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Archive for the tag “Ron Harris”

No time to relax…

July 11, 1965. Rouen Grand Prix (F2) Incredibly, Jim had little or no time to enjoy the Silverstone win. He was due to race the following day (Sunday) at Rouen in another F2 event, again in the Ron Harris Lotus 35-Cosworth. Jim had always been very quick at the fast, demanding, sweeping, uphill-downhill Rouen circuit but to date had never won there: he had led both the 1962 and 1964 French GPs at Rouen before having to retire. Now he was returning with a nimble F2 car against the usual, formidable, opposition. Rouen was nothing less than a complete drivers’ circuit and Jim, his Silverstone victory still ringing in his ears, was as hungry as ever.

The logistics, with the passing of time, seem incredible: Jim (together with the other F1 drivers) practised at Rouen on the Wednesday before flying that night to Silverstone. They all then returned to Rouen a few hours after the British GP to be practising again at Rouen on Sunday morning for a race that afternoon. In the midst of all that, Jim’s Cosworth engine was flown from Rouen to Northampton on Wednesday night, completely rebuilt, and sent back to France on Saturday night.

Jim qualified on the pole but it was Jochen Rindt who led into the first, fast, downhill right-hander. Jim slipped past on the ultra-quick uphill section after the famous Nouveau Monde hairpin – then it was Rindt again, slipstreaming back into the lead before the final hairpin.1965 Rouen F2

Again it was Clark versus the Winkelmann team, for Alan Rees was quickly up there too. The two Brabhams burst past the pits – then Jim drew gasps from the crowd as he darted out of the tow and dived for the inside for the flat-out right-hander. And so it went on – with Jack Brabham and Graham Hill joining the fight. The racing was spellbinding. It was slipstreaming…but on very fast, sweeping corners…

Jim’s concentration, given recent events, was astounding. Inch by inch, braking area by exit, his monotonous perfection began to give him some space. Jochen and Graham became enmeshed in a battle; Rees retired with a broken drive-shaft.

Suddenly Jim found himself on top. It was one of the best bits of driving he’d produced all year.

And yet…and yet…

In an eerie re-run of Silverstone, his Cosworth engine suddenly lost its edge with but two laps of the race to go. Graham Hill, in John Coombs’ Brabham-BRM, was catching him quickly. Colin Chapman jumped from the pit wall in disbelief. In the cockpit, Jim again nursed the engine, winding down the revs and saving it on downshifts. More than ever, he focused on massaging the dynamic weights, eliminating the lumps.1965 Rouen 2

And he did it. He crossed the line to win a relatively minor F2 race in about the time it takes to win a Grand Prix today – 1hr 48min. In this amazing of seasons, it was win No 26. Images: LAT Photographic

Thanks to my colleague, Richard Wiseman, we can see a little of the action from Rouen in this short AP Archive newsreel. There’s no sound but there are some nice shots of Jim, Graham Hill and the Winkelmann Brabhams. It’s a huge field, too, that rushes down to the first corner. Note, at the end, Jim asking Graham Hill to join him on the podium. A nice touch in the days when three-driver podia were rare. http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/view/bcffc7a67072bdb29e559f55e7e19ca4?subClipIn=00:00:00&subClipOut=00:01:56

F2 interlude in champagne country

Rheims programmeJuly 3, 1965. Reims GP (F2) As tempting as it was to remain in France for a short break, Jim stuck to plan and returned to England with Colin after the French GP. Next on the schedule: the second French F2 race of the year, this time in the champagne region of Reims. Jim had raced regularly at the ultra-fast and dangerous triangle-in-the-fields circuit since 1960 – and in 1963, with his engine down-on-power, had scored that momentous victory in the French GP.

This year’s race was very different, however. For one thing, the 37-lap F2 event was but a support race for the big Reims 12 Hour sports car event (won by the Ferrari 365P2 of Pedro Rodriguez and Jean Guichet). In other words, drivers like Clark, Jochen Rindt, Jack Brabham and Jackie Stewart were in France merely to play secondary roles…

It’s also important to put races like this into context. Jim had by this stage of the year won three F1 championship races plus the Indy 500; and the following week he would be the star attraction at Silverstone for the British GP. Yet here he was, taking a relatively minor role in a 1-litre F2 car on a circuit comprising largely of straight lines. There was no question of not racing at Reims – any more than there was of not racing at Mosport four days after Indy. It was just what Jim Clark did. He raced for Team Lotus. Seen with today’s perspective, however, the scope of Jim’s race programme was extraordinary.

Jim raced his usual Ron Harris Lotus 35-Cosworth, qualifying third (without the aid of a tow from team-mate Mike Spence). The race immediately exploded into a six-car slipstreamer, with Jim endlessly swapping places with Rindt, Brabham, Alan Rees, Frank Gardner and Stewart. A couple of times Jim managed to out-brake the pack, and also to find quicker exits from the slow corners, but the Winkelmann Brabham teamwork (Rindt-Rees) ultimately proved unbeatable. Jochen eventually won from the ebullient Gardner (Lola-BRM) with Jim in third place.1077_34 1965ReimsF2

Shock? Horror? Jim Clark finishes only third? Not a bit of it. Jim was never afraid of being beaten. It was the competition that intrigued him – that and the cars themselves. Getting the best from the cars. Driving them on the limit. He knew that his Lotus wasn’t quite as quick through the air as the Brabhams or even the Lola; the critical thing was that he gave the F2 race everything he had; that was what mattered.

(The Reims F3 race, incidentally, was won by a new French coming man – a certain Jean-Pierre Beltoise, from Piers Courage and the very quick John Fenning.) Images: LAT Photographic

The little Nurburgring

Race 14 of Jim Clark’s 1964 racing season – 50 years ago – was staged on the south circuit of the Nurburgring.  The Eifelrennen – “the Eifel races” – were already forged in history.  And now, as the second round of the new F2 championship, the tradition would continue. Jim’s opposition was still not at full strength, although a certain Jochen Rindt was on the starting grid and was beginning to make an impression.  In the videos below we look at Jim’s race weekend with the Ron Harris Team Lotus 32 – and then talk to Jonathan Williams, the Englishman who finished third in the F3 support race at the 1964 Eifelrennen  Images: LAT Photographic

To Pau, for the first 1-litre F2 race…

Jim Clark’s 1964 season engendered a wide variety of nice – and sometimes not-so-nice – racing cars. The F2 Lotus 32 fell firmly in the former category. Jim’s first race with it was in the opening round of the French F2 series – itself the first race for the new F2 – around the familiar streets of Pau. Enter Ron Harris Team Lotus:  in this video we’ve tried to uncover a little more about the former motor-cyclist-cum-film distributor-cum Team Lotus entrant. We also chat with with the very rapid John Fenning, himself a Ron Harris Team Lotus driver, and for the bulk of 1964 a front-running F3 star.

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Jim and the Ron Harris Lotus 32-Cosworth were the class of the Pau, 1964, weekend

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