There have been other great drivers and other great seasons; none, though, can match Jim Clark’s numbers of 1965. Fifty years ago the Scots sheep farmer not only won his second F1 World Championship but also the Indy 500, the Tasman Cup, the French F2 Championship and numerous saloon and sports car races. All in one year – a year of beautiful, 1.5 litre F1 cars, of gorgeous, outrageous Indy cars, of the first big Group 7 sports cars, of black Raybans, narrow lapels and headscarves for the girls. Jim Clark had won the Championship in 1963 and had come unbearably close to the title in 1962 and 1964. He had almost won at Indy – and he had lost many friends along the way. We find him, on Jan 1, 1965, on the east coast of South Africa, preparing for the first round of the F1 World Championship. His back is hurting from a slipped disc. He hasn’t had a real break. And Colin Chapman is about to give him a hard time for flying first class on the two-day haul from South Africa to New Zealand. We find Jim Clark, OBE, No 1 driver for Team Lotus, about to begin his epic year.
Friday, Jan 1
South African GP, East London (where the drivers need both their 1964 and 1965 licences and medical certificates!) With the latest, uprated Coventry Climax V8 powering his Lotus 33, Jim is quickest in every session, starts from the pole, sets fastest race lap (the first at over 100mph) and leads from start to finish. Jim is worried about the slipped-disc injury he has recently incurred during a snowball fight in an Italian ski resort (at a Ford promotion in Cortina featuring Jim, Jack Sears, John Whitmore, etc) but on race day at East London, wearing a corset for back support, orange lenses fitted to his goggles because of the threat of rain, he belies his lack of recent fitness. It is only in the closing stages that he begins to feel the strain – first when it indeed begins to spit and subsequently as the grueling, 2hr, 6min race winds down. Jim waves his fist at the flagman as the chequer is shown a lap early…but it all ends happily. Jim’s friend and Balfour Place flatmate, Jackie Stewart, also makes his official F1 debut for BRM, finishing sixth. (Jackie had ably subbed for Jim in the non-championship Rand GP at Kyalami on December 12, 1964, starting the new Lotus 33B from the pole and winning heat two after a drive-shaft failed on the line in heat one.) Mike Spence might have been second in East London in the other works Lotus 33-Climax but spins needlessly near the end: in Jim’s view, Mike’s interest in the female side of the Maggs family over the preceding days might have been a factor…
Jim spends most of the Saturday after the race watching his mates water-skiing: he deems it best to rest his back…but then can’t resist a quick run in the late afternoon. Surprisingly, he feels the better for it. Win No 1
Tuesday, Jan 5
To Auckland, New Zealand, from Johannesburg via Mauritius, Perth and Sydney (Qantas Lockheed Electra). On the back of a menu Jim writes a letter to his girl-friend, Sally Stokes, taking advantage of the free air mail postage from Australia if given to a hostess before landing. After explaining that Colin Chapman (who was also on the flight) had “almost gone mad” when he discovered that Andrew Ferguson (back in Cheshunt) had booked Jim a first-class ticket to New Zealand, Jim starts his second paragraph with the immortal understatement, “Well, as you no doubt know, we won the race…”
Thursday, Jan 7
Auckland, New Zealand After a long, boring flight Jim and Colin check into the new Grafton Bridge Motel in Auckland. Jim’s Hertz rental car for the next four weeks in New Zealand: a grey Ford Zodiac Mk 111. There to meet them is Ray Parsons, the excellent (Australian) mechanic/driver who is to prepare Jim’s Lotus 32B-Climax for the eight-race Tasman Series. Jim has brought his own race kit from South Africa (two pairs of light blue Dunlop overalls, the dark blue Bell Magnum with white peak and two pairs of goggles) and is intrigued to see how the little 32B performs around Pukekohe. The car is based on the 1964 F2 Lotus 32, now fitted with a 2.5 litre Climax four-cylinder engine and a much larger, rounded engine cover to suit. It’s a one-off: any repairs will have to be effected locally (although a new Climax engine arrives by ship after first practice at Pukekohe); and, at a time when sponsorship on racing cars was still banned in Europe and Australia, it carries an Esso logo in liberal New Zealand.
Saturday, Jan 9
New Zealand Grand Prix, Pukekohe It’s the biggest motor racing day of the New Zealand year as huge crowds throng into the combined horse/motor racing circuit south of Auckland. Two heats will precede the New Zealand Grand Prix – with plenty of support races in between. Jim’s major opposition includes Graham Hill in David McKay’s new Brabham-Climax (ride heights set by Graham himself!), Bruce McLaren and Phil Hill in Bruce’s Cooper-Climaxes, Frank Gardner in the Mildren Brabham-Climax and some very quick locals (although Frank Matich’s Brabham-Climax is not yet ready). This Tasman is also a precursor to the tyre wars that would soon affect the world: Bruce has signed with Firestone, Mildren with Goodyear and Dunlop with Team Lotus and McKay’s Scuderia Veloce. Now with the additional support of Dunlop’s Vic Barlow (a recent arrival from London) Jim wins heat one after Bruce spins on oil and glances an ambulance attending another incident; he also takes an immediate lead of the Grand Prix later in the day. On lap two, however, flat out on the back straight, Bruce (now in Phil Hill’s older Cooper) flicks out of Jim’s slipstream and takes the inside line into the hairpin. Jim stays on the outside, is slightly ahead mid-corner – but then suddenly finds himself spinning into retirement: Bruce has run a little wide and has flicked the right-rear wheel of the Lotus. Jim returns to the pits on foot, saying “Bloody McLaren…!” under his breath as he strides towards Colin Chapman. Graham Hill goes on to win from Frank Gardner and the first local home – Jim Palmer. For more insight, watch the excellent YT video of the race (below). Watch for Spencer Martin working on the SV Brabham and future March/Shadow mechanic, Peter Kerr, chatting to Jim Palmer. The night ends in an Auckland night club where Jim gains his revenge in a bun-throwing fight with the McLaren team. Colin Chapman, due to return to England the next day (the Racing Car Show is on at Olympia and there are the F1, Indy, sports car, saloon and F2 race programmes to oversee) is still smarting from Bruce’s top speed advantage that afternoon. He exhorts Ray to work as much as possible on fuel mixtures and resolves to buy Bruce’s engine (running Repco con-rods) for Jim’s 1966 Tasman campaign.
Win No 2 (heat)
Sunday, Jan 10
Pukekohe Jim’s water-skiing with Bruce and Patty McLaren, Frank Gardner and local friends. Bruce is on one side of the wake, Jim the other. Suddenly it seems a good idea to try a scissor switch. Jim angles across but then suddenly realizes that Bruce hasn’t reacted. Jim’s heading not only for the big waves but also for his mate. He bales out, missing Bruce by inches before somersaulting heavily into the foam.
Tuesday, Jan 11
Somewhere between Auckland and Levin They’re in a convoy, Bruce, Patty McLaren and Phil Hill in their Morris 1100, Jim in the Zephyr. They stop in a lay-by to stretch their legs. Patty swaps places and slides in next to Jim. Bruce pulls away then stops at the edge of the lay-by to watch his race cars pass by, towed by a pick-up. Jim and Pat are chatting away, talking about this and that. Jim fails to notice the stationary Morris. He plows into the back of it.
The damage isn’t serious and so they continue on their way, Jim suitably admonished.
Not long afterwards they stop for fuel. They all pile into the kiosk for drinks and sandwiches. “Say, that 1100 sure takes an awful lot of gas,” says Phil, peering out at the Morris. “She’s still drinkin’ it in…”
“Or not,” replies Bruce, walking swiftly towards the bowsers. “Look at this, Clark! The fuel’s just pouring out the bottom of the tank! You smashed the fuel tank!”
Saturday, Jan 16
Levin, Gold Leaf International Trophy Jim wins this one with ease – wins both his heat, the final and “The Flying Farewell” sprint at the close of play. Livery touched up by local racer Kenny Smith, the immaculate 32B performs faultlessly on a day when both McLaren Coopers were off-song. Graham Hill has also returned to the UK and is not due to re-appear in the Tasman until mid-February in Sydney. Frank Gardner and Jim Palmer again take the minor placings, although Wellington’s Kerry Grant shows amazing pace with his Brabham before spinning down the field. Wins Nos 3, 4 and 5
Saturday, Jan 23
Lady Wigram Trophy, Wigram airfield Jim’s sixth and seventh wins of the year – another preliminary victory followed by his second Tasman feature win– are again runaways, although Bruce McLaren on this occasion is his nearest rival. Jim also faces falling oil pressure in the second half of the 64min race but nurses the Climax home with typical creativity, slipping the car into neutral before braking areas and flicking it through the gears conventionally by the pits, lest the McLaren team alert Bruce to the oil pressure problem. In this respect, Jim’s mechanical sympathy is a foretaste of what is to come at the 1965 British GP at Silverstone. Wins Nos 6 (heat) and 7
Saturday, Jan 30
Teretonga International Trophy Teretonga, on the tip of New Zealand’s south island, 100 miles from Dunedin, has long been Bruce McLaren territory. He finished second there in 1958; he won it in 1959; and he memorably beat Stirling Moss on the little 1.5 mile circuit in 1962 by removing the right-hand fuel tank from his Cooper and thus weighting it for left-handers (Teretonga has six lefts and two rights.) He repeated the victory in 1963; and then, in 1964, he almost dead-heated with his team-mate, Timmy Mayer. Bruce took that win by 0.1sec. Four wins and a second, in other words, in six years.
1965 ends the sequence. Jim Clark dominates both his preliminary heat and the International Trophy, beating Bruce by 14 sec. As at Wigram, however, Jim has to tend the health of the 32B: water temperatures begin to climb as the race progresses, obliging Jim to back-off with the revs and to give the car as much free air as possible. He does so, despite constantly lapping the back-markers, to make it three Tasman wins out of four. As at Levin, a short, sharp sprint race closes the day’s proceedings; and, despite the overheating worries, Jim duly lines up for this, too, such is his commitment to the fans’ enjoyment. Bruce on this occasion takes the lead into the first corner; Jim settles for second place behind his close friend. Wins Nos 8 (heat) and 9
Friday, February 5
Geoff Sykes, General Secretary of the Australian Automobile Racing Club (AARC), organisers of the racing at Warwick Farm, has introduced Jim to Jim Hazleton, a flight instructor at Bankstown Airport. Jim has been tutoring Jim for the past few days and feels he’s ready – after a mere 15 hours – to fly solo. Jim has no qualms. He circuit-and-bumps the Cessna 172 as if he’s been flying it all his life and celebrates afterwards with Geoff and Black Jack Brabham, whose been running around in an Aztec. As he steers his little Toyota (courtesy of Arnold Glass) back down the Hume Highway to Sydney, it strikes Jim that he’s never enjoyed a racing series more: the 32B has lots of oomph; he and Ray are having a ball; he’s winning races; and now he’s managed even to find the time he needs for flying. That would never have happened in Europe – or even in the States, where he always seems to be in a rush. He’s looking forward to The Farm, too. Looks like a nicely-balanced circuit. Geoff Sykes is a gem – a man to trust – and also a fellow flying enthusiast. It crosses Jim’s mind that he ought to consult Geoff about setting up an account with the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney. Australia’s going decimal in ’66 but it wouldn’t hurt to have an account ready for this time next year.
Sunday, February 14, 1965
Peter Windsor writes: my Dad arranges for a flag marshal friend to sneak me into the Warwick Farm paddock. It’s a carefully-planned operation – a bit like the army news we keep hearing on the radio these days from Vietnam. I’m to stand near the fence on the Hume Straight bank at 08:00 sharp. Mr Barker – a flag marshal – will drive by on the circuit in a cream-coloured Peugeot 403. I’m to wave him down, climb the fence and jump into the car’s boot. By the time I’m released – hopefully without anyone noticing – I should in theory be in the Warwick Farm paddock – the forbidden, untouchable place about which I had only dreamt.
It works! I blink in the early morning Sydney sunshine, then peer around me. There’s the dark green of Jim Clark’s Lotus! And there’s Jim, hands on hips, shirt off, chatting to officials! I walk tentatively over to the tented area, clutching my rucksack. Inside: my copy of Jim Clark At The Wheel, purchased from Dymocks only four months before; a packed lunch prepared by my Mum; and my Kodak Box Brownie camera, hopefully with the black-and-white film correctly loaded. Has anyone noticed my sudden arrival? I turn around. The Peugeot has already gone. I seem to be in the clear.
I stand and watch for a while. They are apparently talking about the Esso badge on Jim’s Lotus. The officials keep walking over to it, measuring it, pondering it. Jim seems quite relaxed. I notice Ray Parsons, in white t-shirt, waving his hands a little. I put down the rucksack and pull out the camera. These are the photos I take:
Note the Esso badge now taped over! That’s Jim, hand on hip, to the centre-right of the 32B’s rear Dunlop.
Jim and the car are wheeled over to the Esso tent. I follow at a distance, fearful that I will be ejected from the paddock. Suddenly, to my left, I see Bruce McLaren sitting in his white Cooper. Again I pull out the pen and the Brownie:
I stand and watch, shaking with excitement. Time stands still – probably for two hours, maybe more. I’m watching Jim as he chats to friends, talks to Ray Parsons, looks at the car from every angle imaginable. I even see him helping Ray with a wheel change. He sits down on a canvas chair, laughing with Ray. I summon the courage to move. I hunt for my book, searching for the right page. I fumble for my red Biro – my one and only pen.
“Excuse me Mr Clark,” – my Mum had been emphatic about calling him Mr Clark should I ever meet him face-to-face – “would you please sign your book?”
“Of course.Thanks for reading it. Did you enjoy it?”
“Very much,” I stammer. “I bought it last year and read it right through!”
Then suddenly my Dad, who also shares a love of flying with Geoff Sykes, is standing with me, hand on my shoulder. He’s working today as a start-line judge. He thinks it’s probably time for me to cross the track and join my brother in the spectator area down at Creek Corner. Even as engines burst into life and drivers begin to fidget by their cars, I walk slowly towards the paddock exit. In the marshalling area I see Jim, now in blue Dunlop overalls, preparing to pull on his helmet and climb into the Lotus. The dark blue helmet. The famous dark blue helmet with the white peak.
That’s Ray, just to Jim’s left – and the photographer to Ray’s right is the legendary Nigel Snowdon, who took the photo at Bankstown a few days before
Down at Creek the crowd is buzzing. Frank Matich, the brilliant local – and another hero of mine – is on the pole in his gorgeous Team Total light blue Brabham. Graham Hill, back from Europe after missing the previous three races in New Zealand, is second in David McKay’s Brabham; Jim is third and Jack Brabham fourth, ahead of Bruce McLaren and Frank Gardner. Could Frank actually beat the unbeatable? Keith Reagan, on the PA, builds the moment to a frenzy. A group of spectators nearby pile their Eskies on top of one another and jump the fence as the drivers begin their parade laps on the back of open sports cars. My brother and I join the throng, he with the colour film, I with eyes as big as saucers. Marshals in white coats try to hassle us back to the teeming compound.
Then they’re with us. Hill. Frank Matich. And now Jim on the back of a white Sprite…with Mike Spence next to him. Mike Spence! “What’s Mike Spence doing here?” I ask Richard. “Not sure. Was it Mike? Are you really sure it was Mike?”
As sure as any 12-year-old who’d only seen foggy black-and-whites in old magazines could ever be. We look at our watches, my brother and I. “They’re running late,” says Richard. “It’s all these people on the track. Let’s go.”
We wait. It is hot and humid – but then suddenly the PA is shouting: “And they’re off…….! It’s Matich – Frank Matich leads into Paddock….!” We haven’t seen them prior to this start; there have been no “out-laps” apart from the drivers’ parade. We have no idea about what the cars will actually look like, what the sound will be, what the perspectives of speed will be. Now, in seconds, they will be upon us. We can hear a steadily-rising roar. I’m squeezed as near to the track as I can be, pushing the fence wires into a bow almost until they touch the black wooden sleeper fence.
“It’s Matich in front…..!” says the voice of Keith Reagan. The crowd screams. Girls yelp. It’s baking hot. Much bigger people are pushing me from both sides and into my back. I’m actually finding it hard to breathe but I don’t know if it’s from the crush or from the explosion of the moment.
And then they are suddenly there, engines crackling on over-run, drivers flicking down the gears, car noses dipped and bobbing under brakes. It’s the red SV Brabham of Graham Hill in front! Jim is nearest to me, with the light blue Matich Brabham down the inside. Dust, smoke and noise fill the air. The leaders are accelerating out of the hairpin; still the rest of the field is diving into the corner. I can hear the PA voice above the now-fading engine notes: “And Graham Hill leads the field into the Esses. It’s Clark up to second and Matich has slotted into third…” I’m jumping up and down, up and down, up and down…
It is an afternoon of neck-craning and heat, of tip-toes and thirst. I’m hoarse from screaming. Jim Clark is following Hill and I’m willing him on as I’ve never wished for anything in my 12-year-old life. I notice, as they leave Creek Corner, a piece of paper caught in the nose of the Lotus. I note too, for the first time, that Jim is wearing a white handkerchief over his nose and mouth. He sits back and low in the Lotus, perfectly in harmony with the car. Hill’s Brabham seems to move with an abruptness; everything about Jim is fluid. I see flashes of red as he fingertips the Lotus steering wheel mid-corner; the sun catches the car’s chrome exhaust.
Richard is keeping a lap chart in his race programme. No 1 – Hill. No 9 – Clark. No 4 – Brabham. No 3 – Matich. The race – the day – thunders on. Will Jim pass Hill? The crowd still yells loudly for Frank Matich. I join them. My perfect result? Clark first, Matich second, McLaren third.
Lap 35. Ten to go. I’m as nervous as a calf on branding day. Jim is right behind Graham. I’m fearful there’ll be an accident – just like the one I’d seen at Bathurst in Easter, ’64. My brother thinks Hill’s in trouble. The Brabham sounds ok where we are. Then, almost as if in slow motion, Jim is now moving to the inside and out-braking Graham into Creek. Right in front of us! Jim Clark takes the lead! Graham falls away and then spins. Jack Brabham inherits second place after a strong drive in his new car; and the fabulous Matich retains third place.
I am aware only the heat and the dust and the sweat and the tension as the last lap approaches. Bang! The Howard Brothers’ fireworks announce Charles Brittlebank’s waving of the chequered flag. The crowd begins to surge ever-forward. I’m caught in the mayhem. They’re jumping the fences, running the track. I’m fearful but I won’t miss it: I won’t miss the sight of Jim Clark on his Lap of Honour. I wave to him and I think he waves right back. His dark-lensed goggles are down, the face mask is down. I can see his smile and the crest on his tan, kangaroo-skin gloves.
We listen on the PA to the prize giving. Dan MacFarlane of the Australian Jockey Club (AJC), owners of Warwick Farm, hands out the trophies under the auspices of Geoff Sykes. We’re all milling around down at Creek. There are still more races to be run. Yet we’re on track, chatting to the flag marshals, asking them about the race. Did you see Clark’s pass? What happened to Hill? He spun and stalled? Where? No-one knew.
What I did subsequently discover, after reading Sports Car World a couple of months later, was that Jim, if you please, lost third gear on lap 2 of the 1965 Warwick Farm International 100.
All the time he was behind Hill he had been learning how to drive the 32B minus third. He avoided second for fear of never finding a way out of it. He took fourth gear out of Creek and held it there, balancing the 32B on the torque of the Climax 2.5 litre 4, all the way to the pit straight, where he could take fifth. This he held until Creek… It was, by any standards, one of Jim Clark’s greatest drives.
And I saw it. I saw him on the day it happened. Win No 10.
Post-script: years later I finally managed to sit in the famous 32B. It still wore its original steering wheel – the one I saw Jim massaging through Creek Corner as he played with the torque of the Climax 2.5. With thanks to Colin Piper and the Nigel Snowdon Collection (Sutton Images) for additional photographs
Sunday, February 21, 1965: Melbourne
Although Jim today clinched the 1965 Tasman Series this wasn’t a great weekend, for on Saturday we lost Lex Davison, that most gentlemanly of gentleman drivers. He ran wide in his new, red Brabham in the esses prior to the penultimate straight but seemed to have it all under control as he bumped over the grass near the horse-track railings. Then, suddenly, launched by a dangerously-sited slab of concrete in a dip, the car flicked sideways into the white fencing. With little cockpit protection – Lex had only recently switched from a “shorty” helmet to an Everoak and still wore polo shirts matched with a colourful bandana – it was over very quickly. An institution in Australian motor racing, Lex was a father-figure to many and a standard-bearer for all. A cloud descended over Sandown Park.
For once, Jim didn’t need to learn a Tasman circuit, for he had made a low-key, one-off appearance at Sandown in 1962, ostensibly to secure for Colin Chapman a buyer for the Springbok-winning Lotus 21. In 1965 Jim finished second after racing Jack Brabham hard for most of the distance. Jack’s new compound Goodyears, flown in by Fred Gamble directly from Akron, for the first time appeared to be quicker – and more resilient – than Jim’s Dunlops; and, besides, Jim’s well-used Climax began to lose oil pressure as the race unwound. Even so, he finished only five seconds behind Jack on this fast circuit, with Phil Hill and Bruce McLaren taking third and fourth places in their Firestone-shod Coopers. Frank Matich was again right on the pace with the light blue Team Total/Laurie O’Neill Brabham, qualifying third behind Jack and Jim, but was an early retirement with a broken distributor. Jim’s 33 points were enough to clinch the Tasman Cup with one race still to run (Longford on March 1-3) before the non-championship race at Lakeside on March 7.
With grateful thanks to Graham Howard, whose biography of Lex Davison remains an industry standard, and to Peter Bakalor, who was, and still is, way ahead of his time.
We will continue to update Jim Clark’s 1965 season as it happens. Next race – the Australian Grand Prix, Longford, Tasmania (Round Seven of the Tasman Cup). March 3, 1965.