Stewart Fights Bitter BRDC Battle

Jackie Stewart has seen friends killed at race tracks and received death threats for his campaigning efforts to improve Formula One safety

Stewart Fights Bitter BRDC Battle

He left school at 15, considered stupid because of undiagnosed dyslexia.

Yet in all his remarkable life, the three times World Champion says he has never had to face a situation quite like the one which comes to a head at Silverstone circuit on Thursday.

An extraordinary general meeting of the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) has been called for a vote that could oust the 65-year-old Scot as president and board member.

On the face of it the dispute might appear little more than a parochial dispute, a clash of egos among the tie-and-blazer brigade.

Stewart, who became president in 2000 after being asked by his dying Formula One mentor Ken Tyrrell to take the job, disagrees.

"There was a campaign started which has been totally aimed at, as I see it, my credibility and my integrity," he told reporters gathered at his house set in acres of rolling countryside last week.

"A very vicious campaign that started off with only two or three people but was networked on to a level which has grown to be extraordinary...The misinformation and disinformation has been colossal."

Grand Prix

"My motor racing fight for safety was a tough one, tough because organisers and track owners didn't want to spend money and the racetracks were a disaster," said Stewart, open scrapbooks on a nearby table testifying to a career always in the limelight.

"They were death traps, we were losing people every month. To move that around was big, I was very unpopular on that. And that was vicious.

"I had death threats, I had everything on that.

"(But) this is as severe as I've ever had in my professional life as a sportsman or a businessman," he added. "I've never experienced anything like this happening."

Thursday's meeting marks the closing stages of a dispute that flared up last year during on-off negotiations with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone to secure the future of the British Grand Prix at BRDC-owned Silverstone.

Stewart, who has clashed with Ecclestone over the years, wanted a three-year deal while the then BRDC chairman Ray Bellm concluded a five-year one.

Shortly afterwards, despite Bellm being lauded for having saved a race whose future looked doomed at one point, the chairman was dismissed.

That triggered what the entrepreneur sees as a 'Ukrainian-style revolt' among the club's rank-and-file for Stewart to be removed from the decision-making part of the business.

Bellm is not seeking reinstatement but believes Stewart should leave the board and become more of an ambassadorial president -- something the Scot says he will not do.

Bellm says the BRDC, which boasts of being the world's most prestigious motor racing club, is run 'too much like a secret society' rather than a modern business.

Bad Blood

Letters released by Stewart showed the extent of bad blood flowing through the veins of an exclusive private club founded in 1928 when the 'Bentley Boys' were dominant at Le Mans.

One, a member for more than 50 years, said that he was saddened to see the club descending into a "cauldron of spite and abuse".

Robin Herd, founder of the March Formula One team in the 1970s, denounced "poisonous half-wits" while Frank Williams, Stirling Moss, Martin Brundle and Australian former champion Jack Brabham all urged members to support Stewart.

South African Jody Scheckter, world champion for Ferrari in 1979, said he had been shocked by the attacks on Stewart.

"On my part, I cannot see the negative in the club being represented by a self-made, three times world champion, former grand prix team owner who has always demonstrated the highest level of integrity," he added.

When the BRDC was founded, its aims included the promotion of motor sport and the extension of hospitality to racing drivers from overseas.

It took over the lease of Silverstone, a former World War Two airfield, in 1952 and bought the freehold from the government in 1971.

"The BRDC is unique in the world, it's the only racing drivers' club in the world that owns its own grand prix circuit. it's an amazing story," said Stewart.

"It's very important for me. The easiest thing for me to do would be to walk away from this, turn my back on it.

"But I wasn't about to walk away with the bully-boy tactics being played and being attacked in a very unfair fashion that threatens my integrity."

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