Jim Clark
Gentleman Genius

Introduction and Early Life


"Clark came through at the end of first lap of the race so far ahead that we in the pits were convinced that the rest of the field must have been wiped out in an accident"

- Eddie Dennis, describing the dominance of Jimmy Clark at Spa-Francorchamps 1967

What more can be said about Jim Clark that hasn't already been said? Does there need to be another tribute to him? I'm sure there are those who would say no, though not maliciously but merely because it's already been done. But Jim Clark was such a one of a kind. Have we ever seen anyone quite like him, both on the track and off? He gave new meaning to the term "gentleman racer". Before he came along it was generally used to describe wealthy individuals who financed their own racing effort, but it's a term that certainly should be applied to Clark - not because of a massive wealth that supported his career, but rather because he was a gentleman both on and off the track. I'm sure that at sometime, somewhere, someone uttered a bad word about Jim Clark. Surely that's the case. But I have yet to find such a person and have doubts that any ever existed.

Therefore, it is solely because of Jim Clark's gentlemanly behavior that epitomizes the word "class" that I submit that there cannot be enough tributes on his behalf. Scotland never produced a better example of it's kind.

Jim was born March 4th 1936 on a sheep farm in Kilmany, Fife, in the Berwickshire hills of Scotland near the English border. He was his parents' youngest child - their only son - and grew up with his four sisters. Perhaps that helped lead to his congenial manner, not having rough brothers to toss him about. Motorsports were not part of his life growing up, but another world altogether that he learned about reading books and magazines on the subject.

He spent his time playing cricket and hockey and working on the family farm. Motorsports were not something his parents would have approved of anyway. The only use the family had for vehicles was in the various and mundane efforts of everyday life. Yet Jim had taken to surreptitiously taking the family car for a spin about the fields of the family farm. So when he turned 17 and obtained his driver's license, he bought himself a Sunbeam Talbot for everyday transportation. He soon found a better use for it, and began entering local road rallies and speed trials.

His skill evident from the onset, he was soon winning club races in cars provided by wealthy enthusiasts and friends. Jim did not like the attention garnered by winning races and even more so racing against his family's wishes, and without the encouragement of these friends and car owners, he may well have given up on the idea of racing altogether. But with the prodding of folks like fellow farmer Ian Scott-Watson, he became more involved with racing and even helped form the Border Motor Racing Club.

Jim began to take racing more seriously and in 1956-58, was racing a friend's DKW Sonderklasse Saloon along with a Porsche 1600 and his own Sunbeam at local events at Charterhall and Winfield, converted airfields both. Thanks to the effort of friend Ian Scott-Watson the famed Border-Reivers motor racing team was re-formed and a Jaguar D-Type was purchased for Jim to drive in 1958. He had his first race outside England in it at the Spa -Francorchamps circuit.

In 1959 he teamed with co-driver Sir John Whitmore to finish 2nd in their class at Le Mans. Soon, he was behind the wheel of a Lotus Elite coupe at Brands Hatch in 1958. He didn't win, but the man who did, Colin Chapman, was very impressed by the young Scot's ability. Chapman offered Jim a Lotus Formula Junior ride.

However, things could have been different. Jim's original Border Reivers team had planned to buy a Formula 2 Lotus for Jim, yet when he saw a wheel fall off Graham Hill's car of the same type, he chose to stick to sportscar racing for the time being. And Reg Parnell had signed him to drive for Aston Martin's new Grand Prix effort. But the Aston Martin factory decided against the Grand Prix car, and fate had steered Jim to Colin Chapman, who by this time had already signed Clark to a Formula Junior and Formula 2 contract. There Jim excelled, so towards the end of the 1960 season, Clark was moved up to the Lotus Formula One team, and he would remain with them for the rest of his career.

Jim in the 1958 Borders Reivers D Type Jaguar at a local race in Scotland. That's him in the white car.
Jim in an Aston Martin Zagato competing in the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood 1961.
Jim in his first drive in an open wheel car, at Brands Hatch in an F-2 car for the Borders Reivers team.

Formula 1 Career

His first race for Lotus in Formula One came at the Dutch Grand Prix in 1960 where he replaced John Surtees, who was off racing motorcycles. Jim had gotten up to 6th place before his gearbox seized. His next race would be a Spa, Belgium and it would be one that tested Clarks mettle in a way he probably didn't forsee. He would finish 5th in the race, yet tragedy would overshadow his accomplishment. Driver Chris Bristow had a fatal crash early on, and Jim just missed the body of Bristow as it lay on the track. Just scant moments later Jim's friend and Lotus teamate Alan Stacey was killed also. Clark would say later that the events almost turned him against racing. Yet he would steel himself against the terrible happenings and soldier on.

Maybe it was the deaths that day that would propel him to dominate at Spa in years to come. He admittedly hated the track, yet would win there 4 straight times, and in dominant fashion. Perhaps the demons were chasing him there, and he refused to let them catch him. He would compete in four more Grands Prix that year, his best result being a 3rd at Portugal. He would finish the year with 8 points and 10th in the championship standings. He would also team with Roy Salvadori in a Border Reivers Aston Martin to finish 3rd overall at Le Mans.

In 1961, his first full year on the Formula One circuit, Jim would finish 7th in the points, accumulating a total of 11 over the course of the season. It was a rather uneventful year, one dominated by the Ferraris. He did win four non-championship races. Yet one more tragic incident would come into play.

At the Italian Grand Prix on the high speed Monza track, the Ferrari of Wolfgang von Tripps would come into contact with Jim's Lotus, sending von Tripps off the track. Von Tripps would be killed along with 14 spectators in perhaps the worst accident in Formula 1 to date. Though not at fault, it had a deep effect on Clark, who again considered retiring from racing. Yet he would again find the strength to gather himself and continue on. And he would soon set about becoming a champion.

1962 promised better things, and there would be. For one, Chapman unveiled the Lotus 25 armed with a Coventry Climax V-8. Jim would start off the year qualifying 3rd at Zandvoort and led for a while before a balky clutch ended his day. A portent of thing to come with the Lotus perhaps - fast yet fragile. He would gain his first pole position of his career at Monaco, yet an early shunt and another bad clutch would again send him out of the race. The next race at Spa would see him qualify 12th, yet he pushed the Lotus into the lead on lap 9 and never looked back. Cruising to his first Formula One win at possibly the toughest track on the circuit. It was the first of four straight wins at Spa for Jim.

Clark would go on to earn 5 more poles that year, and dominant victories at Aintree and Watkins Glen. He was in a position to win the championship at the final race of the year - a win would give him the championship. He earned pole position for the race and was leading, but with 25 laps to go, the engine started leaking oil and smoking badly. He was forced to pit, ending his championship hopes. The fragility of the Lotus would put him out of 6 races that year, and was the only thing that kept him from being champion that year.

The 1963 season was nothing short of dominance from Clark. He sat on pole for the first race at Monaco, but failed to finish and ended up 8th. That would be the only blot on a stellar year. He would go on to win the next 4 races, amassing an incredible 244 laps lead out of 247 completed. He sat on pole for 7 of the 10 races that year, also winning 7 of the 10, and finished 2nd and 3rd in the other remaining races. He handily won the WDC.

1964 would see a return of the Lotus gremlins and would prevent Clark from having a serious chance at the championship. He did jump out to a sizable lead in the points, winning 3 races and finishing 3rd in another. But he managed only 2 points in the last 5 races, having several DNFs. He would finish 3rd in the championship. Not bad considering he failed to finish in 4 races that year.

However, he again went into the last race with a chance to win the championship. He needed to win and have the two drivers ahead of him in points - Graham Hill and John Surtees - to finish out of the points. Jim did his level best, gaining pole in qualifying and leading most of the race. He was leading towards the end, Hill was struggling out of a points position, and Surtees was not going to be able to gain the points needed to win the championship if the race finished in it's current order. But the Lotus unreliability reared it's ugly head again, and with 7 laps to go the engine started leaking oil. On the last lap it seized up, ruining Jim's title hopes.

Jim would return to dominant form in 1965, winning the first 5 races he entered (The team skipped Monaco to compete at Indy), and leading all but 5 laps completed. He would record 6 poles also. He would go on to win the championship, despite the team skipping Monaco altogether and bad finishes in the last three races - a 10th at Monza and DNFs in the USA and Mexico. But Jim had already done enough, and the championship was his for a second time.

1966 would be Clark's worst year in Formula One. The rule change to 3.0 liter engines had left the team out in the cold, being underpowered. Reliability nagged as he retired from the first 2 races, and in the 3rd race at France, to add insult to injury, Jim was struck in the eye by a bird during qualifying and suffered injury enough to require pulling out of the race. He managed a 4th and a 3rd at the next two events, but had two more DNFs afterwards.

The lone bright spot would be a win at the USGP. A new arrangement in awarding prize monies meant the team would earn $20,000 for the win, a princely sum in those days. The team had switched to the more powerful BRM H16 engine, and even though it suffered from oil leakage, Jim was able to bring home the win. In attendance at that day's race were director John Frankenheimer, as well as actor James Garner, among others, who were in the final stages of making the movie Grand Prix.

The Lotus would again prove fallible in the first two races of 1967, with Clark scoring DNFs in both, but starting at the third race at the Dutch Grand Prix, Chapman unveiled the new Lotus 49 with the new Ford Cosworth DFV engine. Clark would christen it with a win in it's debut race at Zandvoort. Clark would score pole position in 6 of the last 8 races and earn 3 more victories.

However a total of 5 DNFs that year saw him finish 3rd in the championship with a total of 41 points. Jim would run what many consider the best race of his career that year however. At the Italian Grand Prix on the famed Monza track, he would suffer a tire puncture while leading and would go a lap down, which for most drivers would signal the race was all but over, for making up a lap at Monza was considered impossible.

"On the 13th lap Jim Clark came in to change a tire. He was finished, out of the race as far as everybody was concerned - except Jim Clark.

- Murray Walker

Yet Jim would set his jaw and came roaring back to regain the lead. He would eventually finish third, but only due to a balky fuel pump at the end.

Jim at the Gold cup race at Oulton Park 1960
Jim's first F-1 race at Zandvoort. That's Colin Chapman, Innes Ireland, Jim, and Alan Stacey.
Jim at the 1962 German GP
Jim and Colin Chapman at the 1963 British GP
Jim at Monaco 1963
Jim and Dan Gurney before the 1964 Belgium GP
Jim at the 1965 German GP
Jim and his mechanic checking out his car before the 1965 German GP
Jim on his way to a win at Spa in 1965
Jim on his way to winning the 1966 USGP
Jim taking the checkers at the 1966 USGP
Jim on the way to the win at Zandvoort 1967
Zandvoort 1967 again
And again at Zandvoort 1967. I like the way he's sliding it around in this one.
Lined up for the 1967 British GP
1967 Pau GP
1967 Monza passing Hill
Artists rendition of Jim at Monza 1967

Jim and the Lotus at Indy

In 1962 Dan Gurney, knowing the capabilities of the Lotus car, paid Colin Chapman's air fare for him to come to the states and attend the Indy 500, just so Chapman could see what it was all about. He then set about convincing Chapman and the Ford motor company that the two would be a perfect match to take on the Indy 500.

At that time Ford did not have a win in Indy car racing, much less at the Indy 500, and Gurney's attempt at joining the two were successful. Chapman set about building 3 cars for Indy based on the Lotus Type 22 Formula car and named it the Type 29. The Type 29 had a longer wheelbase to accommodate the larger engine, and an offset design built for the left-turn world of oval racing.

Ford provided a 256 c.u. (4.2 liter) pushrod V-8, a descendant of the Fairlane motor which used pump gas, as opposed to the menthonol that had been traditionally used at Indy. The cars were completed for the 1963 season and were first tested at the Milwaukee Mile, which was a roaring success. Clark and Gurney both scorched the old track records of 34.509 seconds, both cars turning easy 32 second laps.

The team then entered the Indy 500, and it was a stellar debut. Jim Clark started 5th on the grid and came in 2nd to Parnelli Jones's car, which perhaps should have been black flagged because it was leaking oil. Chapman and Clark could have filed a protest but, being the sporting types, took it all in stride.

They would get their revenge in August of that year when Lotus entered both cars in the Milwaulkee race. Clark and Gurney both set new official track records in qualifying, with Clark taking the pole and Gurney starting beside him. The race was a Jim Clark benefit - he ran away from the field and led all 200 laps, lapping the entire field up to 2nd placed A.J. Foyt.

Despite being "foreign invaders" and dashing the front engined roadsters that had been an American mainstay, Clark and Lotus were well received that day by a record crowd of 35,000 - most there to see the great Jim Clark race. It was a day of many firsts: first win in Indy car competition for not only Ford, but also for a rear engined car, and first Indy car win for a monococque chassis.

Jim Clark would remark in his 1965 autobiography "Jim Clark at the wheel":

"By winning Milwaukee I had been instrumental in breaking a monopoly in a purely American class of racing. This was almost like an Indy car coming over here and winning a Grand Prix, and though it was not fully realized as such in Britain it certainly was in America."

Lotus would also enter the Indy car race at Trenton New Jersey that year. The race also saw a record attendance turn out to see gentleman Jim and his awesome machine. The team would not fare so well however, with both cars going out due to mechanical failure, though both were leading at the time they withdrew.

Chapman would bring two cars to Indy for the 1964 season. Although Jim would put his car on pole and set the fastest lap, a broken suspension ended Jim's day early. It was noticed that the tires on Jim's cars were chunking and upon inspecting Gurney's car during a pit stop, the crew noticed the same problem and withdrew the car also. That would be the last Indy car race for the team until the next year's Indy 500.

The 1965 race would finally bring victory. Jim would start 2nd on the grid, and never looked back. Leading 190 of the 200 laps, he would win the race with ease and set a new race record of 150.686 m.p.h. It would be another race of firsts - the first win at Indy for Ford and for a rear engined car. There was another first at Indy that year - $150 was awarded per lap led. Walter Hayes, former head of public affairs at Ford of Britain remembered:

"When Jimmy won in 1965, it was $150 for each lap you led on. He led for 190 of 200 laps. Jimmy never talked about money but he was so enchanted by this idea. He said, 'It was so funny, I was like a cash register. I kept going around thinking, click, click, $150, $150'."

Jim would try his hand at Indy again in 1966 and 1967, but would not repeat his win. He would start 2nd and finish 2nd in '66 and would finish 31st in 67 with a burnt piston. He attempted to start the USAC race at Fuji, Japan in 1966 but didn't manage to make the start. He also competed at Riverside International raceway in 1967 in a Vollstead, about the only time in his open wheel career that he raced in something other than a Lotus. He would finish 22nd with a broken valve.

Jim never liked the attention he received while racing in the states - he found the over-hyped style undesirable. But he did enjoy the racing end very much. He found the speeds at Indy very addicting, but what he enjoyed most was his friendship with teammate Dan Gurney. Here, Dan speaks of their unlikely friendship, as quoted in Andrew Ferguson's book "Team Lotus - The Indianapolis Years":

"You should also appreciate that Jimmy and I were on remarkably good terms for teammates ... By the nature of racing, teammates generally hate each other. They have to. It's an almost inevitable part of the job because each is trying to out perform the other - to prove himself top dog. It is part of the inevitable psychology of the situation.

"But in Formula One at that time, Jimmy and I were racing against each other almost every other weekend - he for Lotus, me for Brabham. We had a clear idea of each other's capability. We shared an awful lot of mutual respect; I thought an awful lot of him as a driver and as a man, and I think he reckoned I was OK too. So when we came together on the Indy program we worked together just fine. "We both just enjoyed racing cars and everything about them. We both enjoyed trying out different kinds of cars - Jimmy tried driving an American Stock car out of curiosity, and of course I drove them too. We both drove Lotus-Cortinas, which were a lot of fun, and we ran Indy cars on the road circuit at Riverside too ... We both got a real kick out of bringing together our two worlds of racing at Indy - the European-style road-racing design and USAC oval-track racing.

"Going into Indy racing with something so entirely new was one hell of a challenge - there was no place for in-fighting, neither of us was political, and above all it was fun tweaking the Establishment's tail."

Jim, Lee Iaccoca, and Benson Ford check out the new engine.
Jim and Chapman at Indy 1963 confering during practice
Jim and Chapman look on during qualifying 1963. Photo by Rick Johnson from the Paul Johnson Collection
Jim and Gurney discuss things before the race 1963
A very tired Clark and Gurney after the 1963 race
Jim and Jack Brabham at Indy 1964
Indy 1964
Pre-race shot 1965 . One of my all time favorites
Pre-race practice 1965
Jim with his trophy 1965
Jim and crew after the win
Jim and Chapman share a laugh after the win
Jim and Colin at Fuji 1966. Photo by Rick Johnson from the Paul Johnson Collection
Jim with the Lotus sporting STP colors at indy 1966
Jim and Jackie Stewart having a chat before the race 1966
Jim ready to go 1966
At Indy 1967
Jim in the Vollstead at the Rex Mays 300 , Riverside 1967
Jim at a preseason Indy test for the STP Turbine car 1968

Jim Down Under - the Tasman Series

Jim Clark spent 4 seasons down-under competing in the Tasman Cup series, winning the championship 3 of those 4 years, only interrupted by fellow Scot Jackie Stewart's Cup championship in 1966. Even though Clark constantly beat the local heroes, winning a series record 14 times, he was as well received and well loved in Australia and New Zealand as he was anywhere.

Jim would win his last championship of his career in the 1968 Tasman Cup series and take his last career race win at Sandown Park, Australia on February 25th 1968. Jim and the other drivers enjoyed their time down under to the hilt, taking part in everything from golf outings, water skiing, cricket matches against the Aussie drivers, and even a surrey race thrown in for good measure.

It seems Jim was convinced to compete against fellow driver Richard Attwood in a surrey race (horse and cart race, for those unfamiliar sorts). Jim, decked out in full jockey livery and sporting a crested helmet, commented "This would cause a sensation at Brands Hatch." He was not as capable in this form of racing as the auto side, finishing well behind Richard Attwood's horse and cart, ironically named Regal Scot. So much the better. Surrey racing's loss is motorsports gain. "It steers alright, but where are the brakes?" was a dirt covered Clark's reply to the situation.

It's no wonder Jim enjoyed himself so much when he visited Australia. It all sounds like it was great fun. He was said to have enjoyed his time down under very much, and speculation was that he would have moved there when he chose to retire from racing. Colin Chapman said he doubted that would have happened, but sadly it's one of those things we will never know.

The Lotus being unloaded down under
At Longford
Chasing Graham Hill at Warwick Farms
Lined up at Lakeside
Jim sitting on his tire watching qualifying at Sandown Park
Helping with the car at Warwick Farms
Jim having a beer after a win at Warwick Farms 1966
Clowning around at the beach
And at Lake Taupo New Zealand
Winning the Tazman Cup 1967
Being congratulated for a win at Warwick Farms in 1968 by Stirling Moss
Jim and Graham Hill at Warwick Farms 1968
Jim on the way to the last win of his career Sandown Park 1968

Other Racing Series

Jim competed in several forms of racing over his career. Here are a selection of photos from some of those other series, along with some miscellaneous photos:

Here he is in his Lotus Ford Cortina at a British Saloon car race
Finishing 2nd to Hap Sharp's Chapparal at Riverside 1965 in the Lotus Type 40
A better photo of the Type 40
Jim ran one NASCAR race for the Holman Moody Ford team at Rockingham in 1967
Jim in an F2 car
Jim and Graham Hill having fun
Jim and Colin Chapman
Jim and Colin Chapman

Death

Jim started the 1968 season well, winning at the South African Grand prix. But then would come the day that would live in infamy for the motorsports world. While competing in a Formula 2 race at Hockenheim, Clark's car, which was believed to have suffered a tire puncture, left the road and crashed into trees. Jimmy Clark, perhaps the greatest driver the world has ever seen, was killed upon impact.

The racing world mourned it's loss. Colin Chapman said he had lost his best friend. Graham Hill, who had become close to Clark, said what he would miss most was his smile. Chris Amon remarked "If it could happen to him, what chance did the rest of us have? I think we all felt like that. It seemed like we had lost our leader."

"The loss of Jim Clark... I think was like to motor racing what the atomic bomb may have been to the world during the second world war. It was something that nobody truly believed could have occurred. The dimensions of it were so drastic and so devastating to us all. I think for the first time we truly realized that motor racing was, or could be, hopelessly dangerous."

- Jackie Stewart

It was a terrible end for such a young and promising life. Memorials were immediately established. A plaque was mounted among the trees where Jim lost his life.

Jim Clark memorial, Hockenheim

His parents donated many of his racing trophies and awards to the Duns town council, which used them to establish the Jim Clark Trophy Room, a monument to his greatness that still welcomes visitors to this day and provides a great account of Jim's career through photos and other memorabilia.

Jim Clark was not with us long, not long enough at least, but he made a lasting impact. For a man who never intended to make racing a career and was so uncomfortable dealing with racing demands out of the car, yet was totally comfortable in the car, not enough can be said. His racing record speaks best for his skill on the track. His win at Indy, his dominance at Spa, his incredible '65 season, when he led every lap of every race he finished. And his amazing run at Monza in 67.

But what speaks the most of Jim Clark is his image off the track - one of a humble, amiable person not tinged by racing's fame. He is without a doubt the best-loved, most well thought of and respected man to ever race. And his immense character is the best testimony to Jim Clark, the gentleman who just happened to be an phenomenal race car driver. God Speed Jimmy, God Speed. It was a blessing to have you around. You are gone, but not forgotten.

Links

Link to very good site on the Tazman Series

A link to Colin Chapman speaking about his relationship with Jim