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."

shares
comments
Schumacher: Don't Write Us Off
Previous article

Schumacher: Don't Write Us Off

Next article

Trulli Reveals Engine Concerns

Trulli Reveals Engine Concerns
Load comments
How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations Plus

How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations

OPINION: The pressure is firmly on Red Bull and Mercedes as Formula 1 2021 embarks on its final double-header. How the respective teams deal with that will be a crucial factor in deciding the outcome of the drivers' and constructors' championships, as Autosport's technical consultant and ex-McLaren F1 engineer explains

Why Ferrari is sure its long-term Leclerc investment will be vindicated Plus

Why Ferrari is sure its long-term Leclerc investment will be vindicated

Humble yet blisteringly quick, Charles Leclerc is the driver Ferrari sees as its next
 world champion, and a rightful heir to the greats of Ferrari’s past – even though, by the team’s own admission, he’s not the finished article yet. Here's why it is confident that the 24-year-old can be the man to end a drought stretching back to 2008

Formula 1
Nov 30, 2021
The downside to F1's show and tell proposal Plus

The downside to F1's show and tell proposal

Technology lies at the heart of the F1 story and it fascinates fans, which is why the commercial rights holder plans to compel teams to show more of their ‘secrets’. STUART CODLING fears this will encourage techno-quackery…

Formula 1
Nov 29, 2021
How getting sacked gave Mercedes F1’s tech wizard lasting benefits Plus

How getting sacked gave Mercedes F1’s tech wizard lasting benefits

He’s had a hand in world championship-winning Formula 1 cars for Benetton, Renault and Mercedes, and was also a cog in the Schumacher-Ferrari axis. Having recently ‘moved upstairs’ as Mercedes chief technical officer, James Allison tells STUART CODLING about his career path and why being axed by Benetton was one of the best things that ever happened to him

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2021
The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback Plus

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback

It’s easy to look at
 Robert Kubica’s second Formula 1 career and feel a sense of sadness that he didn’t reach the heights for which he seemed destined. But as BEN ANDERSON discovered, performance and results are almost meaningless in this context – something more fundamental and incredible happened…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2021
The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver the goods for McLaren  Plus

The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver the goods for McLaren 

From being lapped by his own team-mate in Monaco to winning at Monza, it’s been a tumultuous first season at McLaren for Daniel Ricciardo. But, as he tells STUART CODLING, there’s more to the story of his turnaround than having a lovely summer holiday during Formula 1's summer break...

Formula 1
Nov 26, 2021
The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title Plus

The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title

As the battle continues to rage over the F1 2021 drivers' championship, teams up and down the grid are turning their attentions to the prize money attributed to each position in the constructors' standings. But F1's sliding scale rules governing windtunnel and CFD use will soften the blow for those who miss out on the top places

Formula 1
Nov 25, 2021
The invisible enemy that’s made Hamilton’s title charge tougher Plus

The invisible enemy that’s made Hamilton’s title charge tougher

After winning his past few Formula 1 titles at a canter, Lewis Hamilton currently trails Max Verstappen by eight points heading into the final double-header of 2021. Although Red Bull has been his biggest on-track challenge, Hamilton feels that he has just as much to grapple with away from the circuit

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2021