“When I began commentating in 1948, attitudes towards the dangers of motorsport were very different…”
The front-engined cars were flimsy contraptions built with no regard to impactresistance. Drivers wore T-shirts, cotton trousers and linen skullcaps, their bodies jutted out of the car, they had no safety belts, circuits lacked barriers and run-off areas, and medical facilities were basic at best. “The throttle works both ways – if you can’t take the heat keep out of the kitchen,” was the general view.
In those circumstances, it was no surprise that there were frequent deaths. The great Sir Jackie Stewart reportedly lost more than 30 of his friends during his racing career, and it was he who had the courage to stand up and make a fuss about the appalling race-track carnage, having had a near-fatal accident of his own at Spa in 1966. “It’s a sport,” he kept saying, “we’re not meant to be killing ourselves.” Some regarded him as a whinging wimp, but he commanded far greater general respect as a caring world champion. He had the guts to stick to his guns and, by doing so, started to change attitudes.
In the late 1960s the autocratic boss of BRM, Louis Stanley, created a properly staffed mobile