Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stewart leaves no stone unturned

Sir Jackie Stewart has been a survivor, when many of his closest friends among the motor racing fraternity were not.

It has taken him a long time to commit the thoughts about his career to paper, and at times it must have been an emotional exercise to complete.

Young men with lifetimes ahead of them, crashed throughout the heydays of motor sport, but even from his earliest days as a champion grand prix driver, Stewart was unhappy with the lack of safety provisions on the world's motor racing circuit.

In but one of several eye-opening features of his recently released book Winning Is Not Everything, Stewart outlines the antagonism he struck, not only from race track owners and promoters but from within the driving ranks.

It took rare fortitude to keep up the battle but a whole new generation of drivers can thank Stewart and those few who supported his stance for the greater safety among grands prix in the modern era.

How typical that those who stood to profit most from the efforts of the drivers should show the greatest resistance to understanding the need for some effort to be made towards driver safety.

That Stewart showed the resilience to emerge from the controversial era with life and reputation intact is hardly surprising when this book is viewed in its entirety.

The first point Stewart makes is about his dyslexia, which went unobserved until his son was tested for it. Perhaps because he included it first, he makes it one of the most crucial aspects of his life.

The problem led to him suffering from not only his school classmates, but also from his teachers, when he was unable to read. Clearly it became a driving force as he sought to establish himself in the world, initially as a trapshooter who just failed to make Britain's 1960 Olympic Games team, but latterly as a driver.

His subsequent success and a mixture of lucky breaks and considered thinking saw him claim the world drivers' championship three times. He later became a successful team owner and a media figure, especially in United States coverage of motorsport, and businessman.

The tale he has provided, which also includes a DVD of career highlights, is an enthralling story, chockful of the sort of attention to detail that clearly marked his driving career, and anecdote and name-dropping that demonstrates an engaging personality.

Stewart's has clearly been a life fully lived, representing as it does a triumph over the odds which denied him many friends at a time in life when those friendships should be one of the most satisfying parts of his life.

But in taking the lessons from those losses and applying them to the sport that nurtured him, Stewart has created an example of selflessness and fortitude that exceeds his achievements on the track.

Any professional sportsman, or person who claims to have an understanding of sport, must surely benefit from reading this story of professionalism at the cutting edge of competition.

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