Jackie Stewart en route to victory in the 1973 Monaco GP.
A tip of the cap to three-time Formula 1 World Champion Jackie Stewart, who turns 73 today.
While Stewart's winning record in F1 – 27 wins from just 99 starts – still ranks among the greatest ever, his exploits out of the cockpit have arguably one him an even greater public acclaim and lasting legacy. Stewart launched a tireless effort to improve the lamentable state of F1 safety in the 1970s, as explained by fellow Scotsman Dario Franchitti in our celebration of "game changers" in the May 2012 issue of RACER magazine. He also went on to a lasting career as a TV commentator, helping to bring the finer points of the racing art to the general public, and remains a keen observer of the F1 scene.
In addition to F1, Stewart raced at the Indianapolis 500, narrowly missing a win as a rookie in 1966 – he was leading comfortably when a mechanical failure sidelined him eight laps from the finish. Stewart also raced successfully in Can-Am. But his toughness under pressure, and willingness to take a stand against commonly accepted safety standards of his time, are what makes him a hero to Franchitti, as he explained in our May issue:
"Think about Monza in 1970: his best friend Jochen Rindt had just been killed, and when practice restarted, Jackie went out and set his fastest time of the whole weekend and put his car on the front row of the grid. What kind of mental toughness must you have to do that? Incredible. So if anyone dared to call Jackie a coward, I'd stand up and fight them, because the opposite is true: he was the bravest guy out there.
"Remember, he kept on campaigning for safety after his retirement and was one of the strongest opponents of the ridiculous zero-suspension F1 cars of the early '80s. I've spoken to drivers from that era who say things like, 'Jackie wasn't driving then, it wasn't his fight,' and I think they've missed the point. When someone of Jackie's experience, intelligence, ability, and common sense starts speaking, you should shut up, listen and then form your opinion. He comes up with suggestions and solutions that few others would even think of. Jackie Stewart was, and remains, a truly exceptional man."
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• Also celebrating birthdays today are Duane "Pancho" Carter, who is 62, and F1 and Indy 500 racer Jean Alesi, who is 48.