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Archive for the category “Jim Clark’s 1963 season”

Even in Solitude he was stunning

20583Solitude.  The name is enough to suggest that this was more than just another circuit – and indeed it was.  The Solitude Grand Prix, held on a sweeping, undulating and therefore very demanding road course under the shadow of the Schlosse Solitude, near Stuttgart, Germany, was in reality the Grand Prix of the German Motor Industry.  Massive crowds flocked to the circuit when it opened pre-war – and continued to do so in the 1950s and 1960s, when over 350,000 people attended the July F1 races.  It was bigger than the Nurburgring;  only Indianapolis, on a global scale, attracted a larger race crowd than Solitude.  Mercedes did their share of winning, as did Porsche. Bosch was based at Stuttgart, too.  Motor-cycle races were a huge success at Solitude; and the post-war F1 non-chamionship Grands Prix, and also Formula 2 races, held at a time when Porsche were on the ascendant, were no less spectacular.

The drivers and key team people stayed at the nearby Eis hotel;  it still exists today.  Legend has it that Innes Ireland once shot a loaded pistol there at a post-race party.  It’s probably true, because Innes in later years became quite irritated when anyone mentioned it.  Baron Fritz Huschke von Hanstein, the wonderful Porsche Team Manager, was the early 1960s Solitude Grand Prix in much the same way that Geoff Sykes would be Warwick Farm, or Mrs Topham ruled Aintree.  It was Huschke’s home race.  He hosted parties at both the Porsche factory and at his residence – often for 400 people at a time, including royalty.  He was everybody’s friend back then – and he was a friend to me, too, in the very early 1970s, when I was starting my F1 journalistic life.  I met Huschke through the indefatigable Bernard Cahier, who described Huschke thus in his magnificent two-volume autobiography (entitled, appropriately, F-Stops, Pit Stops, Laugher & Tears):  “Huschke had been a very talented driver before the war and as a result of his racing successes he’d become an honorary officer in the SS.  This was all well and good before the war but when conflict broke out his status became official.  Huschke wanted nothing to do with the war or the SS and for a time took refuge in Budapest, where he hobnobbed in high society while living with a beautiful Hungarian countess who was part-Jewish.  He was eventually caught and sent to prison in Spandau, where he found himself in real trouble.  Luckily, he had connections everwhere.  It didn’t take long for him to pull some strings and get himself released.  He contacted one of his old girl-friends whose father held an influential position in the German army, who in turn told the authorities that Huschke was going to marry his daughter!  He was very lucky because, a short time later, the plot to kill Hitler was uncovered and there were wholesale executions in which Huschke might very well have been swept up.

“When he was released from prison, Huschke was assigned the job of driving an armored vehicle to the Russian front.  He was happy to do this as it gave him the opportunity to meander around the country and visit all his friends.  He started working for Porsche in the early 1950s as a salesman and, being an avid racer, he was the person most responsible for pointing Porsche in the direction of motor racing.”1961 German Grand Prix.

Huschke operated from “Factory Two” within the Porsche Stuttgart compound and employed an attractive assistant named Evi Butz.  It was in 1962, by which time Dan Gurney had won Porsche’s first Grand Prix victory, that Huschke asked Dan if he would give Evi a lift home, after a long day in the office, in Dan’s “Unsafe At Any Speed” light blue Chevvy Corvair.  Dan naturally obliged and got to know young Evi in the course of a 45min traffic jam that clogged downtown Stuttgart.   For their 25th wedding anniversary, Evi gave Dan another Corvair…1961 Solitude Grand Prix

Dan won the Solitude Grand Prix that year, heading a Porsche one-two, and would never forget his victory lap, in an open Carrera, when thousands of caps and hats filled the air like leaves in an autumn wind;  in 1963, though, with Porsche out of it, he didn’t race.  Instead, he flew straight back to Indianapolis after the British GP in order to drive Frank Arciero’s Lotus 19 at the Hoosier Grand Prix at Indianapolis Raceway Park.  He won – and then flew to Germany for the next round of the Championship at the Nurburgring. Such were the schedules of F1’s front-runners in 1963.

Brabham were thus represented in the 1963 Solitude Grand Prix only by Black Jack.  Team Lotus, by contrast, entered three cars, enticed no doubt by copious starting money.  Jim Clark was in his regular Lotus 25 (prior to racing it the following weekend at the Nurburgring);  Trevor Taylor drove the second car – and Peter Arundell, the FJ star, would finally be having his first race in a Lotus 25 (having briefly practiced at Reims.)  A full grid of 29 cars started this 13th Solitude Grand Prix, with Jim on the pole from Jack Brabham and Jo Bonnier (a former Solitude winner, now driving Rob Walker’s ageing Cooper-Climax).  The two other Lotus drivers filled the second row, Peter ahead.

As it happened – as it frequently happens in Championship Years – Jim went nowhere in this race that didn’t count.  Team Lotus tried a new drive-shaft design which promptly failed as Jim dropped the clutch at the start.  His race prospects may have been over; still there were over 300,000 spectators at Solitude, crammed into the natural grandstands around the circuit, all hoping to see the maestro at work.  Jim’s 25 was pushed back into the pits and re-fitted with the older-type drive-shafts.  Jim waited patiently, helping the mechanics with pit signals to Trevor and Peter (who were running second and third behind Brabham).  Then, donning his Les Leston gloves and lowering his goggles back around his peakless Bell, Jim climbed back into R4 for a few demonstration laps of high-speed precision motoring.

Amazing all who saw it, Jim smashed the lap record with a time of 3min 49.1sec – a full 1.1sec faster than even he had managed in qualifying.  Solitude was as dangerous as you could make it, with its exposed trees and walls;  it was very fast, particularly on the 3.5-mile serpentine return stretch;  and Jim was so far in arrears that he wasn’t even classified as a finisher.  And yet he drove those laps at 100 per cent.  Ten-tenths.  Flat out.  His fastest lap, when the tanks were at their lightest, was but one of 17 that were similarly on the limit.

Black Jack, who had had nothing but mechanical problems from the start of the year, meanwhile breezed home without a worry to win his first F1 race at the wheel of a car bearing his own name.  (Jack won the ’63 Australian Grand Prix in a similar car fitted with a 2.7 litre Climax engine).   Peter Arundell drove beautifully to finish second ahead of Innes Ireland (and also to win the Formula Junior race that morning from Denny Hulme and Frank Gardner); Trevor retired with a broken crown-wheel-and-pinion; and Lorenzo Bandini, the young Italian pushing hard for a genuine chance at Ferrari, finished a spectacular fourth in the two-year-old Centro Sud BRM.  I should also make mention of Chaparral founder, Jim Hall, who again drove well with his Lotus 24, qualifying on the fourth row and finishing sixth on Sunday.  Jo Bonnier won the big-bore support GT race with his Porsche; and Teddy Pilette, son of Andre and future F5000 winner, headed the smaller GT race with his Abarth.

From Solitude it was but a short autobahn blast to the Nurburgring, for the August 4 German GP.  Jim had never won at the ‘Ring but had been phenomenally quick there in 1962 (in both the Lotus 25 and the little Lotus 23 sports car).  An enjoyable, if frustrating, Solitude weekend now over, Jim’s thoughts turned to making it five World Championship Grand Prix wins in a row. 20560

Captions, from top: Lotus 25 re-fitted with standard drive-shafts, Jim Clark lights up Solitude with a lonely but record-breaking display of precision driving; Huschke von Hanstein in his element – organizing a group photograph at the 1961 German GP.  From left to right – Jim Clark, John Cooper, Innes Ireland, Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, Huschke (in glasses), Jo Bonnier, Dick Jeffrey (Dunlop), Prince Metternich, Bruce McLaren and Dan Gurney;  the 1961 von Hanstein-created “tractor pull” at Solitude – Jo Bonnier does the driving for Dan Gurney, Colin Chapman, Peter and Wolfgang Porsche (sons of Ferry), Huscke and Jim.  That’s Julius Weitmann, the excellent photographer, running up alongside with the long-lens Leica.  The “flag” was actually made from Huschke’s race passes and for years stood in his house as a form of welcome to guests;  Jim is all smiles after taking the pole at Solitude in 25/R4  Images: LAT Photographic

“Jim Clark, rhythmically poised…”

Perfectly balancing smaller diameter rear Dunlops on an oily Silverstone track surface, Jim Clark wins the British GP

20373.tifAfter a whirlwind start to the year Jim Clark was able to relax for a few days.   Three successive wins enabled him to enjoy the farm like never before; and, back in Balfour Place for a few days before the run up to Silverstone, Sir John Whitmore was full of Rob Slotemaker’s antics and all the recent racing news.  In between, however, there was the little matter of the Milwaukee test.  The Indy Lotus 29-Fords had basically been garaged at the Speedway since the race but, in the build-up to the Milwaukee 200 on August 18, rebuilds and further fettling took place at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.  Jim flew to Chicago on July 10 and on July 12 completed a successful day at the one-mile Milwaukee oval, running through Dunlop tyre compounds and in the process raising the average lap speed – over one mile! – by nearly 5mph.

Dan Gurney, who also tested at Milwaukee, had meanwhile shared a Ford Galaxie with Jack Brabham in the Six-Hour Race at Brands Hatch on July 7.  A massive spin at Paddock in the rain (due to having to run Firestone wets on the front and Goodyear dries on the back) had cramped his style somewhat.  Mike Parkes had cleaned up at Silverstone in his GTO Ferrari but, worryingly, the day had been ruined by two fatal accidents – one (John Dunn) at Abbey in the Formula Junior race and another in the pit lane (Mark Fielden, whose stationary Lotus was hit by a car spinning its way out of Woodcote). The excellent Sheridan Thynne, who would later become Commerical Director of Williams F1, won his class and set fastest lap at Snetterton in a Mini and a few days later wrote poignantly to Autosport, suggesting that a Safety Committee be convened to look into all matters of motor racing safety “before they were underlined by fatal accidents”. Sadly, as ever, his words went unheeded: a third person (a pit lane scrutineer, Harald Cree) would be killed at Silverstone on British GP race day when the very talented Christabel Carlisle spun her Sprite into the Woodcote pit wall.  In another Woodcote incident, former driver and future Goldhawk Road car dealer, Cliff Davis, S2620005would exhibit immense bravery as he leapt onto the track to clear it of debris after an MGB rolled itself to destruction.  Davis was later deemed to have saved several lives. Lorenzo Bandini, who would finish an excellent fifth at Silverstone in his the old, red, Centro Sud BRM, had not only won for Ferrari in the big sports car race at Clermont-Ferrand but had also been a part of the first all-Italian win at Le Mans on June 15-16.  He co-drove a Ferrari 250P with Ludovico Scarfiotti; and, in the Formula Junior race at Clermont, Jo Schlesser had won from an amazing line-up of future stars – Mike Spence, Peter Arundell, Tim Mayer, Richard Attwood, David Hobbs, Alan Rees and Peter Revson.  John Whitmore himself had won the Mini race at Silverstone after a big dice with Paddy Hopkirk – and Tim Mayer, that FJ star and future McLaren driver – had even raced a Mini at Mallory Park, door-to-door with Paddy Hopkirk.  Whilst up in Scotland, Jim had been able to catch up with young Jackie Stewart, who had won at Charterhall in the Ecurie Ecosse Tojeiro on the same day as the French GP; and, finally, with the London premiere of Cleopatra set for July 31, Jim had thought it a good moment to ask Sally Stokes if she might be free for a night on the town…

The British Grand Prix was held on Saturday, July 20, (oh for a return to Saturday racing!) which meant that the big event of the weekend would undoubtedly be Graham Hill’s party at his Mill Hill house on the Sunday.  Prior to that, there was a little bit of business to which to attend.  Most of the F1 teams began testing on Tuesday, prior to practice on Thursday and Friday morning, and Jim was almost immediately on the pace.  I say “immediately”: a loose oil line lost him time on Thursday morning but he was quickest by a whole second from Graham Hill (spaceframe BRM) later that day and fractionally faster than his Indy team-mate, Dan Gurney (Brabham), on Friday.  Jim thus took the pole with a 1min 34.4sec lap of Silverstone, equaling Innes Ireland’s very fast practice times with the BRP Lotus 24-BRM at the International Trophy meeting on May 11.  (Years later, when I chatted to Jim Clark at some length, he re-iterated what he frequently said about the space-frame Lotus 24:  it was an easier car to drive than the 25 and in Jim’s view could just have capably have won races in both 1962 and 1963.  Indeed, Innes’ Goodwood-winning Lotus 24 was actually being advertised for sale by the time of the British GP, viewable at BRP’s headquarters in Duke’s Head Yard, Highgate High Street, London N6.  It wasn’t sold that year, as it turned out, and was raced again, in Austria and Oulton Park, by Innes. Jim Hall then drove it – for BRP – at Watkins Glen and Mexico.)

Still running a five-speed ZF gearbox (whilst team-mate Trevor Taylor persisted with the six-speed Colotti on carburettors), Jim’s trusty, fuel-injected Lotus 25/R4 had now blossomed into its ultimate, legendary 1963 form:  Colin Chapman had decided to run a wide yellow stripe down the car, front to rear, co-ordinating the yellow with the wheels and the “Team Lotus” lettering and pin-striping down the cockpit sides.  The car also ran the Zandvoort-spec aeroscreen.  Jim, as ever, wore his Dunlop blue overalls, his peakless Bell helmet, string-backed gloves, Westover boots and, for when he was out of the car, helping the mechanics or strolling over to the Esso caravan or the paddock cafe for a cuppa, his dark blue Indy Pure jacket.  The 25, meanwhile, finally wore a new set of Dunlops – around which revolved the usual number of discussion points.  On this occasion it was gear ratios:  as part of the compromise with the five-speed (but more reliable) gearbox, Jim and Colin decided to race smaller-diameter rear Dunlops.

Bruce McLaren, driving the beautiful, low-line works Cooper-Climax, stopped practice early on Friday to begin preparation for the race. 63GBMcLAREN1004cWhile John Cooper supervised the job list, Bruce, as was his style, took his new E-Type Jag down the infield runway to the apex of Club Corner, there to watch his peers.  At this point I can do no better than to record the words he later gave to Eoin Young for Bruce’s wonderful, regular, Autosport column, From the Cockpit:

“Dan Gurney had got down to a time equaling Jim’s best, and Jim was out to see if he could do better.  Graham was in danger of being knocked off the front row so he was out too, and for 15 minutes, while Jim, Graham and Dan pounded round, I was graphically reminded of the reason why people go to see motor racing.

“When you’re out in an F1 car you haven’t got time to think about the fact that you’re moving fast:  you’re concentrating on keeping the movement of the car as smooth and as graceful as possible, getting the throttle opened just that fraction quicker than last time and keeping it open all the way when you’ve got it there.

“At Silverstone you concentrate on shaving the brick walls on the inside, just an inch or two away, and you hold the car in a drift that, if it were any faster, would take you into a bank or onto the grass.  If you are any slower you know you are not going to be up with those first three or four.  You know perfectly well you are trying just as hard as you possibly can, and I know when I’ve done a few laps like this I come in and think to myself, well, if anyone tries harder than that, good luck to them.

“But you haven’t thought about the people who are watching.  At least I haven’t, anyway, but there at Club Corner the role was reversed and I was watching…

“Jim came in so fast and left his braking so late that I leapt back four feet, convinced that he wouldn’t make the corner, but when he went through, working and concentrating hard, I’m sure his front wheel just rubbed the wall.  I barely dared to watch him come out the other end.

“It struck me that Clark and Gurney’s experience at Indy this year may have had something to do with their first and second places on the grid.  Silverstone is just one fast corner after another, taken with all the power turned right on and the whole car in a pretty fair slide but, nevertheless, in the groove for that corner.  Something like Indy, I should imagine.

“I’ve seen a lot of motor racing and if I could get excited over this I can imagine how the crowd of 115,000 on Saturday must have felt.”

Saturday was one of those great sporting occasions in the United Kingdom.  One hundred and fifteen thousand people were crammed into Silverstone by 10:00am;  and by 2:00pm, by which time they’d seen Jose Canga two-wheeling a Simca up and down pit straight; Peter Arundell win the FJ race from “Sally’s MRP pair” (Richard Attwood and David Hobbs); Graham Hill demonstrating the Rover-BRM turbine Le Mans car; an aerobatic display and the traditional drivers’ briefing, everyone was ready for the big event.  Dan Gurney settled into his Brabham with Jim Clark to his right in the Lotus 25.  To Dan’s left, Graham Hill, the World Champion, lowered his goggles under the pit lane gaze of young Damon.  Making it four-up at the front, Dan’s team-mate, Jack Brabham, sat calmly in his BT7.  With but minutes to go, Jim asked for more rear tyre pressure:  Silverstone had felt decidedly oily on the formation lap.  The 25 had never been more oversteery.

1963 British Grand Prix. Ref-20420. World © LAT PhotographicJim was slow away on this occasion:  wheelspin bogged him down.  He was swarmed by the lead pack as they headed out of Copse and then onwards to Maggotts and Becketts. The two Brabham drivers – showing how relatively closely-matched the top Climax teams were in 1963 – ran one-two;  then came Bruce McLaren in the svelte Cooper, then Hill and then Jim.  They were running nose-to-tail – and sometimes closer than that.  Gurney pitched the Brabham into oversteer at Club;  Jack, helmet leaning forwards, kicked up dirt at the exit of Woodcote.

The 25 was also tail-happy;  you could say that.  Jim felt the car to be little better than it had been before the start – particularly now, on full tanks.  Around him, though, everyone else seemed to sliding around.  Maybe it was just the circuit after all…

Jim began to dive deeper into the corners, to gain a tow – and then to pull out of that tow under braking.  By lap four he was in the lead and pulling away…whilst Bruce McLaren was pulling up on the entry to Becketts Corner, the Climax engine blown in his Cooper.   There was no quick rush back to the pits for Bruce, no beat-the-traffic early departure.  Instead, as on Friday, he stayed and watched, for that is what great athletes do.

Bruce:  “Jimmy came through with his mouth open and occasionally his tongue between his teeth.  The tyres were holding a tenuous grip on the road with the body and chassis leaning and pulling at the suspension like a lizard trying to avoid being prized off a rock by a small boy.  Then Dan arrived, really throwing the Brabham into the corner, understeering and flicking the car hard until he had it almost sideways, then sliding through with the rear wheels spinning and the inside front wheel just on the ground…”Formula One World ChampionshipIt was a demonstration of four-wheel-drifts;  it was Jim Clark rhythmically poised like never before in an F1 car, the small-diameter Dunlops combining with the surface oil to produce a slide-fest of classic proportions.  There was no need for a score of passing manoeuvres to make this British GP “work” for the crowds;  there was no need for forced pit stops or for overtaking aids.  It was enough, this day at Silverstone, for the fans, and for drivers of the quality of Bruce McLaren, merely to see a genius at work.

Archive00 37Jim won the British Grand Prix by 20sec from John Surtees’ Ferrari and Graham Hill’s BRM (for both Brabham drivers also lost their engines after excellent runs).  Graham, who, like Innes Ireland, was always fast at Silverstone, ran short of fuel on the final lap and was pipped by Big John, the lone Ferrari driver, on the exit from Woodcote.  The race was also notable for Mike Hailwood’s F1 debut – he finished an excellent eighth (or, in today’s parlance, “in the points”) with his Parnell Lotus 24, and for the seventh place of his exhausted team-mate, the 19-year-old Chris Amon. Chaparral creator/driver, Jim Hall, also drove well to finish sixth with his Lotus 24.  For this was a tough, hard race – 50 miles longer than the 2013 version and two and a quarter hours in duration.  Jim Clark waved to the ecstatic crowd on his slow-down lap (no raised digits from James Clark Jnr) and, to the sound of Scotland the Brave – a nice touch by the BRDC – and to the lucid commentary of Anthony Marsh, bashfully accepted the trophies on a mobile podium that also carried the 25. Colin Chapman wore a v-necked pullover and tie;  Jim looked exalted. He had won again at home.  He had won his fourth race in a row. He had the championship in sight.

To Mill Hill, then, they repaired – and then, for a change in pace, to the following weekend’s non-championship race at Solitude, near Stuttgart.British GP

Captions, from top: Jim Clark drifts the Lotus 25 on the greasy Silverstone surface; racing driver/flag marshal, Cliff Davis, whose selfless action at Silverstone saved several lives; Bruce McLaren finds slight understeer on the Cooper at Stowe; the two Brabham drivers, Gurney and Jack, together with McLaren and Hill, crowd Jim’s 25 at the start; classic four-wheel-drift from Jim Clark. The low apex walls were always a test at 1960s Silverstone; Scotland the Brave heralds the winner of a long, fast British Grand Prix.  Two hours, 14 min of brilliant motor racing  Images:  LAT Photographic. Our thanks to AP and Movietone News for the following superb, colour, video highlights:

The Battle of Reims

20172.tifJim Clark makes it three-in-a-row

The drive down to Reims was the usual cavalcade.  They left Zandvoort, after a celebratory dinner/cabaret at the Bouwes Hotel, early on Monday morning.  First practice for the French GP would commence on Wednesday afternoon (or just one clear working day from the Dutch GP.  As with Monaco now, there was a “free” day within the French GP schedule back then.  At Reims, this was on the Saturday, following three successive afternoons of official practice.  No thought, apparently, was given to the ‘double-header’ pressures facing the mechanics.)  At some point in the road trip Ian Scott-Watson joined Jim and Colin in their rental car and allowed Trevor Taylor behind the wheel of his yellow Elan.   Ian would thereafter spend much time telling the French police that, no, it wasn’t he who had been driving the English sports car at the time in question and that his friend, the culprit, had since flown to Canada…or anywhere…

This wasn’t the usual sun-baked French Grand Prix.  Showers muddied the paddock on Thursday, leaving the Wednesday and Friday sessions for grid-shaping;  Taylor, indeed, set his fastest lap on that Wednesday – and on Thursday, in the rain, neither Lotus driver completed a lap.  (One significant casualty that day was Ludovico Scarfiotti, who crashed heavily in the works Ferrari.  He was for the most part uninjured but shortly afterwards would announce his retirement from racing.  Rescinding this a few months later, he went on to win the 1966 Italian GP for Ferrari at Monza.  He would sadly lose his life in 1968, in a hill-climbing accident.  He was a good friend of Jim’s.)

Wet or dry, flying stones were always an issue at Reims, inducing Lotus to revert to standard windscreens for this race.  With the aeroscreen, it was thought, there was always a risk of debris finding its way into the “jet”.  Slipstreaming on the long, ultra-fast (160mph) French public roads could gain you seconds per lap;  the trick in practice, if you were searching for the pole, was to keep your mirrors free.  Despite a considerable straight-line speed deficiency to the BRMs (including Innes Ireland’s BRP-BRM) and also to the Ferraris, Jim took the pole – and the local champagne that came with it.   In the 25, running the same set of Dunlop R6s he had raced at Monaco, Spa and Zandvoort, Jim found a sweetness in the balance on high-speed corners that he had not felt before – or would feel again in 1963.  “I could set the car up in a whacking great drift around the back, keep my foot it it and achieve cornering speeds that I wouldn’t have thought possible,” he would say later.  Very few photographers – if any – seemed to venture out to these corners in those days (they focussed on the “long” shots on the pit straight and the 90 deg right hander leading on to it) so we are left only to imagine what Jim describes as that “whacking great drift”.  To my mind, given the understeer with which he lived at the International Trophy race at May, the 25 at Reims was now far more neutral – neutral leading to oversteer.  I think it’s also probably significant that by this race Team Lotus seemed to have found some sort of fix for their gearbox drams.  Jim, at last, was able to drive the 25 with both hands on his red leather-rimmed wheel.1963 French Grand Prix. Ref-20133. World © LAT Photographic

Saturday was support-race day, which meant big sports cars and Formula Junior.  Jim was at the track, of course, primarily supporting the Normand Lotus 23Bs (Mike Beckwith and Tony Hegbourne) and Peter Arundell in the FJ race.  There had even been talk of Peter racing the third (spare) 25 in the Grand Prix but ultimately it was felt (when balancing prize money against running expenses!) that Peter should race the works (“mini-25”) 27 FJ.  Denny Hulme again won the FJ battle in the works Brabham, pulling away definitively from the second-place slipstreaming group and finally finishing ahead of Peter, Richard Attwood (MRP Lola), fellow Lotus drivers, Mike Spence and John Fenning, and David Hobbs (MRP Lola).  (As the 50th anniversary of the formation of Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd approaches, it’s also worth noting that the talented American, Tim Mayer, finished eighth in this Reims FJ race in one of Ken Tyrrell’s Cooper-BMWs.  Tim and his brother, Teddy, would in the months that follow become an integral part of the new McLaren team.)

Tall and talented Mike Parkes should have won the sports car event with his formidable 4-litre Ferrari but a clutch problem early in the one-hour event effectively handed victory to Carlo Abate (also of powerboat fame) and his 3-litre Ferrari.  Lucien Bianchi (great uncle of Jules) placed third behind Dick Protheroe – and the tough Australian, Paul Hawkins, finished fifth overall with his Ian Walker Lotus 23.  Mike Beckwith had been right up there in third place in the early phase, when Jo Schlesser was leading with his 4-litre Aston, but he fell back a little after a slight “off”.  The small-car class was won by Jose Rosinski, who would go on to become one of the greatest of all French motor racing journalists.

On Sunday – another overcast day – Jim prepared for a torrid French GP as a fighter prepares for a bout, applying white masking tape across his face for extra protection.  Even in the dry, this race would run for well over two hours.

The start, as they say, was the usual shambles.  A fuel vapour lock killed the engine in Graham Hill’s BRM.  Push-starts were forbidden by the regulations…but “Toto Roche”, the autocratic leader of French motor sport and official starter, instructed the BRM mechanics to push Hill’s car nonetheless.  The V8 now revving purely, Roche then quickly stepped away and dropped the flag – except that he dropped a red flag rather than the French national tricolor.   No-one was exactly sure what to do – but they went for it nonetheless.

Jim Clark accelerated hard through the gears to 9,600 (with a max set at 9,800) and then focused on driving the perfect lap:  “Before the race,” he would say later, “I had said to Colin that if I could make the fast corners in front I felt I could open a gap and break the tow.  If I wasn’t in front we agreed that it would be better if I just sat back for a while and let them get on with it…”

Jim was in the lead by the time he reached the first, quick right-hander.  And the second.  And the third.  Full tanks or not, he four-wheel-drifted the 25 with fluid inputs and pin-sharp judgement.  By the time he reached Muizon, the right-hand hairpin, he had free air behind him.  He could forget about his mirrors.ACT

Jim’s standing lap was completed in 2min 31.0sec;  his Indy team-mate and friend, Dan Gurney, lay second a full 2.7sec behind.  Richie Ginther, powered by probably the best engine on the circuit that day, catapulted his BRM up to second place on lap two.  Even so, Jim was leading by nearly four seconds as he passed the Team Lotus signalling board, the 25 sitting on 9,600rpm.

And so it went on.  John Surtees (Ferrari), Dan and Jack (working together in the Brabhams), Bruce McLaren (Cooper), Trevor and Graham Hill scrapped over second place, swapping track space either in top gear, in the tow – or under braking.  At the front, Jim continued to pull away.   By lap 12 of the 53-lap race, he was 19 seconds ahead of Brabham.

Then, for Jim, it all seemed to go wrong.  His Climax engine began to mis-fire at 9,600rpm.  Jim immediately throttled back to 8,000 rpm, where he found a “sweet spot” around which the engine seemed to be half-ok.   He then concentrated even harder on those fast corners but was forced to sit back helplessly on the straights, waiting for the engine to blow – and/or for the next round of bad news on the pit board, for  Brabham was now catching him.  All around the circuit, what’s more, Jim could see parked cars.  Reims was forever tough on all mechanical components – so why was this circuit, on this day, going to be any different for him?

Because on this day – as it had been all week – it would rain.  Jim felt the grease on the track even before his goggles went smeary, for the grooves of the R6s were now worn virtually to slicks.  He was dancing on ice – focussing once again on those fast, very drifty corners where still the 25 felt perfect.  His lap times climbed by ten, 15 seconds;  Graham Hill’s ballooned by 20 seconds.  Maximum revs became irrelevant;  it was all about delicacy.

And so, maintaining that lead, Jim Clark crossed the line, acknowledging Toto Roche’s chequered flag with a raised left arm.  In the grandstands, umbrellas dominated the visage.  On the rev-counter of Jim’s 25, the tell-tale needle sat resolutely at 9,600rpm.  On the work bench later, back in Coventry, Jim’s engine was found to have two broken valve springs.  Trevor (who for this high-speed race, like Jim, raced without a peak on his helmet) might well have finished second had the crown-wheel-and-pinion not failed.  As it was, Graham Hill’s second place was subsequently disallowed due to that push start (subsequently, as in “by the time they got to Monza”.)  Tony Maggs therefore finished an excellent second for Cooper, catching and passing Hill in the closing stages when the monocoque BRM ran into both clutch and brake issues.  Jack took Graham’s third place, with Dan finishing fourth.

Post-race, there was more pandemonium:  a policeman suffered an epileptic fit as he was attempted to clear the crowds from the pit area.  Through the melee, though, Jim and Colin found their way opposite to “the press box”, where they chatted to journalists like Gregor Grant (Autosport), Philip Turner (Motor), Peter Garnier (Autocar) and several of the Fleet Street types.

Thus it was done.  A new era had begun.  Jim Clark and Team Lotus had won three in a row – Spa, Zandvoort and Reims – and had changed the face of Formula One.  The driver lay low in his monocoque car.  The speed, and the suppleness of that speed, was extraordinary.

Next:  the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.FH000006

Captions from top: face taped to provide at least some protection from flying stones, Jim Clark readies for battle at Reims;  Reims practice shot of Jim in the aeroscreened 25; for the race, the conventional screen was used.  This was also the last race for a 25 sans yellow stripe; Jim and his friend, Ludovico Scarfiotti, photographed at the Rockingham NASCAR race in 1967  Images: LAT Photographic; Peter Nygaard Collection; Peter Windsor Collection

Artist at work: Jim Clark wins Dutch GP

19618.tifJim’s whirlwind 1963 season continued unabated – even when he wasn’t driving a racing car.  The Belgian Grand Prix had been a relief;  it had been tough and dangerous;  it had been nothing less than the usual forces of Spa.  At last, though, he had scored another F1 Championship win with the Lotus 25 (his last, prior to that, had been at Watkins Glen, the previous October).  At Spa the car had again been excessively temperamental – difficult to set-up and fragile (with the persistent gearbox problems still no nearer to being remedied).  Still, though, he had won with enough margin to be able to back away in the closing stages and to crawl around in the torrential rain.

Then came a nice, two-week break.  Jim returned first to London, to Balfour Place, where there was plenty to celebrate with Sir John Whitmore and his new wife, Gunilla, and also with the boys over at Cheshunt.S2600019  There were expense accounts to present to the ever-scrupulous Andrew Ferguson and there was Indy prize money to reconcile.   There was also a new, convertible, Lotus Elan S2 to collect and try.   Painstakingly assembled at the factory, this Elan would be Jim’s transport through to October, 1963.

Jim had appointed Bill Campbell to manage Edington Mains but now it was time for Jim to return to the Borders to catch up on the events – farm-related and otherwise – of the past six weeks or so.  More and more, there were additional interviews to be scheduled with local TV, radio, newspaper and magazine journalists.  Ian Scott-Watson, who had already invested £40,000 of his own money in Jim’s career – and was paying his own way to several European events in 1963 – was still very much in charge of Jim’s racing administration.  Graham Gauld, a local motoring journalist whom Jim had respected from the early Border Reiver days, was also in position to start preliminary work on Jim’s autobiography.  And then there were the farm matters.  The lamb sales were looming.  Cast ewes were to be bought.  Silage was in the first cut. Most days, with an interview or Lotus-related meeting scheduled at some point, Jim wore a shirt, tie, sports jacket, flat cap and Wellington boots as he strode around the farm.  Sometimes, if he could relax, he’d leave out the tie.  In short, Jim switched off for a while, although the inevitable Autosport and Motoring News were never far from his desk.  He would have smiled that week at the picture in Autosport of the USAC race official pointing to the oil leaking from Parnelli Jones’ car during his last pit stop and he would have spent a little time, too, reading about the Rover-BRM turbine car that Graham Hill and Richie Ginther would be racing at Le Mans the following weekend.  And, of course, he would have devoured the details of the previous week’s Scottish Rally (won by his fellow-Border farmer, Andrew Cowan).   Andrew and Jim – who were 27 and 26 at that point – had much to celebrate in Duns in the free weekend that followed.08-26-2010_45

All too soon, though, it was over:  ahead lay a Dutch and French Grand Prix double, followed two weeks later by the British Grand Prix.  With Ian driving his own, yellow Elan demonstrator to Zandvoort and then Reims, Jim drove south to travel to Holland with Colin by private aircraft from Panshanger Aerodrome in Essex.8-24-2010 16-55-24_095

A year on from their official race debut, the cars weren’t ready for first practice at Zandvoort – which, from Jim’s perspective, was no bad thing:  as much time as was needed to fix the gearbox problems, Cedric Selzer and the lads could have it.  As it was, Team Lotus brought a mixed bag to Holland:  Trevor Taylor would use a six-speed Colotti gearbox and Jim a modified five-speed ZF. The cars were also fitted with revised versions of the aeroscreen tried at Spa – this time with a larger opening and a steeper flare ahead of the dash.  Jim quickly found that, with the new design, buffeting had all but disappeared;  white helmet peak now confined to his bag (or lent to Dan Gurney!), he could lie even lower in the car.  So Jim raced it.  The 25’s Ultimate Look was almost complete.S2600001

For this race, thinking about the potential for dust and sand, Jim fitted an orange lens to his Panorama goggles, taping the top half, as usual.   He stayed with the team in a small bed-and-breakfast in the little holiday town of Zandvoort and went trampolining with Bruce McLaren on the beach after practice.  The Dutch Grand Prix was being staged later than normal.  The weather was warmer.  The crowds were huge.

Jim tried the Colotti in practice, then switched to the ZF.  He was unsettled to find that it was now jumping out of second gear rather than top.

While waiting for his car to be adjusted during Saturday practice, Jim strolled out the back of the pits to watch the action.  Against a chill North Sea breeze, he wore his now-customary Pure jacket over his Dunlop blues and his regular string-backed driving gloves.  There he found his mate, Bruce McLaren, who was also in gearbox trouble with the Cooper-Climax (in this, a “comeback” race for John Cooper, who had been seriously injured in early April when he had crashed an experimental twin-engined Mini-Cooper on the Kingston by-pass).   The two were having a laugh, and comparing notes, when suddenly Bruce was grabbed by a policeman and dragged backwards towards the paddock.  Jim spun around in horror – only to see another policeman heading towards him with about the same step.  The issue at hand:  Bruce McLaren, without his Driver’s pass, was standing where only photographers could tread.  Jim was about to protest Bruce’s innocence when two big hands grabbed him by the Pure jacket and attempted to drag him too towards the shrubbery.  Jim’s Dunlop overalls were torn;  and a large crowd swarmed around, all shouting at the policemen to stop. S2600002 Jim had the correct pass! It was there, visible inside his jacket!  In time, there was little the police could do.  It took a reminder that Zandvoort was about to receive the GPDA’s “Best Organized” award, however (as voted by the members at Monaco), for Bruce to be released.

Although the story of Jim Clark’s Dutch GP weekend is thereafter a story of complete domination, of total command, there was, of course, another side to it: Jim felt that the revised Dunlop R6s brought to Zandvoort were an improvement but still he couldn’t persuade the 25 to handle well on both fast corners and slow:  although he headed every practice session and took the pole by 0.6 sec, he had to nurse understeer at Tarzan and – more importantly, at Hunze Rug, where the slow, downhill left-hander was followed by a long acceleration run through the sweepers.  Even so, he led the race from start to finish, lapping even Dan Gurney, who finished second for Brabham.  The sun shone, sand swirled – and still Jim drew quickly away from the pack.   His was a race of supreme concentration, for there was no-one around for him to race.  It was two hours, nine minutes of lone, artistic brilliance.S2600004

Justifying that GPDA Award, the Dutch organizers did a nice job with the post-race celebrations, ushering Jim and the 25 up between the crowds onto a trailer, where the new Championship points leader could be acknowledged by the fans opposite in the packed, signature grandstand.   Jim’s policeman friend from Friday reluctantly helped with the crowd control – but then had the last word when by preventing both Jim and Colin Chapman from entering a studio for post-race radio interviews. No-one dared ask why.

In another part of Europe, meanwhile, on this day in June, 1963 – on Hockenheim’s OstCurve, in Germany  – Heinz Schreiber was killed when his BMW slid into the trees.  In the aftermath, no-one even thought about the erection of guard-rails or of any sort of protective fencing.S2600003

Captions (from top): Jim glides the 25 up the ramp for victory celebrations.  Note Cedric Selzer by left-rear Dunlop;  top-floor flat, 8 Balfour Place – Sir John Whitmore’s London pad, as frequented by Jim Clark.  Rob Slotemaker, the Dutch trickster, once completed a perfect 360 within the confines of this narrow road, much to the amusement of  Sirs Whitmore and Clark; Edington Mains as I photographed it in 1967; Zandvoort in 1967, as I saw it from a Boeing 707; Jim’s Dutch GP win, with all its aesthetic perfection, was perfectly-captured on the cover of the 1963 edition of Automobile Year; Jim and that famous scuffle; the 25’s cockpit also set timeless artistic standards; in a world of his own – Clark at Zandvoort, 1963; below – Saturday night, and Jim returns to the track after dining in Zandvoort.  The boys needed some coffee! Images: LAT Photographic, Peter Windsor CollectionS2620007

One-handed through the Masta kink…

It was Spa – the old Spa.  And it was wet.  Atrociously wet.  Thus Jim Clark scored his first World Championship win of 1963

19244_lowresAnd so they went to Spa.  Jim traditionally stayed at the Val d’Ambleve near Stavelot and did so in 1963:  the 25s would be towed to and from the paddock area every day.  Jim flew with Colin Chapman and Trevor Taylor on D-Day, June 6.  The Ardennes forest had nineteen years before been ablaze with the Battle of the Bulge.  Practice at Spa would begin on Friday.romantik-hotel-le-val-d-ambleve-ueberblick-01-original-114553

In the Clark track bag: his new, dark blue Bell Magnum helmet and rounded bubble visor Bell had given to him at Indy.  All previous visors used by Jim had been attached to his Herbert Johnson or Everoak helmets by a crude strap and a single stud.  After last year (1962), when the rush of air down the Masta straight had actually loosened Jim’s regular white helmet peak, obliging him to rip it off one-handed whilst winning the race, Jim was delighted to see that the new Bell visor was fastened by three big pop-on studs.  With rain always on the agenda at Spa, this would be the perfect try-out.  Left in the bag, therefore, was the white Bell peak he had used at Indy, Mosport and Crystal Palace (ready for Dan Gurney to borrow!).  If it was dry, he would just run the helmet without the peak. If it was wet, and providing he liked it in practice, he would try the bubble visor.19194_lowres

Lotus had another airflow development, too: Colin’s latest idea involved a  a large opening at the front of the screen and a lip on the cockpit surround.  This would channel air up and over the driver, reducing buffeting and allowing the  windscreen to be cut lower, thereby improving visibility.  Again, the high-speed Spa circuit was the obvious venue on which to try the new device.  In the dry, in 1962, Jim had won at an average of 133.98 mph – this on a lap that included a 40mph mid-corner speed at La Source hairpin.  With more power from the flat-crank Climax, more grip from the Dunlop R6s and some significant re-surfacing, lap speeds – and top speeds – would be higher still in 1963.

It is hard to imagine today what it was actually like at Spa back then – out there on the old circuit, on a thin ribbon of public road bordered by such routine items as telegraph poles, phone boxes, concrete marker posts, sheer drops, clusters of trees and stone-walled houses.  The drivers didn’t wear seat belts;  the cars rattled and shook; and Jim, in the monocoque Lotus 25, was lying at about 25 deg to horizontal, his rear-vision mirrors right back near his helmet line so that he had some sort of angle of view.  To see clearly in them, however, he had to turn his head consciously from side to side. This was another reason he avoided the helmet peak for Spa.

The right foot was held flat, hard down on the throttle, for minutes on end, even though the road was in reality only straight into and out of La Source, down the hill past the pits and on the sections of road immediately before and after the famous Masta kink (which was also taken flat in fifth – or sixth if you were a Ferrari or Richie Ginther trying BRM’s new six-speeder).  The rest of the time, the drivers were threading their F1 cars through the needle, using all the road, accelerator against the stops.  The lap length was 8.76 miles and the lap time was just under four minutes – or just over it, if you were Phil Hill in the new, disastrous, ATS, or Tony Settember in the new American F1 entry – the Scirocco-BRM.19195_lowres

After the simplicity of of the 23 at Crystal Palace, the 25 around Spa initially felt appalling.  The high-speed oversteer was frightening…and still the dreaded ZF transmission kept jumping out of gear.  Mid-corner.

Adding to the feeling of foreboding on the circuit that Jim had hated since his first appearance there, in 1958, when Archie Scott-Brown had lost his life, and then 1960, when both Alan Stacey and Chris Bristow had been killed in Jim’s second F1 race, Trevor Taylor was also in trouble in the second 25.  After finally discovering that his car had been running only on two-thirds throttle at Monaco and then in first practice at Spa, Trevor would be dispatched from the pit lane on Saturday with a rear suspension bolt still lose.  Unsurprisingly, he crashed heavily when the rear wheel suddenly canted inwards.  A stone marshals’ post took the impact;  Trevor, amazingly, was able to step free with a badly torn thigh muscle.  Hero that he was, Trevor still started the race on Sunday in the spare 25.

Jim’s car felt little better on Saturday.  I think this was one of the first examples of Jim not giving 100 per cent until he really needed to do so:  Spa was dangerous enough as it was without having to stretch the limit in practice.  He would always give his maximum in the race but in practice, until he was comfortable, particularly at Spa, he would leave some margin.  As a last resort, as it turned out, Cedric Selzer and the boys fitted to Jim’s car the gearbox from Trevor’s crashed 25.

In between times, Jim tried the new aeroscreen (which he liked) and the bubble visor (which he didn’t);  it’s convex shaped distorted his peripheral vision.  He would revert, wet or dry, to his regular Panorama goggles and he would try the aeroscreen again at Zandvoort, at the Dutch GP.19240_lowres

Jim qualified only seventh at Spa after those two days of practice.  Graham Hill was on the pole for BRM, with Dan Gurney alongside him in his new Brabham.19719_lowres  Then, third quickest, came the fiery Belgian, Willy Mairesse, playing the number two role to John Surtees at Ferrari.  They formed up on a wet track.

As at Indy, I can do no better now that to hand over to Jim himself, this time as told to Graham Gauld in Jim Clark at the Wheel:

“I was right behind Willy on the grid.  This set me thinking that he was inclined to be exuberant, to say the least, and that in his home race he would be rather anxious.  I reasoned that a combination of an anxious Willy trying to take a Ferrari off the line in the wet at Spa was going to be exciting and that he might not take too good a job of it.  I knew that if I got a good start I would have to take him on the pits side even if it meant going across the yellow baulk line.  All this ran through my mind, sitting there, so that by the time the starter had raised his flag I had the Lotus on right lock and the clutch ready to bite.  The flickered and came down, I let in the clutch with a bang, scooted forward and to the right of Willy, who, as I thought, was standing still with spray being sent up in the air by his spinning wheels.  He just stood there without moving an inch.  Mine was a legitimate start, but I didn’t expect, in my enthusiasm, to lead everyone away from the start from the front row but this is exactly what happened.  As I went into Eau Rouge I glanced in the mirror and saw Graham Hill grimly on my tail and just pressed on.  As I said earlier, it was wet and I enjoy driving in the wet, but, after all, this was Spa, and I kept well within my limits.

“At the end of the opening lap Graham was still on my tail but I didn’t know until later that we had both left everyone else behind and we had a ten-second lead.  We stayed this way for quite a while and then I began to get the old gearbox trouble again.  It started dropping out of top and on Spa this is not funny.  You wind the car up to, say, 9,500rpm on the straight when suddenly all hell is let loose and you make a grab at the lever and pull it back into gear before you put the revs right off the clock.  Once this happens you start waiting for it to happen again.  By now, the problem was becoming acute.  Here I was, with Graham Hill still on my tail, with a gearbox which threatened to do something nasty at any moment.  I decided to drop 300rpm through the Masta kink for safety’s sake but I was still doing about 150mph.  This meant that, as I approached the kink, I would be holding the gear lever in place with my right hand and moving my left hand down to the bottom of the steering wheel. Spa 04 002 I did this because the car has a nasty tendency on this kink to move from one side of the road to the other and I often needed correction.  By keeping my hand low on the wheel I could twirl the steering wheel round with one hand and hold the slide – but doing this for lap after lap was not funny.”

Jim still retained the lead.  Graham Hill faded and then retired.  As another precaution, Jim began to take fifth gear corners in fourth, luxuriating in the feel of being to hold the wheel with both hands.

Then, in true John Frankenheimer fashion, the rain grew more intense.  Visibility disappeared.  Standing water drowned the valley.  Jim added a full three minutes to his lap times..but still pulled away.

This is how Bruce McLaren described the downpour in Autosport the following week:

“The rain was bouncing two or three feet off the road.  We were crawling around in the spray – and, for once, it was just as bad in the pit area, so the crews could appreciate how bad it was on the rest of the circuit.  The mechanics were sheltering under their signal boards but, with two laps to go, I saw mine pointing excitedly down the road in a fashion that said ‘you’re catching someone. Get with it!’

“So I got with it, and, in another half lap, I could make out two huge palls of spray – two racing cars ploughing along in front of me.  There was so much spray that it was hard to tell how far they were ahead, but I knew that one would be Jim, who had lapped me earlier, and I guessed that the other would be the second-place man, Dan in the Brabham.  As I got passed the first conglomeration of steam and spray I was that indeed it was Dan.  I passed Jim further up the hill, just in case that it was him that my pit had been referring to, but by now he had backed off considerably, so I guessed that it wasn’t.  By passing Jim I gave myself an extra lap to do and he received the chequered flag behind me as I went on to complete the lap and take second place.”  (This result actually put Bruce into the lead of the 1963 Drivers’ Championship and Cooper on top of the Constructors’ table.)19232_lowres

Bruce began that column thus:

“Relaxing on one of those after-race mornings with a cup of coffee on the patio of our hotel at Stavelot” (Jim’s hotel) “with the sun shining brilliantly and the birds feeling like Jim Clark and consequently singing…it was difficult to imagine that the previous afternoon we had driven though the worst thunderstorms I’d ever seen, let alone raced in.”

Jim was relieved to win – relieved to have survived.  Both Tony Rudd (BRM) and Chapman (of course) had pleaded with the organizers to stop the race;  Rudd had even sprinted across the track in order to speak to the Clerk of the Course face-to-face.  Their requests had been denied.  Jim stepped from the 25 smeared in oil, his blue Dunlops sodden.  He quickly changed into dark chinos, a polo shirt and his Pure jacket (never mind the Esso sponsorship!). On the podium, up above the old pits, by the control tower, his wet hair slicked backwards, he cradled the traditional Spa bouquet. This was the first Grand Prix he had won more than once. A cup of tea – in the Esso caravan, of course! – was very much in order.

Zandvoort, two weeks later, was next on Jim’s agenda.  There was at last time to return to London for a couple of days of fun – and then to see what was happening up on the farm.

Images:  LAT Photographic; Peter Windsor Collection Captions from top: Jim streams past the pits in the late-race deluge; the Val d’Ambleve as it is today – little changed but for a very nice-looking timber extension out the back; Jim tried the Bell Bubble and the new aeroscreen during dry practice; another shot of the new visor/windscreen – note the carburettored spare 25 in the background.  Trevor Taylor would race this after his practice shunt;  side view of the new aeroscreen – note thicker, rather odd-looking “Team Lotus” signwriting, probably a result of this entire new top section being prepared in a rush at the factory; while Jim Clark began a long streak of peakless races at Spa, Dan Gurney used a standard Bell white peak in this race instead of his regular black; the exit of the Masta kink as it is today; modern F1 drivers, if they do see the old circuit, cannot imagine that this was a part of it all; Bruce McLaren and the Cooper team in their Stavelot garage on a practice night.  That’s Eoin Young on the right:  Eoin was Bruce’s right-hand-man and Autosport ghost-writer. Now retired in his native New Zealand, he became one of the world’s pre-eminent motoring journalists  

Indy, Mosport…and now the Palace

Capping a hectic triple-header, Jim Clark wins for Normand Racing at Crystal Palace

19148_lowresIt was remarkably straightforward, even for 1963.  The Boeing 707 carrying Jim, Sir John Whitmore, Graham Hill and Stirling Moss touched down at London airport on the morning of Sunday, June 2 – and Jim and John repaired quickly to John’s Mayfair flat for a wash and change.  Jim usually slept well on planes, particularly if he could find four free seats in economy, and this flight was no exception. Sunday was a free day – a day to regroup, to catch up and to enjoy England.   Tracks from Please Please Me were constantly being played on the radio.  I Saw Her Standing There; Twist and Shout; A Taste of Honey. The newspapers were full of Christine Keeler and the Profumo affair.  Chris Amon had said he knew someone who knew Christine…  Now, on this Sunday, he was delighted to be home, even if he wasn’t on the farm.

His Leston track bag packed with fresh Dunlops, his new blue Magnum and Westovers, Jim joined Sir John for the short drive to Crystal Palace in John’s Ford Zephyr early the following morning.  Jim was entered in the Normand Lotus 23B for the main race on this Bank Holiday Whitmonday (the sports car race counting for the Autosport Trophy), and John would be back again in his works Austin-Cooper.  Both did well in morning practice.  Jim, feted as something of an “Indianapolis hero”, qualified the 23 on the front row, beaten only by the much more powerful Tommy Atkins Cooper Monaco of Roy Salvadori.  John, too, was very sideways and very quick in the Austin-Cooper.

Thirty thousand people flocked to the Palace for the afternoon’s racing (entrance: five shillings for adults, two shillings for children), enticed by the presence of the reigning World Champion, Graham Hill (3.8 Jaguar), Jim Clark, Trevor Taylor, Jack Sears (Ford Galaxie), the best Mini racers in Europe and Salvadori.  This was, too, the tenth anniversary of Crystal’s re-opening since WWII.  The Indy 500 had not been shown on British TV (as in 2013!) but word of Jim’s brilliance had filtered through via the daily papers.

The atmosphere at this British Automobile Racing Club (BARC) international was relaxed and homely.  Indy, thought Jim, as he stood on a balcony overlooking the pit lane, officials below him in cloth caps, tweed jackets and ties, seemed much more than an ocean away – as did Mosport.  Here, at this lovely little circuit, full of fast corners and undulations, all was in order, all was as it should be. The 23 in Canada had been a handful.  The Normand 23Bs, overseen by Mike Beckwith, were immaculate.  The car was a delight to drive.  And there – over there – there was Autosport’s photographer, George Phillips.  He’d watch out for George during the race and give the 23 a bit of a tweak just to see if he was awake.  And who is this, standing with David Hobbs, Bill Bradley and the boys over at the MRP (Midland Racing Partnership) Formula Junior truck?  She looks nice…

Jim sauntered over, signing an autograph or two for the polite British enthusiasts.

“Jim!  Brilliant job at Indy!  Jim – have you met Sally Stokes…?”

Sally, the fashion model daughter of a military father, was at Crystal with friends in support of her local racing team (MRP).  She knew Bill, David and Richard Attwood.  Now she knew Jim Clark.

Jim made a better start than Salvo but the 2.7 litre Cooper-Climax ate the 1.6 litre twin-cam 23B for an early lunch as they hit the longer gears.  Jim fell into second place. Trevor initially filled his mirror with his red ARS (Auto Racing Service) 23 – but then it was Mike, driving beautifully and quickly, who made it a Normand two-three.  Trevor spun – and would spin again, late in the race, after a driving frantically back to fourth from P10.  Jim inherited a win when Salvadori’s Cooper lost its gears with ten laps to go.  Mike finished an excellent second and Keith Greene, of Gilby fame, finished third;  Keith would go on to become Team Manager of the F1 Brabham team.19161_lowres

The Minis were outstanding. Sir John won the blast but the tyre smoke and the door-handles were what the crowd took home:  Paddy Hopkirk pushed John all the way – as did the deliciously fast Christabel Carlisle.  Then came John Rhodes and John Fenning – outstanding talents both.  Jack Sears won again with the big Galaxie, from Roy Salvadori and Graham Hill;  and Denny Hulme continued his run in the Formula Junior race, leading home Frank Gardner, Alan Rees and David Hobbs.  Other drivers in the FJ race:  Peter Revson, Chris Amon, Richard Attwood, Paul Hawkins and Mike Spence.

So much talent;  so much fun.

Finally, as they sipped a beer or two in the paddock and pushed the racing cars back onto their trailers, and changed out of their overalls on the grass, by the back doors of their road cars, the day was over.  It was British motor racing at its best;  it was Jim Clark at his best – in a car as simple and as elegant as a Lotus 23, balancing slides with fingers and toes, absolutely on the limit, every corner, every lap, on an early-June Monday in London, in the tiny space that lay between the Indianapolis 500 and the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.

It was Jim, wondering if John could arrange some sort of second meeting with Sally…

Captions from top:  Jim drifts the Normand 23B for the benefit of Autosport’s George Phillips;  almost airborne – again!  Indy, Mosport and now Crystal Palace – and in two days Jim would be off to Spa for the Belgian GP  Images: LAT Photographic1963pa

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