It happened today – 29 January

It happened today – 29 January

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

On 29th January 1950, Jody Scheckter was born in East London, South Africa. The son of a Renault dealer, Jody grew up surrounded by cars and soon began racing, although he kept up his studies. In 1970, he won the national Formula Ford championship, which meant he got a grant and the chance to move to the UK. In 1971, he took part in the British Formula 3 championship and the following year in the European Formula 2 series.

At the end of that season, he got the chance to make his Formula 1 debut with McLaren, taking part in the USA Grand Prix. Scheckter took part in a further five races in 1973 with the Woking team, making his mark with his impetuous driving style and also finding time to win the Formula 5000 title. Having already secured a drive with Tyrrell for the following year, he found himself first driving at Watkins Glen, the scene of the accident in which his future team-mate Cevert died. From 1974 to 1976, the South African was the number one at Tyrrell, with whom he won four Grands Prix, just missing out on the title in the first year.

In 1977, he switched to the new Wolf team, with which he took a further three wins, finishing second to Niki Lauda in the world championship. Another year with Wolf, after which came the move to Ferrari, with whom Scheckter realised his dream of becoming world champion. At the wheel of the 312 T4, Jody took three wins, three second places and two third, winning from his team-mate Gilles Villeneuve. Having reached the summit, the following year was the worst in the Scuderia’s history, during which it scored just eight points. At the mid-point of the season, Scheckter announced his retirement from racing, a claim he stuck to rigorously.

“With Scheckter I had hoped that my theory on the parabola taken by world champions would be proved wrong, but even he was not the exception to the rule,” wrote Enzo Ferrari in his book “Piloti, che gente…” “One day he asked to talk to me. He told me about his family, of his second son, of his financial interests in Europe, of his desire to set himself up for the future in Monte Carlo and give up racing and to become a provident businessman. I supported him in his decision, remembering the tumult of my own feelings as a driver, when in 1931 my son Dino was born. Scheckter, who showed up at Ferrari as a curiously difficult person, left me with memories of a man who showed loyalty and strong sensitivities.”

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