The fact that Sir Jackie Stewart overrode his publishers by insisting on this James Bond-like title says much about the man and his ostensible role in the world. Driven was the title they suggested, but the three-times Formula One champion wanted to drive home the point that winning was worthwhile only if achieved – as his knighthood motto reads – "with integrity and care".
Whatever he drives, or is driven by, this is a book worth reading. It is often, though not always, a cut above the modern sporting autobiography. The early chapters, in which Stewart describes deerstalking above Loch Lomond as a teenager, becoming a British Olympics clay-shooting team member, and following in his elder brother Jimmy's motor-racing footsteps, are worth the price alone.
The middle chapters fall into a trough of royal and celebrity name-dropping that would surely make his former "anchor", the great but shy Scottish driver Jim Clark, uneasy. Kings, sultans, sheikhs and rock stars are listed among Stewart's best friends, although, to be fair, he plays down the fact that he has adopted a neo-aristocratic lifestyle next door to Chequers in Buckinghamshire. While one longs to read more about his wife, Helen, we hear about his "very good friend" the Princess Royal, with whom he established an early bond, and who wrote the foreword to the book.
Stewart admits that he saw his own commercial potential early, and deliberately wore a John Lennon-style cap and a "cheeky grin" to reflect the swinging image of the 1960s. Motorsport enthusiasts will love the chapters in which he describes what it is like to drive at high speeds and how it felt to survive major accidents and to lose more than 50 close friends, mostly drivers, during his career. Any human being will feel pain over the stories of his nightmares at primary school, where he was treated like a dunce and ostracised. He did not pass his 11-plus but, after being diagnosed as dyslexic 40 years later, long after he had retired from motor racing, he felt "as though somebody was reaching out an arm and saving me from drowning".
Much credit for the writing of this book must go to Ed Griffiths, who receives a paragraph in the acknowledgements for his "expert suggestions on how to make my thoughts, feelings and recollections come alive". One feels that Griffiths deserves more credit for a book whose writing can scarcely be faulted.
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