Sir Jackie Stewart
Memorial service address
St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, London
April 18th 2001
courtesy of Sir Jackie Stewart
This truly is a thanksgiving service. Elizabeth called me up and, as usual, cautioned me that it wasn’t going to be a serious affair, that there had to be the odd giggle. Walter, I know you’re looking down. You always wanted to know everything. I have to tell you that some of your ushers were poorly chosen. One of them, Stuart Turner, told me that if I spoke for more than seven minutes, they were all going to come up here to drag me off. I secured his confidence by saying that I had cut the speech down to an hour and 10 minutes.
Walter’s life enjoyed so many angles, as we’ve already heard, so many different endeavours, a very colourful life it was, but, as Richard said, the motor industry and motorsport was one of his great successes.
The Ford Motor Company will perhaps never fully appreciate what Walter Hayes did for that company. The public’s change of perception of Ford in this country alone was enormous. Ford had previously really only been a blue-collared workers’ motorcar. With Walter’s wisdom and touch and the use of motorsport, professional people suddenly were seen to be in Fords because it was the right vehicle to be seen in; it was classless but it was successful – doctors and bankers and accountants…even the clergy!
Walter’s vision, his totally unique mastery of public relations, media relations, government relations, and people relationships, broke new grounds, and many budgets.
Whatever Walter Hayes did, it was with style, with good taste, his manners impeccable, and his words never overstated. When something important had to be decided, he would rub his hands, pull them together, puff his pipe, and more often than not come out with just the right solution for the dilemma. It could have been middle management at Ford, it could have been senior management, it could have been Henry Ford II, but it could just as easily have been for Colin Chapman or Jim Clark or Graham Hill or Keith Duckworth or Roger Clark or Mike Costin or Stuart Turner even, Sir Jack Brabham, John Waddell, John Southgate, Henry Taylor, John Webb or Tom Walkinshaw and Jochen Rindt. More often than not, it was for Jackie Stewart. And did he save my ass a few times!
But I can’t imagine there is anyone here today, in the world that I speak of, who has not gained handsomely and richly through Walter’s leadership, his counsel, and his courage of conviction. I first met Walter at the 1964 Earls Court Motor Show. Every racing driver and rally driver in those days went to the Motor Show in October. That was the time when deals were done or lost. I’d had a very good year with Ken Tyrrell and Formula 3. I had driven Cortinas and F2 cars for Colin Chapman, and I had driven for Ecurie Ecosse and a whole lot of other people. And there I was, standing in the Ford stand, one of the places to be, didn’t know many people, leaning over the rail of a turntable that had a very bright white-painted Ford Zodiac, with enormous amounts of chrome, white-walled tyres and hideous red leather upholstery. It was spinning round there, feeling very lonely, in bad taste. A man of average height came up and stood next to me and he said that he knew who I was but it didn’t really matter who he was, but he said his name was Wally Hayes, and I didn’t know him. He then said would I like to have a Ford contract for the next season, and I thought “Hello!” Would I also like the extremely elegant Ford Zodiac with the beautiful tyres, and the impeccable upholstery, at no cost?! Would I also like to have a cheque to drive for a whole season in any car that he chose for the vast sum of £500? And he got me. He was rubbing his hands, pulling them together, and puffing his pipe, and he was closing in on me. And I started to look around because I thought maybe I was being done on ‘Candid Camera’ but there was nobody around, and then the closer he got, I thought, am I safe?! But then that was before it was fashionable.
Walter Hayes and Jackie Stewart shook hands that day. That was the contract. As long as Walter Hayes was at Ford doing what he did, so was Jackie Stewart, in the name of Ford. I totally trusted him and I believed in him all the way. 37 years later, I’m still with Ford, all because of Walter Hayes. He’s got a lot to answer for!
Walter was one of the major contributors, as Richard has said, in building the foundations of what is today called the British motorsport industry. Now, it took a few pioneers to show the way, people like Tony Vandervell or Raymond Mays, or Sir Arthur Owen or Sir William Lyons. Then came along folks like John Cooper and Colin Chapman, Eric Broadley, and of course companies like Coventry Climax. But then Walter Hayes convinced the company to invest not a very large amount of money in a Formula 1 Cosworth engine. It was to change the world. It was then that the great British success story really began. Formula 1 became accessible. Most any team owner could buy an engine that could win a Grand Prix and win a World Championship. Ken Tyrrell, Sir Frank Williams, Ron Dennis, and many more could not have done what Britain today should be so enormously proud of without the touch of Walter Hayes.
I can almost smell the tobacco, that pipe tobacco. I can almost hear the rubbing of the hands, and I’m sure that I can hear a very large chorus of thanking Walter flying around. This, Elizabeth, is truly a thanksgiving service. For many of us, it’s a lovely opportunity to have the kind of memories that you’ve been able to provide. Elizabeth and Harriet and Richard and Jeremy have created this wonderful service in all the way that it usually is for us all to be thankful, in this House of God, for the blessing of being able to share a wee part of a man called Walter Hayes and his remarkable life. Walter’s funeral was fantastic, and today’s service is again carried out with style, with the integrity and the dignity that witty Walter would certainly have been very, very proud of.