Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tribute To Jim Clark

March 4, 1936 - April 7, 1968
Jim Clark
Born in Kilmany, Fife, Scotland.
Although his parents were opposed to the idea, Clark started his racing in local road rally and hill climb events driving his own Sunbeam-Talbot, and proved a fearsome competitor right from the start. On 16 June 1956, in his very first event, he was behind the wheel of a DKW sonderklasse at Crimond, Scotland. By 1958, Clark was driving for the local Border Reivers team, racing Jaguar D-types and Porsches in national events, and winning 18 races.

Then on Boxing Day 1958, Clark raced against the man who would launch him to super-stardom. Driving a Lotus Elite, he finished second to Colin Chapman in a 10-lap GT race at Brands Hatch. In 1959 he drove a Lotus Elite, finishing tenth at Le Mans partnered with John Whitmore. Chapman was sufficiently impressed to give Clark a ride in one of his Formula Junior cars. In March 1960, the first race for the newly introduced Formula Junior took place at Goodwood, with the winner none other than Jim Clark.

Jim Clark made his Formula One Grand Prix debut, on June 6, 1960, at the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. Lotus had lost Surtees, as he had gone to the Isle of Man to do some motorcycle racing, so they named Clark as a substitute. He retired on lap 49 with mechanical failure.

Early in his career, the 1960 Belgian Grand Prix, his second ever Formula One race, at the extremely fast and dangerous Spa-Francorchamps circuit, he got a taste of reality. There were two fatal accidents at that race, Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey. Clark was later quoted as saying in a 1964 interview: "I was driving scared stiff pretty much all through the race", even though he finished 5th and scored his first points. The next year, Clark was involved in one of the worst accidents in the history of Formula 1 racing. On September 10, 1961, during the Italian Grand Prix Monza, Wolfgang von Trips in his Ferrari collided with Clark's Lotus. Trips' car became airborne and crashed into a side barrier, fatally throwing von Trips out of the car and killing fifteen spectators.

His first Drivers' World Championship came driving the Lotus 25 in 1963, winning seven out of the ten races and Lotus its first Constructors' World Championship. Clark's record of seven wins in a season would not be equalled until 1984 when Frenchman Alain Prost won seven races for McLaren on his way to second in the World Championship. The record would not be broken until Brazilian Ayrton Senna won eight races in the 1988 season, also for McLaren. However, Clark's record is favourable compared to Prost and Senna's as the 1963 championship only consisted of 10 rounds, while 1984 and 1988 were run over 16 rounds. He also competed in the 1963 Indianapolis 500 for the first time, and he finished in second position behind Parnelli Jones and won Rookie of the Year honours.
(Photo; Trenton Speedway program cover, 9-27-64 via photopin (license))
In 1964 Clark came within just a few laps of retaining his World Championship crown, but just as in 1962, an oil leak from the engine robbed him of the title, this time conceding to John Surtees. Tyre failure damaging the Lotus' suspension distroyed that year's attempt at the Indianapolis 500.

He made amends and won the Championship again in 1965
Clark also won the 1965 Indianapolis 500 in the Lotus 38.
(Photo credit: Borg Warner trophy via photopin (license))
He had to miss the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix in order to compete at Indianapolis, but made history by driving the first mid-engined car to win at the fabled "Brickyard," as well as becoming the only driver to date to win both the Indy 500 and the F1 title in the same year. Other drivers, including Graham Hill, Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi and Jacques Villeneuve have also won both crowns, but not in the same year.

At the same time, Clark was competing in the Australasia based Tasman series, run for older F1 cars, and was series champion in 1965, 1967 and 1968 driving for Lotus. He won fourteen races in all, a record for the series. This included winning the 1968 Australian Grand Prix at the Sandown International Raceway in Melbourne where he defeated the Ferrari 246T of Chris Amon by just 0.1 seconds, the closest finish in the history of the Australian Grand Prix. The 1968 Tasman Series and Australian Grand Prix would prove to be his last major wins before his untimely death.

The FIA decreed from 1966, new 3-litre engine regulations would come into force. Lotus were less competitive. Starting with a 2-litre Coventry-Climax engine in the Lotus 33, Clark did not score points until the British Grand Prix and a third place at the following Dutch Grand Prix. From the Italian Grand Prix onward, Lotus used the highly complex BRM H16 engine in the Lotus 43 car, with which Clark won the United States Grand Prix. He also picked up another second place at the Indianapolis 500, this time behind Graham Hill.
BTCC Knockhill 2014 - Jim Clark Lotus 43 Formula One

During 1967 Lotus and Clark used three completely different cars and engines. The Lotus 43 performed poorly at the opening South African Grand Prix, so Clark used an old Lotus 33 at the following Monaco Grand Prix, retiring with suspension failure. Lotus then began its fruitful association with Ford-Cosworth. Their first car, the Lotus 49 featuring the most successful F1 engine in history, the Ford-Cosworth DFV, won its first race at the Dutch Grand Prix, driven by Clark. He won with it again at the British, United States and Mexican Grands Prix; and, in January 1968, at the South African Grand Prix.

Jim Clark was killed in a Formula Two motor racing accident in Hockenheim, Germany on April 7, 1968. He was originally slated to drive in the BOAC 1000 km sportscar race at Brands Hatch, but instead chose to drive in the Deutschland Trophäe, a Formula Two race, for Lotus at the Hockenheimring, primarily due to contractual obligations with Firestone. Although the race has sometimes been characterized as a "minor race meeting" the entry list was impressive with top-running Matras for the French drivers Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo, Tecnos for Carlo Facetti and Clay Regazzoni, Team Brabhams for Derek Bell and Piers Courage, a Ferrari for Chris Amon and McLarens for Graeme Lawrence and Robin Widdows. Team Lotus drivers Graham Hill and Clark were in Gold Leaf Team Lotuses and a young Max Mosley was also in the race, moving up from the Clubman series. The event was run in two heats. On the fifth lap of the first heat, Clark's Lotus 48 veered off the track and crashed into the trees. He suffered a broken neck and skull fracture, and died before reaching the hospital. The cause of the crash was never definitively identified, but investigators concluded it was most likely due to a deflating rear tyre. Clark's death affected the racing community terribly, with fellow Formula One drivers and close friends Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Dan Gurney, John Surtees, Chris Amon and Jack Brabham all being personally affected by the tragedy. People came from all over the world to Clark's funeral. Colin Chapman was devastated and publicly stated that he had lost his best friend. The 1968 F1 Drivers' Championship was subsequently won by his Lotus teammate Graham Hill, who pulled the heartbroken team together and held off Jackie Stewart for the crown, which he later dedicated to Clark.

There is a large memorial to Clark at Hockenheim today, but because the track has been reduced in length and the old course reforested, the actual location of the crash is in a heavily wooded area, it is however easily accessible.

He is remembered for his ability to drive and win in all types of cars and series, including a Lotus-Cortina, with which he won the 1964 British Touring Car Championship; IndyCar; Rallying, where he took part in the 1966 RAC Rally of Great Britain in a Lotus Cortina; and sports cars. He competed in the Le Mans 24 Hour race in 1959, 1960 and 1961, finishing second in class in 1959 driving a Lotus Elite, and finishing third overall in 1960, driving an Aston Martin DBR1.

He took part in a NASCAR event, driving a 7 litre Holman Moody Ford at the American 500 at the banked speedway at Rockingham on October 29, 1967.

He was also able to master difficult Lotus sportscar prototypes such as the Lotus 30 and 40. Clark had an uncanny ability to adapt to whichever car he was driving. While other drivers would struggle to find a good car setup, Clark would usually set competitive lap times with whatever setup was provided and ask for the car to be left as it was.

Jackie Stewart on what made Clark such a good driver: "He was so smooth, he was so clean, he drove with such finesse. He never bullied a racing car, he sort of caressed it into doing the things he wanted it to do".

He apparently had difficulty understanding why other drivers were not as quick as himself. After Clark's death, his father told Dan Gurney that he was the only driver Clark ever feared. When Clark died, fellow driver Chris Amon was quoted as saying, "If it could happen to him, what chance do the rest of us have? I think we all felt that. It seemed like we'd lost our leader."

Jim Clark is buried in the village of Chirnside in Berwickshire.
(Photo;"Clark grave" by Ngchikit - Own work)
Jim Clark's grave in Chirnside, listing him as farmer before racing driver as he had wished.

A life-size statue of him in racing overalls stands by the bridge over a small stream in the village of his birth, Kilmany in Fife.
(Photo;"Jim Clark Memorial 974" by Leo A Capaldi)
Jim Clark memorial sculpture in Kilmany

At the time of his death, he had won more Grand Prix races (25) and achieved more Grand Prix pole positions (33) than any other driver. In 2009, The Times placed Clark at the top of a list of the greatest-ever Formula One drivers. He was an inaugural inductee into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. A small museum, which is known as The Jim Clark Room,can be found in Duns.
 Jim Clark memorial at Hockenheimring.

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