Throwback Thursday: Jackie Stewarts Brave 1968 Nürburgring Victory
One of the most legendary drives and races in F1 History...
If we go back 51 years in time, we can see how much time has really changed. Not only in general, but it sports as well. Including on of the most legendary sports, Formula 1, and if we look at all the amazing drives and races, by Fangio, Senna, Clark, Lauda, Schumacher we get caught up in their amazing glory. But we always forget one of the most if not the most legendary race of all time. It was 1969 in Germany, the story of Sir Jackie Stewart's win on the Nürburgring Nordschleife defines absolute class, bravery and disbelief. Sir Jackie Stewart was already exceling as one of the best drivers of his time, and of the time. The Scot put on a astonishing show and race to his already legendary persona and powerful history. Surprising all with this incredulity exceptional race track when Sir Jackie won the German Grand Prix by four minutes at the ever so dangerous Nürburgring.
1968 German Grand Prix
A race that already sparked uneasy emotion before it started, an era that was not all full of glory. "It must have felt amazing to have raced in those golden years", but nothing was golden about them. With all these innocent lives taken, and these dangerous condition's with little to none safety measures taken, Formula 1 was the most dangerous sports ever. Yet this disaster was turned into one of the Sir Jackie Stewarts most memorable moments and races in F1. As the F1 legend showed what he has got on the distinguished and well known Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Treacherous weather was occurring throughout the whole weekend, we saw rain, and fog throughout it. The conditions were impossible to drive let alone race in, with thick fog and rain devouring Germany, the track was not any where in sight. But Stewart didn't let the weather get to him, the afternoon session was over, zilch, zero, nada, it didn't happen. During that loss of that session Jackie had to do six qualifying laps on Saturday's Qualifying, only six. And guess what? The conditions were even more horrifying then before, which meant Sir Jackie had to do even less laps on the non forgiving track, which have him less practice to try to get used to this insane place.
Lets not forgot a important component, this specific week Jackie was all-cleared from a fractured scaphoid that he had in his right arm, which sadly happened in a pre-season Formula 2 test. That didn't stop the Scot, he was pounding and flying and racing like never before. that takes huge guts, that takes a courageous man.
Unfortunately, nothing was looking up, everything was getting worse and worse by the second and by the lap. The weather conditions mixed with the track, made it too dangerous, wild and menacing to ever race on, things were so substandard on Saturday morning that there was even a talk and a rumor of a postponing the race until September, but once that idea and talk came up, the track finally cleared. They could see about 100 yards in front of them now, everything got a little bit more calmer, which reinstituted the race again.
Sir Jackie Stewart - Nürburgring
Jackie Stewart’s Ford Cosworth powered engine Tyrrell Matra was also the quickest and the fastest in this absolute horrible rainy session. The only man able to be beneath 10 minutes when at the third session on Sunday was Stewart. Which proved, predicted and foreshadowed more than we could have thought. Insane, is the only thing to describe this certain event.
Remember, the Scot did this with an injured hand, and with barley any protection. He didn't care, Jackie just wanted to race well, and whatever got in his way had to be taken off. Stewart had a steering damper to help his injured arm removed for the race because it interfered with sensing when the brakes were about to lock. If that's not fearlessness, then I don't know what is. The whole weekend was very nerve wracking, as people we getting nervous by each second. This track has caused triumph's, agony and distress, it had such a queasy feeling, deep down everyone knew something was off.
But this is 1968, the track didn't only cause this immense distress, there's many different components that added up to this skittish feeling. "The killer years" they would call it, the condition's and the little to no safety back then was a huge issue. Innocent drivers were getting killed almost every race. All the fires, crashes etc. became so common that it absolutely terrified driver's to even look at their own cars. And it happened, the worst of the worst occurred. On April 7th, The Legend, Jim Clark was killed in a Formula 2 race at Hockenheim, Germany. A punctured rear tire swerved his Team Lotus 48 into the trees after the first corner, causing fatal injuries.
The day was when Formula 1 lost own of their greatest champions...
The agony and the horror didn't seem to stop, one by one the driers would go. Insane and terrifying, are two words that can explain the absolute misery and destruction the sport and the drivers felt. Everyday they would wake up with a new problem and thought...if they will ever be able to make it to the next race.
After all the dejection occurred, Germany was next on the list to race. And let me tell you, this track isn't all sunshine and happiness. It was one of the most dangerous tracks at the time, with the fast corners and treacherous weather conditions, it made it almost impossible to race and master on.
August 4th, Germany 1968. This date is a tattoo in every Formula One fans mind. A date and a race that will never be forgotten in history.
Race day conditions were so unacceptable, poor and overall bad, that the drivers couldn't even see anything, the visibility was horrible. The rain, the fog kept adding up to the many problems. Even worse, The Scot also had a major disagreement and argument with Ken Tyrrell before the race, which caused even more stress to the already erupting volcano of issues.
When the chequered flag waved on Jackie Stewarts victory winning by over four minutes in terrifying conditions © Sutton Motorsport Images
With all the misery, distress, problems, and all the unlucky misfortunes. No one, neither Jackie would have expected this to be one of the best races and drives in his lifetime and in F1 history.
The 30 minute delayed race caused a very intriguing show, As Stewart lead most of it and was 58 seconds in front of Hill, Amon and Rindt. Stewart was in a league of his own, he was untouchable. He was one with his car. Not only was there already enough problems happening, Jackie had to deal with more. Causing such distress, but that stress never got to Jackie. Sir Jackie had to fight with a sticking throttle and falling oil pressure throughout the race as well. And almost sliding towards a marshal, due to a lock up, who thankfully dived to safety at the last moment. It was avoided, and all the issues made Jackie Stewart even stronger. Using them to his advantage to try and to work even harder.
Nothing, absolute nothing was getting in his way. There was absolutely not a thing and no doubt in any ones mind that could stop Jackie during this specific day and race. No one knew why, but it was just meant to be, there was a reason, and Stewart proved that.
As Sir Jackie Stewart won by a extraordinary and a massive gap of four minutes and three point two seconds. Defining all odds, on this mad weekend and race.
1968 German Grand Prix - © LAT Photographic
With surprise, somehow everything was lifted that day, the rain left, the clouds went off, the sunshine came out. As the curse and the horror was lifted from Formula 1 and everyone's shoulders that day, and as Sir Jackie Stewart gained the recognition he finally deserved.