Jim Clark PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 28 October 2008 11:17

Jim Clark

Born: 4 March 1936, Kilmany, Fife, Scotland

Died: 7 April 1968, Hockenheim, Germany.

Age:  32

Cause of death: Racing accident.

Notable because: Possibly the greatest race driver to have sat behind a wheel.

 

Jim Clark was a Scottish Formula One racing driver.  He was the dominant driver of his era, winning two World Championships, in 1963 and 1965. At the time of his death, he had won more Grand Prix races (25) and achieved more Grand Prix pole positions (33) than any ohockenheim_historicther driver. He also competed in the Indianapolis 500 five times, and won it once, in 19

He was born James Clark Jr. into a farming family at Kilmany House Farm, Fife, the youngest child of five, and the only boy. In 1942 the family moved to Edington Mains Farm, near Duns, Berwickshire, in the Borders. He was educated at primary schools, first in Kilmany and then in Chirnside, and then following three years of preparatory schooling at Clifton Hall near Edinburgh he was sent to Loretto School in Musselburgh, near Edinburgh.

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 off. 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 met the man who would launch him to superstardom. Driving a Lotus Elite, he finished second to Colin Chapman. Chapman was sufficiently impressed to give Clark a ride in one of his Formula Junior cars.

Jim Clark in German GP 1962

Early in his career, Jim Clark was involved in one of the worst accidents in the history of Formula 1 racing. In the 1961 Italian Grand Prix on September 10th at Monza, Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips in his Ferrari collided with Jim Clark's Lotus. Trips' car became airborne and crashed into a side barrier, fatally throwing von Trips out of the car, 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. That year he also competed in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time, and only the oil on the track from winner Parnelli Jones's car prevented him from winning, as he finished in second position and won Rookie of the Year honours. 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 put paid to that year's attempt at the Indianapolis 500. He made amends and won the Championship again in 1965 and also the Indianapolis 500 in the Lotus 38. 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 that race and the F1 title in the same year.

Jim Clark at the Nürburgring 1965

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.

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 onwards 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.

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's drive in the 1967 Italian Grand Prix is regarded one of the greatest ever in F1. After starting from pole, he was leading in his Lotus 49 (chassis R2), when a tyre punctured. He lost an entire lap while having the wheel changed in the pits. After rejoining sixteenth, Clark then showed his genius by driving at his own limit, something which was not required when leading. He ripped back through the field, progressively lowered the lap record, eventually equalling his pole time of 1m 28.5s, to regain the lost lap and the lead. He was narrowly ahead of Brabham and Surtees starting the last lap, but his car had not been filled with enough fuel for such a performance — it faltered, and finally coasted across the finish line in third place.

In his Indianapolis 500 win, Clark carried on driving despite a collision which would have forced some drivers out of the race. He led for 190 of the 200 laps, with an unprecedented average speed of over 150 miles per hour (240 km/h), to become the first foreigner in almost half a century to win the famous race.

Jim Clark also raced at Crimond in the North East of Scotland on 16th June 1956 in his very first car race he was behind the wheel of a DKW "sonderklasse".

On 7 April 1968, Jim Clark's life tragically ended in a crash. He was originally slated to drive in the BOAC 1000 km sportscar race at Brands Hatch but instead chose to drive in a Formula Two race for Lotus at the Hockenheimring in Germany, mostly due to contractual obligations with Firestone. On the fourth lap, his 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. Colin Chapman was devastated and publicly stated that he had lost his best friend. As a sign of respect, Chapman ordered the traditional green and yellow badge found on the nose of all Lotus road cars to be replaced with a black badge for a month following Clark's death. The 1968 F1 Drivers' Championship was subsequently won by his Lotus team-mate Graham Hill, who pulled the heartbroken team together and held off Jackie Stewart for the crown, which he later dedicated to Clark.

Clark achieved 33 pole positions and won 25 races from his 72 Grands Prix starts in championship races. 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, NASCAR, driving a Ford Galaxie for the Holman Moody team, Rallying, where he took part in the 1966 RAC Rally of Great Britain in a Lotus Cortina, and nearly won the event before crashing, 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 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. Whilst 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.

He apparently had difficulty understanding why other drivers were not as quick as himself. After his death, Clark's father told Dan Gurney that he was the only driver his son ever feared. When Clark died, fellow driver Chris Amon was quoted as saying, "If it could happen to him, what Jim Clark, Monaco GP 1964chance 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. A memorial stone can be found at the Hockenheimring circuit, moved from the site of his crash to a location closer to the current track and 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. A small museum, which is known as The Jim Clark Room, can be found in Duns.

He was an inaugural inductee into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.

 

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 June 2012 15:58
 

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