Three weeks after he had won the 1966 Grand Prix of Monaco in an aging, works, 2-liter, V-8 BRM P261, Jackie Stewart lay trapped in the wreckage of his car after having left Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the pouring rain at 165 mph. His BRM had smashed into a telegraph pole, hit a shed, and ground to a halt in a farmer’s outbuilding. Broken fuel tanks flooded his cockpit and soaked him with their volatile contents. Stewart laid there, a potential Roman candle, for 25 minutes, his leg trapped by the car’s distorted steering column, hoping against hope that a rogue spark would not ignite the fuel and turn him into a human torch.
Eventually, his teammates Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant freed him, but his problems were not over by a long chalk. There was no doctor or medical staff on the scene, so Jackie, who had suspected spinal injuries, was eased onto the back of a pick-up truck to wait for an ambulance. The vehicle eventually turned up and took him to the circuit’s first-aid center, where his stretcher was unceremoniously dumped on a dirty floor strewn with cigarette butts and other rubbish. Precious minutes later, another ambulance showed up, Stewart was loaded aboard, and off he went to the Liège hospital with a police escort. But the police lost the ambulance or vice versa, and Jackie’s driver did not know the way to the hospital. Mercifully, after that string of disasters, a UK Air Ambulance flew him back to Britain for treatment, without which Stewart may well have died.
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