"You never know what JYS is really thinking or what he is up to," is a line that was frequently spoken about him by those who would like to be in the know, even before this week's announcement that he is to launch a full-scale Formula 1 racing team for the 1997 season. Led by JYS, Stewart Grand Prix will emerge from Paul Stewart Racing, the team that Jackie's son Paul has been running in junior formulas since 1968.
Wily, resourceful, mentally focused, physically abstemious and fit, JYS has always possessed and nurtured the strengths that go with worldly success. But nothing he has ever achieved will compare with the complexity and difficulty of the task he has now set himself. Winning the drivers' World Championship three times (1969, 1971 and 1973) and placing his name with the greats of Grand Prix racing may seem like simple work compared with creating a team capable of winning the constructors World Championship.
That must be his target from the moment his new cars first appear in races. Nothing less will do for a man who has been accustomed to winning championships all his adult life (beyond motor racing, he has also won national championships for clay-pigeon shooting and was reserve for the two-man team for the 1960 Olympics). Nothing less will satisfy the appetites of the giant Ford corporation, which has pledged exclusive supply of its racing engines to Stewart's new team.
"It is a formidable undertaking he has given himself," says Ken Tyrrell, his former employer when Stewart was winning races and championships in Ford-powered Tyrrells. The two men have remained close friends; Tyrrell was shooting with Stewart two weeks ago when JYS told him that he was about to enter F1. "I had been telling him he ought to get into F1 for two years so it was no surprise when it came.
"He is very astute. He has established himself with what will undoubtedly be a good engine. The biggest obstacle he faces is that he is doing something he has never done before and he's got to get it all right very quickly. He's got to sign the right drivers, the best designers and technicians, attract top-line sponsors and produce a competitive car from the start."
Tyrrell says he "only knows what I read in the newspapers" about the amount of money Stewart will have to find to fund this venture, "but $40m to $45m a year sounds about right for a top four team. It's not as much as Ferrari will spend; probably not as much as Williams; but about the same as Benetton and McLaren."
JYS has never made any secret of his respectful fondness for money ("I would say Jackie personifies the legend of the careful Scot: for him the emotional issues in racing were never allowed to come before matters of money," says John Surtees, himself World Champion in 1964 and Stewart's employer in 1966.) But even for one who has certainly amassed a personal fortune in millions, the prospect of managing a five-year budget amounting to a quarter of a billion dollars must be as daunting as it may be inviting.
Ford has been the key to JYS's fortunes for 30 years. When Jim Clark was killed in 1968, Stewart inherited more than the fervour for a Scottish driver that Clark had fomented. He also dropped straight into the driving seat for the Ford engines that Walter Hayes - who inspired Ford's Grand Prix involvement - had financed for Colin Chapman and Ken Tyrrell.
Capable and calculating, Stewart was an exceptionally efficient points accumulator as a driver rather than being an exhibitor of passion or flair. He would have been a model for Alain Prost who, with ambitions of his own for team ownership, will be carefully watching the progress of Stewart Grand Prix. JYS was in F1 for only eight years (1966-1973), winning 27 Grand Prix, and he terminated his career with irreversible finality the moment he had achieved his ambition of winning a third title.
For most of the next 20 years, until his son Paul entered racing, JYS made a career out of being Jackie. Lavishly retained by Ford as a consultant and representative, he also opened a clay-pigeon shooting centre at Gleneagles Hotel and became a resident presence on the A-list of celebrities for charity events, befriending royals at dinners and golf tournaments. His entry into racing at the end of the Eighties broadly coincided with his own decline as a fashionable and high-fee earning name. His entry into F1 follows after some years of success for Paul Stewart Racing in F3 and F3000, but immediately after the team had a blank year in 1995. "His choice might have been 'Up or Out'," says a motor racing veteran who knows him well. "With Jackie, there's only ever one way to go. It had to be up to F1."
In John Surtees' mind "there's no reason why anybody can't go out there and make a good show in F1 so long as they've got the money and the people right". Surtees and Tyrrell agree that the greatest interest in coming months will be to see who JYS will poach as his designers and drivers. "Nobody any good is available: they're all under contract," says Tyrrell. "But contracts get broken in F1 where the name of the game is money."
Money and power and will and talent have already been supplied in abundance to Stewart Grand Prix. Ford has said its five-year deal with JYS is "a far more integrated operation" than any they have previously entered and that the two organisations will work to integrate chassis development, aerodynamics and electronics.
Fifty-six is an advanced age at which to be taking on a demanding new departure in any career. To be entering team ownership in Formula 1 - which has a fair claim to be the most ruthlessly competitive and taxing sporting endeavour on earth - at such an age may be asking too much even of the energies and will of the pixie-like JYS. He was saying this week that he still feels like a 15-year-old. He may not be saying that in two years.Reuse content