“Very good! What can I say?”
While trolling through the YouTube library today I came across this recently-uploaded gem. Thanks, straight way, to Patrick Pagnier for its discovery. It’s a little cameo interview conducted for Swiss TV by Jo Bonnier on August 22, 1965. Jo Siffert, fresh from his spectacular F1 win at Enna the previous Sunday, sits on Bonnier’s left while Jim Clark lies back in a replica of his Indy 500-winning Lotus 38-Ford prior to a “demonstration run” up the formidable Ste Ursanne-Les Rangiers hill-climb, south-west of Basle. Jim never took these sorts of events half-heartedly, of course. His early days in Scotland were filled with autotests and hill-climbs, and he climbed an F1 Lotus 21 (a difficult Filipinetti car) at Ollon-Villars in 1962 before returning to Switzerland again with the Indy car in ’65. It seems amazing today that Jim would go along with the concept of threading the big four-cam, 500bhp Lotus Indy car up between the unprotected pine trees over three miles of semi-wet road, through very fast sweepers and unguarded hairpins, but such was the character of the man. As he says in the interview, it was “different”. For this event, Lotus converted the 38 back to symmetric suspension and fitted a five-speed ZF gearbox, so in this sense, too, there was more than a hint of seriousness about the performance.
Despite having no chance of outright victory, Jim was determined to put on a show for the vast crowds. He completed six practice runs with the 38 on a dry-ish Saturday, the best of which was only four seconds slower than the much more suitable Rob Walker Brabham BT7-BRM of Jo Siffert, but his heart would have sunk on Sunday, when rain shrouded the mountains. Still on its dry, Indy-spec Firestones, the 38 was virtually undriveable. Even so, Clark gave it his all and finished the day – and the event as a whole – with a climb in 2min 36.9sec (or about 10sec slower than Siffert). Words like “Wheelspin” and “opposite lock” don’t even begin to do justice to his performance. Jim looks typically shy in this video and he shows his humility when Bonnier asks him about Siffert’s recent win at Enna. “Very good! What can I say?” replies Jim – although a driver of today’s times might then also have added “but then you have to remember that they dropped the flag early, I was caught in neutral, I drove up through the field, caught Seppi (Siffert) and only lost out because his BRM engine had more top end power than the Climax – particularly on lighter tanks.” He said none of that, though. Instead, as you can see, he just laughs. (Mind you, Siffert also beat Jim in the 1964 Mediterranean GP at Enna, so Jim had an excuse to be non-plussed!) Jo Bonnier, incidentally, also drove a Rob Walker Brabham (Climax) up the Ste Ursanne hill. He finished fourth.
Enjoy then, this little chat. Note the “Jim Clark” name across the 38’s number roundel in the first few seconds of the video and the boys in the background working on a lightweight Lotus Elan.