Jackie Stewart is in full flow, warming to his theme. The thrice world champion has always been known as an astute businessman in his own right, but he’s quite happy to allow others the benefit of his considerable acumen. Perched in the back of the Paul Stewart Racing motorhome at Spa, his mind is on The Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust, a scheme he piloted in February 1987.
“The way I see it,” says Jackie, “there’s a lot of people making a good living out of this business, when you look at the drivers and engineers. If a serious pit lane accident was to occur, however, mechanics might not be able to cope with the resultant financial hardship. That’s what this fund is for. If we needed to hire a ‘plane, for instance, or perhaps to pay for the victim’s family to travel out to see them.
“Look at Riccardo Patrese’s accident in Estoril last year. He wasn’t that far off going over the pit wall. If something terrible like that was to happen, the consequences might absorb the entire fund,” which, thanks to shrewd investment of money raised at a series of occasional events dating back to 1986 and generous contributions from private donors, now stands at over £1M. “In such circumstances, no problem. That’s what the money’s there for. With the re-introduction of refuelling, the mechanics’ lot isn’t going to get any safer.” The next fund-raising event takes place at Silverstone on October 6, when 300 members of the public will be able to purchase tickets entitling them to rides around the circuit with some of the world’s leading racing drivers in a wide variety of road cars.
“The circuit, the car manufacturers and all the drivers are handing over their facilities, their products and their time for free,” says the appreciative Stewart, who will be handling some of the chauffeuring duties himself, alongside the likes of Damon Hill, JJ Lehto, Martin Brundle, Mark Blundell, Derek Warwick, Christian Fittipaldi, Michael Schumacher, Julian Bailey, Johnny Herbert, Gil de Ferran, Andrea de Cesaris, John Cleland, Kelvin Burt, John Watson, David Brabham and David CouIthard.
In addition, Ayrton Senna has put up a trophy to be presented to the winner of a Formula Finesse competition, in which Stewart assesses entrants’ smoothness at the wheel.
Silverstone is the year’s feature event for the Trust. and Stewart intends to introduce such fund-raising ventures on an annual basis, rather than bi-ennial, as has previously been the case.
Tickets are priced at £120 each, and will be allocated strictly on a first-come, firstserved basis. “We hope,” says Stewart, “to raise at least £60,000 on the day.” Applicants should contact Angela Buckland, c/o The Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust, Lower Mill, Kingston Road, Ewell, Surrey KT17 2AE: telephone 081 786 7365; fax 081 393 2192.
Participants must be over 16 years old.