SEPTEMBER 6, 1971
The key in life," says Jackie Stewart, "is deciding when to go into something and when to get out of it." He knows what he's talking about. Stewart got out of auto racing in 1973, when he was at the sport's pinnacle: At 34 he had won his third Formula One championship and been named SI's Sportsman of the Year. He then took a job as an engineering consultant with Ford, the manufacturer with which he'd won his three titles. "Frankly, we all thought it would last maybe five years," says Stewart.
Funny thing is, nearly 30 years since joining Ford, Stewart, 62, is still waiting for the ideal time to get out; last month he signed on to assist in research and development for three more years. In those three decades Stewart has also served as a commentator for ABC from 1973 to '87 and started a racing team in '97 with his older son, Paul, which became Jaguar Racing two years later after he sold it to Ford. ( Stewart's younger son, Mark, runs a television production company that's producing a four-part documentary on Stewart's life, called The Flying Scot.) He has hobnobbed with royalty (his pal Prince Charles knighted him in November) and celebrities ( George Harrison taught his sons to play guitar). On top of that Stewart, who has dyslexia, has served since 1995 as president of the Scottish Dyslexia Trust and sat on the boards of Moet & Chandon and Rolex, companies he has been associated with as a spokesman since the late 1960s. Says Stewart, who travels 400,000 miles a year, "Most of my relationships are long-term."
Especially his relationship with his wife, Helen, whom he married in '62. Lord and Lady Stewart got a scare in October when she learned she had breast cancer, only 18 months after Paul had discovered he had colon cancer. The racer who had crusaded tirelessly to make his sport safer was suddenly confronted with two mortal crises over which he had no control. "The past two years," says Sir Jackie, "are probably the toughest thing I've had to deal with in my life."
Both cancers were diagnosed early. Paul's is in remission, and Helen is recovering from radiation therapy. Jackie paid tribute to her courage in December, when he and she were named Scotsman and Woman of the Year. "For years she stood waiting to see if I would survive a race; now it's me waiting," said Jackie at the ceremony. His words moved Helen to tears. "The illnesses were something obviously we could have all done without," says Jackie, "but you've got to take the ups and the downs, and the Stewart family has had an awful lot of ups."