later by Jochen Rindt’s Brabham-Repco. Sir Jackie’s thoughts, from the comfort of the rear seat of a saloon northbound on the British highway, are in essence being there with Stewart at the ‘Ring 43 years ago.
“Most people’s perception is the Nürburgring in 1968 might be my best race because of the over four minutes ahead of second place in conditions that, today, we would never have raced in, and it was ridiculous. But it was just one of those days, everything went well, we didn’t go off the road, we didn’t spin. The Nürburgring, of course, was the greatest challenge, I think, that motorsport has ever seen in respect to learning the track and being able to do sub-lap-record laps all of the time almost in order to win. I liked the ‘Ring. I mean I liked it, and I hated it. Being in front of a fire at home with the snow outside, I loved it. When I left home to go to it, I hated it. I wondered whether I would ever come home from it. I never did one extra lap there at the Nürburgring than I had to, because if you were driving a Formula One car around the ‘Ring at full tilt it was an experience you wouldn’t want to go through very often. I say, ‘Anybody who really likes the Nürburgring, either they have not gone around there fast enough or they’re telling a fib.’
“I named it ‘The Green Hell’ because the track has fir trees and greenery all around it. There are no run-off areas, there is no space for anything and, in those days, we got it changed for the 1971 race and we got it changed again for the ’73 race. But finally it was stopped after the Niki Lauda accident there in ’76. It’s no place for a single-seater Formula One car to be driving. You took off thirteen times per lap, and racing cars can take-off quite well, though they were never good at landing. Actually, it was nonsensical to drive a Formula One car around there, so my appreciation of it is very deep and I’m glad I did it, and I’m glad that I won four times there, and that I’m a Ringmeister, and that I was given the golden ring and all that sort of stuff, but I won the Formula Two championship race around there and three Grand Prixs, which is more than enough for me, thank you very much.
“I learned the ‘Ring in a Volkswagen rental car,” says Stewart, then adds, “I did drive a P1 Ferrari there, and we did quite well—we out-qualified the works team. I was driving for Maranello Concessionaires. I drove a European Championship Ford Capri around there, too. I did quite a lot in the rain. Even in a Capri the Nürburgring was a nightmare.”