Civilised, articulate and talented, Jacky Ickx’s early motor racing exploits marked him down as a potential world champion even before he ever sat in a Grand Prix car. But somehow the cards never quite fell in the direction of this charming Belgian driver despite some quite brilliant drives for Brabham and Ferrari between 1968 and 72.
The son of the respected Belgian motoring journalist of the same name, Jacky began his career successfully in motorcycle trial events and later raced a Lotus Cortina with great success in saloon car events. He exploded to prominence at the age of 22 when he drove a Tyrrell F2 Matra MS7 with remarkable zest in the German GP at Nurburgring, running amongst the leading half dozen before the French machine broke its suspension.
Ickx crossed McLaren’s path on two occasions. In 1973 he was invited to drive a third works Yardley M23 in the German GP at Nuburgring, a race he had won brilliantly twice before in 1969 and 72, and he finished third behind the Tyrrells of Jackie Stewart and Francois Cevert.
After his retirement from F1™ he later became Clerk of the Course for the Monaco Grand Prix, but had his licence withdrawn in absolutely outrageous circumstances following the 1984 race when he was obliquely accused of favouring Alain Prost’s McLaren-TAG which emerged victorious as Ickx flagged the race to a premature halt in monsoon conditions. Ickx’s links with Porsche, who had built the TAG turbo V6 engines used by McLaren, made him partial, so the critics said.
Truth be told, it was a ludicrous reflection on the FIA’s inability at the time to administer the sport on an even-handed basis. Gentlemen who knew their stuff like Ickx were badly needed on the administrative side of the sport during that period. It was a sad episode.