LEAVING WITH LOVE, AND THE LOOT
Often of a morning these days, Jackie Stewart (see cover), the retired World Driving Champion, wakes up laughing. "It comes on like a giggle," he says, "irrepressible, like champagne bubbles at the back of your nose—and I lie there in my big, wide bed in the Connaught, say, or the Plaza or the George V and I laugh and laugh and laugh." Nor does the mood end with Stewart's rising. He likes to run for half an hour every morning ("except in New York, where a running longhair can get in trouble"), and frequently the giggles catch him in midstride. Imagine it: the wee, shaggy figure pelting down the wet streets of London in the first light of day, past gleaming, darkened shop windows full of expensive goods, past bobbies rearing back in outraged amazement until they recognize Britain's great hero at his morning exercise, past the solemn statues of earlier heroes, huge and immobile now while Stewart winks past beneath them, skipping almost, his hair flying back in a contrail of immoderate laughter.
Why is this man laughing?
Because, you nits, he did it! He got away with it! Not just the fortune but the fame as well. The love and the money! John Young Stewart, who dropped out of school at the age of 15 to pump gas at his father's filling station in Dumbarton, Scotland, stands now, 19 years later, at the pinnacle of success in the most dangerous game known to man: Grand Prix motor racing. Over nine seasons encompassing 99 races that counted for the championship, Stewart won 27 Grands Prix—more than any other driver in modern racing history. Those victories produced three World Driving Championships, a total exceeded only by the five held by Argentina's Juan Manuel Fangio, who drove in an earlier era (1940-1958) and thus at much slower and less deadly speeds. In Europe, where road racing is not only a major sport but a daily way of life and death to everyone from bakers to barons, charwomen to chanteuses, winning the World Driving Championship is roughly equivalent, in American terms, to winning the Masters, the Indy 500, the Super Bowl, the World Series and the heavyweight championship—all in the same season.
That adulation, which is based not on simple, sports-loving hysteria but rather on a keen and often poignant appreciation of the risks involved in Grand Prix racing, has opened the way for Jackie Stewart into the closed ranks of the world's high and mighty. He has dined, if you will, with the Queen; he has escorted his good friend Princess Anne to the movies and was one of her 1,200 invitees to the royal wedding. He hobnobs regularly with the likes of the Aga Khan and his Begum; with Stavros Niarchos, the Greek shipping magnate; with Fiat's Gianni Agnelli and Ford's young Edsel; with such cultural dignitaries as Truman Capote, Roman Polanski and Andy Warhol. Count Freddy Chandon, of the champagne dynasty, is a valued consultant in matters vinous: when Jackie was at a loss as to what kind of wedding present to give Princess Anne, Count Freddy suggested just the right vintage—and glasses to go with it. On his own, Stewart sent a backgammon set. Lest the gift seem less than royal, he had the doubling dice made of gold; replacing the number 64 is a picture of his racing helmet.
Needless to say, such a rise to eminence has been immensely gratifying—it could have been stupefying—to a young man of humble origins. But Stewart is too much the canny Scot for it to carry him away. He is a master of repartee who gives as good as he gets in any company, but more than that he is a superb money magnet. Though Grand Prix racing pays little in the way of prize money, Jackie has taken more than $850,000 a season out of the sport in recent years in a complex web of endorsements, personal appearances, television commentaries and the like, the spinning of which keeps him busier even than the 14 to 17 races he runs per season.
Why is this man laughing?
Because he got away with it.
Yes, his life.