Chris Maume: Safety first and last in Stewart's drive for change
View From The Sofa: Jackie Stewart: The Flying Scot, BBC 4 / The Masters, BBC 1/2
Monday 13 April 2009
The spirit of Swiss Toni was behind the wheel at the weekend in the shape of Jackie Stewart, who observed in an old interview: "A racing car is almost like a woman: very sensitive, very nervous, very highly strung. Sometimes to get the best out of it you have to coax it, caress it, to get it to do the things you want it to do." Not so much the constructors' championship as the unreconstructed championship.
I don't know what his wife, Lady Helen, thought about that, given that in Jackie Stewart: The Flying Scot she appeared to be every bit as cool, disciplined and sensible as her husband. In all the old footage she's there in the pits, sometimes with stopwatch in hand. "He always included me," she says now. "We were a team."
Another woman in his life wasn't as supportive. When his mother found out he was going into motor racing, "she took a certain hate towards him," his brother Jimmy said.
When he saw his parents after his first world title, in 1969, Jackie recalled, "Dad was thrilled. Mum said, 'What sort of a day is it outside?'" And when he told her he was retiring, he said, "she gave a great big shriek of a laugh and said, 'You're well out of it.'"
She'd clearly been petrified that she was destined to outlive her child – a legitimate fear, given that when Stewart was racing there was a two-in-three chance of a driver being killed within five years. For all his three world championships, his greatest legacy to the sport was his campaign for greater safety, which, it's fair to say, changed motor racing for ever (Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger were the last drivers to die, 15 years ago).
Sir Jackie's son Mark executive-produced Flying Scot, which makes it odd that his dad's battle for safety was passed over in a minute or two – especially given the massive opposition he faced from within the sport itself. But with some great old footage the film could hardly fail.
The safety issue was highlighted in what was scheduled to be his hundredth and last grand prix, at Watkins Glen, with the title already won. His team-mate and protégé, the gorgeous and charismatic Frenchman François Cevert, was killed in practice battling for pole. When Stewart got to the scene Cevert was still in the car: "They'd left him because he was so clearly dead." Stewart withdrew and never did reach his century.
If this year's US Masters were a woman, it would be someone like, say, Kate Moss: superficially glamorous , with a bit of rough on the side, but slightly boring. I guess Thursday's first round wasn't too bad, with the low scoring, and the occurrence – somewhat unlikely these days – of Sandy Lyle numbering among the leading Europeans. But Friday's play seemed to match the weather – dull and overcast –and when Saturday came, Match of the Day was a blessed relief.
Still, yesterday's play (after my deadline) may have been the greatest session of golf in recorded history. Tiger may have ripped the opposition limb from limb – or Ian Poulter may have finally put his money where his mouth is. Sport does have an infinite capacity to surprise, after all.
All aboard Cantona's magique roundabout
I hate advertisements. All of them. I'm sure it's been medically proven somewhere that they literally rot your brain. But even I can find it within myself to like Eric Cantona's new car commercial. He proved years ago with his seagulls-and-trawlers quote that he's a natural comedian. As he growls in the ad: "Magique".
Rafael Nadal looks to win the Monte Carlo Masters for a fifth year in a row and extend Spain's recent dominance – a Spaniard has reached the final in 12 of the last 17 years. Roger Federer has finished runner-up in each of the last three years.
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