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.
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
We will continue to update Jim Clark’s 1965 season as it happens. Next race – the Warwick Farm International 100, in Sydney, Australia (Round five of the Tasman Cup). Feb 14, 1965. In between times, and taking advantage of the two-week break, Jim will be securing his Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) at Bankstown airport, Sydney