#27 Hall of Fame: Jody Scheckter

2021-03-22 00:00

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#27 Hall of Fame: Jody Scheckter

Jody David Scheckter was born in East London, South Africa, on January 29, 1950, to Lithuanian parents of Jewish origin. Jody started working from an


Jody David Scheckter was born in East London, South Africa, on January 29, 1950, to Lithuanian parents of Jewish origin. Jody started working from an early age in his father's Renault dealership, a place that allowed him to learn to drive from an early age. Legend has it that when Jody is still very young, his father's garage is used by Ferrari to keep the cars that were to participate in the Grand Prix. Scheckter is just under twenty and given the Ferratis, he thinks it is absurd to stay in South Africa if there are cars like those to drive somewhere in the world.


Thus, despite his work as an apprentice, Jody began his studies at Selborne College and at the same time he dedicated himself first to motorcycling and then to motor racing, taking part in some races with sedan cars. The first races are not pleasant for the South African, as Jody is often disqualified for dangerous driving, due to his too impetuous style. But with the passing of the races, the young South African manages to control the excessive aggression on the track and consequently the first important results arrive, subsequently succeeding in establishing himself as Formula Ford National Champion in 1970.


This title allows the South African to obtain a scholarship and to be able to move to Great Britain, where he continues his automotive career. Arriving over the Channel, Scheckter took part in British Formula 3 and finished third in the Lombard North standings. But despite this further statement, and despite the fact that he was recognized as a remarkably talented driver, many observers are hesitant in wanting to race Jody with more important cars, again because of the too aggressive and sometimes reckless driving. The South African, however, manages to hit the McLaren management, who offers him a contract to compete in European Formula 2 in 1972: Jody gets only one victory at Silverstone, but this is enough for the British team to decide to make the South African driver debut in Formula One, on the occasion of the United States Grand Prix, a race that Scheckter finished in ninth place:


"I signed a contract with McLaren. Three thousand pounds. A few weeks later Montezemolo arrived, Ferrari sent him to tell me: We'll give you sixty thousand pounds if you come by. But I had made another commitment. Years later, he called me Ferrari directly. interview, I was very excited. The room was all dark with white furniture, outside there were the bodyguards. Not even bye he said to me: How much money do you want? I was perplexed, then I gave him an answer that I am still proud of today: I'm too young to talk about money. But nothing came of it. I ended up in the famous six-wheeled Tyrrell. Funny but it always broke down. One day I burst into the pits and exclaimed: Man, this car breaks down so often I can't concentrate".


In 1973 Scheckter won Formula 5000 at his debut and participated in five Formula 1 races, again with McLaren and alongside Hulme, who was his mentor. Jody is ready and with the English team he often stands out among the top positions, even if he never manages to realize the result due to the too much impetuosity that accompanies him from the first races of his career. The South African is in fact the protagonist of many collisions, one above all that with Emerson Fittipaldi in the French Grand Prix, an occasion in which the two accuse each other. Two weeks later, in the British Grand Prix, a spin by Jody causes a chain accident that puts an end to Andrea De Adamich's career, with fractures in his right ankle:


"You exaggerated at the end of the first lap and went into a spin. I immediately understood what was going to happen...a dozen cars were about to overwhelm me in full, at full speed. I raised my hands from the wheel. Hoping they would see me better and avoid me. But there was nothing to be done. They took me in full, more or less all the cars on the grid. The video is on youtube, and I'm still scared when it is. I look. Then as soon as I realized I had survived I started running: I had done enormous damage and there were a lot of people in the other teams who wanted to kill me".


Following all this, under pressure from the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, McLaren knocked the South African out of the team until the Canadian Grand Prix, when he collided with Francois Cévert's Tyrrell, who attacked him furiously. Too many contacts convince McLaren to terminate the contract with Jody, despite the fact that he still has one year on his contract. For the South African it seems over, but Ken Tyrrell offers him a contract as a second driver to replace Jackie Stewart, who would have retired at the end of the season.


On the occasion of the United States Grand Prix, one of the most inexplicable accidents in Formula One is staged at Watkins Glen, in which Francois Cévert himself disappears. In fact, trusting in the new chassis, Cévert launches his car in search of the best time, but arrived at them, in the initial part of the track, the car does not bend and crashes at over 200 km/h against the nearby metal barriers. The first to arrive are Stewart, Scheckter, and his friend Josè Carlos Pace, who cannot help but attest to his disappearance, after seeing the body stuck between the sheets of the car broken in two:


"It's curious but I don't remember what I saw that day. I think back to that scene, I stop, I go to the car, the battery sparking, the smoke, I see something but I don't remember what, then I turn around and get up. hands to say it's over. I think I've seen her body but my mind has erased those frames. But that was certainly the time I really realized that I could die too. I had never seen a man die and now I saw him clearly, and he was a friend of mine, one close to me. But that wasn't what made me slow down, to make me change my driving style: when you are in the car with the visor down you only think about winning. No, I changed only because I knew it was the only way to win".


The Frenchman's accident upsets the whole world of Formula One, which now wonders what could have happened; some support the theory of a driver's illness resulting from entering the track immediately after a fit of vomiting, while others blame the injury to his right ankle. Team mate Stewart, on the other hand, claims from the outset that the fault was too much impetuosity of the Frenchman. In fact, the Scotsman had repeatedly advised him not to tackle them in third gear because, despite the advantage of a car ready to enter a corner, he was dealing with a car that was very nervous and difficult to control in the event of an accident. claiming that he had the same problem, but that facing it in fourth gear the car was more docile.


This thesis will be confirmed by Niki Lauda years later, in his book Me and the Race, speaking of an insidious depression on the asphalt on which Francois would have passed. Following this incident, Jody takes over the ranks of first driving for the 1974 season and is considered by all - public and insiders - as an outsider to the title of champion. Although everyone adds that the South African could hardly have fought for the laurel if he had continued to make the same mistakes as the previous year.


Ken Tyrrell, for his part, tries to smooth out the aggressive behavior of the South African driver, as well as to avoid making the usual mistakes during the races, especially to avert another tragedy like the one that happened in the previous year. With the Tyrrell 007 Jody achieves his first positive results, including a third place in Belgium and a second place in Monaco, while obtaining his first victory in the following race in Sweden, completing a row of three consecutive podium races. The South African driver will then take another victory in Great Britain and a second place in Germany, finishing the season in third place in the drivers' classification. In 1975 and 1976 Jody remained at Tyrrell, with whom he won the South African Grand Prix in the first year, and the victories in Sweden in the second.


In 1977 and 1978 the South African marries Wolf: during the first year, Jody achieves excellent results, managing to win in the Netherlands, Monaco and Canada, finishing second in the world championship, while 1978 will instead be a year lacking in results, ended without any victory. Meanwhile, as early as 1977 Ferrari tried to hire Jody, but for the second time an agreement was not found. However, the founder of the homonymous team does not give up, and books the South African driver for the following year: in Monte Carlo Scheckter signs the contract in secret. Jody will later say he accepted for a very simple reason: he wanted to win the Formula 1 World Championship. The South African was 28 and had little time to lose. The only team that could guarantee this result due to its seriousness, ability, organization and prestige was Ferrari:


"Ferrari wanted to replace Reutemann, I was at Wolf. He came to me and said: I want to hire you. We agreed immediately, that time".


Scheckter arrives in Maranello with the reputation of an inveterate car breaker, a skilled trainer, a heavy foot in reckless overtaking, but above all in the art of leaning on other cars, of elbowing with tires to find millimeter gaps in which to pass. Despite this nomination, in 1979 Jody not only managed to compete in the best season of his career, but he did so by driving his car with enormous intelligence, exploiting every single point finish in his favor. The 1979 World Championship, which initially includes sixteen games, is divided into two groups of eight games each, of which only the four best results per group are valid. At the first appointment in Argentina, Ferrari, which presented the new 312 T4 in Maranello on January 15, 1979, prefers to wear the old 312 T3s, updated with the presence of side skirts. The debut in Ferrari is not the best for the South African driver.


At the start, at the Cervo curve, John Watson touches the car of Jody Scheckter, which begins to pirouette along the track, involving the oncoming cars of Patrick Tambay, Mario Andretti, Didier Pironi, Arturo Merzario and Nelson Piquet, which hit that of the South African. Piquet, helped to get out of the car by Arturo Merzario, is transferred to the hospital, where he is found to have fractured his left ankle, while Scheckter suffers from a dislocated wrist, so much so that he is forbidden to continue the Grand Prix, which in the in the meantime it was interrupted and would be resumed on the original distance.


At the next meeting in Brazil, Ferrari denounced tire problems, so much so that the South African, who started sixth, was unable to fight for the top positions and indeed lost some due to a pit stop, which was necessary for the tire change. Only in the thirty-sixth lap the South African manages to get back competitive, overtaking Jochen Mass. But for the second time in a row, Jacques Laffite crosses the finish line first in front of his teammate Patrick Depailler, while Scheckter comes only sixth. In South Africa, Ferrari finally uses the new 312 T4: the car also seeks downforce, even in the presence of a 12-cylinder boxer engine, which due to its shape restricts the air flows inside the bodywork, necessary for obtaining the ground effect. On the first day of official testing, on Thursday, Jean-Pierre Jabouille is the fastest, lowering the track record to 1'11"80.


The turbo engine, which Renault is equipped with, allows for a pressure regulation that does not lose power, while all the other naturally aspirated engines suffer a drop in performance, due to the altitude. Behind the French driver are the two Ferraris of Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve. The tests are characterized by sun and very high temperatures. that in the afternoon session the drivers do not improve the performance obtained in the morning, with more coolness. The Friday session does not change the starting grid in a profound way. At the start the poleman Jean-Pierre Jabouille is passed by the Ferraris but, using the power of the turbo engine, at the end of the starting straight he returns to the lead ahead of Jody Scheckter.


On the second lap Villeneuve immediately overtakes Scheckter at the Crowthorne to take second place, while Laffite passes both Pironi and Lauda. A few hundred meters and at Leeukop the two Ferraris pass Jabouille. A lap later the Renault driver passed the two Maranello cars again before being passed by Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve again. During the second lap it starts to rain and the race direction decides to stop the race, to allow the cars to mount wet tires. The order of the restart is determined by the classification on the second lap, while the final one will be drawn up by the sum of times. First then is Villeneuve ahead of Scheckter, Jabouille and Laffite. The interruption lasts for forty-five minutes and the restart takes place in the uncertainty of the choice of tires. Only Jody Scheckter, Patrick Tambay, Nelson Piquet and Patrick Depailler opt for slick tires.


At the second start Gilles Villeneuve, who uses wet tires unlike Scheckter, takes a good advantage over the home rider who is followed by Jean-Pierre Jabouille, while Jacques Laffite loses several positions, author of a bad start. In this phase of the race, the drivers find themselves in difficulty as part of the track is still wet, while the southernmost part of the track is already dry. On the fifth lap Scheckter, in difficulty with the dry tires, is passed by Jean-Pierre Jabouille. On the same lap Patrick Depailler was forced to retire due to an off track. On lap seven, with the track drying rapidly, Scheckter regained second position. A little later, most of the drivers start stopping in the pits to mount dry tires. The leader of the race, Villeneuve, is waiting for the fifteenth lap to change his tires and start second, behind Jody Scheckter. The classification now sees the riders who chose slick tires at the second start rewarded.


But Scheckter soon had problems with the tires, so much so that on lap 53 he decided to stop and replace them, leaving the lead in Villeneuve. The South African tries in the last laps to get close to the Canadian, but without success; in the end, Jody has to settle for second place. The same result was repeated in Long Beach, with Gilles crossing the finish line ahead of Jody. While the Canadian commands the race from start to finish, in the meantime a battle for the place of honor is created which involves Jean-Pierre Jarier, Jody Scheckter, Patrick Depailler, Mario Andretti and Alan Jones for several laps. a long train of cars. On the ninth lap Depailler lacks a gear, and is hit by Scheckter: Jarier takes advantage of it and passes both. During the next lap Scheckter passes Depailler, who suffers from gearbox problems. Meanwhile, Jarier begins to struggle with vibrations in the steering, slowing down those who follow him, even if no one is able to overtake him.


Only on the twenty-seventh lap Jody Scheckter manages to pass Jarier and take second place, while Gilles Villeneuve conquers his second consecutive victory, leaping to the top of the world championship for the first time. In Jarama, Spain, on the first day of practice, characterized by a strong wind, the best time was set by Gilles Villeneuve. The Canadian precedes team mate Jody Scheckter and Jacques Laffite. On Saturday, the weather conditions vary from the previous day, with less wind and a higher temperature: this favours the Goodyear-wheeled cars, which have worn long-lasting tires that only last two laps. The front row is thus monopolized by the two Ligier of Jacques Laffite and Patrick Depailler, while Scheckter has to settle for fifth place. The race will be even more stingy in satisfactions for Jody, forced to settle for a paltry fourth place.


In Zolder, Belgium, Saturday sees the arrival of the sun compared to Friday, a factor that favours the houses supplied by Goodyear and disfavours Ferrari, which is forced to lose pole position and see its drivers bound to sixth and seventh place (respectively Gilles and Jody). But the race will finally give the South African driver his first real joy. During the second lap, Scheckter passes Clay Regazzoni to the Kleine Chicane. At this stage, however, Williams' right front wheel hits the South African's left rear wheel. Subsequently, the tire mounted on the Swiss car collapses, causing the latter to slow down suddenly enough to be hit by Villeneuve, who is immediately behind. Regazzoni is therefore forced to retire, while the Canadian returns to the pits to replace the front wing.


Two laps later Scheckter also passes Andretti, who suffers from problems with the braking system. A little later, Nelson Piquet loses his position to Scheckter, who is now in fourth place. On the thirty-ninth lap the possible victory for Alan Jones' Williams fades, due to a fault in the electrical system, while on the forty-sixth lap Depailler, leader of the race, was forced to retire due to a sagging tire. The French driver comes along the corner after the pits and goes off the track. Patrick reports in this situation the fracture of his right hand, questioning his presence in the next Monaco Grand Prix.


Thanks to tires still in good condition and numerous retirements, Jody Scheckter reduces the gap on Jacques Laffite and takes the lead on lap 53, reaching the finish line in front of the French driver, now also at the top of the drivers' standings. On the eve of the Monaco Grand Prix, the Ferrari confirms the pair of drivers Jody Scheckter-Gilles Villeneuve also for the 1980 season, and at the same time denies the preparation of a 312 T5, but confirms the advanced creation of a B version of the 312 T4. On Saturday the two Maranello cars take advantage of the fact that the Goodyear-wheeled cars are penalized by a strike in the English factory of the American manufacturer, which does not allow the arrival of the qualifying tires, and improve the already excellent performances of Friday, even with Villeneuve who suffers from technical problems with the injection that make him lose forty-five minutes of the official session: Jody Scheckter wins pole, his third and last, ahead of his teammate by seven hundredths of a second.


In the race, the two Ferraris immediately gained a good margin also taking advantage of the slowness of Niki Lauda's car, which blocked the fastest Ligier. The classification remains unchanged for several laps until, on lap 16, Didier Pironi, in an attempt to pass Laffite, squeezes him against the guardrail. The tires of the Ligier suffer damage, so much so that Laffite is forced to a stop in the pits. On lap 54, Gilles Villeneuve was also forced to leave due to a transmission problem; the marshals attempted to push him back onto the track at the Rascasse level in vain. In the final laps, Scheckter controls Regazzoni's return and wins the Monaco Grand Prix.


With this result, also thanks to Laffite's retirement on lap fifty-five, the South African driver now commands the drivers' standings undisturbed, with thirty points against twenty-four of the direct rival of Ligier. In Dijon, France, many drivers, due to the conformation of the track, full of ups and downs, accused of nausea and dizziness: in this regard, Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Jacky Ickx asked that the cars be fitted to measures to limit this sway.


Qualifying immediately suggests that for the championship leader the French Grand Prix will be forgotten: in qualifying Jody does not go beyond fifth place, while in the race, as penalized by the tires, he will even finish outside the points area, allowing Gilles Villeneuve, author of a breathtaking race, to get closer in the standings and to be only four points away at the halfway point of the championship. The second part of the season will be stingy with results for Jody, but despite this the South African driver will be able to take advantage of the distribution of points in his favor based on the results obtained in the two groups and make him the 1979 World Championship.


At Silverstone, Alan Jones' Williams, favoured by the special treatment given to him by Goodyear, sets a time of six and a half seconds faster than that set by James Hunt two years earlier, and conquers the pole position, while Jody Scheckter is forced to use the forklift, having damaged the starting car with a spin at Stowe, and only qualifies eleventh. He is certainly no better than his teammate, thirteenth, and his direct rival for the title, Jacques Laffitte, tenth. During the race, Jody manages to recover up to fourth place, but on lap 34 Jacques Laffite, on the comeback, passes Villeneuve to Woodcote, and tries to overtake Scheckter as well a lap later. The South African resists, but is then passed to the thirty-sixth lap.


On the forty-second lap Laffite is forced to a stop in the pits due to a problem with the spark plugs, while in the following laps Scheckter, with worn tires, does not return to the pits, as requested by his team, but continues until the end even if he is overtaken by Watson. At the end of the race the South African will complain that he has not been warned by the wall of the approach of the British driver. Clay Regazzoni wins, while Scheckter, finished fifth, takes advantage of the withdrawal of Villeneuve and Laffite to increase the distance in the standings.


The anomalous result obtained at Silverstone is explained following the technical checks carried out on the Ferraris at the end of the Grand Prix. The Italian team discovers that during the race weekend a less performing fuel than the one usually used, which is 100 octane and supplied by Agip, was used by mistake. The lower quality of the petrol is also considered as the cause of the fuel problems that forced Gilles Villeneuve to retire. To remedy these drawbacks, Ferrari asks Agip for the presence of a technician for each Grand Prix.


At Hockenheim, on the first day of qualifying, the fastest was Jean-Pierre Jabouille, while the two Ferraris of Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve finished in tenth and twelfth place respectively; on the other hand, in this phase the South African crashes Carlos Reutemann. On the second day, Ferrari improves its time considerably, as Scheckter gets the fifth time, while Villeneuve the ninth. The Canadian is penalized by the use of the forklift, as the engine of the official car had suffered a loss of power.


Even in the race, Ferrari must try to limit the damage, while Alan Jones crosses the finish line first, followed by Clay Regazzoni, Jacques Laffite and Scheckter, who finished fourth. If on the track the race is considered extremely boring, in the back box there is the discontent of the Williams owner, who because of the regulations sees both of his drivers out of the world games, despite the British team having found competitiveness. Among other things, the competitiveness found by Williams becomes an advantage for Ferrari, given that the placings in the first places take away the hope of Laffite to be able to conquer those points necessary to approach and pass the South African rival in the standings. To continue winning the challenge between tire dealers, Goodyear, the US manufacturer that supplies all the teams with tires, with the exception of Ferrari and Renault, brings 200 qualifying tires to Zeltweg, which it entrusts to the most competitive teams.


Having finished both days of qualifying, despite the looming threat of rain, René Arnoux takes the first pole position of his career in Formula One, while Laffite and Scheckter set the eighth and the ninth time respectively. Even in Austria, the Ferrari 312 T4 starts at a disadvantage, as the car does not fully exploit the ground effect. However, in the race Gilles Villeneuve sprints from fifth place very quickly, so much so that at the first corner he is already in the lead. But on the fourth lap Alan Jones leads the race after passing Villeneuve at the Hella Licht Schikane and wins for the second consecutive time. After managing his position throughout the race, Jacques Laffite passed Scheckter on the last lap to take third place, despite the Frenchman being limited by lap limiter problems.


In the standings, thanks to the second place, Villeneuve and Laffite are now chasing Jody, who with extreme intelligence in these last races tries to make up for Ferrari's lack of performance by managing his advantage. To try to improve performance, Ferrari presents a modified 312 T4 at Zandvoort, entrusted only to Jody Scheckter. The changes concern the exhaust pipes concentrated around the engine, allowing greater cleanliness of the part underneath the car and greater exploitation of the ground effect.


The new car, however, is only tested in free practice on Friday morning. On the first day of testing, characterized by variable weather, the fastest is Clay Regazzoni, but on Saturday René Arnoux wins the second consecutive pole position, while Ferrari wins third, ahead of Jacques Laffite. The Ligier, despite being in the running for the world victory, is experiencing difficult tests: the French team is even in the position of having to buy harder springs from Shadow and McLaren on Saturday that can allow greater aerodynamic downforce on the ailerons. At the start Jody Scheckter starts badly due to a technical problem and finds himself almost immediately in the rear.


In the successful laps, Laffite was also passed by both Rosberg and Watson: the Frenchman, penalized by technical problems, left the points area in a few laps. Jody Scheckter, on the other hand, quickly recovers the gap from the leaders, so much so as to win sixth place on the tenth lap. On lap 11 Gilles Villeneuve, who is fighting with his teammate in the drivers' standings, joins Jones outside the Tarzan Bocht and overtakes him, conquering the top of the race. Similar overtakes are also made by Rosberg and Scheckter against Didier Pironi between the twelfth and seventeenth lap. Then, on lap twenty-six Scheckter also conquers a position on Rosberg. On lap forty-seventh Alan Jones, approaching Villeneuve, attacks him at the new chicane: in this phase the 1979 world championship is decided.


In fact, the Canadian is the author of a spin and when starting off he does not notice that the left rear tire of his car is starting to deflate. Shortly after the tire exploded, but Gilles decides to continue, after a long one at the first corner. The Canadian makes almost a full lap on three wheels, until the left rear wheel tears and, held by the brake lines, is towed behind the car. Villeneuve manages to reach his garage, but only to retire, after having asked the mechanics in vain to repair his car. This maneuver will later be criticized for being too dangerous. Undisturbed, Alan Jones wins for the third consecutive time, ahead of Scheckter and Laffite. Having reached the thirteenth round, the championship can seriously close in favor of Jody Scheckter, despite the fact that the last few races have not been exciting for the South African driver.


This is because the championship regulations provide that only the best four results of the last eight races of the championship can be valid. For this reason, only Jody Scheckter at 44 points, Jacques Laffite at 36 and Gilles Villeneuve at 32 can still win the drivers' title. Alan Jones, who has two points more than the Canadian, for example, has already scored thirty points in the second part of the championship, out of the theoretically available maximum 36, and being ten points behind the championship leader is mathematically excluded from the fight for the champion.


The same goes for Clay Regazzoni: the Ticino player, having obtained only six points in the first phase, could close the world championship at no more than 42 points. On the eve of the Italian Grand Prix, Jody Scheckter would take the title already in Monza if he manages to win and Jacques Laffite does not finish second. In this case, in fact, the South African would reach 51 points (nine points would have been added to the 44 points but the two points obtained at Silverstone would have been discarded), while Laffite, coming third, would have risen to 40 points. But at the end of the season, despite winning the two remaining races, he could only have obtained a maximum of 50 valid points, having to discard, in this case, eight points, or two of the third places obtained.


If the South African were to arrive, according to him, he would rise to 48 points (to the 44 points are added six, discarding however the result of Silverstone), while Laffite could still close at 50 points, regardless of the result of Monza. Although the eyes of the public are all turned towards the title contenders, on the first day of qualifying the fastest is René Arnoux, while the leader of the world rankings, Jody Scheckter, closes with the fifth time and Jacques Laffite, his main pursuer, is only tenth. On Saturday Arnoux loses pole in favor of team mate Jean-Pierre Jabouille, while Jody Scheckter, despite Ferrari experiencing an excessive degradation of the skirts due to the particularly abrasive asphalt of the circuit, wins the third time, ahead of Jones by less than one tenth. Jacques Laffite is seventh. The world championship seems to take a very clear direction, so much so that just before the start, very sporty, Jacques Laffite wishes Scheckter his best wishes:


"Good luck, although I would hate to lose this battle".


The two shake hands vigorously, while the fans shout good at the French. Yet something could choke Jody's scream of joy, given that a few minutes after the reconnaissance lap the Ferrari mechanics notice that the South African's T4 is leaking the fluid from the front brake system. A quick check immediately reveals that a caliper is faulty. The mechanics of Maranello therefore proceed to change the non-working component. Shortly after, when the South African driver arrived at the place planned for the deployment at the end of the reconnaissance lap, the mechanism is still registering, draining oil from the start. At the start, Jody Scheckter immediately took the lead followed by René Arnoux, Gilles Villeneuve and Jacques Laffite, who started seventh, but on the second lap the French Renault driver overtook the South African. Arnoux leads the race until the twelfth lap, but an engine problem slows him down at first and then forces him to retire two laps later. Thanks to this episode Scheckter is back in the lead, ahead of Gilles Villeneuve and Jacques Laffite.


The world championship, in fact, ends in the forty-second lap, when Jacques Laffite (who is losing about half a second per pass) returns to the pits with the engine out of order, as the train pedal has bent which, crushed, hits the clutch pedal at a braking point the Frenchman pressed the pedal, but the clutch remained stuck and the engine went over-revving. The last moments of tension are experienced in the box of the Maranello team, when the loudspeaker announces that Regazzoni has brought himself threateningly in the wake of Villeneuve. Over all, Mauro Forghieri dominates and directs the last bars, shouting to the signalers tell Gilles to increase the advantage. But the T4s pass with perfect synchronism in front of the pits and start the last lap.


In the stands, the fans sway as Scheckter and Villeneuve emerge from the parabolic, making the stands explode in a roar of cheers that covers the roar of the engines. The Ferrari mechanics leap onto the track with their arms raised. Having eliminated his main rival for the title, Scheckter had no more problems and won the Italian Grand Prix escorted by Villeneuve, while Regazzoni had to settle for third place. In a moment hundreds of fans force Maranello's men to a quick retreat to avoid being overwhelmed and to bring Jody's car to the parc fermé, without being able to avoid the collision with some too fiery fans who end up slightly ruining the nose.


Then, with a police escort worthy of a head of state, Scheckter begins the arduous march to the podium. When the South African driver comes out on the terrace of the awards ceremony, the track is already invaded by thousands of people who in the meantime have overwhelmed the cordons of the public force. Jody's every gesture inflames the human tide that becomes irrepressible when the South African waves a Ferrari flag. After the podium, when the South African returns to the Ferrari van, the safety strings falter. Everyone wants to see, touch the winner:


"I can't convince myself that I have won the world title. Every now and then I feel like I'm dreaming. I dedicate this victory to Enzo Ferrari, who gave me the chance to get a title I've been chasing for seven years. From the garage they told me that Laffite was out of the race but at that juncture I didn't have time to think about other things except to keep the maximum concentration on the race. In the last few races I would like to try to help Villeneuve who was an exceptional teammate".


The first to congratulate Scheckter is Gilles himself, who very sportingly admits:


"Jody is the worthy winner and even if everything seemed simple it was a very hard race. I'm happy for Jody who is an extremely sincere and loyal man. Against Jody there was nothing to be done. I did my race but I would never have been able to pass it because today Scheckter was very strong".


On Monday, in great secrecy so as not to be surprised by photographers and journalists, in the afternoon Jody arrives in Maranello to meet Enzo Ferrari, after he had said in the morning:


"I have to thank him for the chance he offered me by letting me drive his cars".


Subsequently, before leaving for Modena, Scheckter gives the longest interview of his life, talking about interesting details, including his relationship with Gilles Viìleneuve, teammate but also an opponent for the title until the Monza race:


"Gilles and I, despite the right rivalry, are true friends. Sunday after the Italian Grand Prix, we had dinner together, side by side, with the team's mechanics and managers. It wasn't bad for my victory. He confessed to me quietly. Now I can say that the Canadian and I had engaged in a kind of game that in the end proved to be correct for the award of the title. In the course of qualifying tests, depending on our placement, we gave ourselves the same score that is assigned in the race. Well, before Monza I was leading by two points. When on Saturday morning, however, they had assigned Gilles a better time than he had actually achieved, I told him...this is not true. then the jury of timekeepers canceled it. In Ferrari there is only one fixed rule. We must not fight foolishly against each other, as our predecessors did. It would be stupid to do the opposite and up to now we have respected this team requirement".


Jody ends the championship with a fourth place in Canada and with a retirement in the US East Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. In the interview recorded the day after the triumph, Scheckter is asked what is in the future of Ferrari and Formula 1 on a technical level. The South African's answer, reread afterwards, seems almost a premonitory statement:


"If we had a turbocharged engine available it would be better for a wing-car type".


In fact, in the 1980 vintage the 312 T5 will be the bad copy of the T4, as the advent of turbo-compressed engines pushes the team from Maranello to concentrate on the 1981 season. However, this is not the only reason for the car's lack of competitiveness: the real Achilles heel of the T5 is above all the lack of ground effect compared to the competition. The season is a real nightmare for both Ferrari drivers, dotted with retirements and results far from the positions that matter. Overwhelmed by frustration, during the year Jody even resorts to old tricks, so much so that during a test session he literally attacks Watson's car that has parried in front of him blocking him, and hits it with the tires, perhaps more to let off steam than to get real advantages. Failure to qualify for the Canadian Grand Prix is ​​the straw that breaks the camel's back, and the South African makes the decision to retire at the end of the next race, at Watkins Glen:


"There was nothing to do, it was she who was wrong, not me".


In his final season, Jody only scores two points. At the end of 1980, at the party for the title of the previous year, Jody was not only awarded last but also discovered that the horse given to him by Enzo Ferrari has a broken leg. Jody doesn't take it badly, but understands that his commander knows everything, and that that broken leg symbolizes his personal break with the racing world.


Ferrari understood this more than the South African driver did. Jody's retirement is final, and he will no longer deal with cars for years to come. In 2019, on the occasion of the Formula 1 Grand Prix, Scheckter took back the wheel of his 312 T4, making some laps of honor to celebrate the 40th anniversary of winning his world title in 1979. The parade was greeted by the public with great enthusiasm and nostalgia, making the song of the legendary 12-cylinder echo in the Monza park, to the delight of the audience. To date, Jody David Scheckter is the only South African driver to have won a Formula One world title, and for twenty-one years he was the last driver to win the drivers' championship with Ferrari.


Andrea Rasponi


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