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Wheels of Fame and Fury
Jackie Stewart
April 24, 1972
Champion of a sport that has made him both renowned and rich, Jackie Stewart has a clinical eye for its terrible risks. With rare candor he writes of speed, danger and death
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April 24, 1972

Wheels Of Fame And Fury

Champion of a sport that has made him both renowned and rich, Jackie Stewart has a clinical eye for its terrible risks. With rare candor he writes of speed, danger and death

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"No, the cars aren't back yet," she lied to him and, sure enough, he soon left. Had he started over, they would have had to stop him and the cat would have been out of the bag. As it was, Norah played it so cool that he came away with nothing. If he had discovered it, he would have had an extraordinary story.

Nevertheless, Ken is growing increasingly nervous about word leaking out as the car nears completion. At the latest we should have it finished in a week or two and, as incredible as it sounds, we have actually been able to maintain security for five months now. Its development has been handled like some kind of military operation, as though it was a secret weapon, and apart from the concrete advantages of coining out with a sophisticated piece of machinery, we are counting on the demoralizing effect of springing it on the opposition, just bringing it out of the blue. Ferrari did this at Spa in 1968 on the final day of practice, when their cars appeared with airfoils. The point to this sort of thing, of course, is that the opposition is riding high, and then, bang, someone not only has a stronger car but they have been so organized, so efficient and cool as to have kept its construction and development a secret.

August 29. Some reflections: In the 10 years I have been racing, I have never really known a driver to have a breakdown. I have seen Jacky Ickx once or twice in fits of rage, but these were exceptions. Ordinarily he doesn't show his emotions. Perhaps someday a doctor will explain why, but in the meantime accept the simple observation that racing drivers have the gift of self-discipline; they have to.

Everyone is made up of parts, though, and drivers are no exception. Take Jim Clark, certainly one of the best of all time. While driving he was the most decisive man in the world—he acted with the precision of someone who knew just what he was about, with a certainty that was near flawless. But outside a car, Jim was one of the most disorganized men I have ever known. The number of restaurants we missed because he wasn't able to make up his mind! The number of movie theaters we drove all over London inspecting so Jim could decide which show he wanted to see! The endless getting in and out of cabs and the damned show usually having started, the ticket gate closed, the evening pointlessly shot to hell.

He hadn't a full fingernail. He ate them. He bit back to the skin on his first joint. When he won the world championship he found it difficult to do speeches, even to make appearances because he was embarrassed at not speaking well. He knew it and he hated it. Once, when the two of us were flying back from California at the time Helen had just given birth to Paul and Jim's father was also in the hospital quite seriously ill, I wanted to get things organized and make sure nothing fouled up our connections. I mentioned this, but Jim was totally against it. He absolutely refused to let me get us VIP service. "No, no," he said. "It would put everybody to a lot of trouble." I tried to explain that the airline would be pleased to accommodate us, but he still wouldn't budge. It was as though racing was a correction of his neurosis, something which took him out of himself and gave him great release. It was his only element, the one avenue in life where he was in command and where everything came together into what I can only call the certainty of pure control. The contrast was incredible, Jim in a car and Jim socially, and the pity of it was that toward the end, in the winter of 1967 and early '68, he was just starting to get himself together to the point where he felt comfortable in public. But this was never to be. On April 7 he crashed and died at Hockenheim.

October 23. First day of practice for the Grand Prix of Mexico. The new Tyrrell managed second fastest to Regazzoni's Ferrari, so we are confident we have a potential winner. At the Canadian Grand Prix the stub axle broke; Watkins Glen was another failure, bad luck, really, as we had dominated the race; and now it is a question of the Ferraris. They and the Tyrrell's reliability. We know we are faster than any of the other Ford-engined cars.

October 25. Regazzoni led the first several laps of the race and the crowd was staying back, but then people started creeping up to the edge of the road. Ickx was going full tilt and finally passed both me and Regazzoni to take the lead, and there we were going by these people not five yards from us at perhaps 170 mph. It was insane. After a bit I was running second, and then my steering column came loose and I had to return to the pits. Back out, I was behind Brabham. Then I caught up with Regazzoni and was within three or four seconds of Ickx when it finally happened, as it had to—a bloody great dog came out and I hit him fair and square, on one of the fastest parts of the track, in fourth gear, hitting him with the right-hand side of the car, the front wheel and airfoil, and with people no more than 20 feet away.

As I hit, the impact was so tremendous I nearly lost it. The car went one way and then another, yawing back and forth, and at one point, still at about 140 mph, I was certain I was going into the crowd on the left side of the road. I was trying to get it back into shape but the car seemed to have a mind of its own—swinging this way and then that, until finally it scrubbed off enough speed for me to limp back to the pits.

The front wheel had hit so hard that the suspension was squashed back into the bodywork, the wheel itself, a casting, was bent out of round, and the monocoque had been creased from the cockpit forward. The car was almost a write-off, hardly worth repairing. I was angry, because it had been so close and so obviously unnecessary, and I went over and told the organizers just how annoyed I was. The Tyrrell's first victory will have to wait until next season.

April 12, 1971. Tonight I have a man coming, a Swiss doctor, a very brilliant anesthetist who worked with DeBakey and Cooley in Houston, Dr. Marti by name, and we will be making arrangements for him to accompany me to this year's races as my private physician. While it may be foolish of me to put this so bluntly, I know his competence because I have had him checked. There is money in the bank. The mortgage is paid. The investments are solid. The life insurance would pay off at something like a million dollars. But money is not enough. While Helen is more and more independent and I am doing all I can to make her this way, I know I must give her every opportunity to have me for the rest of her life.

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