This article critically evaluates the contribution of Jackie Stewart in making motor racing a safer sport for competitors. It challenges the validity of the popular assumption that Jackie Stewart by himself developed a ‘culture of safety’ that transformed the sport. Instead, the role of other individuals are identified alongside the importance of three social processes. These processes are identified as the changing balance of power between different masculine identities, the development of commercial sponsorship and a growth in the coverage of the sport on television.

The development of motor racing from the 1960s onwards as a safer sport in which to compete stems from social and cultural changes in western societies, not the isolated and independent actions of one individual. The origin story of Jackie Stewart as the originator of a culture of safety is typical of reducing a complex social process to the actions of a singular ‘prime mover’ and creates a myth that mis-represents a history of the past.