Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sir Chicken

Innes Ireland gets a mention in today's Sunday Times interview with Jackie Stewart:

"The attitude of some drivers was even more curious. Innes Ireland, the first Scot to win an F1 grand prix, regarded Stewart as a “chicken”. The Belgian driver Jacky Ickx was another opposed to change. “Innes was a real brave guy,” Stewart recalls. “He’d had some terrible accidents and survived, but I think he regarded it as part of the culture. Jacky didn’t much like the ideal either . . . he wanted to uphold the purity of it."

As it happens Innes had a very high opinion of Stewart's ability as a racing driver, better than Clark and the nearest thing to Moss amongst all those that he had raced against. Jackie, of course, epitomised the new businesslike attitude to motor sport which Innes detested; Ireland tells the tale of a young compatriot, new to Formula One, who invites him out to dinner in order to ask his advice. Innes is flattered, only to find that the advice sought is not about racing but about contracts, sponsorship and the like.

Ireland's views on safety were pretty antediluvian, even for the 1960s, for example he described safety belts as hysterical and mocked the fact that Jackie had his blood-group stiched into his underpants. About one thing Innes was surely correct and that was the fact that so much of the culture, the mystique of Grand Prix racing was based on danger and death. Even in 2007 it is this romanticising of death which permeates the interview with Stewart.

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