Formula One Greats – Jim Clark

When Jim Clark was racing Formula One cars, they were very different from the cars of today and so where the drivers. Clark was one of the greatest formula one drivers of all time; had it not been for his untimely death in a Formula 2 race in Hockenheim in 1968 he might well have gone on to become the greatest.

For nearly his entire career he was associated closely with Team Lotus. He won his first Formula 1 championship in 1963 driving for Team Lotus and his second in 1965 for the same team. During his eight years in Formula One he won a total of 25 races.

Back in Clarke’s day drivers did not just compete in Formula One races; it was quite common for them to also drive in supporting races on race day. Thus it was not unusual to see Clark drive a Lotus Cortina to victory in a supporting saloon car race and then climb into his Formula One lotus and win the Grand Prix.

He was a remarkably skilled driver. An example of his extraordinary skills was demonstrated in the 1962 British Grand Prix. As the race progressed he was in the lead by a healthy margin, but he was losing oil from his engine. In the latter part of the race so much oil had been lost that, as he cornered, the G force starved the engine of oil leading to rapid overheating. His course of action was to continue the race, switching off his engine on the approach to each bend, and free-wheeling round the bend, restarting the engine as he came out of it. He went on to win the race.

Another example of his skills was in the 1983 Belgian Grand Prix. It was a wet race and the track conditions were dreadful. He started it in eighth place, but by lap 17 he had lapped the entire field apart from r Bruce McLaren, though he finished a full five minutes ahead of the field.

In all he competed in 72 Grand Prix races and won poll position in 33 of them going on to claim victory in 25. He was the first British driver to win the Indianapolis 5000 and he achieved second and third place finishes in the Le Mans 24 hour races of 1959 and 1960.

It was never established whether his death was due to a tyre failure, a mechanical problem or to driver error, but it was a major shock to the motor racing community. His best friend and team principal Colin Chapman had Lotus replace their usual badge with a black one for a month following Clark’s death.