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Winning is Not Enough

by Jackie Stewart

                              May 2008

Winning is not enough by Jackie Stewart

 

Review by Jane Feinmann*

The starter’s flag drops and Jacky Ickx gets too much wheel spin forcing the young Jackie Stewart into the pit lane gutter to get past him. It’s the heightof the 1968 Formula One racing season and with his black cap, sideburns and aviator shades, Stewart is an unmistakable icon in a glorious era of style, excitement, tragedy, a mix of desperate danger and incredible success.


But all is not well. Take the German Grand Prix in Nurburgring, a day of pouring rain where the circuit is ‘terrifying’, packed with ‘undulations, fast bends and slow tight corners’.

‘Visibility was so pathetically poor, I can't see any braking distances. I can’t even see the car in front of me, I am simply driving into this great wall of spray,’ recalls Stewart.

Pulling out to pass the car in front, ‘the spray is dense I’m driving blind, like flying an aircraft in bad weather without radar. I accelerate and get past and I feel so relieved, not just because I am in second place but because I know I am a little safer.’ Worse is to come: out in front near the end of the race, he hits a deep river of water, lose control of the car and nearly kills a track marshal.

But Stewart wins – and, even better, and most unusually, all 20 drivers complete the race without accidents and survive to drive another day.

The title of his new autobiography, Winning Is Not Enough hints at the scope of the book that Sir Jackie, a man of immense charisma and integrity, wrote himself without the help of a ghostwriter. As well as describing the heights: the three F1 World Championships, the 27 Grands Prix and being ranked in the top five drivers of all times, he breaks into the present tense to describe the depths.

Between 1963 and 1973, Stewart lost 57 friends and colleagues, ‘often’, he says, ‘watching them die in horrific circumstances doing exactly what you do, weekend after weekend. To be a racing driver then was to accept the probability of death – not the possibility, the probability because during period, an F1 driver who raced for five years or more was more likely to lose life on the track than to survive and retire.’

He recalls the’ hush that used to descend over the pit lane when an ambulance appeared.. the sense of foreboding that spread through this small community when a plume of black smoke rose on the other side of the circuit… the unimaginably brutal way people died… the agony of a devastated wife and the fear in the eyes of other wives as they wondered if it might be their turn next.’

The book describes Sir Jackie’s personal efforts firstly to make the sport safe, firstly ensuring that he had decent medical support – maintaining a comprehensive list of specialists in each country that he raced and employing his own doctor – ‘a precaution that made people scoff’.

More importantly though, he led the Grand Prix Drivers Association campaign for improved safety measures at the circuits: life-saving barriers installed in front of trees or buildings and the removal of unnecessary hazards.

He was criticised for ‘accepting the challenge and then trying to change the rules to make it all safe and cosy’ by the public and journalists alike. A fellow driver, one Innes Ireland, even ‘flapped his wings and made chicken noises at me’. Even now, people regret that F1 has become boring.

Despite it all, he kept going, maintaining the momentum through the years. But it was not until 1994, when the double deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at the San Marino Grand Prix that the sport finally became relative safe, with improved technology and regulations.

Hardly surprising that Stewart has achieved worldwide recognition as a role model and a highly respected businessman. His life, he says, is about integrity and care as well as success – and his contribution to making F1 racing safe is a shining example of what that means. It’s a worthy read – even if, like me, the allure of the Grand Prix passes you by.
JF.


*Have you read a book that you just know people of your age would love as well. If so, let us know. We’ll be delighted to publish your review.

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