Ken Tyrrell outlines some potential pitfalls ahead for the Stewart-Ford dream team
They once formed a sporting partnership to rival the likes of Lillee and Thomson, Torvill and Dean, or Clough and Taylor. Three times in five years Ken Tyrrell and Jackie Stewart proved their combination to be the best in the motorsport world. Two decades on, they are still friends. Soon they will be rivals, too.
The announcement that Stewart Grand Prix will enter Formula One at the end of the season amounted to an unprecedented show of faith by the Ford Motor Company, which has entrusted Jackie with a five-year deal. Stewart holds something of a talismanic quality for the manufacturer with which he won all three of his world titles. But whilst nobody disputes the Scot’s ability as a racer with 27 wins from just 99 starts his strike rate is surpassed only by Fangio, Ascari and Clark does that necessarily point to him being successful as a team owner?
“There’s no reason why a good driver Should not be a good team owner, but it certainly doesn’t always follow,” says Ken Tyrrell. “It depends whether the driver has the sort of mentality required to run what is really quite a normal business.
“The vast majority of racing drivers want to get out of the business altogether when they stop driving. Many of them never ever go to see another race: if they’re not doing it, they’re not interested. I think lack Brabham was a case in point he hated not driving. I remember seeing him more nervous on a pit wall before a Grand Prix than ever he was when he was a driver. In Jack’s case he just didn’t like having to retire, he didn’t want to he liked driving racing cars.
“It was very similar with Graham [Hill] as well. It wasn’t until he watched Tony Brise that he had a good enough reason to retire; then he had someone to look after and encourage. There’s nothing wrong with loving driving, but it’s not necessarily the best mind-set to be a team owner.
” Having raced in Formula Three and Formula Two, Tyrrell immediately found his niche as a team owner. A successful one at that. But he contends that it might have been the wrong move for Stewart to have followed in his footsteps when he quit the cockpit at the end of the ’73 season.
“My situation is different from Jackie’s in that I was never a Grand Prix driver. I wasn’t satisfied with my efforts and I loaned my Formula Two car to a young driver called Michael Taylor, who raced for me at Aintree. He performed so much better than I did that all of a sudden I had found my slot: running a team is what I needed to be doing and that gave me more satisfaction than driving. In Jackie’s case it’s not like that. He was the best driver in the world in three separate years. “For him it might be better to come back to the sport rather than just stepping out of the cockpit one day and running a team the next. Jackie did exactly the right thing: he retired at the right time, at the top, and he never regretted it.
“I think he’s come back almost reluctantly. When Paul started racing he wanted him to have the best opportunity he could, and the best way to do that was to have his own team. He knows now that he can run a good team, and I think that with only 22 cars on the grid, and no chance of prequalifying, the time is right to move up.”
Rather than leaving him out of touch, Tyrrell argues that two decades have rendered Stewart better equipped to cope with running a team at the pinnacle of motorsport. “I think Jackie has been around the world so many times, and done enough work for major companies, to know that if you are going to run a business you’ve got to do it properly. Paul Stewart Racing has been a very well-run company, as well as successful on the racetrack. That shows Jackie has learnt how to run a business. And, like it or not, that’s what Formula One is: a business.”
Of the last three teams to enter Formula One, Simtek and Pacific have gone under, while Ford only just remains afloat. So what are the major dangers awaiting anyone who graduates to the top flight?
“We’ve been shown how difficult it is by the new teams that have come in recently, though it’s also true to say that those teams have come in relatively under-funded,” he acknowledges. “I don’t think Jackie will have a problem with funding. His name will, quite rightly, carry a lot of weight.
“As far as I can see, there is only one problem facing the new team but it’s an enormous one. Stewart-Ford has to design and manufacture a car, which they’ve never been involved in before. It is a major obstacle for anyone coming into Formula One.
“To some extent you can go out and buy the people to do it, but you can’t buy the team of people. And it’s a group which designs and manufactures a car. Even when you have been doing it for years you are still learning all the time, so you can imagine that when you’re going in at the deep end, for the first time, it is very difficult.”
Tyrrell first took the plunge itself in 1970, at which point the Matra project had been halted and March’s 701 had become outclassed by the Lotus 72.
“Jackie had won in Spain, but only because other people fell out, and it was clear we had to do something,” recalls Ken.
After all. Jackie had the opportunity to race for other teams but knew he had to stay with the Cosworth engine, because that was the engine for the future. That left us with a serious problem. The only way out looked to be designing our own car, so we gave it a try!”
On the evidence of a non-championship race at OuIton Park, Derek Gardner’s 001 was debuted in Canada and Stewart led by half a lap when a front stub axle broke. In America he was also leading, only to be sidelined by an oil leak.
Tyrrell’s success would appear to make a mockery of his own argument, for the team’s own car won the championship in 1971, its first full season.
“Perhaps it was easier to win championships in those days,” he ponders with a chuckle. “All we had to do was beat Colin [Chapman] really!
“Okay, it was difficult, but we knew what we had to do was manufacture a car that was as competitive as we knew how and we didn’t know very much about that but the most important thing was that it had to be reliable.
We had the best driver in the world racing for us, and if only we could make the car reliable we knew there was a good chance we could win a Grand Prix. It’s not like that now. It’s not as easy as that, because it’s such a high tech business.”
Twenty-two years after he drove his cars, Stewart remains close to Tyrrell, godfather to one of his sons. “He’s one of the best men in the whole damn world.” responds Jackie when asked about their relationship.
That friendship notwithstanding, Tyrrell will offer advice only if it is requested. “I think the last person Jackie would come to for advice would be me,” he grins, “because I think he will want to do it himself, his own way. I have told him already I will help him with what goes on inside F1, the management around the Concorde Agreement, the travel, things like that, and I will always be available to him. Besides, we’ve always tried to help new teams. We had help when we came in.”
Having upped the ante in both Formula Vauxhall and Formula three with Paul Stewart racing, Jackie maintains that Stewart Grand Prix must attain new off-track standards in Formula One.
“There are always areas which need further exploitation,” accepts Tyrrell. “Everyone is working out new ways of approaching the business of sponsorship in Formula One, and how best we can service our drivers. That’s an area Jackie is particularly strong in. Psychology is playing an increasingly important part in sports, and in the future will play an even bigger part with racing drivers. It’s not just a question of being physically fit you need to be right frame of mind, too.
“As far as things go on the track. I think Jackie’s right when he says that one point the team’s first year would be a success. It’s going to take two or three years to begin to get it all sorted. He’s set himself a five year term, and he knows it will take that long to start winning. But if anyone can do it, Jackie’s got the kind of character to make it work. He won’t give up.”
Win or lose, Stewart should inject a welcome dose of integrity to a sport which is so often tainted by controversy. “Jackie drove for me for 10 continuous seasons.” says Tyrrell. “In all of those years, oniy in the first season did he have a contract… You hear about all the wrangling over whether Herbert had access to Schumacher’s telemetry last year, Jackie used to tell Francois [Cevert] everything. There was no telemetry then, of course, but he really took him under his wing. Even though it meant that, on some occasions, Francois was actually quicker late in the season. He’s a man who is stirred by his principles.”
No more so than in his crusade to improve safety.
“I think it made him a target for a great deal of abuse from circuit owners, administrators and, to some extent, drivers as well.” reflects Tyrrell. “There was one particular occasion I remember, at the Nurburgring, where Elf had laid on two coaches to take journalists around the circuit. Francois was in one, Jackie the other. I recall Jackie stopping at one spot and saying, ‘Here we’re doing 170mph. and there’s no guardrail. lust look over there … ‘ and he made them all get out of the coach and look over the edge of the track at a 100-foot drop.
“As a driver he would grind away at someone like Jochen Rindt who was a great friend as well as rival with his sheer consistency. Lap after lap he would do exactly the same time. That’s what it took to be world champion. Off the track he would gradually wear the press down. too, on matters like safety. He stood by his principles. and it needed to be done.”
Having bowed out at the very top of F1, Stewart is well-aware that anything less than returning to that summit second time around will be construed as failure.
“For sure if the project was to fail then he will have risked his reputation,” admits Tyrrell, “but that’s not the sort of challenge that Jackie would turn down! He’s thought about this very carefully, no question about that. He’s the sort of person who is pre pared to put himself on the line . . M S