After 21 years without success, Ferrari finally crowned a Formula One world champion in 2000 when Michael Schumacher won the prestigious title. Ironically, it was thanks to this lack of success that the previous Ferrari champion first became known to the new generation of racing fans. He was South Africa’s Jody Scheckter.
Born in East London in 1950, Scheckter earned his first Formula One drive with McLaren as a 22-year-old.
In 1972 he enjoyed one Grand Prix drive and in 1973 he certainly made an impact – though not the kind he would have wanted to make. Competing in the British Grand Prix, Scheckter ran wide coming out of a corner and spun back across the track. A huge pile-up followed and the race was stopped with half the field wiped out in the crash.
That season Scheckter started five grands prix but failed to register a championship point.
Moved to Tyrrell
The next year, 1974, Scheckter was signed by Tyrrell following the retirement of three-time world champion Jackie Stewart and the death of driver Francois Cevert at the end of the 1973 season. It proved a good move for the South African and for Tyrrell. Scheckter finished third in the championship, winning the Swedish Grand Prix and the British Grand Prix – a major win for British team Tyrrell.
In 1975 Sheckter won once, in front of his home fans, at the South African Grand Prix. He accumulated 20 points for the season and finished in joint seventh place.
The following year he drove the unorthodox six-wheeled Tyrrell-Ford Type P-34. Scheckter took the car to its only win in its first outing in Sweden. Nonetheless, the South African ace enjoyed a consistent season and finished third in the world championship standings.
In 1977 Scheckter joined the newly founded Wolf team of Austro-Canadian oil millionaire Walter Wolf. Despite the team being newcomers to Formula One, Scheckter performed exceptionally. He won the Canadian, Monaco and Argentinian Grands Prix and finished runner-up in the championship to the great Austrian Niki Lauda.
1978 was not as successful a year for Scheckter. He failed to win a race and scored 24 points to tie for seventh in the championship.
Scheckter joined Ferrari for the 1979 season and things went much better for the South African. He won in Italy, Monaco and Belgium and was crowned world champion.
He raced one more season in 1980, but did not have a good year and retired. During his career he took part in 113 grands prix, won 10 of them, finished second 14 times and third 10 times.
His 1979 success was something for Ferrari fans to hold on to, because it would take the famous Italian team with the prancing horse another 21 years before they celebrated producing a world champion again.
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