Jody Scheckter

Country: 
Full Name: 
Jody David Scheckter
Birth Date: 
29 January, 1950
Birth Place: 
East London, South Africa
Driver Status: 
Former

1
Championship Titles

113
Races
10
Wins
3
Poles
1
Titles

Jody Scheckter Biography

Jody Scheckter F1 Career Overview

The only person hailing from the African continent to win an F1 World Championship title, Jody Scheckter carved a reputation as a fearless competitor on track - notably at Monaco - that shone at the wheel of unconventional machinery before striking gold with Ferrari.

Though a relatively short F1 career that started in 1972 and concluded in 1980 - just a year after his 1979 F1 World Championship title win - Scheckter succeeded in winning races with three different teams during that time.

His ten career wins and 33 podiums from a relatively scant 112 starts ranks him among some of the most iconic names in the sport, including Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti.

Jody Scheckter F1 Career - Team-by-Team

McLaren: 1972-1973

Achieving modest success with Bruce McLaren Racing in European Formula Two (8th with one win) and British Formula 2 (4th with one win) in 1972, Scheckter got his F1 bow the same year with McLaren (then known as Yardley McLaren) for the season-ending United States Grand Prix and subsequently impressed by running third for a time before slipping back to ninth.

This was supposed to earn him a full-time drive with McLaren for 1973 but after angering Fittipaldi when they collided during the French Grand Prix - a race the South African was in contention for victory in only his third F1 start - he angered most of the paddock at the British Grand Prix when a fast spin out of Woodcote at at the end of the opening lap resulted in a multi-car pile-up.

The GPDA demanded his expulsion from F1, but eventually agreed to McLaren’s proposal to bench him for four events instead. 

Scoring no points on his return, Scheckter nonetheless dovetailed F1 with title-winning success in the SCCA Continental Championship in the United States. 

Tyrrell: 1974-1976

Despite his limited F1 experience and as yet no points to his name, Scheckter had made enough of an impression in the few starts he’d made to catch the attention of Ken Tyrrell, who was seeking a replacement for its retiring talisman Jackle Stewart.

Scheckter was supposed to be paired with promising young Frenchman Francois Cevert before he was killed in a crash at Watkins Glen shortly before the end of the 1973 season. As such, Scheckter was all-but-elevated to team leader in a championship-defending team. 

Nonetheless, he took the pressure in his stride and after scoring his first points of the season in Round 4 - thanks in part to the introduction of the improved Tyrrell 007 - landed his maiden victory in Sweden (Round 7). Another win followed (ironically) at Silverstone, with a podium in Germany the following race putting him just three points shy of the top spot with four races remaining. Three DNFs in those races put paid to his hopes, but third overall in his first full season was an impressive indication of what he was capable of.

Retained for 1975, Scheckter endured a more troubled year with only four points’ finishes though he did score an emotional home victory at Kyalami in Round 3 en route to seventh in the standings. 

While Scheckter started the 1976 F1 season in the same Tyrrell 007 he raced in 1974, the team went on to make the headlines when it unveiled the curious-looking six-wheel P34, which exploited a loophole in the regulations by having four small wheels up front and two larger at the rear.

The unconventional set up worked wonders at some venues - especially when it rained - and Scheckter scored a win with it in its third race at Anderstorp. Spending his year on the cusp of the title battle involving Niki Lauda and James Hunt, Scheckter notched up five podiums for third overall again. 

Wolf Racing: 1977-1978

Unimpressed by the P34 despite its results, Scheckter made the bold move to Wolf Racing, making its debut in 1978 under the stewardship of Walter Wolf who had financed Williams’ efforts before severing ties when it spun off into Williams Grand Prix Engineering. 

Scoring a sensational victory on the team’s debut in Argentina - a feat that remained unparalleled until BrawnGP did the same in 2009 - Scheckter went toe-to-toe with Niki Lauda in the Ferrari for title glory but the Austrian, in the year after his near fatal accident at the Nurburgring, called upon greater consistency to take the title at a relative canter. 

Scheckter still reeled off two further wins in the single-car entry at Monaco and on Wolf Racing’s home soil in Canada to secure a fine runners-up spot. 

He remained for 1978 but advances in technology among rivals - namely the use of ground effect - made the ageing WR1/3/5/6 chassis obsolete despite constant upgrades, with only four podiums demoting him to seventh at the year’s conclusion.

Ferrari: 1979-1980

Lured to the famed Scuderia Ferrari for 1979, while many questioned whether Scheckter’s brash style would meld with the Italian’s team’s notoriety for high expectations and ‘domineering’ management approach, but he found a good rhythm with the 312T4

Finding himself locked in a title tussle with up-and-coming team-mate Gilles Villeneuve, the pair traded wins early on in the year, Scheckter winning in Belgium and again in Monaco, while the Canadian took the spoils at Kyalami and Long Beach. 

While both only added one more win to their tallies by the end of the year, Scheckter scored favour with victory in the Italian Grand Prix, which coupled with Villeneuve’s run of bad form mid-season saw him crowned champion by four points. He would remain Ferrari’s last F1 World Champion for 21 years before Michael Schumacher triumphed in 2000.

Scheckter (and Villeneuve’s) form took a slide in 1980 though as the car suffered with a lack of performance that at one stage even prevented the defending champion from even qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix. With just two points to his name all year, Scheckter promptly announced his retirement from F1.

Jody Scheckter - Beyond F1

Scheckter’s exit from F1 also signalled the end of his motorsport career and he wouldn’t race competitively again after the 1980 campaign. He’d go on to become a pundit and commentator for various global broadcasters 

His son Tomas Scheckter went on to have a successful racing career and at one stage was in the running to land a Jaguar F1 seat in 2002. However, Scheckter Jr would find form in what is now the IndyCar Series, scoring two victories in a career spanning ten seasons (2002-2011).