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17 October 2014

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Formula One

Jackie Stewart world champion 1969

Jackie Stewart

© BBC

If racing truly is in the blood, then the Stewart family should have Castrol-quality liquid coursing through their veins.

The well-known motoring dynasty, which grew from a small family garage selling Jaguars to eventually owning their own team, gave Scotland - and indeed the world - one of its most instantly recognisable and respected sporting figures of the modern era.

Jackie Stewart, the three-times Formula One World Championship winner remains to this day one of Scotland's favourite sons after a swashbuckling career in what was once regarded as the most dangerous sport around.

His career nearly did not get beyond the first corner, however, as in 1966, a high-speed crash left him trapped in the cockpit of his 2-litre V8 engine BRM with petrol leaking dangerously for a full 25 minutes.

The amateurish nature of early F1 was clear as he was whisked away to sub-standard hospital facilities littered with cigarette butts – a far cry from the hi-tech facilities enjoyed by Michael Schumacher and co today.

The Dumbarton-born driver has often been on record expressing his regret at the waste of life across the sport, with a high proportion of his colleagues either dead or severely injured because of the lax attitude to safety throughout motor racing in the '60s and '70s.

Stewart, for all his achievements on the track, including the historic 1969 World Championship victory, would like to be remembered as one of the primary agitators for improvement in safety procedures and has claimed in the past that "if I have any legacy to leave the sport I hope it will be seen to be in the area of safety."

Because of all his sterling work in pushing the racing authorities to treat drivers as people rather than as expendable commodities, Stewart's legacy in Formula One is unique. His achievements have not
only altered the face of the sport itself, but have changed the entire outlook behind the scenes.

Jackie Stewart

© SCRAN

Stewart's older brother Jimmy was originally more affected by the racing bug and competed in the 1953 British Grand Prix driving for Ecurie Ecosse until he came off at Copse in dangerously wet conditions.

Jackie, after seeing his brother injured in the crash at Le Mans lost the backing of his parents and therefore turned his attentions to shooting instead. He showed a natural talent for the sport and narrowly missed out on making the 1960 Olympic target shooting team.

In the end, however, a customer of the family business, Barry Filer, convinced Stewart to test some of his cars, and during this time he was spotted by Ken Tyrrell, leader of the Formula Junior team.

Tyrrell offered the young Scotsman a place on the team after watching him better experienced Formula One driver Bruce McLaren's lap times regularly in the Cooper F3.

The rest, as they say, is history.

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