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The championship proper got underway at Zandvoort in May, Colin had already superseded the 24 with the 25, another one of his seminal achievements in race car design, it was the first Monocoque and had the driver almost lying down to reduce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