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.