In the world of auto racing, no man rules like John Young Stewart of Dumbarton, Scotland. Among heroes past and present—the Juan Fangios, Stirling Mosses, Jim Clarks, A. J. Foyts and Mario Andrettis—he has come to occupy a special niche. Not only is he the master of Grand Prix racing, but also the most eloquent spokesman for progress and safety the sport has known. And a very well-to-do shaker of racing's money tree, too. Last week it was Stewart the driving maestro who commanded the racing world's attention with an overwhelming victory in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, England. Beaten for the pole position by a rank upstart and challenged throughout the race by one or another of the young lions clawing toward the top, Jackie drove flat-out when it counted, jammed the traffic lanes when he had to—but without endangering lives in the process—and while gaining a long lead toward his second world championship, put on a magnificent performance.
In a sport at once swift, commercial and deadly, Stewart has leaped a dimension beyond his predecessors. And with six races left to run he has a good chance of beating Jim Clark's alltime record of seven Grand Prix victories in a single season: he already has four.
As always, Stewart was playing it cool last week. "Winning or losing these races is not all that important," he said, "except as an individual thing. What's important is doing it, and doing it well. People fault me for being too commercial, but that's a private thing. You see, I am a Scot. They also tend to disbelieve my concern with safety on the circuit but, again you see, I want to stay alive while making money. That is a Scotsman speaking once more."
Having moved to Switzerland for tax purposes, Stewart enjoyed a good old British reunion at Silverstone. One day King Jackie lunched with the Duke of Kent and, when trying to buckle His Grace into a Tyrrell-Ford car, for once found himself a bit uptight, as did the Duke. "Don't fasten the seat belts," said Kent, "I don't think I'll fit." Helen Stewart, Jackie's delectable wife, laughed up a storm at that.
July 25, 1971
It was pleasant that in this gracious British setting Stewart ruled all he surveyed, but there was also that "uneasy lies the head" kind of thing of which the Scots especially are aware. And one thing that the Silverstone race showed is that Stewart does have his pursuers. In fact, the cheerful chaps who manned the P. A. system made it sound as if there was an entire army of them.
"Nnnnarrongalongggggg!! comes Emerson Pitty-patty in the speedy Gold Leaf Lotus...Myke it six lagers with lime, would ya, luv?...and Ferrari's bold challenger, Gray Rigatoni, followed by Rolf Stumblin in the Surtees...Aye, that's a bit of all right in the hot pants, what?...and the next sound you'll hear is Runty Weasel in the turbine car." Along the way, one's ear is drawn to such exotic names as Howlin Madly, in the BRM, and Lotus' splendid young newcomer, Dave Charlatan.
In the end, of course, the winner's carnations went around the neck of Stewart, thus restoring sanity to minds boggled by the semantic novelty of a whole new wave of Grand Prix drivers. In point of fact, their names are not quite as exotic as the public-address system might have indicated. They were Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni, Rolf Stommelen and Reine Wisell, Howden Ganley and Dave Charlton, not to mention Fran√ßois Cevert, Ronnie Peterson and Henri Pescarolo. Over the past two seasons, Formula I racing has undergone a vast change of cast, if not of plot. Many of the old names are gone: Jack Brabham into retirement after three world championships, Piers Courage, Bruce McLaren, Jochen Rindt and Pedro Rodriguez dead of driving. But with the passing of the old guard, there is room for maneuver in the often rigid ranks of Grand Prix racing and the newcomers are taking good advantage.
The best of the new breed, and by far the most aggressive, is Ferrari's Clay Regazzoni. Or, to give him his proper monicker, Gianclaudio Regazzoni—a name that his followers splashed in white paint across the Silverstone track in yard-high capitals just opposite the Ferrari pits. Regazzoni is a sharp-tongued Swiss from Lugano, a relatively ancient newcomer of 31 who has had some wicked crashes. As one astute Italian observer put it: "You may be sure that Gianclaudio is not a timid boy." Regazzoni was rookie of the year last season on the strength of a victory at Monza, where Rindt was killed, and second-place finishes in Austria, Canada and Mexico.
Much younger than Regazzoni, and in many ways more appealing, is Team Lotus' No. 1 driver, Emerson Fittipaldi. Emmy is only 24, a shy, shaggy-haired Brazilian who won the U.S. Grand Prix last year in his first season. Emerson—named after Ralph Waldo, of all people—began his racing career in 1965. "I drove some of those strange machines that exist only in South America," he explains. "My brother and I built a little two-liter monster that rather resembled a Porsche Carrera Six but had a personality all its own."
Emigrating to Britain in late 1968, Fittipaldi raced Formula Fords and F-3 cars for nearly two seasons before his skills caught the eye of Lotus Boss Colin Chapman. With Rindt's death, Emmy became Chapman's top driver. Behind the wheel he is a strong competitor. "They don't come any tougher than Emmy," says Jackie Stewart.
Stewart also gets good vibes from his Tyrrell-Ford teammate, Francois Cevert, a lanky, 27-year-old Parisian whose gentle good humor belies his ferocity on the racetrack. In 1969, Cevert beat Stewart in an F-2 race at Rheims, and when Johnny Servoz-Gavin announced his retirement in May of last year, Ken Tyrrell hired him.
Sweden's Ronnie Peterson, driving for March-Ford, Australia's Tim Schenken on the Brabham team, New Zealander Howden Ganley (BRM) and South Africa's Dave Charlton (Lotus) fill out the remainder of the field of talented new arrivals on the Formula I scene. Last week at Silverstone they all had a shot at the main chance: beating Stewart in his own back yard.
Right from the first practice session it was clear that this would be the fastest, hardest-fought Silverstone race in the track's 23-year history. Tucked away in the rolling green mosaic of the English countryside nearly two hours north of London, Silverstone is a former World War II R.A.F. bomber base that offers little beauty, but an opportunity for speed. It is one of the fastest circuits on the Grand Prix schedule, but a relatively safe one. "They are all difficult," said Matra's Jean-Pierre Beltoise, "but Silverstone is a bit less difficult than, say, N√ºrburgring or Spa." The main trick at Silverstone is to take the deceptive right-hand corner into the pit row, a turn known in good old Middle English as Woodcote, at its optimum speed: 145 mph. "But there is no corner that you can take at less than 115," said Stewart, "not if you want to qualify near the head of the pack. And you must top out at 180-plus on the straights."
Pheasants and rabbits skittered across the tarmac as the lean, low Grand Prix cars rippled through their frantic practice rounds; Rolf Stommelen bent the nose of his Surtees-Ford on one unfortunate coney. Lager and lime moistened many a throat during the sessions, for it was the hottest, sunniest Silverstone summer in memory, with temperatures in the high, un-British 80s. "Who needs Jamaica when you can come to Silverstone?" ran one of the extemporaneous slogans.
Right off the bat, Stewart exceeded his own record lap time of 1:20.5 (130.9 mph) with a clocking of 1:18.3 in unofficial practice. Regazzoni responded most enthusiastically with a time of 1:18.1, good enough to win the pole. Even though Stewart ultimately equaled Regazzoni, he could not crack the 135-mph barrier. Still, at least 16 of the 24 cars entered in the race beat Stewart's old lap mark, which was set only last May 8. Grabbier tires and better-tuned engines were the reason for the quantum jump in speeds.
Switzerland's Jo (Seppi) Siffert seized the third spot on the front row in his BRM just a tenth of a second behind Regazzoni and Stewart, with Fittipaldi lying fourth at 1:18.3. Siffert had inherited the 12-cylinder BRM that was driven with such success earlier this season by Pedro Rodriguez. When Pedro died in the high-speed crash of a Ferrari 512 at Germany's Norisring earlier this month, the customary freeze on discussion of the accident set in. The BRM people issued regrets and condolences; no single driver on any team mentioned Pedro's name of his own volition. Yet Pedro's shade cooled the Silverstone sunlight all week long.
In the pubs of Northamptonshire on the eve of the race, apprehension flavored the pints of bitter. "Automobile racing—it's a disease," said an elderly woman in The Hind, at Wellingborough. "I wish these silly young men would quit it and simply take to drink." No way, old lady. The medieval pikes and Roundhead armor that festoon the public houses have been converted, these days, into BRMs and Lotuses, McLarens and Tyrrells, and the March-Ford of contemporary England wears a wing on its red, racy nose.
During his warmup lap for the race, Jackie Stewart had cool enough to nod a greeting to a friend stationed in the first corner who had flashed a thumbs-up signal to him. Dave Charlatan—oops, Charlton—looked white-faced and trembling under his wispy blond mustache, largely because his Lotus was smoking. Runty Weasel, in the Lotus turbine, hissed by like an overheated coffeepot while the big brass Silverstone band moaned God Save the Queen. On the pole, Regazzoni was a bundle of drag-strip nerves. He jumped the hesitant flag of the starter and led Stewart into Turn One, a place called Copse Corner, by three car-lengths, but that was the extent of his celebrity this day.
By lap two Stewart had asserted himself, taking Regazzoni handily in the back corners, pheasants and rabbits notwithstanding. From that point on, Stewart worked his way gradually to a 37-second lead, nearly a mile by Silverstone standards. The young boys ended up fighting among themselves. Fittipaldi, who stumbled at the start and had to fight his way back through traffic from ninth place, ended up third. Ronnie Peterson took second, mainly because he kept his Swedish calm and had a healthy car underfoot. Regazzoni dropped out well before the finish with a smoking engine and blisters on his tires.
And so the king still stood alone—perhaps the most luminous racer the world has ever seen. Long-haired and sparrow-voiced, he transcends the skills expected of a Formula I driver: he is at once superman and supershill, good friend and one-upman. If he wins the championship again this year, as he should, he will have nothing left to prove but his continuing claim on his kingdom. One may be pardoned for hoping that Stewart will retire entirely unscathed with his hefty bankroll and his nifty family.
In the meantime bring us another pint of bitter, mum, and let Jackie Stewart keep a sharp eye on the rearview mirror. Those Stumblin Madly Charlatans are coming on.