More hectic than racing
Continuing our year-long diary of Jim Clark’s epic 1963 season. When we last reported, Jim had flown straight to Indianapolis from Mexico in order to test the new four-cam Ford V8 Lotus 29B. In stark contrast to his sixth F1 win of the season, the Indy test was bedevilled with minor problemsJim Clark’s frustration with the Indy test quickly vanished. He flew via Chicago back to London – and there, for the first time, he began to appreciate that he was the new World Champion. A host of celebratory events filled his diary; and Jim, being a driver who loved his sport and the people behind it, was loathe to refuse any of them. As the new Champion, he felt a responsibility to his fellow drivers, to the F1 support industry, to the mechanics and to the fans. For him it wasn’t just a question of winning a title and achieving an ambition: now began the task of giving something back – all to the background of two more F1 races yet to be run. The non-championship Rand Grand Prix would take place at Kyalami on December 15; and the final round of the 1963 Championship, the South African Grand Prix, would he be staged, as last year, at East London, right on the surf beach. It was scheduled for Saturday, December 28.
Which meant that Jim always had the sunshine to look forward to as he donned his dinner jacket and began the caroussel of formal functions in the British winter. First on the agenda – on the evening of Friday, November 1, on the day he arrived at a cold London-Heathrow from Chicago – was a British Automobile Racing Club (BARC) function at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane (site of the current Autosport Awards). Jim had time only for a quick rest at Sir John Whitmore’s Balfour Place apartment before walking the few blocks to the Grosvenor. There were no “discussions” about Jim’s attendance: it wouldn’t have entered his head not to have accepted the BARC’s invitation. To the sound of bagpipes, Jim duly received the Gold Medal from the Duchess of Richmond and Gordon. Significantly, perhaps, in that it gave a foretaste of the changing face of motor racing, one of the key guests was an accountant from Ford. Jim was at that point committing to an extensive, Ford-coloured programme in 1964, including the Indy 500 and Trenton 200, plus the Ford Cortina Lotus programme in the British Saloon Car Championship and selected outings in the new Ford-engined Lotus 30 sports car.
Then came a quick up-and-down trip to Scotland (via Ford Cortina Lotus fitted with experimental Elan rear suspension) for the Scottish Motor Show before returning swiftly to London for Cliff Davis’s Guy Fawkes Barbeque on November 5. While up in Scotland, Jim also accepted an invitation to dig the first sod of soil for a new circuit planned in the mining region of Polkemmet. It all sounded promising – and looked good on paper; and in an upcoming Royal Scottish Automobile Club function in Glasgow Jim would actually mention Polkemmet as a wonderful step forwards for Scottish motor sport. In the months that followed, however, it became clear that the project was going to die quickly: the original founding directors, for all their ambition, had only put in £5 a piece; there was no investment strategy; and there was no licence to cover the discovery of possible mineral rights below the surface. In other words, the circuit, if ever it was built (which is wasn’t), was always going to be exposed to the discovery of a variety of different minerals for mining. Jim wasted his time, in other words, although his gesture provides a good insight into his pure intentions. Good job, then, that Ian Scott-Watson would in the spring of ’64 suggest a new circuit at Ingleston, home of the Highland Show. Jim backed this, too – and it worked, thanks to Scott-Watson’s hard work and vision.
I should add at this point that neither Jim nor Team Lotus had any plans to race in the new 1964 Tasman Series in Australia and New Zealand. Cedric Selzer reckons this was because Team Lotus didn’t really have access to a suitable car but, with Bruce McLaren grafting 2.7 litre Climax engines into F2 Cooper chassis, and with Jack Brabham running his F1 cars with 2.7s, not to mention Graham Hill stepping away from his BRM commitments to race David McKay’s Scuderia Veloce Brabham, it seems a bit odd that Jim didn’t join his friends Down Under. I can only surmise that at the point of decision – October/November – Jim was awash with Ford Indy testing commitments plus the new, extended saloon and sports car programme for 1964. I suspect that Team Lotus were also up to the neck, too: there were the new four-cam Indy cars to design and build; there was the Lotus 30; there was a new programme to form around the Lotus 32 F2 car; there was an F1 World Championship to defend; and there was the Lotus-Cortina to develop. With two F1 races in late December, a January-February Tasman Series probably seemed a race too far.
On November 6 Jim and Colin Chapman attended a big function at the London Hilton, hosted by Esso. Michael Turner paintings have always been an integral part of the motor racing life – well, they have to me, at any rate – and Jim was delighted on this occasion to receive a painting from Michael depicting the first lap of the epic 1963 Italian Grand Prix. Jim was accompanied by his mother and Ian Scott-Watson (his friend and mentor) on this occasion – and also refrained from wearing his beloved Pure jacket!
Next was a typically Jim event: he not only agreed to present the trophies at a mud-trials event on Saturday, November 9, but also to turn up early on the day and ride shotgun for Gordon Holdrup, who on this day was running as a Reserve in his Cannon. Glamour? An event commensurate with Jim’s status as F1 Champion and Indy runner-up? Not at all. It was, though, a day that Jim thoroughly enjoyed. He began his career with autotests and rallies in Scotland. This returned him somewhere near to his roots.
That night, at the Park Lane Hotel, Jim let his hair down (literally) at the West Essex Car Club’s Annual Awards Party. With the Beatles in 1963 re-inventing Britain and providing a new lustre for the next generation, Jim, Graham Hill, Les Leston and Peter Jopp decided to don “mop top” wigs and guitars for the dubious benefit of their audience. With the guests then quickly attempting to divest the Four Imposters not only of their “hair” but also of most of their clothing, I think we can safely file this one under the heading, “Classic motor racing party”. At least Sally Stokes was their to ensure that Jim emerged unscathed.
More accolades followed: Jim was presented with the Sportsman of the Year Award by the British Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, and the Daily Express newspaper named him Sportsman of the Year to sprinter Dorothy Hyman’s Sportswoman of the Year. In a more temperate affair, Smiths Instruments (suppliers to Team Lotus) presented Jim and Colin Chapman with some nice clocks for their mantelpieces. Jim’s went up to Edington Mains with him shortly afterwards because now, at last, there were a few days to relax, to re-charge, to spend time on the farm and to catch up with friends and family. On November 18, though, it was over to Glasgow for the Royal Scottish Automobile Club’s Annual Dinner. Again travelling via Cortina-Lotus, Jim attended with his three sisters, Ian, Sally and the ever-hilarious Paddy Hopkirk.
It was while Jim was still up in Scotland that John F Kennedy was assassinated. Although constantly exposed in his sport to the potential for injury or worse, Jim, like most people at the time, was shocked. He didn’t know Dallas but he did know a lot of Americans. And he liked them. His heart sank.
As ever, the constant march of time provided the palliative. On November 22 Jim was Guest of Honour at the annual British Racing Mechanics’ Club Dinner at London’s lavish Crtierion restaurant on Piccadilly. This was entirely open to the public – tickets could be bought in advance for £2! – and was well-supported by the F1 world in general. Bruce McLaren also attended, as did Graham Hill. For Jim, it was a perfect time in which to say thanks to his guys for a job well done – even if their job remained unfinished. Cedric Selzer, who would act as Chief Mechanic (and Team Manager!) at the December 15 Rand Grand Prix, was due to leave in a few days for Cape Town. Two weeks in the sunshine (and some water-skiing with Bruce McLaren and Tony Maggs) was just what the exhausted Mr Selzer required.
As if all this wasn’t enough, Jim again dressed in suit and tie (with Lotus lapel badge) to receive the Driver of the Year Award from the Guild of Motoring Writers on November 29. The Ferodo Trophy was also a lunch affair (at the Dorchester, with Colin Chapman) and then finally, on December 6, Jim again returned to the Dorchester in his formal kilt for the BRDC annual dinner-dance. On this very Scots evening he received the 1963 Gold Star, and the Dick Seaman and John Cobb Trophies. The menu included “Haggis d’Edington Mains” and music by Roy Wallis and his orchestra, fresh from Quaglino’s night club.
Jim then boarded a 707, bound for Johannesburg via Salisbury, Rhodesia.
He knew Kyalami well. He had won there in both 1961 (Lotus 21) and 1962 (Lotus 25); and now, as a warm-up for the South African Grand Prix proper, he would be racing his regular, Championship-winning Lotus 25”B”.
It was a torrid weekend, as Cedric remembers in his excellent autobiography, published this year:
“There were three of us at Kyalami – me, Derek Wild and Doug Bridges – to prepare and operate the two Lotus 25s for Jim and Trevor Taylor and Friday’s practice was dreadful. Both cars suffered a loss of fuel pressure. We also had a problem with the high-pressure pump overheating in the high ambients. With the limited resources available, all I could was cut holes above the fuel pump and make a scoop to draw the air in; but when race day dawned I wasn’t at all confident that we’d solved the problems. There was the added pressure of just the three of us running the two cars. As it turned out, both cars broke down because of the heat and finished way down the field in the first part of the race. We fitted additional scoops for the second part but the cars were only marginally better. It was all very disappointing.”
It was, though, excellent feedback for the Championship race that would take place in two weeks’ time. Colin Chapman and Len Terry immediately went to work on revised fuel pump locations (in front, rather than behind, the radiator). The cure worked – but that’s another story.
The Rand Grand Prix meanwhile resulted in an easy one-two for Ferrari, with John Surtees (in the monocoque car) leading Lorenzo Bandini (in the space-framer) across the line. Fast local drivers, led by Piet de Klerk and John Love, filled the minor placings – just as they had surrounded Jim’s lowly grid slot in Part Two: the men who had been, and would be, pivotal to the success of Kyalami could in future years tell their grandchildren about the day they started next to Jim Clark’s Lotus 25. Alex Blignaut lined up ahead of Jim in his 1960 Cooper-Climax; and Dave Clapham’s LDS sat to Jim’s right. Jim was classified 16th in Part One and finished fifth in Part Two, his engine still stammering badly.
Captions, from top: Jim with the Daily Express Sportsman of the Year Award. Olympic sprinter, Dorothy Hyman, won the female verision; a Michael Turner painting at the Esso Awards; riding alongside Gordon Holdrup at a trials event (Jim on the left, in flat cap); the not-so-fab-four (Les Leston, Jim Clark and Graham Hill. Peter Jopp is partly-obscured behind Les); Jim accepts another award from the PM – again with Dorothy as co-winner; some nice Tompion clocks from Smiths Instruments; a very Scots evening with the BRDC (Gregor Grant of Autosport on the left, Jim in centre and John Eason-Gibson on the right); Jim’s mis-firing Lotus 25 sits in Lorenzo Bandini’s slipstream at Kyalami. The makeshift cooling ducts can be partly-seen to the left of Lorenzo’s (new) helmet; Below – Russell Brockbank’s tribute to Jim (BRDC dinner menu); and the Esso ads said it all Images: Peter Windsor Collection and Autosport