Jody Scheckter is a former racing driver and the first and only racer born in Africa who managed to win the Formula 1 Drivers’ championship title. The South African driver was the Formula 1 champion in 1979 while driving for Scuderia Ferrari.
He competed in Formula 1 World Championship between 1972 and 1980, recording 113 participations, ten wins and 33 podiums. Outside F1, he was a champion in the 1973 SCCA L&M F5000 Championship.
1979 F1 champion Jody Scheckter
Formula One debut in 1972 with McLaren
Jody David Schecker was born on January 29, 1950, in East London in South Africa, and received his education at the Selborne College, one of the few colleges at Eastern Cape.
After moving to Great Britain in 1970, his rise to Formula 1 was quick. He made a debut at Watkins Glen in 1972 with McLaren. Scheckter, driving under the British flag, was on a good way to clinch a place at the podium in his debut race, but finished ninth after an unfortunate incident that led to him spinning.
Jody Scheckter from South Africa wins the F1 World championship, Italian Grand Prix Monza in 1979
His driving style was unusual; maybe even a bit too aggressive. After a crash with the reigning World champion Emerson Fittipaldi at the French Grand Prix, the Brazilian called Scheckter a ‘madman’ who did not belong in Formula 1. Right after those words, at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Scheckter was involved in a huge accident which almost half of the grid out of the race.
Jody Scheckter in McLaren-Ford at the 1973 British Grand Prix
Those words were partly proved to be true in the next race at Silverstone. Scheckter was involved in a big accident which took nearly a dozen cars out of the race. The Drivers Association demanded strike action against him immediately, so McLaren decided to rest him for four races.
Jody Scheckter - South African racing legend
Calming down after Cevert's death
The South African once again found himself at the center of media attention in 1974, ironically this time too at Watkins Glen. Francois Cevert had a huge crash and Scheckter, who was behind him, stopped his car to get out and help his former teammate, but it was too late as the French driver was already dead.
That was probably the turning point of Scheckter’s career. He abandoned his reckless ways and became calmer and more mature. That year, he also won two races driving for the Tyrrell team, finishing third in the overall standings.
The South African Jody Scheckter scored two Grand Prix wins in 1974 driving Tyrrell 007
With Tyrrell, he ranked third again in 1976, while managing to secure the runner-up spot the next year after joining the newly formed Walter Wolf team, giving them a victory in the maiden race. Scheckter won two more races that year and also had five podium finishes.
Video : Jody Scheckter, Niki Lauda and Mario Andretti battle at the 1977 United States Grand Prix
Formula 1 championship peak with Ferrari
He joined Ferrari in 1979 and despite all the predictions that he wouldn’t do well in the Italian team, Scheckter became the world champion. That year, the South African racer won three races and also finished second thrice. The next season was to be his last in Formula 1. He underperformed massively, winning only two points and deciding to retire after the end of the season. He was the last Ferrari driver to win the title until Michael Schumacher dominated the scene in 2000.
Jody Scheckter driving Ferrari 312T4 at the 1979 German Grand Prix
Successful organic farmer
Nowadays, Jody Scheckter keeps himself occupied with farming. He has an organic farm in Hampshire and is also largely involved in the filming of a television series about healthy living.
He married twice and has a total of six children. Toby and Tomas, his sons from the first marriage, also were racing drivers, but without big success.
In 1983, Jody Scheckter was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.