Saturday, 29 January 2011

Jim Clark Part Six

The C/C 1.5 F1 Engine

Everybody was frantically developing everything in the early stages of 1963, with the exception of the magnificent 25 Chassis. The Lotus development program was at full tilt, Jim, his now great friend Dan Gurney and Colin were constantly back and forth between Britain and the ‘States’ testing their Indy cars, In addition to this they were having a whale of a time developing a production version of Ford’s new family saloon that was to feature the Lotus twin cam cylinder head, It was of course, the seminal, Lotus Cortina. Lucas had developed  a fuel injection system for the now shorter stroke Coventry Climax vee 8 giving it greater and more useable power  in addition to more torque, and last but by no means least, Jimmy had developed ‘a championship state of mind’.

Thinking man's Game
He easily dispensed with the opposition at non-championship Pau and Imola before heading off to Monaco in May for the first Grand Epreuve of the season. Sure enough it was Clark who sat on pole as the sun shone down on race day but a problem with the fuel spilling into the injector pipes caused him to lose a number of places early in the race, once the fuel level had dropped sufficiently he again set a new lap record as he carved back up through the field to retake the lead.  It was all to come to naught though as the Monaco gearbox curse struck yet again and car got stuck in second and span out of the race at the gasometer hairpin. Graham hill came through in the BRM to take his second win in the principality and an early lead in the championship. Jim was a model of duality in ’63 for all his exterior calm and quiet confidence he had piled a huge weight of expectation on himself and was inwardly ‘ almost times’ with worries about whether he and the gearbox could clinch the championship.

The big show, Indy in '63
Four days Later Jim and Dan were running in the Indy 500 as a continent scratched its collective head and wondered why the funny little British cars had their engines in the back. The car itself was a longer wheel base 25 chassis with asymmetrical suspension and a 4.2 litre Ford Fairlane vee 8 producing about 350bhp, this suited Jim just fine, as he had always preferred big hairy cars with big hairy engines. The Americans were more than a little sceptical to say the least about this latest European effort to conquer their brickyard but had begun to take notice when, in 1962 after the American GP at Watkins Glen they arrived to test at Indy with Trevor Taylors completely unmodified, 1.5 litre, symmetrical GP car and put it round at an average of 143mph, getting 140 through the turns when the fastest Indy cars were only managing 138 through the turns! The American scene and Indianapolis in particular were a real eye opener for Jimmy, it was unlike anything he had encountered in Europe. The Grandstands were enormous and thousands of spectators filled them just to watch the cars practice and qualify weeks before the race itself.  The press had ratcheted the atmosphere to a fever pitch in the preceding months and come race day he likened it to that of ancient Rome. He was sitting in the middle of the second row after qualifying with an average speed of a shade less than 150mph. 

Jones' winning car was instantly obsolete 
Dan's Lotus, Shaped like coffin nail for the front engined
Indy cars.
Once the race had got under way he climbed steadily through the field until he was behind the leader, Parnelli Jones. Jim was confident that he could pass Jones in the stops as he was on a one stop strategy and the American had to make two. Jones got lucky though and was able to make both his stops under yellow flag conditions witch prevent anyone from improving their position. It was now a straight fight to the chequered flag.  The quiet  Scot in the funny little foreign car chipped a second a lap off Jones’ lead until he was within four seconds of the local hero, and what was more, Parnellis’ Offenhauser engine had begun to smoke...... Surely the win was in the bag, even if Jones’ engine didn’t blow up he’d be black flagged for all the oil he was dropping.......surely?.  Well Jones’ engine didn’t blow up and despite the fact people were spinning on his oil he wasn’t black flagged, a frustrated Jim couldn’t get past because there was no traction in the wake of Jones’ terminally haemorrhaging  Offy, so he had to sit there and be content to finish second, ahead of Another home grown legend, A.J. Foyt, in third. It was clear for all to see that the powers that be in American racing were not prepared to put their honour before their pride, probably due to the enormous amount of egg that stood to hit them square in the face after nothing but ridicule had been heaped on the lotus for months, it had cost Jim a Career defining victory but I’m sure he found some comfort in the audible thud of untold millions of American jaws hitting the floor as they beheld what was happening on their hallowed Brickyard.

Jim leads them all out of eau rouge 
Just over a week later they were back in Europe for the next round of the GP season and it was the hated Spa that followed Monaco instead of Zandvoort, as in previous years. Jim started on the third row of the grid right behind Willie Mairesse and was anxious to get in front of the ‘exuberant’ Belgian and break away while Willie still had a comparatively level head. It was wet, very wet, and Jim was in no mood for messing around but surprised even himself when he led everyone into the first corner, hotly pursued by Graham Hill. Graham was pushing hard and it quickly became a two horse race. Of course the gearbox was acting up, this time jumping out of top forcing him to take the fearsome Masta kink almost flat out one handed so as to hold it in gear with the other.  They were pushing each-other so hard they had lapped the entire field, but when Graham was forced to retire Jim’s lap times increased by almost 3 minutes, a telling indication of how far out of his comfort zone he was willing to come to secure the championship this year.


Thursday, 20 January 2011

Jim Clark Part Five

Proof, if it were needed that Stirling Moss
is indestructible
After a crushing display of brilliance in South Africa Jim was keen to get home and start testing the new Climax vee 8 in Chapman’s new Lotus 24. But February found him on his first competitive trip to the United States, he drove a Lotus Elite in the Inter-continental GT race at Daytona and was leading until the battery failed, he limped home in fourth, but was far from done with racing in the states. Chapman especially had got a whiff of the potential prize money on offer across the pond, and was very keen for young Jim to get back out there. April brought Jim non championship F1 victory’s at Snetterton and Aintree but at another non-championship race at Goodwood on Easter Monday Stirling Moss left the track for reasons that have never been ascertained while overtaking Graham Hill, his excursion, and his career, ended with a metioric impact with a grass bank. throughout the preceeding years Moss had become probably the most complete racing driver to ever walk the earth, and he was only 31, he had never won a Formula 1 world championship but I’ll be covering his colossal career in detail when I’m finished with Jim’s.

The sleek Lotus 25
The championship proper got underway at Zandvoort in May, Colin had already superseded the 24 with the 25, another one of his seminal achievements in race car design, it was the first Monocoque and had the driver almost lying down to reduce frontal area. It led for twelve laps before the gearbox packed up dropping Jim down to 9th after a long pit-stop. Graham Hill, in the very quick vee 8 BRM took the win.

A drowsy Clark at the Nurburgring
Clark put in probably the best sports-car drive of his career in the wet at the Nurburgring 1000kms. Against all expectation he propelled the tiny 100bhp Lotus 23 into a commanding lead over the all conquering works Ferrari’s, most of whom had 300+bhp, and kept it there. Even Phil Hill, reigning world champion and acknowledged sports-car master was powerless to catch him, but unbeknownst to Jim the exhaust manifold had cracked and he was getting a face full of carbon monoxide, after two hours of peerless driving, with fading brakes and half stupefied by the fumes even Clarks famously sharp reactions had been too dulled to catch the slide when the car jumped out of gear, his race came to an untimely and in the bushes of the hocheichen.

The first of 25 at Spa in '62
Again the gearbox prevented a finish at Monaco. Bruce McLaren Won the race but Jim had set a new lap record before retiring. Yet more mechanical difficulties blighted practice at Spa but cometh the hour, cometh the man. From the fifth row of the grid Clark stormed to his first championship Grand Prix win.  He towered above all his misgivings about the circuit to prove that when the Lotus didn’t break down it was the car to have, and he was the man to beat. Those misgivings were far from diminished by the victory though, Trevor Taylor was lucky to escape with his life, let alone unhurt, after a fiery coming together with Willie Mairesse left the Ferrari driver In Hospital.
Mr Chapman, a grateful world
salutes you

The little 23 Jim had impressed with at the Nurburgring was dusted off for Le Mans but the notoriously fickle French  scrutineers had decided there was no way that it was going to run in their race and set about compiling a list of, at best spurious technical infringements.  Colin and the boys duly set about rectifying everything from insufficient ground clearance to odd wheels before re-presenting the cars, only to be told they were now ‘’unsafe’’. The whole debacle had left a bitter taste for Chapman, he swore never to return to Le Mans (and never did).  Interestingly, the engine they were using was a 997cc Ford Anglia motor with the then newly developed, but now legendry Lotus twin cam cylinder head.

Gurney wins at Rouen (note the upright seating position
when compared with the Lotus)
 This year the French GP had moved to Rouen and was bookended by non-championship events at Rheims and solitude. Reliability Issues again conspired to smother Jims clearly blistering vein of form, he took seven and a half seconds off the old 2½ litre lap record at Rouen but retired in all three races. Dan Gurney won at Rheims to become the fourth winner in four Grands Prix. However, a fine performance coupled with a reliable car put the British Grand Prix beyond doubt, a Delighted Jimmy dominated at Aintree to stamp his authority as the seasons’ first double winner. Hill responded two weeks later with his second at a rain soaked Nurburgring. Jim had stalled on the line after forgetting to turn the fuel pumps on, but produced another inspired drive to climb back up to fourth and keep his championship alive

Innes' Pale Green GTO
Back to the UK for the TT race at Goodwood and another outing in the Zagato bodied, Essex Racing DB4 GT. Again, the car proved somewhat of a handful and despite his best efforts Jim was unable to keep pace with the Ferrari’s. This time it was the formidable 250 GTO’s (another candidate for best looking sports car ever) driven by Graham Hill, Innes Ireland, John Surtees and Mike Parkes. Already a lap down and on cold tyres Jim held a tight line through Madgwick to allow Surtees, the leader,  through but got caught out by the notorious bump and collected big john on his way into the tyre wall. Innes Held off a hard charging Hill to take the win and Mike Parks completed an all GTO podium

Graham hill turned the screw at Monza with another win, his third of the season. Jim again had to pull up with gearbox trouble, he now needed to win both remaining races to have any chance of becoming world champion. Graham battled hard at the Glen but Clark kept him at bay to take the points he desperately needed. Everything now hung on the last championship GP at East London in South Africa.

The great Graham Hill

The Mexican GP and the Rand GP provided two encouraging non-championship victories and all was looking good for the showdown in East London. Jim set fastest time in practice just ahead of Graham, but he needed a win and for hill to DNF to complete his come-back. He took an early lead and gradually began to pull away, until on lap 57 he noticed some puffs of blue smoke in his mirrors, two laps later he was in the pits trying to diagnose the cause of the smoke when Hill went by to take the lead. It was all over, he had come within an ace of winning the world championship in only his second full season but it was not to be, Hill had driven a supremely reliable car impeccably all season and  thoroughly deserved his first world championship. It was clearly reliability that had cost Jim so dear in ’62 but in defence of Chapman’s chassis it was almost exclusively engine or gearbox trouble that had put him out of so many races, never-the –less Jim had produced some of the best drives of his career and proved to everyone, including himself, that he was a force to be reckoned with in ’63

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Jim Clark Part Four

Wolfgang Graf Berghe Von Trips
1928 - 1961

The Italian GP at Monza in 1961 claimed the lives of 15 people when the Ferrari of Wolfgang ‘Taffy’ Von Trips left the track after making contact with Jim Clark’s Lotus and climbed a grass bank atop which a large number of spectators were standing, killing fourteen souls before being flung back onto the circuit. Von Trips was thrown from the car and lay dead at the edge of the track. Clark, miraculously, was unhurt.

The Sharknose ferrari in action at Monaco
Everyone had expected the Ferraris to maintain their dominance of the 1961 season at Monza and the old man was taking no chances, entering a total of five cars for Phill Hill, Taffy Von Trips, Ricardo Rodriguez, Richie Ginther and Giancarlo Baghetti. Stirling Moss for Lotus and Graham Hill for BRM had both received their vee 8’s from Coventry Climax but unlike Jack Brabham and his Cooper  they were unable to get convincing lap-times out of them in practice and had reverted back to the same four cylinder engine  Jim was using for the race.

Monza as it was in '61
Taffy was leading the world championship by one point from team-mate Phill Hill and made a clear statement of intent by taking pole position. Jim’s plan was to take as many Ferraris as he could off the line and try to hold onto the slipstream of whoever came past for as long as possible. That’s exactly what he did, capitalising on Taffy’s poor start to take the lead. Eventualy the inevitable happened and first Ginther then Phill Hill, Brabham and Baghetti went by. Taffy came through at the Lesmo Curves on lap two, intent on chasing down the leaders in this, the penultimate GP of the season.  Jim followed him through the then flat-out Vialone curve and was right on his tail and about to attempt an overtaking manoeuvre going into the braking zone for Parabolica. Clark was on the extreme left hand side of the circuit ready to take the fast approaching right hander, Von Trips was slightly ahead and to the right (inside) of Jim. Weather  he was aware of the Lotus Just behind him will never be known, it would not have been outrageous of him to assume that after a long period of flat out acceleration his two extra cylinders and some 30 extra horses had put some space between himself and the Scot. But when he too moved to the left to take up his line for the corner there was contact and both cars left the track at well in excess of 100mph. Von Trips’s beautiful sharknose Ferrari was utterly destroyed and the German was killed outright, as Clark helped to drag the wreckage off the circuit he was aware of the gruesome scene just feet away  and knew there was nothing that could be done to save Taffy. 
Moments from catastrophe
Phill Hill went on to win the race but was shocked and greatly saddened to learn of the death of his immensely respected friend and team-mate, he had clinched a bitter world championship, the first American ever to do so.
If this were a modern GP, both cars would have spun harmlessly into a gravel trap and both drivers would have walked away from a benign trip into the sand or the tyre wall, not worthy of further inquest by the stewards,  but with such a high number of fatalities the police wanted answers, they were heavily involved in the organisation of the race back then and were clearly looking for a fall guy. Jim was in a very difficult position, he was the handiest person for the police to hold accountable and Taffy wasn’t there to offer his side of the story.

Innes Ireland
The legal repercussions of the crash were to haunt Jim for some years to come but for now he had to overcome the same doubts that had plagued him after Spa the year before. He was deeply depressed when he left for the US GP at Watkins Glen and his nerves were further frayed when Innes’ steering collapsed during practise. The race was a different story though, Ireland won, giving Lotus and Scotland their first Grand Epreuve (championship Points paying GP) victory. Jim suffered from a slipping clutch and came home a disappointed seventh.

It was between Monza and the Glen though that he drove his last race for the Border Reivers bringing the DBR1 home in 2nd place in the Formula Libre race at his beloved home circuit of Chaterhall. 

Trevor and Jimmy
Even though he had given Lotus their Maiden Grand Epreuve Innes Ireland was dropped by Colin Chapman after the US GP to be replaced by Jims old GP2 hunting partner, Trevor Taylor. Come December, Jim, Trevor and Stirling went to South Africa for another  three race winter tour and it proved to be a turning point. Clark won the Rand, Natal and South African Grands Prix in short order and also took in some more relaxing persuits like safari and water skiing. The trip proved to be Just the tonic he, and the team needed at the end of a dismal season.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Jim Clark Part Three

Spa had once again left its mark on Jim, his F1 debut at the circuit had served only to deepen his disdain of arguably the most dangerous track in the world, out of the five Lotus' that started the race his was the only one to make it to the chequered flag, he had finished a respectable fifth but the events of the Belgian GP had made him question for the first time, if only very briefly, his previously unshakable desire to drive racing cars.

Jim taking the DBR1 to third overall
Any doubts he may have had though he quickly put aside, because almost immediately after Spa the Reivers announced he was to drive the Aston Martin with Roy Salvadori at Le Mans. The pair performed superbly in terrible conditions to place the Aston third over-all and become the fly in Ferrari's ointment, preventing their cars finishing 1-2-3-4-5-6. For an amateur team like the Reivers this was an incredible result, the pit crew was partially composed of Jim's farmer friends and the car was Moss’ fire damaged cast off, to be the only team capable of pinching a podium spot off the six cars entered by the works outfit who clinched the world sports-car championship at that event was remarkable indeed. 

Clark, Surtees, Chapman and Ireland take shelter in Portugal
The remainder of 1960 brought mixed F1 results for Clark, he finished last at Silverstone after running in third when the suspension collapsed, Retired at Brands, Third in Portugal in a completely rebuilt ‘Starting money Special’ after a practice crash, second at Snetterton and another retirement at Oulton park.  All this was good enough to put him Joint 8th with Richie Ginther and Jim Rathmann at the end of his first year in F1. He enjoyed considerably more reliability and success in formula Junior though, winning five events and finishing joint champion with team-mate Trevor Taylor. Not too shabby for a first year as a full professional.

With a matter of days left in 1960 Colin Chapman packed Jim, Innes Ireland and John Surtees along with Reg Parnell and John Cooper off to New Zealand for the winter races, after a short three race tour culminating in the shambolic, rain soaked Lady Wigram Trophy race they returned to England to Focus on testing the new Coventry Climax MKII 4 cylinder engines.

The European season began in April and Clark duly gained his maiden F1 victory in the first Grand Prix of the season at the picturesque circuit of Pau in the foothills of the Pyrenees’. The Ferrari's were the class of the field in ’61 though and it proved to be a tough year for Jim on every level. It was the first year of the new 1 ½ litre un-supercharged formula and Ferrari who had been developing their vee 6 engines the previous year hit the ground running, whereas the Lotus, Cooper and BRM had to wait until the season was almost over  for Coventry Climax to bring in their Vee 8’s.

Phill Hill wins le Mans for Ferrari
Even Sports-cars proved to be hard work for Jim in 1961. A break between Zandvoort and Spa gave Jim the chance to drive one of John Ogier’s Essex racing Aston Martin DBR1’s in the Nurburgring 1000kms but despite being paired with Bruce McLaren the engine let them down. Little more than a week later it was back to Le Mans with the Reivers  for the final time, but it proved to be another Ferrari walkover and another retirement for Clark in the now very long in the tooth ex-Moss Aston. It was another race he was beginning to view as unnecessarily dangerous, Stating  ‘’There just aren’t  a hundred and twenty good enough drivers to compete together at Le Mans, and this is the plain and simple fact of the matter.’’ This, coupled with such a inherently fast and dangerous track, not to mention everything from terribly slow to incredibly fast cars on the circuit at the same time, and having all this compounded by the fact that half the race was run at night, meant Le mans was starting to lose some of its appeal for Jim. Spa followed shortly after and once again proved difficult, this time it was Cliff Alisson’s turn to suffer a career ending accident, and Jim, who missed first practice came home a lowly twelfth after a first lap pitstop.

Muscling the Aston to 4th in the Goodwood TT
Rheims provided an unexpected third and Innes won the south German Grand Prix at solitude shortly followed by Stirling winning the Nurburgring for Lotus with Jim in fourth followed by Surtees. Jack Brabham had finally received one of the long awaited Coventry Climax vee 8’s for his Cooper and qualified in second, but put it in the weeds on the first lap. Back to brands for the Guards Trophy race and a promising second. Things were looking up. Another outing in one of wealthy chicken faremer John Ogiers vehicles Provided Jim with a break from GP cars, this time it was the TT race at Goodwood, the car was the Faboulusly beautifull Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato, in my humble opinion one of the finest looking cars ever made. The chequered flag was famously comfortably taken by  Stirling moss listening to the race on the radio in his Ferrari 250 GT Berlinette, But Jim confessed to have a grand old time wrestling the Aston into fourth.

Two more Retirements befell Jim in the Sweedish and Danish Grands Prix, Modena yeilded a fourth and then Monza. The events leading up to the death of  Wolfgang Von Trips and fourteen spectators in the 1961 Italian GP will certainly never be fully made clear, but suffice to say the crash itself and the circus that proceeded it was the low point of Jims carreer. So I'll start part four with that and try and end it on a high.