Jody David Scheckter (born 29 January 1950) is a South African business proprietor and former motor racing driver. He competed in Formula One from 1972 to 1980, winning the Drivers' Championship in 1979 with Ferrari. Scheckter remains the only African driver to win the Formula One World Championship.
He rapidly ascended to the ranks of Formula One after moving to Britain in 1970. His Formula 1 debut occurred at the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen in 1972 with McLaren, where he ran as high as third place before spinning and finishing ninth. Immediately becoming a name to watch, he continued his development the following year, winning the 1973 SCCA L&M Championship and racing five times in F1. In France, he almost won in only his third start in F1 before crashing into Emerson Fittipaldi, the reigning World Champion, who said after the crash about Scheckter: "This madman is a menace to himself and everybody else and does not belong in Formula 1." In his next start, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Scheckter's spin triggered a major accident which took nearly a dozen cars out of the race. The Grand Prix Drivers Association demanded his immediate banishment, which was only put off when McLaren agreed to rest their driver for four races. Scheckter's McLaren M23 bore the number zero during the Canadian and American Grands Prix of 1973. Scheckter is one of only two F1 drivers to compete under this number, the other being Damon Hill. During the practice for the American event at the Watkins Glen circuit, Frenchman François Cevert, who was due to be Scheckter's Tyrrell teammate for 1974, was killed in an appalling accident at the fast uphill Esses corners. Scheckter was behind Cevert when he crashed, and he stopped his McLaren, got out of his car and attempted to help Cevert out of his destroyed Tyrrell, but the 29-year-old Frenchman had been cut in half by the circuit's poorly installed Armco barriers and was already dead. Witnessing Cevert's dreadful accident left an indelible mark on the South African and caused him to abandon his reckless ways, becoming a more mature and calculating driver as a result.
Tyrrell in 1974 gave him his first full-time drive in F1. Jody rewarded them with a third-place finish in the Drivers' Championship and a pair of wins in Sweden and Britain. During the year, he scored points in eight consecutive races, one of the longer scoring streaks of the time. A slight off-year followed, although he did become the only South African to win the South African Grand Prix, but his third year with the team in 1976 gave him another third-place finish in the Drivers' Championship. In that season, Tyrrell introduced the most radical car in F1 history, the innovative six-wheeled Tyrrell P34. Although he later went on record as saying the car was "a piece of junk", Scheckter gave the six-wheeler its only win on Sweden's Anderstorp circuit and in his twelve races with the car, he scored points ten times. This included a thrilling race-long battle for the lead in the American Grand Prix between himself and his great friend James Hunt.
Scheckter left for Walter Wolf's new team in 1977 and Scheckter gave the team a win in its maiden race. He won twice more with the team and was often on the podium, but finished second on points behind a more dominant Niki Lauda. A seventh-place finish with the team in 1978 followed and he left the team after the season to join Ferrari to partner Gilles Villeneuve in the team's ground effect 312T4 car.
Critics felt he would not get along well with the domineering management at Ferrari, but he far surpassed expectations and helped give F1's most recognisable team another Constructors' Championship, while Scheckter's consistent finishes, with three wins among them, gave him the Drivers' Championship in 1979. However, he struggled badly in his 1980 title defence, even failing to qualify for one race. After managing only two points, Scheckter announced his retirement from the team and the sport. Scheckter was the last driver to win a Drivers' Championship for Ferrari until Michael Schumacher twenty-one years later in 2000.
After Formula One
In 1981, Scheckter won the World Superstars competition in Key Biscayne, Florida. He defeated athletes such as Russ Francis, Renaldo Nehemiah, Peter Müller, Rick Barry, Gaétan Boucher and Andy Ripley. In 1983, he was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
After Scheckter's retirement, he founded , a company which built firearms training simulators for military, law enforcement and security organisations. The sale of the company provided funds to allow Scheckter to help the racing careers of his sons Tomas and Toby. Tomas raced in the Indy Racing League where he won two races. Scheckter's brother, Ian, also raced in F1 for a few years.
In 2004, Scheckter was reunited with his championship-winning Ferrari at the South African two-seater F1x2 Charity Grand Prix at Kyalami in South Africa.
Scheckter now spends his time as a biodynamic farmer, having bought the 2,500 acres (1,000 ha) Laverstoke Park Farm, near Overton, Hampshire, 40 miles (64 km) west of London. As an organic farming expert, Scheckter was featured in 2005 on the Visionhealth DVD and TV documentaries "Asthma: An Integrated Approach", "Arthritis: An Integrated Approach" and "Diabetes: An Integrated Approach". On 20 November 2011, he also appeared on the Countryfile television show to make a case for organic food. Laverstoke Park Farm was also featured on BBC's Escape To the Country where Jody showed viewers how Buffalo Mozzarella was made. In December 2009, Scheckter announced his intention to produce a biodynamic sparkling wine by 2012. In 2015, the farm was the setting for ITV's Sugar Free Farm where a group of celebrities had to go sugar free for two weeks whilst working on the farm.
Daughter Ila died on 17 October 2019, at age 21.
Complete Formula One World Championship results
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)
Formula One non-championship results
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap)
|1972||Yardley Team McLaren||McLaren M19A||Cosworth V8||ROC||BRA||INT||OUL||REP||VIC|
|1973||Yardley Team McLaren||McLaren M19C||Cosworth V8||ROC
|1974||Elf Team Tyrrell||Tyrrell 006||Cosworth V8||PRE
|1975||Elf Team Tyrrell||Tyrrell 007||Cosworth V8||ROC
|1976||Elf Team Tyrrell||Tyrrell 007||Cosworth V8||ROC
|1977||Wolf Racing||Wolf WR1||Ford V8||ROC
|1979||Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari 312T4||Ferrari Flat-12||ROC||GNM||DIN
|1980||Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari 312T5||Ferrari Flat-12||ESP
- Up until 1990, not all points scored by a driver contributed to their final World Championship tally (see list of points scoring systems for more information). Numbers without parentheses are Championship points; numbers in parentheses are total points scored.
- "Jody Scheckter: From Formula One to life in the slow lane". The Independent. 5 September 2010. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
- "F1 Teams & Drivers Hall of Fame: Jody Schekter". Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile. Retrieved 24 October 2007.
- Smith, Damien (February 2013). "Jody Scheckter - And he walked away". Motor Sport: 66–70. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
- "Formula One's Jody Scheckter Turns to Meat". foodmanufacture.co.uk. 1 March 2007. Archived from the original on 23 December 2007.
- Lawrence, James, Decanter.com (14 December 2009). Jody Scheckter announces Hampshire winery plans Archived 17 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- "Daughter of Formula One champion Jody Scheckter dies aged 21 after 'suspected accidental overdose'". Basingstoke Gazette.