Recently, we had the opportunity of a lifetime when we were fortunate to attend the Jackie Stewart Classic at Thirlestane Castle. We’ve previously written about the Castle, but, in this post, we’re going to cover the car classic event. So, slip on that racing jump suit, lace up your racing booties, and secure your helmet, because we are headed out on a virtual car racing adventure!
There is a long history of a love of cars and motorsport in the Scottish Borders. The connection to Thirlestane Castle started 15 years ago when they started hosting the Borders Vintage Automobile Club (BVAC) car show. This year is a particularly special one for the BVAC as they are celebrating their 50th year. Therefore, what could be a better combination than taking their annual car show and combining it with Scottish racing legend, Sir Jackie Stewart?!
Who is Sir Jackie Stewart?
John Young Stewart (known as Jackie) was born in the wee village of Milton in Dunbartonshire, Scotland, in 1939. Cars were part of the family as his family had Austin and Jaguar car dealerships. However, Jackie’s early days were not focused on cars, but, instead, he was active in clay pigeon shooting. In the early 1960s, Jackie competed for Scotland and won the Coupe De Nations twice. Unfortunately, during the qualifying for the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, he missed a single target (a rare thing for him), and did not make the team. However, while this was bitterly disappointing for Jackie, it opened the door for a very different sport for him- racing cars.
Jackie’s racing career started in the 1960s, and what an incredible run he had! In Formula One, he raced for BRM, Matra, March, and Tyrrell. Between 1965-1973, Jackie won three Formula One World Drivers’ Championships. However, he also raced in the Indianapolis 500 and the Can-Am series.
While I have been a more of a casual fan to the Formula One racing world, Sami (the co-owner and tour guide for our family-run business- Wee Walking Tours) has been a lifelong fan with memories as far back as he can remember of watching races on the television and in person. Therefore, his admiration for legends such as Sir Jackie is long-standing. Nevertheless, over the past few decades, I’ve also learned of Sir Jackie Stewart’s incredible racing legacy and post-racing career.
Race Against Dementia
Sir Jackie Stewart has been married to his wife, Helen, since 1962. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with dementia in 2014. In 2015, Jackie started the charity, ‘Race Against Dementia’. This year they decided to create the Jackie Stewart Car Classic at Thirlestane Castle as a fundraiser for this crucial charity. We were very happy to attend the event as one small way we could help support the vital work they are doing (keep reading as we mention more ways you can support them below).
Highlights of the Classic
As I said above, the Borders Vintage Automobile Club car show has been held at Thirlestane Castle for the past fifteen years. Of course, it wasn’t held in 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic, but came roaring back to life this year with the event reaching a whole new level as it morphed into the Jackie Stewart Classic.
There were many exciting activities that took place at the Classic this year, and I was amazed to see just how big the event ended up being. My first clue was the back-to-back traffic of cars 13 miles out from Thirlestane! However, I really got a feel for it’s scope as we directed to park in a huge field with the Castle in the distance.
We’ve been fortunate to attend Formula One races in Europe and North America but haven’t been to one in quite a while. However, the same excitement that surrounds the grand prix atmosphere was also present at the Jackie Stewart Classic. As we made our way towards the Castle, we first came upon the sprint track set up for the weekend. This was a new feature at Thirlestane, and it consisted of a 750-metre sprint course along the Castle’s drive. Various local racing cars- new and classic models - were already doing laps by the time we got there. Just across the track, visitors were welcomed by the iconic sounds of bagpipes.
Closer to the Castle, we were amazed to see that exhibitions were set up as far as the eye could see! We made a beeline for the exhibition area setup directly in front of Thirlestane as we wanted to get in the queue for Sir Jackie's autograph session before it got too long. Sami brought his copy of Jackie's autobiography, Winning is Not Enough, and I had my copy of the event programme to be signed. While our encounter with Sir Jackie was brief, it was still thrilling to meet such a Scottish legend.
While still star struck, we headed over to the area where Jackie's racing cars were on display. Here are just a few that we saw:
A nice complement to the cars on display was the Sir Jackie Stewart Film and Memorabilia Exhibition. It was amazing to see so many of his trophies, racing items, and photos from his impressive racing career.
The fields at Thirlestane were filled with different car exhibitions as well as some of the best food trucks in Scotland! Not too far from the house was the Borders Vintage Automobile Club car display. Various car clubs were set up and people from around the UK were able to exhibit their classic and vintage cars- over 1,000 of them. Enjoy the slideshow below that features just some highlights of what we saw on the grounds of Thirlestane Castle:
A big draw for the event was an actual Formula One car on display. It was the Red Bull V-8 powered VB8 that was used by Mark Weber when he won the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix. Many people don't have the opportunity to see a Formula One car in person, and it was really nice that Sir Jackie arranged for the car to be brought to the Classic. As icing on the cake, attendees were even able to see the Formula One car race around on the sprint course. It was especially wonderful to see the excitement on the faces of young and old as the iconic sounds of a Formula One car reverberated around the track.
While I would say the biggest highlight of the event was meeting Sir Jackie Stewart, the second-best part was watching him in action. At the age of 83, Sir Jackie hopped in his 1969 Formula 1 World Championship-winning Matra MS80-2 Ford and sped down the sprint track. It was a stunning sight to see him deftly manoeuvre the sprint course putting the younger drivers to shame, and an incredible way to close out our day.
We hope you have enjoyed this brief visit to the Jackie Stewart Classic. While it was an extremely fun event to attend, we most importantly want to highlight that it was all being done to support a very important cause- raising money for the Race Against Dementia charity. Of course, this is just one fundraiser that supports Sir Jackie's charity. Please head over to their website for more information on how you can support their crucial work on a disease that, unfortunately, has and does affect so many around the world.
Until next time- Explore and Discover!