Survived Near-fatal Crash A Champion
Stewart placed in the top six spots, earning championship points in his first six Grand Prix races. He qualified in pole position for a nonchampionship race at Goodwood, and beat World Champion John Surtees into second place in the International Silverstone Trophy race. He beat teammate Graham Hill to the finish line at the 1965 Italian Grand Prix at Monza. He finished the season third overall for the World Championship, an amazing finish for a rookie driver. The 1966 season started promisingly with a win for Stewart at Monaco, but technical problems kept him out of the competition for the remainder of the season, and he finished sixth in the World Championship. He almost won the Indianapolis 500 that year, his first, but mechanical failure took him out of the race with only eight laps to go.
When he entered F1, the sport was "horrendously dangerous," he is quoted as saying in Forbes. "There were no seat belts worn, the medical care was pathetic, and there was no firefighting equipment to speak of." Stewart witnessed the deaths of many friends and rivals during his racing career, Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt, and Francois Cevert among them. Like all F1 drivers of the time, Stewart was driving without a seatbelt when he crashed during the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps in 1966. He ran off the track while driving 165 mph in heavy rain, and proceeded to crash into a telephone pole and a shed before driving into a farmer's outbuilding. A ruptured fuel tank filled the cockpit with fuel, and could have ignited at the tiniest spark with Stewart trapped inside. He was extracted from what could easily have been a fatal crash, having suffered broken ribs and shoulder and rib injuries.
Stewart emerged from the experience a lifelong champion of safety reform who instituted countless changes in auto racing safety regulations. He was able to return to the driver's seat after a few weeks, and never again drove without a seatbelt, full-faced helmet, and fireproof racing suit. BRM head Louis Stanley backed Stewart's safety campaign to improve track and car standards and medical facilities. Track improvements in the name of safety that were unpopular with circuit owners have now become
the norm. "If I have any legacy to leave the sport I hope it will be seen to be in an area of safety," Stewart is quoted as saying on the Grand Prix Hall of Fame Web site, "because when I arrived in Grand Prix racing, socalled precautions and safety measures were diabolical."
- Jackie Stewart - Chronology
- Jackie Stewart - Put Down Gun To Get Behind Wheel
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