1964: JACKIE STEWART’S FIRST F3 TEST
So effortless did it appear – in and out of the cockpit – there surely can’t have been any doubt or heartache. In fact there was plenty, Jackie Stewart tells Paul Fearnly
Roy Golding had seen plenty of cars come and go during his two long stretches at Cooper’s, the second as its workshop manager. And like all good engineer-mechanics, he knew the score: if it looked right, it was right, and the new T72, Cooper’s 1964 Formula Three challenger, looked right: “It was low and neat no appurtenances, no extras like they have today, like side radiators.”
All it needed now was a small, neat, fast driver.
Jackie Stewart seemed to fit that description, but he himself was not so sure: “I never had any ambition to be a professional racing driver. My ideal would have been to be semi-pro, perhaps driving for John Coombs or Tom Sopwith’s Equipe Endeavour; I saw that as being the ultimate. I never saw myself as a professional, a real racer.”
Which is why, when Ken Tyrrell a big man and a big name in the sport rang JYS to ask him if he’d like to test the car at Goodwood, the answer was an I’ll-get-back-to you maybe.
“I phoned Jim Clark and asked him what I should do. He said that if I was serious about my racing I would have to drive single-seaters, and if I was to drive single-seaters that I should drive for Ken Tyrrell.”
Wise words – intently listened to.
His mind made up to take the plunge, Jackie had, of course, still to impress Tyrrell and, perhaps even more importantly, himself. A second off the pace, a moment’s disquiet with the car, and he might well have hightailed it back to Dumbarton, back to the family garage, back to his guaranteed seat at Ecurie Ecosse. But…
“… It was a beautifully balanced car, better than the F1 and F2 Coopers, as it turned out,” remembers Jackie. “It was a good feeling. I didn’t have a single moment with the car that day and was surprised when they brought me in after a few laps to tell me to take my time. I thought I was taking my time. I didn’t know how quickly I was going – it just felt natural.”
It must have felt supernatural to Bruce McLaren, the established star whose just-set benchmarks were being equalled with what seemed to be a minimum of fuss. As for John Cooper, he was doing backflips up at Madgwick. He sprinted back to the pits to tell Tyrrell something he already knew. Ken had a stopwatch, you see.
“It was only when I got out of the car that I realised I must have done quite well,” says Stewart. “There was a buzz about the place: Ken, John, and Robin McKay, the circuit manager, all seemed very excited. Indeed, Ken offered me the drive pretty much there and then.”
Offered him £10,000. But JYS was perhaps even more talented out of the car. The proviso that came with this “ginormous amount of money” was that Ken would take 10 per cent of his earnings for x number of years. When Jackie got back to him the next morning, he plumped instead for the £5 then-minimum legal tender for contract. One week later, he led his first F3 race by 14sec after just one lap and won £186. A rich vein had been struck.