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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: SIR JACKIE STEWART JUNE 17TH, 2001
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: It's more than a quarter of a century since Jackie Stewart hung up his helmet, if that's the right metaphor. But with a record of three World Motor Racing Championships he's still Britain's most successful Formula 1 driver ever. He was the only sportsman to be knighted in yesterday's Birthday Honours and we'll be talking to him after this from Caroline Thomsett.
DAVID FROST: Jackie, Sir Jackie welcome. You said this is really the greatest, greatest thrill, greater than winning a World Championship?
JACKIE STEWART: I think so because, as I think I've said, when you win a race, when you win a championship any big moment in your life is usually quite short and when you're knighted by Her Majesty and the government it means that it's something that stays with you for the rest of your life. So from that point of view I think it's much deeper and it's also a recognition of what you hopefully have done for the country as well as yourself.
DAVID FROST: And talking of staying with you for life, how is Lady Stewart taking the news?
JACKIE STEWART: The lovely Helen is in good form, I suspect watching this right now as a matter of fact and we're going to go and see some tennis this afternoon.
DAVID FROST: Oh right.
JACKIE STEWART: I hope.
DAVID FROST: With luck at the Stella Artois. Now the thing mentioned there which makes your story so inspiring is that you did have a really tough time, didn't you, as a child, you didn't realise you had dyslexia and you were treated badly?
JACKIE STEWART: In those days it wasn't¿
DAVID FROST: Nobody knew¿
JACKIE STEWART: No nobody knew about it and it was, it was just something, you were dumb, stupid or thick and I qualified for all three and left school at the age of 15 with great relief to both school and Stewart I have to say, it was a terrible time and the people today just simply do not understand the pain, the suffering, the wall that's built in front of them for very young children because the children don't understand why they're so poor at things where others, their peers who are very cruel generally, unconsciously perhaps but nevertheless are, the pain and suffering that they have to go through, the mental anguish, it really can affect them long term. I was very lucky, I found sport or sport found me.
DAVID FROST: So, so that in fact what, that gave you your sense that there was something you could do better than other people, that was shooting wasn't it? Rather than racing?
JACKIE STEWART: Anything¿well it was but it was just something, anything that I could do that I was going to get praise instead of ridicule for and shooting was first, clay pigeon shooting and I shot for Scotland and then for Britain and then when I retired from that luckily motor racing came along and because that's such a, a business-related sport it gave me a leg up if you like, to do the things that turned out to be good for me in later years, even after I had retired as a driver.
DAVID FROST: And how, how old were you when you actually found out what had been the cause of the problem?
JACKIE STEWART: Forty-two.
DAVID FROST: Really?
JACKIE STEWART: Yeah when Paul and Mark went to, to school, Mark first of all was identified with having a learning problem and they didn't want him to stay at the school. I said that's ridiculous I had the same sort of trouble, there's nothing wrong with Mark he's fine. And we took Mark to London, to here, and he was tested by an eminent professor of learning difficulties, identified it and I said what's dyslexia, I don't know what that is, look he's fine and I was the same at school. Why don't you get tested? At 42 - I think I was almost saved from drowning really because I still thought that I was pretty stupid, I mean I knew I can do certain things better than some people but I thought I was intellectually stupid and therefore was very shy about anything to do with, I mean I can't read or write correctly to this day. I don't care now but I did when I was very young, I was very embarrassed.
DAVID FROST: That's a fantastic story and today, thank God, as you said, it is diagnosed early and¿some of our greatest¿
JACKIE STEWART: Much better but not over yet David.
DAVID FROST: No?
JACKIE STEWART: Not all, not educators, not all educators understand it fully.
DAVID FROST: And what about, who would you say was the greatest driver that you competed against?
JACKIE STEWART: Oh unquestionably Jim Clark.
DAVID FROST: Right.
JACKIE STEWART: I mean I hero-worshipped Fangio but Jim Clark was the best racing driver I ever raced against, he was smooth, he was clean, he was honest, he was courteous, he was dignified, on the track, I mean and off the track but a master.
DAVID FROST: A master and you actually started your crusade about safety while you were still driving, you continued it later but you organised a protest or two on various tracks?
JACKIE STEWART: Yes because it was hideous then and people had only been seen as sort of gladiators and if you were a hero on the track you shouldn't be talking about safety and if the, if the kitchen was too hot then why shouldn't you leave. It was silly, there was unprotected areas, there were launching pads really instead of barriers, telegraph poles and trees, general public exposed too, so I had a bit of an accident myself and following the realisation, because most people think it's always going to be somebody else, even by road accident standards, but when it happens to you you then suddenly understand. So I then went into a big campaign, luckily I was successful at that time as a driver and as a World Champion or about to be World Champion and then several times I was able to, to push it and shove it and the media supported that very well, not the aficionados they were quite defensive of the sport.
DAVID FROST: And the circuit owners were a bit defensive?
JACKIE STEWART: Because it was costing money but it certainly has changed enormously and now we are safer than mountain climbing, certainly than boxing or rugby or fishing actually. There's more people drown from fishing than drive racing cars so, so it's now a very safe sport and I'm glad to see it in such condition.
DAVID FROST: And in fact, probably several times safer than when you were driving?
JACKIE STEWART: Oh yes, in those days if you raced for five years as a Grand Prix driver there was a two out of three chance you were going to die and that's not a good batting average at all.
DAVID FROST: That's terrible, I, I've got a photo at home of the Lords Taverners match in the '60s against a British Motor Racing drivers team, you know and it's terrible, it's terrible a few years later how, how few of them were, it was two out of three...
JACKIE STEWART: Yes absolutely, it was a horrible...
DAVID FROST: And today, is Michael Schumacher of the same standard, say, as Jim Clark?
JACKIE STEWART: Yes he is, all you can do is be the best of your time, you can only be the best in your era, there's no point of saying so-and-so was better than so-and-so of years gone by because that's just not the case, you just have to be the dominant factor at that time and that window of history if you like and he is it for the time being. I hope David Coulthard, for example, will surpass that and wave the flag for our country but right now Schumacher's the man.
DAVID FROST: Well it's a joy to talk to you Jackie, how, how is Paul?
JACKIE STEWART: Paul's very well, he's, he's in remission on his cancer, he goes back to the Mayo Clinic in ten days time for check ups again and we just hope and pray that, that it'll stay in remissions. But he's being well-cared for and he's done very well himself.
DAVID FROST: Yeah, well give him our best.
JACKIE STEWART: Certainly will thank you.
DAVID FROST: Jackie Stewart, Sir Jackie Stewart, a popular award indeed.
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