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The Unforgettable Jim Clark

He was nibbling his nails the first time I saw him – just as they said he would be.  Not absently-mindedly but seemingly with aggression, palm turned upwards, free hand inspecting frequently.  He wore black sunglasses, square of frame – Rayban Wayfarers – fawn slacks and no shirt.  His shoulders were as broad as a boxer’s, yet he was short, even by my schoolboy standards.

And he walked with that amazing twinkle-toe lilt, springing upwards, like a Scots sword-dancer, with every step.  Jackie Stewart did likewise, we noticed – although his feet were splayed outwards.  (Was this their secret, we wondered?  Were these gaits the key to all that brilliance?)

Jim was lilting now towards the Lotus camp – to the tent which shaded his Lotus 32B-Climax.  The air was surprisingly still, the tempo unhurried.  There was no Colin Chapman in Australia – just Jim and the boys, led by Ray Parsons, the Team Lotus Cortina/Elan/F3 driver.  Standing there, on the Warwick Farm lawn, it all seemed like Fun in the afternoon Sun, not practice for the International 100.

Yet a Clark performance it was.  First there were the powder-blue Dunlop overalls, clean and freshly-ironed.  Then, for protection against flying stones, Clark tied a checkered handkerchief around his mouth and nose.  Next were the Pioneer goggles, heavily taped from the mid-point upwards.  Finally came the legendary helmet, the dark blue Bell Magnum with the white peak.  Clark stepped sideways into the red seat, pulled on a pair of his own-make red gloves and fitted the goggles over the famous eyes.  Down the side of the car, on flanks of emerald green, ran the neat yellow lettering:  Team Lotus.

That afternoon, in Australia, I watched him qualify on the front row, alongside the Brabhams of Graham Hill and Frank Matich.

And then, on Sunday, I saw him win.  He followed Hill for the first phase of the race – while he adapted to a car without third gear – then passed his friend under braking for Creek Corner.   “Copybook Clark” the headlines said the next day.

A few years later, still in Sydney, I joined a small band of people saying goodbye to him at Kingsford Smith Airport.  The last Tasman race had been run;  Jim was flying to Indianapolis via Chicago to test the new Lotus 56 turbine Indy car.  After drinks in the VIP lounge he disappeared through Customs; the crowd disbanded.  Clark had gone for another year.

Or had he?  His Qantas 707 halted at the threshold, then taxied back.  I was standing with my father in the Arrivals hall when Clark re-appeared, stewardess at this side.

“Plane’s been delayed,” he said.  “Come and have a drink.”

I asked him about why he’d used a dark blue peak (instead of white) in the 1964 Dutch and 1966 Mexican GPs.  (He said he’d broken the white one and that had been all that was available.)  I asked him about the wet race he’d just driven at Longford in the Lotus 49 (“It was crazy.  Only Piers Courage had the right tyres”) and about his chances in the F1 season to come.  I remember him talking wryly about soon having to drive a Ford Taunus down to Monaco for a Ford publicity stunt and, yes, I remember him describing what it had been like to have been hit in the face by a bird at Reims, 1966.  “It felt like a bloody great crow…” I recall him saying.  I told him that I wanted above all to work in motor sport – perhaps as a journalist.  “Just work hard and never give up,” he said.  “That’s the key.”

At the time, though, my appreciation of Clark’s talent, of his standing, was too youthful.  For me, live motor racing began with Clark – and the fact that he was so statistically successful was hardly the point.  I revered his character, his way of speaking, the way he presented himself, his home town of Chirnside, his shyness, his desire to drive anything, anywhere, his honesty, his respect for others.  I revered everything about Jim Clark.

Jim was not only a good person;  he was a genius amongst his peers.   The Standard.  When someone else won a race, they said, “So what happened to Clark?”  When you arrived late for practice, and you wanted to know the lap times, you asked, “So what’s Jim doing?”

I am not alone;  I know that.  Mention Jim Clark to your average racing person and even the most ardent Michael or Ayrton fan will say, “Yes.  Jim Clark.  He was another.”

As we record yet another anniversary of his passing, then, it is tempting to mark April 7 with some solemnity.  Equally, so many people still want to talk about Jim – to learn about him.

Here, then, are some views of people who knew him well – colleagues to whom I have spoken over the years in order to glean just a little more about the man and the driver who just might have been the very best we’re ever going to see.

In characteristic mood prior to the 1965 Race of Champions at Brands – scene of an untypical shunt. Jim is wearing the (Harrods!) cardigan given to him by Sally Stokes for Christmas in December, 1964

IN 1965 David Benson was a motoring writer for the Daily Express and a Jim Clark fanatic.  He’d seen Clark racing from his earliest days, when he was pushed into the limelight by his great friend and supporter, Ian Scott Watson.

Quite simply, Benson considered Clark to be “better than Fangio” and “faster than Moss” – and he said so in print.  By mid-1965 he had also negotiated to write a five-part newspaper column with Clark.  Jim would be paid £1500 for his time – a good amount of money for those days.

He remembers Clark as being unbelievably pedantic about the columns.  “If I wrote 150mph and Jim knew it was 149mph he would phone me up and ask me to correct it.  Every page I wrote had to have his signature on it before it could be sent to the newspaper.  He was incredible.”  To be sure, Clark described himself as having “this old-fashioned fixation for accuracy and devoted nearly a chapter of his autobiography, Jim Clark at the Wheel, to his views about newspapermen!

Consequently, the Benson stories, published in the Express around the time of the British Grand Prix, are good reading.  Clark even describes the build-up to his famous shunt in the Race of Champions that year, when he won the first heat, seemed assured of overall victory, yet unaccountably ran wide at Bottom Bend under pressure from Dan Gurney.  If he had let Gurney (whose Goodyears were in much better shape than Jim’s Dunlops) past, Jim would still have taken the win.

In the Express, Clark took the opportunity to quieten those who said that he didn’t like pressure, that he could only win from the front (in shades of Sebastian Vettel, 2011!):

“People have said that I get very ragged when I am pushed hard, and this is exactly the sort of thing that was suggested about my crash at Brands Hatch.  What actually happened was that I decided to use the race to find out just how good were the new Goodyears being used by Dan.  If I could keep up the pressure on Gurney in the race then I could find out whether they were better than the Dunlops I had on my car.  The track was damp and slippery, but I knew I had enough in hand to let Dan pass me and still overtake him again to win.

“Just before the crash I started to put on the pressure.  Then, coming out of Bottom Bend, I slid on to the wet grass on the edge of the track.  The steering wouldn’t answer because of the rutted conditions and the wetness of the grass.”

“As it happened, the car then hit a bank at about 60mph.  One wheel flew into the air and the car was written off.  Luckily I only hurt my leg slightly and managed to walk away.  But it was certainly the worst moment I have had this year.

“I tried to get the whole thing out of my mind as soon as possible but I must admit that I still can’t understand why it happened at that point:  it is the most unlikely place to have an accident at Brands Hatch.”

Clark also took advantage of the Express to give us some idea of his shattering schedule.  In a year when he won both the Indianapolis 500 and the F1 World Championship, he also found time to win the French Formula 2 Championship and numerous saloon and sports car races.

“It started off on Monday, with my flying from Reims to Zurich and attending a special luncheon arranged by Ford, whose engine powered my Indy-winning car.  Then, on Tuesday, I flew to Paris and drove to Rouen for practice for the F2 race on Sunday.  From Thursday to Saturday I was at Silverstone for the British GP.  Immediately after the big race” (which Jim won, nursing low oil pressure in the closing stages by switching off the engine through Stowe and Club! ) “Colin Chapman, Mike Spence and my girl-friend, Sally Stokes, jumped into our car and headed to Luton, where Colin’s private plane was waiting.  We arrived at Rouen just as darkness began to fall.  The airport there is pretty primitive, so a few minutes later and we would have had real trouble landing.

“Early on Saturday morning we were up and out at the track for a quick practice session before the race in the afternoon.  And then,m as I won the Rouen Grand Prix” – two wins in two days! – “our party decided to stay overnight and celebrate rather than fly back to London.  Our celebration was pretty mild – a quick glass of champagne at the prize-giving – then dinner in a small French restaurant with the mechanics.

“If I am driving well nowadays I believe it is because I am doing so many races and able to maintain peak form…”  Excluding test sessions, Clark competed in 59 events that year (1965).

IN THE LATER years of his life, Trevor Taylor began to feel the effects of his racing accidents.  There was the horrendous shunt at Enna, in 1963, when he was thrown out of his F1 Lotus 25 at over 100mph;  there was the finish-line shambles at Rouen in 1962, when he slammed into the back of Maurice Trintingnant’s Lotus 24;  there was the infamous crash at Spa, 1962, when he and Willy Mairesse touched wheels on the fast run up to La Source.

“I’m having specialist treatment,” said Trevor when we met a few years ago.  “I’m beginning to feel it in my back and neck.  The problem is that it’s affecting my golf…”

Trevor worshipped Clark;  and Jim always felt for Trev.  They were Lotus team-mates for four years and even shared the Formula Junior Championship in 1960, scoring the same number of wins, seconds and third places.  Until the final round, that is, when Jim had another commitment and Trevor looked to be set to take the title.

“But I couldn’t do that, could I?” says Trev.  “Not after all those places and things.  So I decided that we should split the championship, regardless of what happened in the last race.”

Taylor raced closely with Clark – closer, probably than did any other driver, if you factor in the similarity of their cars.  And once, in the 1962 Cape Grand Prix, at Killarney, in South Africa, Taylor beat Jim.  “We were racing out front together – you know, Team Lotus cleaned up the Springbok Series that year – and Jim spun when I was behind him, you see.  That was the only reason I won, and even then Jim caught up and finished second, right on my tail.  I got a real talking-to from Chapman after that one!”

Even then, with Clark only recently inheriting Number One status at Team Lotus, it was clear that Jim was the Master and Trevor the Pupil.  “You could always learn so much from Jim.  You had to ask him the right question, mind, but I remember that if you were following him he often did things with the car that made you wonder.  And when you questioned him about them he’d have a perfectly logical explanation.  ‘Well, this is an understeer sort of corner,’ he’d say, ‘and you’ve got to drive it like that to get the power on early coming out.’  He was a complete natural, was Jimmy – a complete, born natural.  Even in Formula Junior it was obvious.  We had some pretty close races in those days, with me in a privately-entered Lotus 18 and Jim in the works cars but whenever I was racing with him it always seemed to me that nothing was an effort for him.  He was never in trouble;  he was always in control.  Me?  I had to work much harder to go just as fast.  Which is why I was so stunned when I heard about his accident at Hockenheim.  You couldn’t believe that anything would happen to Jim.  He was that good.”

Taylor first raced against Clark in a Formule Libre race in 1959.  Taylor drove one of the new rear-engined Coopers, Clark the brutal Border Reivers Lister-Jaguar.  Taylor won, but he could remember being impressed by the young Scot in the sports car, leaping over kerbs and knocking down cones.

“There’s no way he should have been competitive in the sports car, but there he was, giving me a race.  He spun eventually and I remember asking, ‘Who is this Jim Clark?’  He made an immediate impression on everyone who saw him.”

Taylor’s lasting impression, though, is of the ever-so-nice driver always being concerned with his team-mate.  When Jim first won a Grand Prix (at Spa, 1962) the celebrations were bittersweet.  He’d won but Trevor had had an accident.  That took the fun out of the day.

“He was always asking how you were getting on,” remembered Trevor, “If there was anything he could do to help, he’d do it, never mind that you were out there, racing too.  He told me everything I wanted to know and I never once heard him say a bad word about anyone.  This was it with Jim – would never voice an opinion about another driver because I don’t think he had any.  He just seemed to like everyone.

“Once I remember him being upset about the reliability side of things.  It was at Oulton Park in 1960, I think, and I’d had an accident due to something breaking.  I can remember Jim coming up to me in the transporter and saying, ‘Look Trev, I just don’t know what’s going to happen next.  I’m very worried about things’.  But then he got into the car and raced as he normally did.  After that, I never remember him worrying.  He was dedicated to Chapman and Lotus.”

To the extent that he became the guinea pig.  Fanfare surrounded Clark’s drive in the 1962 Dutch GP, when he raced the new monocoque Lotus 25 for the first time.  Clark led the first 11 laps, then dropped back to finish ninth after a clutch problem;  Taylor finished a great second in the space-frame Lotus 24.  Years later, Trev suggested that Jim would have won that race had he also started in a 24.   “The 24 was a much better car than it looked alongside the 25, and Jim sometimes said that he might have won the championship in 1962 had he done more races with it.  However, he appreciated that Chapman wanted to progress to the monocoque and went along with him.  The last thing he would have done was protest.”

Trevor on the way to second place in the 1962 Dutch GP with the space-frame Lotus 24-Climax;  Jim, though, was committed to the Lotus 25 (below)

Trevor didn’t attend many F1 races in retirement.  It was enough for him to know that World Champions sometimes refused to race or ran into people they found in their way.

“Can you imagine what Jim would have thought about all that?”, Trevor asked incredulously after the 1997 Championship decider in Jerez.  “I just count myself fortunate to have raced in the era I knew.  I’m sure Jim would have felt likewise.”

ALEC MASKELL is softly-spoken, in the Clark mould.  He was also a Dunlop tyre engineer who worked closely with Clark from 1960-65.  Very closely.  The two both came from farming backgrounds and instantly struck up a close friendship.  They’d go testing at Silverstone, find the day rained off, then retreat to the “Green Man” to talk about livestock and arable farming.  Maskell was also able to appreciate Clark’s genius first-hand.  “Our figures showed that most drivers wore some tyres quicker than others.  Jack Brabham used his rears more than he did his fronts.  The converse was true of Dan Gurney and John Surtees.  The astonishing thing about Jim was that his tyre wear was the same on all four corners of the car and that he used substantially less rubber than anyone else.  In other words, he seemed to use all four tyres equally.  Jim couldn’t explain why – and nor could we.  But the figures went some way towards describing his qualities.”

If I have any memories of Clark in action they are for the most part of his ability to slide a car as a fluid whole.  You rarely saw under- or oversteer with Clark.  His corrections were so subtle, so supple, that he appeared from a distance always to be cornering on rails.   Clark described his style thus:

“I know I’m inclined to go into a corner earlier than most people.  By that I mean that most people run deep into a corner before turning the wheel to go round.  In this way you can complete all your braking in a straight line.  I prefer to cut into the corner early and, even with my brakes still on, set up the car early.  In this way, I almost make a ‘false’ apex.”

LJK – Leonard Setright, one of the greatest of all motoring writers, once wrote in Car magazine about being a spectator at the Gasworks Hairpin at Monaco in 1966:

“That was the first year of the 3-litre F1.  The best Lotus could do for the world’s best driver was an old Lotus 33 with a 2-litre Climax engine.  A nice engine in a beautiful-looking car;  but, pitted against a 3-litre field, could Clark honestly be seen as having the ‘superior equipment’ that was so often supposed to account for his superior performance?  Not a chance – but there he was, on the front row.

“When the flag fell, he shot away, intent as ever on establishing such a lead as would deter or dismay those compelled to follow him.  Then, all of a sudden, he was going nowhere, and the field rushed past.  His gearbox had stuck in bottom gear.  Eventually it freed, and Clark set off in pursuit. I was watching from the infield, standing at the very apex of the old Gasworks Hairpin.   Monte Carlo streets are not the easiest on which to overtake, but Clark was doing it time and time again, quite often as he hove into my view.  I found that I could actually hear the cars’ brakes being applied;  I noted that Clark was starting his braking at about the point where most of the others finished.   Progressively he would ease them, all the way to the apex of the corner, at which point he would throw a pout of the lower lip as he switched his right foot from brake pedal to accelerator and went hounding off after his next victim. How many he dismissed in a fair fight I cannot recall, but there was no question of anything unfair: his racing manners were always impeccable.

“After 50 of the scheduled 100 laps he was up to third, with a record to his credit – at which juncture, just as he approached my corner, the rear suspension broke and he wobbled to the outer edge of the track and retirement.  Say not the struggle naught availeth:  Clark could fight.”

“….he would throw a pout of the lower lip as he switched his right from brake pedal to accelerator….” Jim exits the Station Hairpin, Monaco, 1966

Maskell remembers Jim being so naturally good that he was in some ways an “awkward” test driver.  “I think Chapman was right when he used to say that Clark could adapt to a car’s handling rather than criticise it,” said Alec.  “He just seemed to have this ability to knock half a second off his times whenever he felt like it.  We’d test tyres all day, select the best one from his comments and then find that he could go just as quickly, if not quicker, on the control tyres.  With that, he’d smile sheepishly and make out that he didn’t really know which was the better tyre or why he had gone quicker…

“….but which construction is actually better…?” Jim testing Firestones in South Africa with Chapman and tyre engineer, Brian Hayward

“I think he had something that I’ve never seen in another driver.  With Jochen Rindt, for instance, you knew there would be another half-second as soon as he got wound up but Jim – he never drove like a tiger – he was just automatically and naturally quick.  I never remember him looking untidy on the track;  and, of course, he was always better on tyre wear and temperatures.  He’d always run cooler than Graham Hill, for instance.”

Clark, as he says, used to like to drive as much as possible.  He’d regularly phone Alec to see if Dunlop had any tyres to test purely because he felt like running.  Would Clark, though, have enjoyed days of testing at Fiorano, Lauda-style?  Or using simulators?

“You know, when I think about it,” said Alec, “I just can’t imagine Jim being involved with today’s racing.  He was such a special sort of person.  On the one hand he was so amazingly gifted, on the other he was so genuine – his personality and character never changed, even when he was successful.  I mean, I remember even as late as early 1968, when Dunlop were coming back into F1, Jim ran our tyres at the first Tasman race at Pukekohe.  Even though he only did that one race with them he came over to our boys and gave them a bottle of champagne.  There was no-one like him.”

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ANDREW Ferguson was Lotus Team Manager throughout Jim’s F1 career.   He didn’t attend all the F1 races in the 1960s; indeed, out of the 80-odd races that Ferguson attended per year only a handful were in F1, such was the diversity of the Lotus competition programmes.

He did, though, see a lot of Jim Clark – in saloons, sports cars, F2 cars and Indy cars.

Fordwater corner, Goodwood. Jim demonstrates the art of the classic four-wheel-drift in John Ogier’s Aston Zagato

“He was the best driver I’ve ever worked with – in every way,” he remembers the manager who began his career at Coopers.  “And the funny thing is that, whenever Jim had a little moan, or was a bit upset about something, he used to say, ‘You know, you won’t miss me till I’m gone…’  And he was absolutely right.  You’ve got no idea how much we missed him…”

Ferguson could see it as he spoke: the Ford top brass, visiting the Lotus factory to discuss the year’s Indianapolis effort.  Jim had nearly won the race twice, and the details of the 1965 race programme had yet to be finalised.  A 10:30am meeting, with Jim arriving only ten minutes late but pouring out apologies:

“We’d sit there and discuss the engines and the sponsorship and all this sort of thing and then the Ford men would turn to Jim and say, ‘Well, what we’re waiting for now is your decision.  Are you going to do the race?’  Silence.  ‘Ah-hem.  Jim.  Are you going to do the race?’ Jim shuffled in his chair, looking embarrassed.  We felt embarrassed – and then someone said, ‘Well, what’s the problem?  Are we talking about money, or the set-up, or the date or what?’

Testing Goodyears at Indy, 1965, prior to his win (with Firestones)

“So we’d refresh his memory.  We’d go over the plans, talk again about the engines – generally lay the whole thing out before him.  Then Jim would cough quietly and say, ‘Well, to be quite honest with you, it’s my mother.’

Whadayamean ‘It’s my mother?’, asked the Ford guys, wide-eyed.

“’Well,’ said Jim.  ‘My mother worries about me when I do Indy.  She’s heard too many terrible stories about the place.’”

The scene was typical of Clark.  No other driver, before or since, would have created it.  No other driver, before or since, has pushed his own importance so far into the background.   In 1966, while waiting for Leo Geoghegan to arrive at the Geoghegan family house in Liverpool, Sydney, Leo’s Mum confused Jim with the gardener she was expecting.  Unabashed, Jim peeled off his shirt, found a lawnmower in the garage and began cutting grass.  That’s how Leo found Jim when he finally arrived – pushing the Victa up and down the lawn in neat patterns.

“He was so free and easy,” said Andrew.  “And he made the team the same way.  Things happened in such a relaxed manner that I can’t remember any time when he was really uptight.  He never took you to one side and gave you a blast or even hinted at it.  It was a case of ‘I wonder if you could do this, if it’s not too much trouble?’  And you’d get lulled into it all;  and, after he’d gone, you realized that you’d been living in paradise.”

Like the time Jim won the Belgian GP at Spa in torrential rain.  1965.  He flew straight to Indianapolis, practised, then returned to Europe.  Ferguson was in the seat next to him in the BOAC 707.

“It was the first time we’d had to talk about Spa, so I said, ‘That was great, wasn’t it?’  I mean, after all, he’d made the rest of the field look stupid.

“’Yeah,’ said Jim, still biting his nails.  ‘But it was a bit tricky, you know.  I was quite lucky, actually.’  He was biting away because I think we were waiting for some food or something.  ‘How do you mean,’ I asked, because it was obvious that he was trying to tell me something.

“’Well,’ said Jim.  ‘For three-quarters of the race the gear lever kept popping out and I was having to drive the thing one-handed.  It was a very tiring race.’

Clark walked away with the 1965 Belgian GP in the wet…despite having to race for most of the distance with one hand on the gear lever

“’That’s the trouble with you,’ I said. ‘No-one will ever know about that.  In Fangio’s time, he used to tell a little story about how the car had fallen to pieces and how he’d only had three wheels – that sort of thing.  ‘It wouldn’t half improve your image,’ I said, ‘if we could put out press releases about your problems.’

“’Oh no!’ said Jim. ‘Don’t do that.  We don’t want to upset Colin.  We could never do that.’”

Ferguson used to say that Jim was “completely mesmerised” by Chapman.  “We all followed Chapman, and so did Jim,” he said.  “For a long time Jim and Colin always shared a twin-bedded room at races.  Imagine that.  A team manager sharing the same room as his Number One driver.  That’d never happen today.  Yet Jim and Colin always used to share.  Colin used to take a lot of interest in the drivers, dashing about and making sure they were all in bed.  At Indy, he always used to have the keys to all our rooms, and he’d walk in at any time.  You’d have a hell of a job trying to fit a different lock to your door…

Classic Clark:  Becketts, Silverstone, en route to victory in 1963 with the Lotus 25

Same corner, 1967:  Jim beautifully recovers from a moment with the Lotus 49

“Yet Jim used to take all that. I mean, you’d go round to Colin’s room for a morning meeting and there would be Jim, shaving in the bathroom, and they’d both be shouting out instructions to each other.  It was incredible.  Absolutely incredible.”

Off the track, Jim was both indecisive and forgetful.

“At one stage,” said Ferguson, “he was running a Porsche and a Mini Cooper.   He used to drive from London to Scotland in some fantastic time – something just over four hours, I think – and at one point, fairly near his home, he used to come to a fork, with an orchard in the middle.  On three different occasions he just went straight on at this fork because he couldn’t remember which road to take.  He’d keep his foot down, start biting his nails – then he’d plow straight off the road.  On the second occasion he wrote the Porsche off completely.  Tremendous accident.

“A choice between coffee or tea was a major decision for Jim:

“’Jim, we’re just going to have a cuppa.  Right Colin?  Good.  Cup of coffee.

“’What are you going to have Jim? (We’re all having coffee.  Tea or coffee?’

“’Er…coffee..or maybe tea.’

‘’Right.  Good.  Three cups of coffee and one tea.’

‘’No…no!.  I don’t want coffee and tea….’”

He wasn’t tight with money – but he was careful with it.

“Extremely careful,” said Andrew.  “When he was living in Sir John Whitmore’s flat in Balfour Place, behind the Dorchester, he started finding out from Jackie Stewart what sort of money he should have been earning.  He had a week at a loose end and he spent it up at Cheshunt, at the factory.  He’d come up at about midday and we’d go down to the Chinese restaurant.  I’ll always remember it:  it was six bob each for lunch, so I paid 12 shillings, with a shilling tip, or sixpence for each of us.

“Well, Colin didn’t like this.  After about the third day, the buzzer went in my office and Colin said ‘Who’s this you keep taking out to lunch?’

“’It’s Jim,’ I said.

“’Well, I’m afraid we’re not paying for his lunch every day,’ said Colin. ‘You’ll just have to explain it to him.  We’re not made of money.’

“So the next time I had lunch with the twice World Champion and Indy winner I told him I had bad news.

“’What’s that?’ he asked.

“I can’t go throwing money away like this.  I’ve got to the end of the road, you know, on money.’

“’Hmmm,’ grunted Jim.  ‘How much do you want from me then?’

“I thought this was definitely going Dutch, so I said, ‘it’s six shillings and sixpence for the tip.’  I put my money down and when he saw the sixpenny tip he said, ‘Okay.  You pay the tip,’ and he just put down the six shillings.

“Then they went to Riverside, Jim and Graham Hill, and Jim came back and said, ‘Oh!  I’ve had a terrible shock.  That Graham Hill – I think he’s mental.  After the race we decided to go to Las Vegas and he wanted to go gambling – you know, really gambling on the tables.  And do you know how much he put in his pocket before he went out?  One thousand dollars!  One thousand dollars!’

Jim at Riverside, 1965.  The World Championship behind him, he enjoys an ice cream before practice with the fearsome Lotus 40

“’Well, how much did you loose?’ I asked.

“’Oh, I couldn’t lose much,’ he said. ‘I put ten dollars in my pocket and made certain I didn’t take a penny more.’”

Then there were his other road car shunts.  Ferguson: “Jim borrowed an automatic Galaxy from Ford (the car, not the wagon!) and had a big accident at Staple’s Corner, north London, when he said, ‘Cor, this thing doesn’t half rev,’ forgot it was automatic and ran straight into the car in front of him.”

Later that same day, Ferguson had a panoramic view of Clark driving out of the Lotus factory at Cheshunt in a Ford Zodiac hire car.

“I was watching him from my office.  I saw Jim brake at the exit.  I saw this guy come along the road at about 40mph on a Royal Enfield, and then I saw Jim’s brake lights go off.  I couldn’t believe it.  He just drove straight out in front of this guy on the Royal Enfield.  He slammed straight into the side of Jim’s door and flew right over the car.  You know, he was wearing one of those dome helmets and an overcoat.

“Well, of course Jim was very upset.  I remember him cradling this bloke and asking how much he thought the damage would be.  In the end, I had to give £25.00 from the petty cash tin and we sent him back in the Team Lotus van, the poor man sitting in the front and his wrecked motor cycle in the back.

Jim apparently switched off when he was in a road car.  Driving was so easy for him, so natural, that his mind was always on other things.  He famously left the road en route to the 1965 French GP at Clermont- Ferrand with Chapman, Sally and Mike Spence all on board;  and there was another incident in the New Zealand leg of the 1965 Tasman Series, when Jim drove from one race to another in a Ford Zodiac Mk 111.  On this occasion he was running in convoy with Bruce McLaren, who was driving an Austin 1100.  Phil Hill sat alongside Bruce;  Jim had Pat McLaren for company.  They pulled into a lay-by for a quick pit stop.  Bruce led the Zodiac back onto the road – but then stopped abruptly as he saw his own Tasman Cooper rig approaching from the right.  Jim, chatting away to Pat, plowed straight into the back of the 1100.  Damage was relatively light, but it didn’t end there:  the four of them stopped a while down the road to fill up with petrol and to grap a quick sandwich.

“How much fuel does this thing take…..?” asked the attendant as he pumped away endlessly at the 1100.  It was only then that Phil noticed fuel pouring from under the car:  the shunt had split the fuel tank, drenching suitcases, race kit and other personal belongings.

“I suppose it’s time,” concluded Ferguson,  “that makes everything seem so good.  I suppose it’s time.  But, you know, I was talking to one of Jim’s sisters about a year after the accident and she was saying that it probably all happened for the best.  Jim was always talking about going back to the farm and to the sheep and things, but she said that she just couldn’t see him settling down again.  Racing was all that mattered to him.  Racing was all he could think about.”


David Phipps’ oringinal caption for this photograph always said it all:  “Early snows at Hockenheim….”

Jim Clark won 25 F1 races from 72 starts between 1962-68 and the World Championship in 1963 and 1965.  He also won 16 non-championship F1 races, 11 Formula Junior races, 13 F2 races, the 1961 Springbok Series, 21 Tasman races (including the 1965, 1967 and 1968 Tasman Championships), 23 Touring Car races, 54 sports car races and two USAC races, including the Indianapolis 500.  He left us in an F2 race, at Hockenheim, Germany, on April 7, 1968.

Photographs: Sutton Images (the Nigel Snowdon and David Phipps archives); “Piggy” Malone; and the Peter Windsor Collection

 

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64 thoughts on “The Unforgettable Jim Clark

  1. Beautiful piece, Peter. Many thanks for writing it.

  2. Amazing read. Thanks for putting together this piece. Great insights into the man. One of those drivers that you would have given anything to see in person drive a car.
    Cheers Peter

  3. Have many memories, as a small boy, of watching Jim Clark racing. Two in particular stand out.
    Climbing into a Mk1 Lotus Cortina at Brands Hatch for the supporting Saloon car race after the Grand Prix, (can just see the Buttons and Hamiltons of this world doing that now!) then rounding South Bank Bend on one wheel whilst ahead of Jack Sears in a monster Galaxie.
    Walking along the pit lane at Silverstone just before the start of British GP, arm in arm with Graham Hill, each holding a beer bottle aloft and pretending to be drunk.
    Irreplaceable.
    Oh and three, sitting in a stand at Silverstone when the news came through from Hockenheim…

  4. Ace writing about my girlhood hero. I was in the press box at Brands on April 7 1968 when news came from Hockenheim of Clark’s crash. For around 10 minutes there was no information on his condition. When it was confirmed that he had died it seemed unbelievable that such a stellar talent was extinguished and I was by no means the only one in tears among the press corps. RIP Jim Clark, you were the greatest of them all.

  5. pierre lisbonis on said:

    Thanks a lot for these few words … they help memories to come back …
    I was a 15 year old this day, spending holidays in Bandol few miles away a little airport where a track wasn’t even a project in Paul Ricard’s plan …
    His pictures were already stick on my bedroom walls …

  6. surensennaf1 on said:

    Reblogged this on surenF1.

  7. Rod Mackenzie on said:

    I watched him win the Tasman Series in Australia in 1967 and 1968.
    Stood in awe of him at a 1967 Tasman function.
    Cried when I learnt of his death.
    Rod Mackenzie

  8. Richard on said:

    Unforgettable portrait of a true champion!

  9. Adam Matheson on said:

    Great article, thanks.

  10. Craig Davies on said:

    Brilliant

    • Geoffrey Harris on said:

      Peter, An exquisite piece. What a privilege it was to have seen Jim Clark race and observe him during the Tasman Series in the ’60s and now to read these recollections of those who knew him. I trust you will be turning your attentions to a 50th anniversary book before too long. Ciao, GH

  11. Lucas on said:

    Wonderful dissertation Peter, RIP Mr. Clark, 44 years later..

    The Year that he won Indy, were the American Legends in that race as well: AJ, Mario etc etc?

    • Sure were. Jim had very tough races with both AJ and Parnelli Jones during his Indy years. Mario was Rookie of the Year in 1965.

      • Jim Smith on said:

        The front row for the ’65 Indy was AJ on pole, in a ’64 Lotus 34, Jimmy in a Lotus 38 & Dan Gurney in another Lotus 38! AJ was lined up to qualify before Jimmy but he pulled out of the line so that he could qualify after Jimmy! Parnelli also drove a Lotus 34 & finished 2nd nearly 2 laps behind Jimmy! AJ dropped due to a gearbox problem, he was the only other driver to lead the race! Jimmy later told me that he slowed let AJ pass so that he could have a look a him & he repassed him after only a lap or 2 because he was too slow!! Mario drove a Brawner Hawk, a modified Brabham.

        Jim Smith

      • So nice to have the info from the horse’s mouth, as it were. In case all of you are wondering, Jim Smith worked on Jim Clark’s car at Indy in 1965. Top Man!

      • James Clarke on said:

        Hi Peter
        This is a left-field question, but I just wondered if you, or Jim Smith, might have any photos with Mike ‘Noddy’ Grohmann in? And/or any anecdotes about him – or could point me in the right direction of his old colleagues? He was my mother’s first cousin – I very dimly remember him visiting my grandmother’s house one Boxing Day in the early 60’s in Caterham (Iwas about 8) – and people being quietly impressed, but I was only told he was a ‘good mechanic’. If only I’d known! Coincidentally, Jim Clark was always my racing hero, initially only because our names are similar… either way, thanks for the articles.
        Best, James Clarke.
        P.S. Naturally, I won’t be offended by your removing this from your thread, as it’s not relevant to it, but nothing ventured…

      • Not at all. I’ll contact Jim to see what he says. Thanks for writing in.

      • James L. Clarke on said:

        Hi Peter

        That’s very kind of you.

        Anything Jim might remember would be great – I’ll wait to hear from you.

        Thank you and best wishes

        James

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  13. Steve on said:

    Enjoyed reading this immensely, thank you Peter!

  14. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of F1 history with the fans; I tend to note what other drivers say about their preferences/heroes – and Clark is always among the most cherished Formula 1 champions, on a different level. It’s obviously tough to compare modern times with those years, danger was always present and it’s amazing drivers would get into a racing car knowing it could be their last race. Wonder what was going through their heads: race strategy or something else; a very dramatic period of F1 history but also very chic in a way, very stylish.

  15. richard gray on said:

    thank you for a lovely article on by boyhood hero.
    i was in norway in 68 when someone came in and said that they had heard a british racing driver had been killed – but didnt know who.
    the sick feeling in my stomach kept saying it cant be him -he was just too good.
    that evening i met a group of friends at the cinema and found someone who did know who it was.
    i cant watch the film grand prix now, and i only saw it then through a filter of tears.

    RIP the greatest.

    • David T on said:

      Peter,
      As the title of your article says “Unforgettable”. Thank you so much for that.
      I saw JC race all kinds of cars at Brands Hatch, pure magic. His modesty was part of his appeal. Apart from the loss of close family members, April 7th 1968 will always be the saddest day of my life. His death effected me more than any other person that I haven’t actually known. He will always be my number 1 driver.

  16. Richard on said:

    Who needs a book? Peter’s recollections and that of others paints a complete portrait of a true champion and gentleman. Good job!

  17. ADRIAN HINDMARSH on said:

    I was 7 when he died , he was buried on my 8th birthday .I couldnot believe that he had been killed , it is still hard to believe even now.I have been to the trophy room , the grave yard and stood at the gates of Chirnside. A truly special man and racing driver . Thank you for those precious memories .

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  19. I was hugely disappointed knowing that this article will end, won’t last. For someone of my age, these insights into great man’s true, shy, genius are priceless source of knowledge. It gives me opportunity to go back in time before mine, time when people where still too honest to confuse passion with contracts and sport with business. Thank you so much for that, Peter. Your opinion about one such true racing driver still greets every visitor of my blog.

  20. Bob Hill on said:

    Jim Clark was my teenage hero. There was a mid-speed corner (I forget which) out on the extended “Grand Prix” part of Brands Hatch where spectators could stand on a natural embankment inside the corner and look down onto the cars and drivers. All the drivers took that corner in four-wheel drifts in those days of course, and all but one of the drivers made constant small corrections with the steering wheel throughout the drift. Jim Clark however never moved the steering wheel during the drift – instead he made constant corrections with the throttle!

  21. Rod Mackenzie on said:

    I have vivid memories of Jim Clark’s win at Surfers Paradise. The track scenery was idyllic and his driving magical, judging tyre wear perfectly. His Firestones (all four) were virtually devoid of tread. Here is a photo I took early in the race.
    [[IMG]http://i59.photobucket.com/albums/g298/launchpad_2006/Miscellaneous%20Pics/1968TASMANSURFERSJIMCLARKCHRISAMONREPCOHILL-1-1.jpg[/IMG] copyright Rod Mackenzie.

  22. David Hock on said:

    Thank you so Peter. Brought back treasured memories and tears. And thanks for the many commenting posts above.

  23. Luc Robillard on said:

    I lived in Quebec Canada, back in the sixthies I follow racing in formula one. I remebered coming back to school and my father said : Luc, I heard on the radio that a grand prix racing driver had been killed. He sai : is it possible Luc, that is name is Jim Clark. I could not believed it. I run to the drugstore to buy the newspaper. I was stunt ! I cried when I look at the article in the paper. I was 12 years old and my hero was Jimmy Clark. Few years back I had just bought his book he had write on his racing career. I still go often on you tube, see interview of him, race videos, and I found great a color video showing him at Hockenheim before his last race. To all Fan of Jim Clark: Go to Youtube and write : JIM CLARK TRIBUTE (edit 1 ).
    I am 58 years old today and if I have one regret in my life is to never had a chance to meet thi great Man and great Driver, Jimmy Clark.

    Luc Robillard/Lasalle(Montreal Island) Quebec, Canada.

  24. carina on said:

    What happened to Sally Stokes?

    • Sally Swart (as she has been since 1966) is alive and kicking in California.

      • Adrian Hindmarsh on said:

        She married a Dutch racing driver , I seem to recall – yes, Ed Swart, to whom she is still married. Ed’s a big player in US historic racing.

        Adrian

        Sent from my iPhone

  25. Great piece Peter, thanks.

    Tasman series… ah yes. The modern world of F1 would laugh itself silly at the very idea. And that’s part of what’s wrong with it… I wonder sometimes what Jim would make of it all? Apart from wins, of course :-)

    • Well, bearing in mind that Jim often spoke of retiring to a sheep farm in New Zealand, or continuing in Scotland, or buying the Beagle aircraft company and going into the aviation business, I suspect that today’s materialism would have left him stone cold.

  26. Leonard Young on said:

    Wonderful article. I was around 15 when I first saw Jim Clark, at Crystal Palace and then at Silverstone and Brands Hatch several times. I used to stand on the exit of the notorious paddock hill bend, which was then an off camber, blind apex turn all downhill. Watching Clark in his Lotus Cortina was just the most magical example of car control I ever saw, or have seen since. His technique was completely different from anyone else. He would brake at least two car lengths later than the others, and still be braking as he brushed the blind apex, with the Cortina in a perfect four wheel drift. He did this exactly the same each time, and never ever missed that apex.

    It was the same round druids hairpin. All the others braked in a straight line then turned in. Clark would brake while turning, then hugged the apex all around the bend then exquisitely perform another perfect four wheel drift on the exit, visibly faster than the opposition. I never witnessed him lose a single race except when the car let him down, and even then he would nurse the car to second or third. Once he drove a formula 2 race at brands, stuck in 5th gear I think, and he still got on the podium.

    I saw him in saloons, sports cars, formula 2 and formula 1. In each he was a consummate master, as flawless as he was smooth. He was my irreplaceable hero and was utterly compelling to watch. I have never seen anyone since who controlled a car with such flare, ease and effortlessness. Without doubt, at least in watching over 45 years of motor racing, including all the world champions to the present date, he was an unmatched genius, and anyone I knew who was present in those early days thought the same.

  27. Peter,
    Superb piece on my early Lotus god. Reinforces my belief that he was the greatest, in so many ways!

    • Thanks. Sadly, I think I’m just scratching the surface of what really happened 50 years ago. I wish we knew more…but it’s fun trying to learn as much as possible.

      • jerry bassler on said:

        Peter,
        I understand that we have something in common beyond our respect for Jim Clark, you have a Lotus Elan also. I must get mine running again, it’s been too long but have had other Lotus distractions, a type 14 being one of them. Right, Jim drove one of those as well.

      • Indeed. He loved his Elites.

  28. Ryan Garritty on said:

    Very interesting to read Clark’s comments regarding his driving style. I wonder if it changed over the years since I remember reading somewhere that he advised a young driver to brake earlier so as to get on the power sooner through the corner, which is completely at odds with what’s written here.

    • You may be right but I don’t recall Jim saying that. He DID say that, given a choice, it is always better to come out of the brakes sooner (rather than hit them later), which ties in nicely with his early turn-in and the stable platform he generated prior to rotation.

      • Ryan Garritty on said:

        Yes, that would make sense, and would also go some way to explaining how he managed to wear all four wheels equally, with no particular bias towards front or rear. In other words, Clark always had the car perfectly balanced.

  29. J. Paul Smith on said:

    Thanks so much for this article, I enjoyed it immensely. At 49, I’m too young to have seen Jim Clark race in person, but to me, too, he is a legendary driver, one of the very highest peaks of the sport, now and for all time. I love to witness excellence in people, and he seems to me to have been a shining example of that, in his race car or out of it. No one who loves racing, the history of it, the pageantry of it, the downright grit and hard competition of it, or the opportunity to be a true gentleman while you are about it, will ever forget him.

  30. What another tremendous piece on Jim. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to pass along my great interest not only in Jim but F1 overall to my 13 year old nephew who is now obsessed with all things F1. In his High School interview last week I am proud to say that – when asked – he replied that his heros are Clark, Senna and Vettel… and he aspires to be a racing driver.

  31. Chris MacAllister on said:

    Hello Peter,
    We were introduced at Goodwood at the Henry Ford Lotus 38 dinner. I’m the guy who now owns Lotus 49 R2, Jimmy’s old 1967 Team Lotus car. I have seen the image of Clark drifting at Beckets in 1967 many times but never knew who took the shot. Was it you? If so, can I get a print of this wonderful image?
    Many thanks,
    Chris MacAllister

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  34. Russ Taylor on said:

    7th April 2014 – Another year and still the same feeling of loss. Thanks Peter for all you do to bring to racing fans the memories of a truly great driver. There is so much more to say about him that may be only exists in fans memories now. Leading at the start of Le Mans 1960, the RAC Rally 1966, the beautiful photo of Jim getting in to the Aston at the Tourist Trophy at the Le Mans start , Jackie Stewart introducing a piece about Monaco and saying the best round there actually never won – Jim of course. I did see him at Goodwood fortunately.

    • Thanks Russ. All of the word-pictures you paint remain in Technicolor. Interesting that you mention Monaco: two of Jim’s best qualifying laps, I think, we’re at Monaco in ’66 and ’67, when Jackie was his 2-litre yardstick.

      • Russ Taylor on said:

        I only have one photo on the wall and it is a black and white Max Le Grand photo of Jim in No 4 2 litre 33 at the old quick harbour chicane in practice in 1966 where he got pole. It’s perfect for me as Jim is enjoying himself on a circuit he loved. I love the test and the romance of the circuit too.

      • I think that 66 qualifying lap at Monaco was one of Jim’s best: Jackie had arrived by then and the 2-litre battle was intense

  35. Lynden Swainston on said:

    I loved every minute of this article and the lovely pics. Many years ago I worked with Cedric Selzer, one of Jim’s mechanics who fired up my love of t he sport. Peter is the best person to tackle a memorial piece of this nature as his love for Jim comes through from beginning to end. Great pics too thanks to Keith and our old lamented friend David Phipps.

    • Thanks Lynden. Very kind. Cedric is one of the all-time wonderful F1 people; I was lucky enough to learn for many years from David and Nigel Snowdon; and it’s always a pleasure to bump into you and Keith at races.

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