Jim Clark Tribute

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Jim Clark at the Nürburgring in 1965Jim Clark won his home Grand Prix at Aintree in 1962, at Brands in 1964 and at Silverstone in 1963, 1965 and 1967, every time driving a green Lotus and his career-long love affair with Lotus is as much integral to the Jim Clark legend as the stunning level of easy, almost unaware, genius that this softly spoken border sheep farmer always displayed. Colin Chapman of Lotus had first appreciated Jim's potential when he raced against him in a pair of Lotus Elite GT cars at a Brands Hatch Boxing Day meeting. He then backed Clark's Formula Junior Lotus 18 in 1960, and promoted him quickly into 1500cc Formula 2 and ultimately 2.5-litre Formula One - all within a single season! Through 1961 Clark was Team Lotus's established number 2 driver to team leader Innes Ireland. At the end of that season's racing, Innes had given the company its maiden works World Championship-qualifying Grand Prix win in the United States at Watkins Glen. But Colin Chapman was looking towards the future and he dropped Innes and promoted Clark to number 1, with his Formula Junior sparring partner Trevor Taylor a new deputy. Jim Clark was something just extraordinary, a racing driver of exceptional capability. During that era, all properly brought-up schoolboys regarded the archetypal British sportsman as being modest, magnanimous and unassuming in triumph and cheerful, philosophical and sporting in defeat. The British sporting hero would conduct himself at all times with peerless honesty and integrity. Despite proving himself a winner in competition, away from it he would be mild-mannered, gentlemanly, ever approachable - generous with his time. Jim Clark at the German Grand Prix in 1962And this was Jim Clark almost to a tee. It was against this background that he emerged as Stirling Moss's natural heir, the standard-setting racing driver at the time. There have been very few of such transcendent class, maybe only ten at best since 1955. It was Clark who would ultimately break Fangio's contemporary career record of 24 World Championship-qualifying Grand Prix wins. That does not sound many today but far fewer frontline Grand Prix races were run then. They were a premium currency, winning careers tended to be brief and many were cut short by injury or death. Within this daunting environment. Jim Clark was World Champion twice - 1963 and '65 and perhaps should have won twice more, 1962 and '64, when he lost the title both years in only the very last lap and the second time on the very last lap of that very last event. Of course it is easy merely to idealise such a man and character but the evidence speaks for itself. He was a gentle, approachable, decent man - despite always possessing that great racing driver characteristic, an inner core of decisive spring-steel. Strangely, this only ever became apparent on the track, away from it he could be the most vague and indecisive of men. Of course he had his faults. Apart from that amazing off-duty indecisiveness, the fastidious might recoil from his painfully chewed-down finger nails. Any thrill-seeker expecting a hard-drinking Scotsman, as an American sports newspaper once described him, would be grossly disappointed. Although instinctively quiet and private by nature, he was a friendly and approachable superstar. Above all he typified those expected human standards. When he died in Germany in a Formula 2 race in 1968, an era arguably died with him. Perhaps one of his most impressive old-time virtues was simple loyalty. Uniquely among significant post-war racing drivers, Jim Clark spent his entire Formula 1 career with one team, Team Lotus. It is easy to stay with a top-running team and through 1960-68 Team Lotus was precisely that but during those seasons Clark drove cars not bearing a Lotus badge on only 19 occasions and 15 of those were during 1960-62. Such commitment to one marque by such a dominant racing driver is unique. As was his person partnership with Lotus founder, head and team-chief, Colin Chapman. It brought greatness upon them both, joint authors of parallel legends. 1967 US Grand Prix at Watkins GlenOne quiet day in his office at Ketteringham Hall in Norfolk during the 1980s, Colin talked about his long lost friend and driver. After viewing some rare photos, a long silence ensued as he sifted through them. Then one caught his eye. He slowly tapped it, before looking up - glassey-eyed - and said quietly "He was the finest man I ever knew. As a driver he was a complete genius...and, do you know, I doubt if he ever fully realised it...." It was Easter 1961 that Jim Clark scored his first Formula 1 win, in the non-Championship Pau Grand Prix in southern France, driving a Team Lotus Type 18 with 1.5-litre Coventry Climax four-cylinder engine. Through the winter on 1961-62, Lotus contested the Springbok Formula 1 series in South Africa. Clark dominated in the lightweight, sill four-cylinder Lotus 21, winning at Kyalami, Durban and East London. It was a tanned, fit, battle-hardened Jim Clark who returned home for the start of the 1962 season. Colin Chapman had a new Lotus Type 24 with Coventry Climax V8-cylinder engine ready for Clark. The combination flew, Clark winning more Formula 1 races at Snetterton, then Aintree. On May 12th 1962, Formula 1 came to Silverstone for the non-championship BRDC International Trophy. Clark led in the Lotus 24 V8 but Graham Hill was catching him in the latest B8 BRM. Into the last corner of the last lap, at Woodcote, Hill hurled his BRM around the Lotus in a win-or-bust move....and won by a short nose with Clark second. The timekeepers, in the pre-transponder days, could not separate them. One week later the Dutch Grand Prix opened that year's World Championship season and Clark gave Colin Chapman's epochal new monocoque-chassised Lotus 25 its racing debut, leading the race before clutch trouble. On June 17th he then won the Belgian Grand Prix in this latest Lotus. That was his maiden victory at World Championship level and he went on to win the British event at Aintree and the US Grand Prix at Wakins Glen to have a title chance right into the deciding round back in South Africa on December 29th. There he led Hill's BRM imperiously, until his Climax engine leaked away its oil. He was out and titles hopes dashed. But through 1963 Clark's Lotus 25 proved near unbeatable, winning a record seven of the year's ten Championship-qualifying Grand Prix and adding five more non-championship Formula 1 wins along the way. He was on his way, fully established as the standard-setting driver of his era, and the man against whom every other competitor compared their own lap times, results and talents. Jim Clark in the Lotus pit at the German Grand Prix in 1964The 1963 British Grand Prix at Silverstone saw Clark qualify his works Lotus 25 on pole position and he tore away into a dominant lead. The race had been extended to 82 lap to ensure it would run the required two hours to qualify for World title status. A bag tank in the Lotus had kinked during filling and Team Lotus had some doubts if he had sufficient fuel on board to survive. He began cruising round in top gear. At 75 laps he led Graham Bill's BRM by 35 seconds but as he took the chequered flag it was Hill's tanks which actually ran dry, John Surtees's Ferrari stealing his second place at the flag. Brands Hatch hosted the Grand Prix in 1964 as Clarks and Hill, Lotus and BRM, again fought a race-long duel. Again Clark prevailed. For 1965 the great race returned to Silverstone. Same old story; Clarke (Lotus-Climax) on pole and from Stowe Corner on the opening lap - where Clarks pinches-out Richie Ginther's ear-splitting V12 Honda to snatch the lead - it was 1963-64 all over again; Clarke/Lotus v Hill/BRM. But towards the finish , Clark's half-lap lead over Hill suddenly looked vulnerable. Sweeping our of Woodcote Corner past the contemporary pits his Climax V8 engine was burbling. He had seen his oil pressure dipping through the long corners and realised his engine was running out of lubricant. He began to coast through the curves, blaring the engine along the straights once the oil pressure stabilised again. Graham Hill began hacking two seconds off per lap, from the Lotus's lead. Ignoring fading brakes Hill was broadsiding his BRM into the turns to slow it yet maintained searing pace. Jim ClarkWith five laps to go Clarks pressed harder, nursing his engine as much as he dared, pushing it when he could, driving on the oil-pressure gauge. The BRM's orange nose drew even closer. On lap 79 Clarke's lead was down to 3.2 seconds and on the 80th and final lap he just kept the throttle floored. Hill held a lurid slide at Copse, set the fastest lap of the day last time round (1min 32.2 secs) but was still beaten by Jim Clark - by 3.2 seconds. This had been another Silverstone spectacular; British motor racing had reached a peak. Clarke also won that year's South African. Belgian, French, Dutch and German Grand Prix to ear his second Driver's World Championship title. And he had also won the Indianapolis 500 in a Ford V8-engined Lotus 38 and in public perception had morphed from superstar into a sporting god. Yet still his fame did not faze him. Into the 1966 season Team Lotus had no adequate new engine for the freshly introduced 3-litre Formula (yet he still managed to win in America with the heavy BRM H16-engined car) but in 1967 the Cosworth-Ford DFV V8 emerged and in Chapman's Lotus type 49 chassis proved an instant winner - Clarks driving to win the model's debut Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. At Silverstone for the British event, Clarks (Lotus-Cosworth 49) again qualified on pole and flashed away into an immediate lead. Graham Hill was now his Lotus team mate and on lap 26 he eased ahead. But on lap 55 a screw dropped out of Hill 49's left rear suspension and after a wild slide he wobbled into the pits where it was replaced, he rejoined in 7th and two laps down. Jim Clarks was left in an untroubled lead to win the British Grand Prix for his 5th and final time, beating Denny Hulme's Brabham by 12 seconds. He was delighted, while Graham Hill emerged philosophical. Nine months later, after three more Grand Prix victories in the 1967 American, Mexican and the 1968 South African race - plus another Tasman Championship title in New Zealand and Australia, after winning at Christchurch, Surfers' Paradise, Sydney and in the Australian Grand Prix at Sandown Park, Melbourne - Jim Clark died in his Formula 2 Lotus 48 at Hockenheim. Tyre failure caused him to crash in an event that he really did not need to contest.... Jim Clark World Championship Positions 1960 (Lotus 18) - 10th (8 points) 1961 (Lotus 21) - 7th (11 points) 1962 (Lotus 25) - 2nd (30 points) 1963* (Lotus 25) - 1st (54 points) 1964 (Lotus 25/33) - 3rd (32 points) 1965* (Lotus 25/33) - 1st (54 points) 1966 (Lotus 33/43) - 6th (16 points) 1967 (Lotus 43/33/49) - 3rd (41 points) 1967 (Lotus 49) - 11th(9 points) *World Champion Jim Clark Stats Nationality - British Bate of Birth - 04/03/1936 Place of Birth - Kilmany, Scotland Debut - Netherlands 1960 Final Grand Prix - South Africa 1968 Entries - 73 Grand Prix Starts - 72 Wins - 25 Pole Positions - 33 Fastest Laps - 28 Podiums - 32 Front Row Starts - 48 Laps Led - 1943 Points - 274 World Titles - 2 Jim Clark's Fatal Accident; Tags:, ,