Jackie Stewart stands waiting under an umbrella (though we can’t see the canopy, it’s odds on that it is an umbrella!). He waits for 4 minutes 3.2 seconds to be precise, for second placed driver Graham Hill to finish the 1968 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring! This is the longest winning margin in modern F1 history. Of course usually when a driver finishes an F1 race, he does a slowing down lap and pulls into a designated area in the pits. In this case, as the circuit was 14.1 miles long, he would have had to have driven round for at least another 9 minutes 36 seconds, which was Jackie Stewart’s fastest lap of the 14 lap race! Such was the enormous length of the mighty Nurburgring, things were often done differently. Stewart having just crossed the finishing line and pulled over to the pits – for there was no pit wall separating it from the track then – he had time to climb out of the car, remove his helmet and peer down the straight to see who would emerge from the foggy murk and rain in second place! In fact, he had time to grab the umbrella and do a little dance whilst hollering ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ just like Gene Kelly in the film musical, as way of celebration!
The weather had been atrocious from the start of practice on Friday, and whether or not to start the race at all had been debated. After a 20 minute or so delay, the flag dropped and the cars wheel-spinned away in their 3-2-3 grid formation. Before the off, Stewart who had had major doubts about the whole affair, had to be encouraged to climb into his Matra-Ford by team boss Ken Tyrrell, to begin one of his and the sport’s best ever drives!
Starting from 6th position on the grid Stewart was 3rd by the first corner and led by the end of lap 1. Only 13 more to go! The 14 lap race took an enduring 2 hours 19 minutes to complete. Stewart had two advantages over his competitors – his car was fitted with the best wet weather hand-cut Dunlop tyres of the day, and he had special light weight fuel tanks. Stewart also had a disadvantage to his competitors – he was nursing a broken wrist sustained in an F2 crash at Jarama, Spain a few months previously. You can see his right hand in a plastic sleeve in the photo. I’d have to say that the disadvantage certainly leveled out against the advantages.
Despite the poor visibility and slippery conditions on the day, Stewart had stayed out of trouble splendidly and steered his Matra-Ford to a memorable victory. Jackie Stewart is not often mentioned as one of the true F1 greats, but he does have an impressive track record, and when compared to Michael Schumacher (statistically the most successful), he does have one more victory -27 from 99 starts. Also Stewart is not remembered for using any underhand tactics to achieve results! Perhaps if he’d continued racing beyond 1973, we would be here discussing more of his great drives. And I wouldn’t have minded that at all!
Photo credit: Unknown, but sourced from The Exciting World Of Jackie Stewart published by Collins.