peterwindsor.com

…chance doesn't exist; there's always a cause and a reason for everything – Elahi

Archive for the tag “Graham Hill”

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

La Bananeraie

1963 Monaco Grand PrixJim Clark’s 1963 season (continued)

From Indy Qualifying, Jim flew to Nice from London, where he had been staying on Monday and Tuesday in the apartment of his friend, Sir John Whitmore.  They had first met in 1959, when they had shared Ian Scott-Watson’s Lotus Elite at Le Mans, and they had stayed in touch ever since.S2520004  Their bond, ironically, had been their shared despair after Alan Stacey’s death.  A farmer like John and Jim, Alan had been hugely helpful to Whitmore in the early years.  At Le Mans in ‘59, with Alan now on the verge of a full F1 career and driving at Le Mans a factory Lotus 17 with Keith Greene, the three of them had had a ball, with Alan very much playing the role of the mentor. Early in that Le Mans week, over dinner at the Team Lotus hotel in a little village away from the main town, John had read aloud a report in L’Equipe about one of the drivers having an artificial leg.  Jim, still very new to motor racing, was both appalled and disbelieving.  “Disgusting,” he said, making it unclear whether he was talking about the lies in the article or the concept itself.

Jim was up bright and early the following morning, in his usual way, and knocked on the door of the room being shared by John and Alan.

“Come on.  Wake up.  Rise and shine.  Time to get going.”  Then silence.  Jim had seen Alan’s prosthetic leg lying on the floor by the bed.  The next sound was of Jim’s feet, running as far away as possible.

A few days later, John and Alan were still laughing at Jim’s embarrassment…

Alan was killed at Spa the following year in a Team Lotus 18 – in the second Grand Prix of Jim’s career – when, it is said, he hit a bird at high speed.  (Some people close to Team Lotus are convinced that the steering column broke on Alan’s car and that the “bird” story was merely a cover.)  Jim was of course devastated – but thought instantly of John, who had been even closer to Alan.  Thus the mateship.600112_22

John’s small two-bedroom, two-bathroom flat was in Balfour Place, Mayfair – an ideal location for racing drivers on the move.  The Lotus factory at Cheshunt was half an hour away.  And London was great for Heathrow and Gatwick airports, Crystal Palace, Brands Hatch and of course the A1 – the road to Scotland.  After days – weeks – of non-stop travel, these two days in Mayfair for Jim offered a welcome break.  John’s wife, Ghinsella, caught up with Jim’s washing – including his blue Dunlop overalls – and Jim finalized the detail arrangements of his travel over the next few weeks.  He would return immediately to Indianapolis after Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix;  then he would race at Mosport; then, two days later, he would race at Crystal Palace.  He’d return to Balfour Place at that point before leaving for Spa, for the Belgian GP.

Nice was bright and sunny when Jim and Colin arrived on Wednesday, May 22.  They drove out to Monaco by the coast road, stopping on the way to check in to their regular hotel in Eze sur Mere.  S2550010Little more than a railway station and a small café today, Eze in 1963 was somewhat more prosperous, boasting a couple of good restaurants, a garage and a small market.  The Team Lotus hotel, La Bananeraie, was perfect for the group’s needs, boasting a spacious, secure, three-car garage out the back in which the Lotus 25s could be housed.  Towing race cars to circuits on public roads was not only normal back then;  it was a part of the show.  Spectators would line the streets, awaiting their favourites – and sometimes, if the travel distances was short, the cars would be driven under their own power.  Nothing clears a crowd faster than a quick blast of Ferrari V12…20179.tif

Jim had brought with him to Europe his newly-painted Bell Magnum helmet and wore it for the first time at Monaco on Thursday, when he was fastest.  The overall look was completely different:  it was as if the slightly thicker Bell had been specifically designed for the gorgeous, slow-slung lines of the Lotus 25.  And Jim again wore a white peak!  It was as if the ’63 season was entering a new phase, and the Jim Clark era was now upon us.

Jim was unnerved for a second or two on Thursday when he spied a black cat running across the track by the pits.  He wasn’t about to label himself “superstitious” but, in that world, back then, he wasn’t going to go out of his way to walk under ladders or spill salt on the table.  He was delighted, then, to see the car suddenly freeze and scamper back the way it had came.  Nor was he reluctant to tell a few of his friends about it, either!

Practice over – and the temporary pole secured – Jim then joined his fellow drivers in a GPDA meeting at the Hotel Metropole.  These gatherings had been a regular fixtures at F1 races ever since the drivers had first got together in a formal way at Monaco, in 1960.  As a group, they were now respected by the team owners and by the circuit organizers – something that couldn’t be said about the drivers’ group of the 1950s, the UPPI (Union of Professional Pilotes International).  Jo Bonner presided over the GPDA meetings;  Autocar’s Sports Editor, Peter Garnier, recorded the minutes for posterity.  As well as discussing important safety and organizational issues, the drivers also took time to talk to one another.  In Jim’s case, he was keen to learn about Dan Gurney’s first drive in the new Brabham (Dan had been eighth quickest on a troublesome day) and to discuss the growing shortage of Coventry Climax Mk 111 engines.  Just as Dan had been obliged to miss Silverstone, now Jack Brabham himself was flying straight back to England to pick up a replacement for the engine that had failed that morning.  There was also general chit-chat about the new, sticker Dunlop R6s, now re-designed around the 1962-spec 28 deg cord angle.  In theory, this greatly improved the tyre’s breakaway without detracting from its better adhesion.  A bit like Pirelli reverting to Kevlar casing in 2013!

Problem was, the new Dunlops were also in short supply.  The bulk of them would only reach Monaco, by truck, late on Thursday night.

Matters of Moment in that GPDA meeting:  the prize for the best-run Grand Prix would go to Zandvoort.  The Taffy von Trips trophy for the best private entrant would go to Count Carel de Beaufort; and Graham Hill would receive a Roy Nockolds painting for winning the 1962 World Championship.

F1 practice was also held on Friday back then – but at the absurdly early hour of 7:30am, by which time two Formula Junior sessions had also been staged.  The idea was to have everything over by 9:00am, thus allowing the town to go about its usual business.  The track was cold but Jim was faster still.  Then, with the day still ahead, it was all over.  Jim  joined other drivers on Carribee, the yacht hired by Ken Gregory (Stirling Moss’s manager) and the former driver, Mike McKee.  S2560001After a few hours in the sun, enjoying life with his mates Bruce McLaren, Dan Gurney and Lorenzo Bandini,  it was back to Eze for a look at the cars and an early dinner at La Bananeraie.S2550013  It turned out that Cedric Selzer and the boys had had a relatively easy day with the 25s – particularly as a nice blonde seemed to have joined the team as wheel-polisher and go-fer.  Jack Brabham, meanwhile, had flown his own single-engined Cessna 180 back to England to pick up a replacement Climax engine.  He planned to be back in Monaco by late afternoon but was held up by bad weather in France.  He didn’t make it until about 5:00pm on Saturday – by which time the Climax in Dan’s car had also burned a piston.

Jim was again quick on Saturday afternoon, when the session was run from 2:00pm – 3:15pm.  Perenniel gearbox worries aside, the 25 was running perfectly – so much so that Jim was happy to run full tanks for most of the afternoon while he pushed the R6s to the limit.  (With more grip on line, he was only a second slower than his Thursday, empty-tank, pole time.)  Jim also completed a few laps in the spare car (fitted with the old carburettored Climax engine), lapping as quickly as the Ferraris and fourth-fastest overall.  The Brabham engine issues remined dire but everyone was deeply moved when Jack stood aside to let Dan have the only spare Climax for the race on Sunday.  Drawn to Jack because of his decision to run a Lotus 24 for the first half of the previous season (while he was working on his own car) – and also because of the Indy ties with Dan – Colin Chapman then offered the spare Team Lotus 25 for Jack to race on Sunday.  The 1959-60 World Champion readily agreed, even though he would be unable to put in a single lap with it before the flag dropped.

Serious work over for the day  – Jim was on the pole from Graham Hill, John Surtees, Innes Ireland and Dan Gurney – everyone settled back to watch the Formula Junior race. An electrical problem had ruined his day when he was leading the FJ race by a mile in 1960, so he was not really surprised when Peter Arundell, who had won his heat in the Team Lotus 27, retired from the final early with a blown engine.  Richard Attwood went on to win in the MRP Lola from an excellent Frank Gardner (Brabham).S2550014

Sunday, May 26, 1963 was a gorgeous day – much like May 26, 2013.   There were no support races;  instead, great F1 drivers from the past were paraded in open sports cars.  Prince Rainier drove a few laps of the circuit in his Porsche Super 90.  The drivers, staring at 100 laps of Monaco, gathered in the pits beneath the trees.

Louis Chiron, Clerk of the Course, presided over a shambolic drivers’ briefing on the grid.  Photographers pushed and shoved;  some drivers listened, others joked with friends.  “Remember it is a sport,” said Chiron.  “Good racing, good driving, good amusement and God bless you.”  As Bruce McLaren later, “We knew how hot it was going to be and we knew that it wasn’t exactly going to be very amusing…”

Jim was instantly in trouble.  In total contrast to his full-tanks run on Saturday, his engine coughed badly under acceleration.  He couldn’t believe it.  Perhaps it was a plug or something.  Perhaps it would clear itself over the opening lap.

It did not.  The mis-fire persisted.  Graham had unsurprisingly out-dragged him into Ste Devote and down out of Casino Square, and into Mirabeau and the Station Hairpin, he was all over the BRM.  Out on the seafront, however, and on the fast run through Tabac and towards the Gasworks Hairpin, the BRM pulled away as it was a 2-litre car.

Jim couldn’t understand what was happening.  And so he just drove with the problem, trying to apply the power in different throttle loads – and trying, of course, to find ways of braking so late that he could sustain an attack.

It’s interesting to note, I think, that very, very few reports of the day mention Clark’s problems in this early phase of the race.  Observers and spectators were enthralled, instead, by Jim’s attempts to outbrake Graham and his BRM team-mate, Ritchie Ginther, into the Gasworks Hairpin – and by the BRM drivers always regaining the initiative under acceleration.  It never occurred to reporters that Clark was adjusting his driving in order to compensate for a problem.  They saw Jim hit the cement dust bags protecting a fire hydrant with the left rear wheel on about lap 15 and they put it down to “Clark under pressure”.   They saw Jim throwing the 25 around with armfulls of opposite lock and they just assumed he was having fun…

It was when the engine problem began to go away that Jim worked out for himself what had been happening:  “The trouble stemmed from the two little pipes which stuck up behind my head and above the engine.  These were fuel tank breathers and at the start, with full tanks, they tended to blow excess fuel out of the top whenever I accelerated hard.  This would blow fuel straight back down the injector pipes and thus richen the mixture.  The engine would bang and splutter.  It was murder.  Whenever I was out on my own with no-one around I could scramble through the corners and have the car running properly before anyone noticed but when, in the early phase of the race, I was fighting both Graham and Ritchie, I kept losing places.  I’d pass Ritchie into a corner and then there would be this bubble, bubble, snort, bang and while I was trying to clear the system Richie would pass me again.  Eventually, though, I managed to get with it, pass Ritchie and pull away.  Of course, as the race progressed, less and less fuel came up the breathers and the trouble gradually disappeared.”

Jim was leading easily – just as he had led the FJ race in 1960 and then again the Grand Prix in 1962 – when it all went suddenly, finally, wrong.  Wary of the gear selection trouble that had coloured the early-season races, he was now changing gear nice and precisely, easing the lever into the next slot without any strain.  Suddenly, into Tabac, changing from fourth to third, the gearbox jammed.  He still had drive – in fourth gear – but the gear lever was in “neutral”.  He tried the lever again – and suddenly the car was in second, spinning itself to a standstill in the middle of the Gasworks Hairpin. Declutching did nothing.  The car was locked in second.  Jim’s first reaction was to jump from the 25 and thus to warn a fast-approaching Graham Hill, who at that point was ten seconds behind.  Then, drained, he walked quickly back to the pits.

19069.tif

Thus ended Jim’s first Championship Grand Prix of 1963.  The gearbox problems would continue (both Trevor Taylor and Jack had transmission problems in the race) but Cedric Selzer was not slow in coming up with solution to the fuel mixture issue:  he fitted a motorcycle tap to the cockpit for Spa and gave Jim an instruction he would never forget:  “It’s like a factory.  It opens up and it closes down!”

They had an early night at La Bananeraie:  on Monday, May 27, Colin, Jim and Dan flew from Nice to London on the 6:00am BOAC Comet. From there, via New York and Chicago, they would fly again to Indianapolis.  The 500 would take place on Thursday, May 30.

Captions, from top:  Lap one, Monaco, 1963.  Graham Hill leads for BRM, with Jim lying second in the mis-firing Lotus 25-Climax.  Then come Ritchie Ginther (BRM) and John Surtees (Ferrari);  Jim Clark and Sir John Whitmore compare notes at Le Mans in 1959 while Ian Scott-Watson’s Lotus Elite is given unscheduled attention.  Ian can be seen to the right of Sir John’s legs – and that’s Jabby Crombac with arms folded; Jim shares a laugh with the very excellent Alan Stacey;  La Bananeraie as it is today, now run by the grandson of the of the original owners.  It’s overgrown but Bohemian:  the bulk of the hotel is now an artist’s studio but the bar is still pretty much as it was; F1 cars often split the everyday traffic en route to the track.  This is (I think) Bernard Collomb’s Lotus 24; Louis T Stanley’s shot of Jim aboard the good ship Carribbee after early practice on Friday.  Note the Dunlop race trousers!; the garages around the back of La Bananarie; the bar/restaurant where Team Lotus refreshed in May, 1963; Cedric Selzer (right) and Colin Chapman (checked shirt) shepherd Jim back to the Lotus pit after his retirement. Photos: Sir John Whitmore, Louis T Stanley, LAT Photographic, Peter Windsor Collection

Clark brilliant at Aintree

18303.tifJim Clark’s 1963 racing schedule now begins to gather real pace.  The back-to-back early-season European non-championship F1 races behind him, Jim returns to the farm for a couple of days before driving the 225 miles down to Liverpool for his third non-title F1 race of the season, the Aintree 200. (Jim will drive approximately 40,000 road miles in 1963.)  At Edington Mains there is always farm work with which to keep abreast but in addition there is plenty of racing-related admin, the relevant papers of which he files in his red leather desk folder.  A good example of Jim’s meticulous attention to detail can be seen in his correspondence with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Although the Team Lotus entries and surrounding paperwork are handled by Andrew Ferguson and – for Indy, 1963, also by David Phipps, the tall photo-journalist who had become a close friend of Colin Chapman – Jim receives a personal letter from the Speedway’s Henry Banks, inviting him to take part in an upcoming race at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Bearing in mind that the FIA inter-change between drivers licenced to different sanctioning bodies was a brand new thing in America, Henry’s letter to Jim, detailing an “all-comers’” race on April 28, in retrospect seems logical.  The exact description of the event – “a 300-mile race for American-manufactured cars in the improved touring category (or what would later be known as NASCAR’s Yankee 300!)” – obviously catches Jim’s attention because his written reply is as follows: “Unfortunately, like Dan Gurney and Jack Brabham, I am flying back and forth between Europe and America at the moment and on that particular date we are scheduled to race at Aintree here in Britain…”

As he sits at his desk, Jim also takes stock of his upcoming schedule.  Hectic travel is of course not new to him:  early in 1961 he competed in three New Zealand internationals before embarking on his European season – and he had finished that year, and begun 1962, with four South African races, an outing at Daytona in a Lotus Elite and then a one-off race in a Lotus 21 in Sandown Park, Australia.  What now lay ahead, however, takes him into new territory.  Following Saturday’s Aintree 200, Jim and Colin will fly immediately back to Indy via Chicago (Jim’s third trip to the States since January).  There they will continue to run the Lotus 29s at the Speedway before returning on May 7, with Dan Gurney now joining the group, to race at Silverstone in the Daily Express Trophy meeting.   Then it will be back to Indy again, this time for qualifying, before flying back for the Monaco and European GP on May 26.  (Assuming Jim qualifies on the first weekend, that is:  if rain intervenes, or they run into problems, Jim would then have to miss Monaco in order to qualify at Indy on the second weekend.)  Following Monaco, he, Dan and Colin will then fly back to Indy for the race the following Thursday (Memorial Day).  Jim will then drive to Mosport to race in the Players 200 two days later, catch a Toronto flight to London that night and race at Crystal Palace, in the Normand Lotus 23B, on June 3 (Whitmonday).  Nor will there be a break after that, for the Belgian GP at Spa is scheduled for the weekend of June 7-8-9.

Jim takes all of this merely as part of his job.  Comets and Boeing 707s make flying more fun than it had been in the turbo-prop days – and economy seats are relatively wide and relatively long.  You can actually sleep on a trans-Atlantic flight – and the immediate necessity to have to drive a racing car does away with jet lag.  Beyond that, Jim’s parents had never wanted him to race.  Now, with this sort of schedule, and with reasonable chances ahead of him for some good results, he can at least justify racing as a profession from which he can earn a living.

Aintree is bathed in sunshine on Friday, April 26 – and Jim, running the Lucas fuel-injected Lotus 25, feels as good in the car as he had at Pau and Imola.  Compared with the carburettored 25 of 1962, the fuel-injected 25 provides a more useable power band, particularly at low revs. The new short-stroke Climax engine can also be revved higher, additionally enhancing torque and power. The biggest talking-point in the Team Lotus truck is actually of the ZF gearbox and the ongoing problem of the thing jumping out of gear (a subject Colin Chapman prefers his drivers not to mention to the press!).  The root cause of the issue is that the ZF was basically a four-speed gearbox adapted to take an extra cog. The welds, reduced to a minimum, habitually came away from the spline.Trevor Taylor’s car occasionally runs a strong, heavier Colotti five-speed gearbox but Chapman does not want to compromise weight on the number one Clark car. He continues to work away with pencil drawings whenever he has a spare moment but an ultimate fix will not achieved until new ZF gearboxes, with the selector mechanism on the side of the gearbox, are fitted for 1964.  For now, Jim spends so much time wondering if the 25 is going to jump out of top that he begins to develop a one-handed driving style, steering with the left hand and holding the car in gear with his right. Jim also has reservations about the new Dunlop R6s. He hadn’t liked them at Snetterton, where the 25 had felt more skittish than at any time in its life – and he had used last year’s R5s (based on the older D9 and D12 tyres) at Pau and Imola.  He would do so again at Aintree but Dunlop are keen to try a new version of the R6 at Silverstone in two weeks’ time.   (Talking about Snetterton, Jim is a little surprised to see Denis “Jenks” Jenkinson write in the latest edition of Motor Sport that Graham Hill had won in the wet there because “Jim Clark was out of practice, Hill having raced in Australia and New Zealand over the winter.”  So Jim’s endless testing of the Lotus 29 hadn’t counted?

Jim is easily fastest on Aintree Friday, loving the circuit on which he had won the British GP in 1962 – and the 1962 Aintree 200 (in the Lotus 24:  he had also been quick in the wet at Aintree in 1961, before the Lotus 21 blew an oil pipe.). Strangely, though, he looks unfamiliar in the Lotus 25 on Friday, wearing, as he is, the older, 1961-spec, smaller-eyepiece, goggles he’d last worn at Zandvoort in 1962.  For race day, Jim switches to his customary wide-lens Panoramas (with black tape across the top-third of the lens).  Still he wears his trusty, stone-nicked dark blue, peakless Everoak.1963 BARC 200.

Despite the unchanged R5s, Jim’s pole time had been 1.2 sec faster than his fastest practice lap at the British GP the previous July. Jack Brabham is second, 0.8 sec slower in his 1962 BT3, but non-starts when his Climax engine throws a piston late on Friday. (This failure has the knock-on effect of delaying the completion of Dan Gurney’s new Brabham for the Daily Express Trophy, ensuring that Dan will remain a frustrated spectator after the long flight over from Indy. It is probably because of some of these dramas, and because Dan had initiated the Lotus Indy programme in the first place, that Colin Chapman will have no compunction about lending Jack Brabham a Lotus 25 for the Monaco GP a few weeks later.)

Graham Hill, who at Aintree is still in his 1962-spec BRM, is 0.8 sec quicker than he’d been the previous July – but slower than Innes Ireland, who is very fast in the Goodwood-winning BRP Lotus 24-BRM. Ireland qualifies third, Hill fourth and Ritchie Ginther fifth, equaling his team-leader’s time in the second BRM. Trevor, again in gearbox trouble, will start from the inside of the third row in the carburettored Lotus 25.

What should have been a Clark walkover under leaden skies on Saturday turns out to be one of the best races of the 1963 season. The record crowd at the famous Grand National venue can hardly believe it when Jim Clark’s hand goes up at the start and the field swarms around him.  With the 25’s battery completely flat, Jim is totally helpless. Ted Woodley and the boys push the car over to the pits, fit a new battery – and the car starts perfectly.  Jim leaves the pits even as the field is well into its second lap.

Clark drives brilliantly in these early stages but clearly the car still isn’t right.  A fuel-injection-related mis-fire comes and goes.  Trevor, meanwhile, is running fifth and looking good.18316.tif

On lap 16 Colin Chapman thus makes the sort of decision that even the most hardened of Team Principals always dread:  he pulls in both of his drivers and instructs them to swap cars. (I spoke only a couple of days ago to Anita Taylor, Trevor’s sister, about this. “Trevor was only too ready to oblige,” she said. “Of course he wanted to win. He was also a friend of Jimmy’s, a colleague, a huge admirer. If Chapman thought it was best for the team, Trevor went along with it. He was that sort of man.”)

It is a beautifully-orchestrated manoeuvre.  Jim comes in first and is ready, waiting, as Trevor screams to a halt. Out jumps Trevor and quickly Ted Woodley swaps seats. In slides Jim. He has the rear Dunlops alight before Ted is even clear of the car.

So Jim Clark is now in Lotus 25 Number 4 and Trevor in Lotus 25 Number 3. Out in front, Ritchie Ginther gives best to Graham after taking an early lead; Innes is third, followed by Bruce McLaren in the new 1963 Cooper 66-Climax.

Jim Clark then produces a supreme display of class driving, perfectly-balancing the carburettored 25 through Aintree’s medium-speed corners, blipping the throttle on the slow ones to keep the revs in the useable band. He works his way back to an eventual third place.  His lap times are consistent to within tenths; his fastest lap – a staggering 1min 51.8sec – is 0.6 quicker than his pole time and a full 1.8sec quicker than his pole lap at the British GP in ’62.  This in a car with the 1962-spec, 175bhp engine.

Afterwards, Jim says simply this:  “I really enjoyed this race – even though I didn’t win it;  I enjoyed it more than a number of the Grand Prix events I was to drive during the season.”

Graham Hill wins Aintree (from Innes Ireland, Jim/Trevor, Ritchie, Bruce, Chris Amon in the Reg Parnell Lola and Trevor/Jim) – wins his second F1 race since clinching the championship only four months before; and Graham wins the Saloon Car race, too, again heading the Jaguar 3.8 battle featuring Roy Salvadori and Mike Salmon.  Jack Sears wins his class in a Ford Cortina GT;  Sir John Whitmore wins the Mini division;  Roy Salvadori leads home Innes Ireland in the big sports car event (Cooper Monaco, Lotus 19); our friend Mike Beckwith wins his class with the 1600 Normand Lotus 23B;  Pete Arundell and Paul Hawkins head the 1100 Lotus 23 class; and Denny Hulme, a new rising star from New Zealand, brilliantly wins a wet Formula Junior race in the new Brabham (from Frank Gardner, Pete Arundell and Mike Spence).

With no vested interest other than as a guy who loves motor racing, Bruce McLaren has this to say about Denny’s win:  “For a driver who professes not to be particularly good in the wet, I thought fellow-New Zealander, Denny Hulme’s win in the works Brabham FJ was very good.  For a couple of years he ran his own FJ Cooper as a privateer with very little outside assistance, and he did much better than anyone expected.  18297.tifHe is now being trained in the Brabham tradition by building, working on, and developing his own car.  He works in the Brabham racing shop under Jack’s watchful eye and his fine drive in the rain at Aintree was the result – his first really big win for some time, and a most convincing one at that.”   No surprise, really, that Bruce would sign Denny to his McLaren F1 team some five years later.

And, about Jim Clark’s performance at Aintree, Bruce is unequivocal: “It is interesting to note the way that Jim Clark is taking over the Moss role in motor racing.  After practice at Aintree on the Friday, a certain well-known driver said to me, ‘I’m very pleased with my car – very pleased indeed.  I’m only half a second slower than Clark’.  There was a time when the proud phrase ‘only just slower than…’ just had to refer to Stirling Moss.”

Note:  driver-swapping would continue through to 1964, when Jim took over Mike Spence’s Lotus 33 at the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen.

Images:  LAT Photographic

Captions Top: Jim Clark dances with the throttle in Trevor Taylor’s carburettored 25. Middle: Jim in the early phase of the race in his own, fuel-injected 25. Bottom:  Denny Hulme made his name by winning the wet Aintree FJ race 1963aintree200   

Clark second in Lombank Trophy

1963 Lombank Trophy.Jim Clark’s first race meeting of 1963 did not go particularly well.  After several hectic weeks in the US (at Ford’s proving ground in Arizona and then at Indy, where he lapped at just over 150mph) and, before that, at Snetterton, testing the gorgeous Lotus 29 Indy prototype car, 1963 Team Lotus Factory.Jim drove back along the A11 to the Norfolk circuit  for the Fourth Lombank Trophy F1 race.  Probably at some point, I  suspect, the new Honorary President of the Scottish Racing Drivers’ Club would have been smiling at the thought of the Club Lotus dinner he’d attended a few weeks before at the Taggs Island Casino, near Hampton Court. He, Jabby Crombac and Mike Beckwith had driven one of the new Elans onto the stage and the evening had ended with Colin Chapman being spruced up in a pair of blue nylon knickers… As would become the norm for races at Snett, Jim would be staying with Jack Sears in Jack’s farmhouse near the circuit – and he would refrain, of course, from making any long-distance calls to the US.  (On Saturday, March 30, 1963, it became possible for the first time to make direct calls between the UK and the US.)

This would be the second Snetterton race meeting promoted by the circuit’s new owners – Motor Circuit Developments (the first was a club meeting held on March 17) – and therefore by John Webb, whose airline, Webbair, had become a regular part of motor racing logistics since the late 1950s.  As a journalist, manager and, as I say, race promoter, Webb would in the 1960s and 1970s become one of the most influential figures in British motor sport.  With support from Grovewood Securities, the Grovewood Awards, to name but one of Webb’s creative ideas, would eventually pave the way for today’s Autosport Awards.

The Lombank Trophy was the first F1 race of the year – a non-championship race, to be sure, but a significant one nonetheless.   Lombank was one of several London-based financial “institutions” (as investment banks were known then!) to see the benefits of motor racing sponsorship, although by a certain irony this Snetterton race would be the first since one of Lombank’s major competitors – UDT Laystall – announced their withdrawal from F1.

Today we go into internet-fed panic mode whenever teams or sponsors pull out of the sport, or change hands, but 50 years ago the usual ruptures of the winter were accepted with good grace in the belief that something – or someone – better would come along.  One thing was clear, however:  Stirling Moss’s retirement now seemed permanent (following a test at Goodwood in early May, Stirling would make the decision final) and he was busy now re-inventing himself as a team owner/team manager/Ogle Associate Director; and gone, too, were the factory Porsche and Lola F1 teams.  Although General Motors also announced a unilateral withdrawal from motor sport in early March, 1963, one of the private entrants at Snetterton (Jim Hall) no doubt read this notice with a smile.   (Even as Jim drove his BRP Lotus 24-Climax with not a little natural speed, the idea of a secret GM-supported Chaparral was formulating in his fertile mind.  Jim had raced his be-finned and be-spoilered front-engined Chaparral at Sebring the weekend before;  and many, he knew, were the ideas he could take to GM. Looking back now, and remembering for how long Jim was a fixture at F1 races, it is staggering that no-one in F1 took serious note of the winged Chaparrals of 1966-67.  Even Jim Clark’s attempt to mount a rear spoiler on his Lotus 49 at Levin, in 1968, was immediately quashed by Colin Chapman.)

Porsche’s loss was Jack Brabham’s gain:  Dan Gurney signed over the winter to drive a second factory Brabham in 1963, and John Surtees stepped from Lola to Ferrari.  (I can’t help reflecting here that Jack Brabham “lent” Big John his personal Lotus 24 to race in the end-of-season, 1962, Mexican GP, for Bowmaker Lola were by then concentrating on the upcoming Australasian Series and entered only one Lola in Mexico for Roy Salvadori.  John promptly qualified the 24 on the second row, only fractionally slower than Trevor’s Lotus 25.  Brilliant. Surtees drove most of the New Zealand-Australia series for Bowmaker Lola but his place at Sandown Park, Melbourne, interestingly enough, was taken by Masten Gregory.  Tony Maggs finished third at Sandown in the last appearance of a Bowmaker Lola entry.)  ATS, led by former Ferrari engineer, Carlo Chiti, would also be entering F1 in 1963 with drivers Phil Hill, Giancarlo Baghetti and (for testing) Jack Fairman;  and this would also be the first race for Coventry Climax since being bought by Jaguar Cars Ltd.

The Lombank Trophy race (won in 1962 by Jim Clark) was held on Saturday, March 30, at 3:00pm, with practice taking place on Friday.  Public address commentary was in the care of the excellent Anthony Marsh, the recently-appointed Publicity Officer for Brands Hatch, Mallory Park and Snetterton and the lynchpin, of course, of the Springfield Charity that still exists today.

Jim and Team Lotus had only recently lost the 1962 World Championship to Graham Hill and BRM.  No-one doubted that the monocoque Lotus 25 had been the quicker car in 1962 – but, since August, BRM’s Tony Rudd had been hard at work on his version of the Lotus “bathtub”.  Quickly, though, work at Bourne fell behind schedule.  The demands of the ’62 season in part accounted for the delay but in addition England was plagued by a ‘flu epidemic over the arctic-spec winter:  factory staff were thin on the ground and there was little or no back-up to replace them.  On top of that, BRM also began work on the radical Rover-BRM turbine programme for Le Mans.  As a result, BRM began the year with lighter versions of their reliable and very driveable P578 space-frame cars, albeit with slightly more powerful V8 engines.  They brought two to Snetterton, for Graham and for Richie Ginther, both of whom had been racing in the Sebring 12 Hours the weekend before.  Hill finished third there, sharing a Ferrari 330LM with Pedro Rodriguez, and Ginther sixth (Ferrari GTO, shared with Innes Ireland).   (These were the days of Boeing 707 intercontinental air travel, although turbo-props, such as the Lockheed Electra and Vickers Viscount, were still very much in use.)

Team Lotus entered two Lotus 25-Climaxes for Jim and his regular team-mate, Trevor Taylor but a shortage of engines (ie, one Climax V8 only!) rendered Trevor a non-starter.  Jim’s race engine, indeed, was way down on power.  Climax had planned to bring the new, 200bhp fuel-injected V8s to Snetterton for use by Lotus and Cooper but, like BRM, ran out of time.  Speaking of the Cooper Car Company of Surbiton, Surrey, Bruce McLaren flew from Sydney to the US after winning his fourth Australasian series race at Sandown Park, Melbourne with his Intercontinental Cooper-Climax – (this is a sad story, but I’ll tell it less we forget:  Bruce sold that car to Lex Davison, who raced it successfully in 1963-64 and who in turn then used it to enable the young and talented Rocky Tresise to make his career breakthrough in 1965.  Tresise died in a start-line accident at Longford with the Cooper, as did the talented Australian photographer, Robin d’Abrera;  it was Robin’s pin-sharp images that captured Bruce’s Sandown win in the Cooper for Autosport back in March, 1963) – and at Sebring raced the Briggs Cunningham Jaguar E-Type.  He finishing eighth there, partnered with Walt Hansgen.   Cooper entered only Bruce at Snetterton – again in a 1962 T60 car.   The interesting Cooper entry from Morris Nunn failed to appear;  and Jo Siffert pulled out after hitting a bank on the very wet practice day in his Filipinetti Lotus 24.

Jim, in  battle-scarred, dark blue, peakless Everoak helmet, 1965 Formula One World Championship.
was easily fastest on Saturday, lapping in 1min 44.4 in the torrential rain despite trouble starting the car (due to a lack of warm-up spark plugs).  Eventually the 25 was tow-started  into life. With Graham Hill’s BRM suffering from chronic fuel injection problems, Richie Ginther was next quickest (1min 46.8sec), followed by Bruce (1min 48.8sec), Innes Ireland in the BRP Lotus 24 and Innes’s team-mate, Jim Hall.

On Saturday the weather continued.  Snetterton became a quagmire of mud, rain, wind and spinning wheels.  There were no branded jackets back then, there was no North Face, no Timberland.  Instead, long raincoats, cloth caps and Wellington boots ruled the day. Les Leston’s racing umbrellas – each segment representing a marshal’s flag – were also at a premium.

Richie led from the line, using the superior torque of the BRM engine to full advantage, with Bruce second and Jim an initial third.  Jim quickly took second place at the hairpin – the left-hander at the end of the long back straight that runs parallel to the A11 – and passed Richie at the same place a few laps later.  Significantly, though, Richie was able to out-accelerate the Lotus.  All were running on the new Dunlop R6 but the traction advantage was with the BRMs.  Graham Hill had meanwhile flown through from the back of the grid.  He quickly passed Bruce and, now on a spray-free road, quickly caught Jim and Richie.  Jim took the lead and began to pull away – but then ran wide onto the grass while lapping a back-marker;  Richie again ran at the front.

There was no stopping Graham Hill.  Driving superbly in the rain, he passed both Richie and then Jim to win decisively.   Unhappy with his engine, and finding the 25 surprisingly skittish in the wet, Jim backed away and settled for second place.   Innes Ireland eventually finished third, although not without incident.  During his battle with Bruce, the pair of them had lapped Innes’ team-mate, Jim Hall.  Innes slipped past without problem but then, with hand signals to Hall, made it clear that he wanted his team-mate to hold up Bruce for a corner or three.  You can imagine if Fernando Alonso today suggested to Felipe Massa (running a lap behind) that he hold up Seb Vettel for 20 seconds or so.  As it was, Bruce afterwards dismissed the episode as “a legitimate team tactic”.  Such was Gentlemen Bruce.

The Lombank meeting boasted a superb support-race programme.  The World Champion was also victorious in the 25-lap sports car race with John Coombs’ lightweight Jaguar E-Type (ahead of the Cooper Monaco of Roy Salvadori, now retired from F1); Roy made up for that by winning the Jaguar 3.8 battle in the 25-lap Touring Car race, gaining revenge on Graham Hill (who fought his way back from sixth place).  Mike Salmon, also in a 3.8, finished third.  Both Normand Racing Lotus 23s (driven by Mike Beckwith and Tony Hegbourne) had looked quick in the sports car event but eventually, in the wet, had to cede position to Alan Foster’s amazing MG Midget.  It should be noted that Frank Gardner also raced the new Brabham BT8 sports car at Snetterton, winning the 1151cc-2000cc class.

I mention the Normand Lotus 23s because Jim signed over the winter to race for Normand whenever his schedule allowed.  Just such an opening would appear at the BARC’s Oulton Park Spring Meeting on Saturday, April 6.

Full report next week.

Pictures: LAT Photographic and writer’s archiveS2390001

It’s 1963 and the season’s under way…


Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that the countdown widget on the right, entitled “Fifty Years Ago”, is actually keyed to an upcoming race that happened in 1963 – in this case the Lombank Trophy race at Snetterton on March 30.

The reason for this is twofold:  one, it’s 50 years since that amazing year when Jim Clark won 70 per cent of the F1 championship rounds to secure his first World Championship.  Along the way, he also finished second in the Indy 500, won numerous non-championship F1, sports, GT and touring car events and, together with Colin Chapman’s low-line, monocoque Lotus 25, changed the face of motor racing in general.

The second reason is because 1963 and 2013 share the same days – ie, February 15 was a Friday in both years.  Because of that, and because I’ve always been fascinated by how a driver like Clark managed to cram so much racing into such a tight schedule, I’m going to try to take us through Clark’s 1963 season as 2013 unfolds.  Thus the reference to Snetterton on March 30: it was Clark’s first race of the season.  We can think of it as we think of it now – as a Saturday in (hopefully!) the early British spring.

Let me begin, then, by bringing you up to speed:  the 1962 season ended with a classic showdown in East London, South Africa.  Jim and Graham Hill went into the December 29 finale knowing that only one could win – and the title went to Hill.  Jim was leading when a bolt worked loose.  The engine slowly lost its oil.  Jim, Colin and Hazel Chapman and the Team Lotus mechanics could only sit and watch from the pits as Graham cruised to victory.

There was little time, though, for post-mortems – not that they happened much in 1962.  For most drivers, a mechanical retirement was more likely than a reliable finish;  and, after a while, as Dan Gurney once said, you got used to the disappointments.  “It was just one of those things that happen in motor racing and it couldn’t be helped,” said Jim at the time.  “Graham had become World Champion deservedly.”

Jim returned immediately to the UK while many of his peers travelled on to New Zealand and Australia for the international series.  (Graham, as newly-crowned World Champion, was obliged to spend 12 hours in quarantine in Karachi due to a flight delay – he had no yellow fever inoculation – and then contracted tonsillitis in New Zealand.  He returned to England for an operation, leaving his Ferguson in the hands of Innes Ireland, and then flew back to Australia for the Feb 10 AGP at Warwick Farm.)  I’m not exactly clear why Jim didn’t compete in the Antipodies that January/February.  Team Lotus had given him a one-off drive in a Lotus 21 at Sandown Park, Victoria, in March, 1962, but didn’t enter the 1963 series in either New Zealand or Australia.  I suspect this was because Colin Chapman had decided to put a massive effort into the new Indianapolis 500 programme and had scheduled early-year tests for the new Lotus 29 in both in the UK and the USA.   The Ford-powered Indy car ran first at Snetterton in February, where it was set up with normal, symmetric suspension.  “To my mind, the engine we had in for that first test didn’t go too well, because the timing was a little out,” Jim told Alan Brinton.  “But though we were a trifle disappointed with the power, the car was certainly quicker on the straights than anything I’d driven before.  Even in this state the prototype comfortably broke my existing 2.5 litre lap record by a couple of seconds.”

Almost immediately afterwards, Jim flew to Ford’s high-speed proving ground in Kingman, Arizona, a circuit Jim described as “a beautiful track, about five miles around, with two banked curves each of about 1.25 miles.”  Dan Gurney, who had instigated the Lotus Indy programme, and who was to race a second Lotus 29 at Indy, was also present at the Kingman tests.  “We lapped at about 165 mph without using much of the banking,” recalled Jim.  “It was quite a change after the F1 Lotus and made for exciting driving.”

Those runs complete, Jim then returned to the UK – to Edington Mains, his farm on the Scottish Borders. 08-26-2010_53 He would move to a London base in 1964 but in 1963 his home was still in Scotland – and frequent were his road trips to and from the Lotus factory in Cheshunt.  The Lotus Elan had yet to be released so, for now, Jim was driving a prototype Lotus-Cortina.  “A number of development Lotus-Cortinas were built but when the model was announced in January, 1963, there was just the one vehicle built to the proper specification,” he wrote in Jim Clark at the Wheel.  “As it turned out, the Lotus-Cortinas were not raced until late in the season – but they proved to be worth waiting for.   I had already tried the Harry Mundy-inspired twin-cam engine in an Anglia in 1962 and I first drove a Cortina with a 140bhp version of the same engine in October, 1962.   It really surprised me and gave me just about as much of a thrill as the F1 car.  On the way to Snetterton for trials I thought the acceleration was out of this world for a family saloon but on the circuit for the first time I found the handling a bit odd.  That afternoon we had a good chuckle at Colin.  He decided to take the car round just after a short rain shower.  He left the pits and then suddenly there was silence.  We climbed into our cars and tore around the circuit to find Colin standing there, peering under the bonnet of the Cortina, muttering something about the engine cutting out.  I happened to notice some criss-cross tyre marks on the road behind him, so I sidled up to him, suggesting that perhaps an ignition lead had probably come loose when he had spun the car.  He turned bright red and admitted that he hadn’t been sure which had happened first!”

We’ll report next from the 50-lap, 133-mile non-championship F1 Lombank Trophy at Snetterton, where the entry includes two works BRMs for Graham Hill and Richie Ginther, a single Team Lotus entry for Jim Clark, Bruce McLaren in the works Cooper and two BRP Lotus 24s for Innes Ireland and Jim Hall (of future Chaparral fame).    I see also that Morris Nunn is entered in a Cooper;  it’ll be interesting to see how he gets on.  Graham Hill and Roy Salvadori head the Saloon Car field with their 3.8 Jaguars (although Sir John Whitmore should be spectacular in the works Mini-Cooper) and the new World Champion will be out again in the 25-lap Sports Car race, this time in the John Coombs Jaguar E-Type.  Can’t wait.

S2290002

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: