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Jackie Stewart is a man of conspicuous good sense who does not intend to die in a racing car. In 1969 he won the first of his two championships in an Anglo-French Matra. The following year he switched to an English March. He also began keeping a notebook, the substance of which will be published June 16 in book form by Farrar, Straus and Giroux under the title "Faster! A Racer's Diary." This article, dealing with what Stewart calls "the most painful and illuminating year in my life," is taken from the book.
March 3, 1970. This morning, a real fright. My wife Helen and I arrived in Johannesburg yesterday for the South African Grand Prix, did a film for Ford in the morning, then had the rest of the day off. Today nothing at all, so we went into a game preserve in an open Land Rover and soon found ourselves within 20 paces of a rhinoceros. During the day we also were in among a herd of buffalo, close to baboons and other animals, and I was frightened, especially when I smelled a lion in the bush. At first I couldn't see him, but when he came out into the open, I was scared to the point where I could hardly operate. He was sitting back on his haunches with his legs straight out in front, eating an impala, and the muscle of the beast was terrifying. I had never before seen a lion up close, and even if I had had a gun, I am sure I couldn't have dealt with him.
When I was 15 I was in a similar position. Then I was beaten by a gang in Scotland, quite badly beaten at a bus stop, and that scared the hell out of me. Thunder and sharks, as well as the sea, also scare me, and I think that is because I understand what they can do. Airplanes, though, bother me not in the least. Several times I have been in the cockpit of a 747, and it is clear that a man can control the aircraft. He can adjust its rate of descent, alter its course and its stall speed, and even with all kinds of mechanical damage and in the worst weather conditions he has a fair chance of bringing it in. But these other things, the sea particularly, they are entirely beyond man's control.
In this respect, of course, people have the grossest misconceptions about racing drivers. I have never considered myself a particularly brave person. My racing certainly is not brave, not in the sense, say, of bullfighting. Everybody figured that when I returned to the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa in 1967 I wouldn't go well because the previous year I had had an accident there. As it happened, it didn't affect my driving at all. I had a new respect for the place, but I was able to store it away, make it work for me. Not that there wasn't fear, but what fear there was I was able to control, and I am not at all sure that this is what is meant by bravery.
March 8. Speed: really the whole business is the reverse of speed, how to eliminate it. In a racing car speed doesn't exist for me except when I am driving poorly. Then things seem to be coming at me quickly instead of passing in slow motion. It's the surest sign that I am off form, the kind of thing that happens whenever I go too fast too early on a strange circuit. For the first lap or two everything seems too fast. Then, once I have learned the course, I see things a long way off in fine detail. A corner will come toward me very slowly, not unexpectedly. There is plenty of time as I am closing in on it, plenty of time to brake and balance the car, to turn in, hit the apex, go through and hit the exit and even look down at the rev counter to see how quickly I have gone around. On the other hand, when I am driving poorly I will go into the corner at the same speed, but everything is a great rush. Things are coming at me rather than passing me, and I am all ruffled. None of it is of a piece, my movements are not coordinated and it's like first learning how to drive.
When some people speak of speed, they really don't know what they are talking about. Two hundred or 180 mph in a Formula I car, if you are plugged in, is literally like 80 or 60 on the highway. The car is made to go that fast. It is stable and very easy to drive in a straight line, and once you are used to it things do not rush past in an enormous flurry. They are actually very clear. A tableau spreads out before you—things going past, a new field coming into view—all of it in sequence like a slowed-down movie film.
Through the turns, though, is where the true character of the car shows itself. A Formula I car is like an animal, like a thoroughbred racehorse in its sensitivity and nervousness. To get the best out of it you must treat it gently and sympathetically. In a corner it is right on its tiptoes, on the very edge of adhesion, and if you dominate it or try to push it around it will go straight on or slide off or do any number of things that leave you without control. So you coax it—gently, very gently—to get it to do what you want. You point it and coax it into the apex, and even after you have pointed it and it is all set up, you must be tender with it. You have set a rhythm and now you must keep it. And as it hits the apex, you take it out nicely; your exit speed is very important. You have to maintain the rhythm which you have been building all along. You must let the car fulfill itself.
May 10. My walk from the H�tel de Paris to the starting line of the Monaco Grand Prix has by now become a ritual. Leaving the hotel by the back entrance, I walk past the commissaires, policemen, flag marshals, officials and medical people and then go by the huge crowd which has been gathering for the past 12 hours. There are people from all over Europe cheering and shouting, waving from the balconies that are tiered like so many steps up the sides of the hills. There are more people watching from yachts at anchor in the harbor, and countless others lining the streets and hanging out of caf� windows waiting for the start.
The intensity is indescribable. There are other Grand Prix races which are exciting and steeped in atmosphere but none so completely and in so many ways as Monte Carlo. The harbor, the palm trees, the old town itself all blend with the modern to give a feeling of nostalgia, above all a sense of intimacy, as though everything somehow still belongs there and will remain part of the place forever. More than anything, it is a feeling of harmony, and as I walk down to the car in the pits I am a part of it.
It is this very atmosphere, though, that raises stupid comparisons with the past. Invariably someone will say that the sport is too professional nowadays and the drivers care too much about money. Someone always speaks of "the good old days" when drivers spent their time drinking and partying, when everything was play from start to finish. Plainly enough, this wasn't the case. The playboys weren't the great drivers. At best they were the No. 2s. The Caracciolas, Nuvolaris and Fangios were all serious men committed to a goal. They were entirely professional in their approach. No doubt some of them played around, but never to the point where it interfered with their driving. It was a question of priorities just as it is today, and no matter how good they were, they knew they had to work at it. Nobody stays good unless he wants to.