South African born Jody Scheckter is amongst the world’s top Formula One drivers of the past. Perhaps infamous because of his dangerous antics, but famous for his skill and speed, Scheckter has certainly etched his name into the history of auto racing.
Jody David Scheckter was born on 29 January 1950 in the town of East London, South Africa. He moved to Britain in 1970 and at the age of 22 began making a name for himself in Formula One. Scheckter’s debut was in a 1972 race at Watkins Glen, seated behind the wheel of a McLaren. In 1973 he took the Formula 5000 championship and competed in 5 F1 races. Unfortunately Scheckter tended to be a reckless driver and was involved in several accidents. At the British Grand Prix in 1973 his car spun out of control causing a massive pileup of race cars, quickly ending the race. This disastrous race nearly brought his F1 career to an end. In time Scheckter changed his attitude and adopted safer driving methods whilst making the best of his skills.
Tyrrell offered Jody Scheckter a full-time driver spot in 1974, which he accepted. In 1976 Scheckter drove the impressive Tyrrell P34, a 6-wheeled vehicle. Scheckter decided to join the new Wolf team in 1977. He took a win in the team’s first race. Following the 1978 season with Wolf, Jody Scheckter joined Ferrari. Many of his critics felt that he would not manage well under Ferrari’s management, but they were quickly proved wrong. In 1979 Jody Scheckter won the World Championship. He decided to retire in 1980 after an unsuccessful year of racing.
Upon retiring Jody Scheckter assisted his sons Tomas and Toby to pursue their careers in auto racing. Today he is an organic farmer and the founder of FATS (Firearms Training Systems). He has also appeared in documentaries regarding health issues. Despite his relatively unpopular start as an F1 driver, Jody Scheckter went on to make a real name for himself and is a legend in the sport of Formula One racing.
Because of the signing of an agreement on 22 February 2008, by the Indy Racing League, so as to unify open-wheel racing, this year will be the last time fans will see their turbocharged Champ Cars of up to eight hundred horse power perform. And as one era draws to a close, the organizers of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach have vowed to make this year a racing extravaganza of spectacular proportions. It will reflect back on the memorable moments and drivers that have made the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach a favorite racing event for twenty-five years.
Long Beach, in Southern California, staged its first Formula One Grand Prix on 26 March 1977, through the efforts of Chris Pook. The travel agent and dedicated racing enthusiast hosted a Formula 5000 race eighteen months prior to the Grand Prix, which successfully drew a crowd of forty six thousand spectators. It was a tremendously nerve wrecking time for Pook, who was unsure if he could draw the U.S. Grand Prix race to Long Beach. With a little help, he managed to get the race, and brought the legendary battle between Mario Andretti, Jody Scheckter and Niki Lauda to thousands of spectators and millions of fans across the world.
Other big names in racing, such as Nelson Piquet, Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques Laffite, Alan Jones, Carlos Reutemann, Eddie Cheever and Emerson Fittipaldi, also thrilled the crowds over the following years. In 1984, an agreement was signed for Champ Cars, and in the beginning of this new venture no-one was sure if the race would attract spectators and give them the same racing experience as the Formula One racing did. But again, Mario Andretti climbed behind the wheel, and the crowds went wild. And while the face of Champ Car racing might be changing, Long Beach will always be host to this magnificent event.
Over and above three days of spectacular racing, which takes place between the 18th and the 20th of April 2008, the 34th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is set to have an action packed program lined up. Features, such as the Lifestyle Expo will have exhibitors, retail vendors, a family zone filled with simulators, video arcade, games and race cars, with the Expo Arena being the scene of professional skateboarders, bicycle tricksters and motorcyclists. The Support Series Garages at the expo will allow fans to watch cars being repaired, and even catch a glimpse of their favorite driver.
As a street racing event, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach has become legendary in this category and will continue to bring the excitement and action of racing to the city, and its faithful fans.