Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Jim Clark Part Two

Clark began 1959 still very much an exceptionally talented amateur,  he was 22 years old and despite his considerable modesty people were starting to notice how quickly he could put a car around a track.

The Elite at Le Mans in '59 (by pistonheads)

 Due to Jim refusing the F2 Lotus, the Reivers had decided that sports cars were the way forward, so the D-type was sold and a second hand Lister-Jaguar was bought to replace it. Scott-Watson wasted no time in entering Jim and the Elite in that years Le Mans and asked lotus to prepare the car. Due to some sort of 'mix-up' Jim ended up driving one of Lotus' Elites as a Lotus entered car run by the Rievers, and was partnered with (Sir) John Whitmore. Despite starter motor trouble putting them in the pits for two and a half hours Jim and John finished a remarkable 10th overall and 2nd in class. Clark describing the experience as 'a very good way in which to watch the race.'

The Ecurie Tojiero Jag
 August saw Jim drive a Tojiero-Jaguar for David Murrays Ecurie Ecosse team in that years TT race at Goodwood. It proved to be another personal mile stone in Clarks career as he was partnered with his hero, Masten Gregory. There was a healthy rivalry between the Rievers and Ecurie Ecosse as they were both Scottish teams founded in the early fifties, Ecurie had gone on to become a more successful and professional outfit, whereas the Rievers had fizzled out until Clark came on the scene in '57, but the Rievers had not entered so Murray asked Clark if he would drive their car. Although he thought himself driving for 'the opposition' he agreed.

During the race Gregory encountered steering trouble at woodcote corner and had to bail out of the car before it struck a bank. he had almost completed the operation when the car impacted and was thrown almost into the crowd suffering a broken shoulder. Clark described the race as 'turning point' saying  'each driver builds up images within himself. Once he has cracked one image he invents another and so progresses onwards and upwards. My particular image was Masten. During the race I found myself lapping the Tojiero as quick as Masten could and in this race I first realised that I might seriously compete with the idols of my schooldays.' The race was won by Stirling Moss driving for Aston Martin who took over his team mate's car after his was gutted by fire in the pits, his win gave Aston their first World Sporstcar Championship.

FJ Lotus 18
Boxing bowing Day brands again, and Clark was asked by Graham warner of the chequered flag organisation, against whose Elite he had raced against most of the season if he would care to drive one of his formula junior (FJ) cars in the FJ race that day. It was to be Jims first race in a single seater, alongside him on the grid was a car he described as a 'cigar tube with four wheels' it was the revolutionary rear engined lotus 18, a car that was to play a large roll in the year to come, But for the time being he had a flat battery, and had to be push started spending the race in the middle of the pack.

Late in '59 Clark was approached by an old friend of Jock McBain's, Reg Parnell, Reg was team manager for Aston Martin at the time, and asked Jim if he would be interested in Driving one of his Formula One cars, Clark initially said no because he didn't think he was good enough, Parnell said he thought he was so that was that.

1960 F1 Aston Martin

And so it was that in January of 1960 Jim Clark first lowered himself into a Formula One car. The test went well and another was arranged. Jim had won the Lotuseer trophy for 1959, (awarded to the driver who puts in the best performance in his first year in a lotus) and at the dance that evening Jim had whispered to Mike Costin that he would be testing the Aston that Monday at goodwood. Surprise surprise, Mike Costin happened to be at Goodwood testing the lotus Formula Junior when Jim and the Aston team Arrived, he asked Reg if he would let Jim take the Lotus out for a few laps. He did and was amazed by the handling and performance of the Lotus FJ.

Despite Chapmans best efforts Clark asserted that he had promised Reg Parnell that he would drive for Aston Martin in F1 in 1960, so agreed to drive for Lotus in F2 and FJ instead, in addition to this the Rievers had sold the Lister-Jaguar and Bought Stirling Moss' fire Damaged Aston from the previous year. There was now no denying that Clark was a fully focused and professional racing driver and his first full season as a member of Team Lotus lay ahead of him.

1960 began in earnest and Jim drove the lotus junior at goodwood, the Reivers Aston at the nurburgring and when Aston failed to get their f1 cars ready for Monaco he had to settle for just the junior race in the lotus. Aston again failed to get a car ready for Jim for Zandvoort, but due to motorcycle commitments John Surtees was unable to make the race for Lotus. Chapman asked Jim if he would drive the spare F1 car and of course Jim said yes. Thus began his Career as a Lotus Formula One Driver. Unfortunately Both Clark and Alan Stacey's gearbox broke leaving Innes Ireland as the only Lotus Finisher in 2nd.

Chris Bristow at Spa in 1960

Then came Spa, motorcycle commitments again kept Surtees away, and once again Clark stepped in to replace him. the 1960 Spa GP has gone down in history as one of motorsport's worst weekends, Stirling Moss had a very heavy accident at the extremely fast Burneville corner in practice, breaking both his legs, some ribs, his nose and crushing vertibrea in his back. Mike Taylor also had a Career ending crash in practice but things were about to get much worse. In the race, Chris Bristow, a quick but inexperienced young Brit, battling with Willie Mairesse's Ferrari tried to take Burneville off line and rolled his Cooper Climax, he was thrown out onto a barbed wire fence and decapitated, Clark was just behind them and first on the scene, he arrived in time too see the Marshall's removing Bristow's body and recalled seeing the blood spattered on the side of his car after the race. Only minutes later, Alan Stacey, Jim's team mate was also killed, again at burneville when a bird struck his face, The lotus flew off the track into a field and caught fire.

Ok, I think that concludes part two, this seems to be turning into quite a lengthy biography. and we've only just got to the start of his F1 career. Stop in for part three and maybe I'll get to Indianapolis.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Jim Clark in 500 words

To attempt the distillation of one man's life, be it only a woefully short thirty-two years, into 500 words, may seem a little inadequate. But for someone who had achieved so much, had a character as complex and a story as interesting as James Clark Jr, it positively smacks of inadequacy bordering on the pathetic.

James Clark Jr

but here we go.

Born in Kilmany, Fifeshire in1936, the youngest of five, and the only son to a family of sheep farmers on the Scottish borders, Clark was brought into motor sport by local garage owner Jock McBain, who shortly after his 17 birthday encouraged Jim to enter a 'Driving Test Meeting' at Berwick and District Motor Club. He won, but was disqualified because he wasn't a member of the club. Shortly after this he met Ian Scott-Watson a local enthusiast who, alongside McBain was to prove instrumental in his early years through providing him cars, support, and encouragement. In 1956 Scott-Watson entered Jim in his first race driving his DKW Sonderclasse and he finished 8th.

In 1957 Scott-Watson exchanged the DKW  for a Porsche 1600 Super S in which Jimmy Duly scored his first race victory in the BMRC Trophy race at Charterhall on October 5th. By 1958 McBain and Scott Watson had re-formed the Border Reivers racing team (named after the lawless clans of the border valleys for whom looting and rustling both sides of the border was a way of life)  and had added a Jaguar D-Type to their stable for Jim to compete in.

Things now began to gather pace, against the wishes of his parents and despite his own desire to lead a peaceful farmers life, Jim was hopelessly hooked on motor sport. The Reivers entered the D-type and the Porsche in many events, mainly road racing and hill climbs during '58 and if Jim didn't win he was rarely outside the top 5, He made his first foreign trip to Spa in May of that year to compete in the GP de Spa for sportscars over 1500cc. This was Clark's first time out against his own Heroes and one of the seminal races during his formative years.

The Reivers D-type

'If I had known the kind of track it was I'd never have gone.' He said later of the race, but, as was to become his trademark at Spa he got down to business and began learning what he could, and despite admitting physically shaking before the start of the 'big' race he finished a lapped  8th and recalled watching in awe as Masten Gregory came by to lap him. 'He was well out in the lead with the Lister Jaguar all sideways, arms crossed up and fighting the steering.......I didn't think anyone could drive a car as quickly as that.' Sadly Archie Scott Brown was killed during the race, probably by spa's notorious habit of raining on certain parts of the circuit and not on others. The race initiated a lifelong hatred of Spa but it showed Clark that 100% commitment was neccesary to compete at the highest level and that small mistakes could cost him his life. It also showed him that he could overcome his fears and seriously compete against people he had previously held in awe.

In October of that year Jimmy had his first encounter with Colin Chapman and his embryonic Lotus company, McBain had decided to buy a Formula 2 Lotus for Jim to race in 1959 and it was arranged that Jim should try it at Brands Hatch. Also present that day was Mike Costin (of Cosworth) as wall as Graham Hill, Innes Ireland, Alan Stacey and a number of other high profile drivers of the day. Despite never having driven a single seater before or never having driven Brands Jim ended the day 2 and a half seconds off Hill's new unofficial lap record of 56.3secs, but when Hill went back out the car lost a wheel at Paddock bend and rolled over, Hill was thrown out and Clark had seen enough. He refused to have anything to do with a car that could break in such a manner, so he and Scott-watson started to persue the idea of buying an Elite instead.

The Elite was ready for the Boxing day Brands Hatch meeting and Clark actually raced it against Chapman in an identical Elite. The pair of them fought for the lead the whole race until Clark (in the lead) was clipped by a spinning back marker at Druids allowing Chapman to nip by to take the win with Jim second.
 'I have photographs of us going side by side round Paddock bend with both cars sideways on.' Says Clark in his 1964 book 'Jim Clark at the wheel.' I don't know about you but I would give one of my less important organs for a copy of that picture.

A Lotus Elite (and Innes Ireland)
 By the end of '58 Clark still viewed racing as a pleasant distraction and always assumed he would return to life on the farm at some point, Parental pressure was mounting and  Ian Scott-watson was having to work very hard to convince Jim that he was as good as everyone else thought he was. 1959 was just around the corner though and this was to be the year that Jimmy really started to make a name for himself.

It's quite clear that I'm not going to fit everything I want to say into 500 word or even one reasonably sized blog post so I'm going to split this into two parts. Check back soon for the second half of the Jim Clarke Story.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Greats in 500 Words

Just to keep things rolling along nicely through the impending winter and associated lack of British motor-sport, I think I'll write a series of short pieces about some of the Great Brits who've won the formula 1 word championship over the years and possibly some notable exceptions (one immediately springs to mind). I'll try and keep to 500 words per person if I can just to prevent it from becoming oppressive. hope fully I can enlighten you about some names you may recognise but might not fully be aware of or might not have ever taken the time to research for the sake of it, I'm certainly looking forward to researching these great drivers if only to deepen my own knowledge.

Obviously alot of the information  is readily available on the internet in a few easy clicks, but I do have a few books of my own to consult, and rather than just list facts and  figures or cut and paste Wikipedia I'll try and add my feelings about this or that driver and comment independently where I feel I can do so with confidence so as to add some individuality and prevent any sort of parrot fashion recital of other sources.

Stay tuned, the great Jim Clark has to be up first.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Snetterton Sprint

The third and final sprint event of this years academy took place at Snetterton, south-west of Norfolk in Norwich. After a dry practice day on Friday it ended up bieng a worst case scenario for the race on saturday when the east anglian skies well and truly opened leaving 5 0f the 44 drivers in the boonies with no time recorded.

Not among the DNF's but nontheless conspicuous by his absence was kurt brady, hitherto the unbeaten dominant force in group 2, who for reasons not known to me couldnt make it to snetterton to defend his lead of the group.

Ill start with group one though, and it was Mike Hart who once again stamped his authority on the group to remain unbeaten and extend his small lead over a frustrated Wes fox who once again had to settle for second despite more brake problems. The appalling conditions played out well for David Szymanski who continued a threatening charge into 7th at Curborough by taking the final spot on the podium at Snetterton, despite this he still sits 8th in the group, but definatly one to watch.

This leaves group one looking like this:
6 points separate Mike Hart(60pts) and Wes Fox(54pts) at the top, Merlin Edwards(49pts) Notched up another 4th to hold onto third in the group whilst Jon Mortimer(46pts) scored his second consecutive 5th to climb into 4th, Blaize Rhodes(39pts) needs to stop the rot after only just staying in the top 10 to take 5th in group ahead of a no doubt frustrated Joel wymer(38pts) who came in 13th after some strong finishes at Aintree and Curborough.

Group 2 was nothing like as consistant as group 1, headed home by the meteoric Tim Abbot who secured his first win of the season and first in group with a solid performance in the wet. Martin Pass regained his Aintree form to take a seasons best of second and James Needham continued his rise to prominance with third. 4th once again went to the consistant man from Pisonhead's, Matt rigby, and its consistancy that could be the key to this group.

The very tight group 2 table looks like this:
at the top is Tim Abott(52pts), a third and two 4ths put Matt Rigby(49pts) in 2nd Martin Pass(44pts) moves into 3rd ahead of Spencer Horgan(41pts) in 4th. The absent Kurt Brady(40pts) drops from 1st to 5th ahead of James Needham(39pts) who leads the out of form David Menzies(38pts) by one point.

Im not going to try to put the two groups together buy sufficed to say its close. a prime example is kurt brady's no show, he was leading his group and joint championship leader now he's 5th in group and 9th overall and alot of guys are really getting their act together. with the first 'real' race at rockingham just around the corner things are about to get very interesting in the caterham academy.

Im going to see if I can figure out how to get some line graphs on here so we can see the rise and fall of drivers throuout the season plus it''' mean alot less of these baffling group run-downs.

here's the unstopable mike Hart tip toeing around a rain soaked snetterton.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Curborough results

As i mentioned in my last post the academy went to curborough on the 15th may.

Mike Hart, Wes Fox and Merlin Edwards headed up group 1 with Kurt Brady, David Mezies and Mat Rigby leading group two.

Very little changed up front other than it was mike Hart not Kurt Brady to post the fastest time but each won their group for the second time. Wes Fox once again finished second in group 1 but it was Joel Wymer who pipped Merlin Edwards to third place to move into 4th in group one.

In group 2 Tim Abbott was a man on fire to turn 6th at Aintree into 2nd at curborough which meant David Menzies had to settle for third and Matt rigby for 4th.

putting both the group Tables together gives us Mike Hart and Kurt Brady in joint first(40pts), followed by Wes Fox(36pts) and David Menzies(35pts), Matt Rigby and Merlin Edwards share 4th (33pts), Tim abbot(32pts) leads Joel wymer by one point for 5th and 6th.

Here's how the points for the Academy work:

The first 18 finishers in each group are all awarded points as follows. 20-18-17-16-15-14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2

So there's alot of points an offer and its going to be very hard for anyone to draw out an unassailable lead over just 7 events. Next up is the last of the sprint Events at Snetterton, Then its off to rockingham for the first head to head race where, if the you tube videos of previous years are anything to go by, anything can happen.

Here's Mike harts winning run from curborough:

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

An Interesting Double Header

this weekend sees the entire spectrum of motorsport neatly bookended by two events within 24 hours of eachother.

Saturday sees round two of the caterham accademy take place at the tiny and largely unheard of sprint circuit of curborough, southwest of derby, in staffordshire. the competitors all of whom aquired their racing licsence a matter of months ago, and who only have one other competitive sprint as the sum of thier racing experience will battle it out, one at a time, in front of only friends, relatives and marshalls for little more than bragging rights, that it was they who conquered the 'molehill' and 'Fradly Hairpin' in the shortest time.

On the very same day, The Qulifying for Arguably the jewel in the crown of motorsport takes place in the principality of Monaco. The most successfull, most experienced, highest paid and most famous drivers in the world will contest the most glamorous, prestigious, historic and coveted piece of silverware that motorsport has to offer. Royalty and stars of film and television will be in attendance, the entire country will be bursting at the seams with pilgrims from the world over. news of its result will be transmitted into living rooms around the globe and the winner will be a household name.

But witch is the more important event? the statistics could be missleading. would monaco be the Spectacle it is today without the hundreds of thousands of grass roots enthusiasts around the world, like the men of the caterham accademy, going out for nothing more than the love of the sport every couple of weeks. I doubt it. The saying has it that were all standing on the shoulders of giants, but maybe in formula 1's case its just lots and lots of little guys.......

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Caterham Academy - Aintree Sprint 2010

Right then lets bring everyone up to speed with this years academy so far. The first event of the season was hosted by the small circuit of aintree just north of liverpool. Only part of the simple but historic circuit was used however, as the cars went one at a time against the clock. Having followed the blogs of a couple of the guys over the winter i was actually quite looking forward to seeing how they got on and who the quick guys were.

it was nice to read about few of the guys pitching a tent and sleeping next to their cars the night before, having been on my fair share of surf trips i know what it feels like to rough it for a while in search of cheap thrills.

Every body gets a couple of practice runs followed by three timed runs, the quickest of which counts as your time for the day. So quite alot of pressure, when all three timed runs take less than three minutes, its not like you get 20 minutes as you would in a race to thrash out a winner or make up for mistakes.

Its hard to find results lower than 3rd for either group 1 or two so i'm limited to
that I'm afraid.

3rd in Group 1 @ 54.71 secs Was Merlin Edwards, comfortably the guy with the coolest name in the Pack, and an equally cool orange car. 2nd was Wes Fox, I've followed Wes' blog over the winter and had a feeling he'd be pretty Quick, lots of cart experience really looks to have helped him post a very solid time only 1 10tenth ahead of Merlin @54.61. Winner of group 1, Just 2 hundredths ahead of Wes Fox with 54.59 was Mike Hart, Another very experienced cart driver putting his track time to good use.

the group two podium saw Matt 'Riggers' Rigby of Pistonheads.com take third place with a time of 55.20, Just behind David Menzies' time of 55.02. The real story of the day though was group 1 winner Kurt Brady, Who posted a 54.18! to take fastest time of the day.

The next outing for this lot is another sprint at curborough on the 15th of this month, Can Kurt brady Dominate for a second time or will mike Hart, Wes Fox, and Merlin Edwards give him some payback.

Ill leave you with Kurt brady's winning run of 54.18

Monday, 3 May 2010

ok, its about time i started writing this blog. im atleast a year and a half away from actually doing any racing, but if i dont start doing a little something every week to convince myself that one day, i might actually own a racing car i can see the whole thing fizzling out.

and this blog is part of that, its going to be tough to fill it without even a car build to talk about but ive got the garage to spruce up, and all the other interesting things that go on in there to discuss. not to mention a running commentary on the current accademy year and discoursing widely about motorsport past and present.

Im sure most of you know me allready but for those of you who dont, My name is dave jones (Dones)and last year my brother Mike (Mones) came over to my house with a piece of paper claiming you could buy a fully spec'd caterham racing car for £200 quid a month. Where do i sighn??

£18'500 is the full price tag and its going to take a massive amount of committment and lots of beans on toast to get there. My original plan was to make the 2011 season but a few winter set backs and the fact it costs more like 20+ grand if you're serious about running up front means 2012 is more realistic.

So there you go. thats the plan, and you know what they say about them. only time will tell but this is something iv'e dreamed of doing since i was a nipper and i cant think of anything else id rather waste my money on.