Obituary: Ian Stewart (1929-2017)


Ian Stewart, former Ecurie Ecosse racing driver and Rob JennerBo’ness Hillclimb 2012: Rob Jenner meets one of his all time heroes – Ian Stewart

 

This morning we were met with the very sad news that former Ecurie Ecosse racing driver, Ian Stewart had passed away peacefully on 19th March 2017 at the age of 88.

David Stewart, a close friend of ours, phoned to let us know that his father had passed away and invite us to the thanksgiving service which will be held at Crieff Parish Church, on Friday 31st March.

Rob had been fortunate to meet Ian Stewart, one of his heroes, for the first time in 2012 at Bo’ness Hillclimb, but by the time I moved to Scotland, Ian was already very frail and although I met his son David several times, and asked after him, I never had the opportunity of meeting Ian himself.

We have, at home, a copy of the Ecurie Ecosse book by Eric Dymock which Rob purchased when it was first published, and asked David Stewart if his father would be willing to sign it. Not only did Ian sign the book for Rob, he also amended a couple of errors he found in the text – making it a truly unique copy!

Looking for a suitable picture of Ian Stewart to illustrate this obituary I came across The Henderson Collection, and the picture below of Ian Stewart in his Jaguar XK120 racing for Ecurie Ecosse at Turnberry in 1952, is taken from their website and is available to purchase as a print.

Ian Stewart racing a Jaguar XK120 at Turnberry in 1952

 

My partner, Rob Jenner, remembers with fondness that for him the highlight of the Bo’ness Revival Meeting of 2012 was when he met Ian Stewart for the first time.

Rob recalled that Ian had arrived at Bo’ness in a Lotus Evora, having just sold his Maserati!!! (and that comment was made before Rob even owned a Maserati, giving credence to his oft mentioned claim that he was Maserati smitten since childhood!)

Ian Stewart was the first ever Ecurie Ecosse driver for David Murray in 1951, with his XK120, and  first ran at Bo’ness in 1947. He was guest of honour at Bo’ness in 2012, taking his XK120 up the hill once more, at 83 years of age.

Former Ecurie Ecosse driver Ian Stewart taking the hill at Bo'ness in his Jaguar XK120

Another picture of Ian at Bo’ness in 2012, this time waiting for a run up the hill as a passenger in the course car, a Jaguar XK-RS

Former Ecurie Ecosse driver Ian Stewart at Bo'ness Hillclimb

 

The British Racing Drivers Club reported on Ian Stewart’s death with a brief history of his life and career, although in truth I think the former last paragraph (which I have extracted and added here in bold) sums it up completely.

Regarded by many as Scotland’s best racing driver before the advent of Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart, Ian Stewart’s place in the history of Scottish motor racing will always be secure as not only one of the founding members of Ecurie Ecosse but also as the man who chose the team’s iconic metallic blue livery and as the designer of the famous Ecurie Ecosse badge.

 

Very sad news from North of the Border is that one of the BRDC’s longest-serving Scottish Life Members, Ian Stewart, passed away on Sunday at the age of 88. Ian was elected to the Club as a Full Member in 1952 after a string of successes in his Jaguar C-type and, before that, his XK120.

Thwarted in his ambition to be a Spitfire pilot by the ending of World War 2 when he was still only 16 years of age, Ian saw National Service in the Gordon Highlanders before immersing himself in the family farming and whisky businesses. The owner of an MG TA, which he used in various Scottish hill climbs and sprints, Ian then acquired his first Jaguar, a SS100, in 1950 and began an association with the Coventry marque which lasted throughout his racing career.

The SS100 was succeeded first by a Healey Silverstone, with which Ian competed in his and Scotland’s first ever motor race meeting at Winfield in late 1950, securing a third and a fourth place in his two races. He was then able to acquire for 1951 one of the first Jaguar XK120s to be sold privately in Scotland. The car was race-prepared by the David Murray/Wilkie Wilkinson business at Merchiston Mews, Edinburgh and enjoyed so much success, winning just about every race for which it was entered during 1951, that Ian caught the eye of Stirling Moss who encouraged Jaguar’s racing manager ‘Lofty’ England to sanction the supply to Ian for 1952 of one of the new and much sought after XK120Cs. Now under the Ecurie Ecosse banner, first time out with the new car Ian won the Jersey International Road Race on the streets of St Helier and secured seven other victories, and not just at the Scottish circuits but also in Ireland at the Curragh road circuit, where he won the Wakefield Trophy, and at Castle Combe. One of Ian’s most notable successes came at the very end of the season at Charterhall when he held off Stirling Moss in Tommy Wisdom’s disc-braked C-type all the way to the chequered flag. Ian also drove a factory C-type at Le Mans and in the Goodwood 9 Hours, sharing with Peter Whitehead but had to retire on both occasions.

The following year, Ian again shared a factory C-type Jaguar at Le Mans with Peter Whitehead to finish fourth, the pair following this with third place in the Goodwood 9 Hours but it was with one of the Ecurie Ecosse C-types, shared with Roy Salvadori, that Ian enjoyed one of his finest achievements, finishing second overall in the Nurburgring 1000 Ks behind the Ferrari 375 MM Spider of reigning and former Formula 1 World Champions Alberto Ascari and Giuseppe Farina. Ian and Roy also won the Production Sports Car class by a considerable margin. Although Ian wanted to spend more time racing single seaters, his chances to do so were few and far between. Ecurie Ecosse ran both a Connaught A-type and a Cooper-Bristol T20 in which Ian had occasional outings, including the 1953 British Grand Prix in the Connaught which retired with engine maladies.

In his first race of 1954, the Buenos Aires 1000 Ks, sharing an Ecurie Ecosse C-type with Sir Jackie Stewart’s older brother, the late Jimmy Stewart to whom Ian was unrelated, he crashed while trying to avoid an errant back marker and broke his collar bone. Ian’s father had never been keen on his son’s racing and the accident enabled him to pressurise his son into calling time on a very promising career at the age of just 24.

 

The BRDC extends its sincerest condolences to Ian’s two sons Christian and David. A thanksgiving service will be held at Crieff Parish Church, Strathearn Terrace, Crieff, PH7 3AQ on Friday 31 March at 12.00pm.  It is requested that any donations, if desired, are made to The Lady Haig Poppy Factory.

 

To David and family, with deepest sympathy, for the loss of a great man.

Rob Jenner and Letitia Mace