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.