|was born in Kilmany, in the county of Fife to a Scottish farming family, roots
that would stay with him for the rest of his life. He was the only son in a family of four
daughters. His early racing exploits were initially met by family
disapproval, not the sort of activity suitable for someone expected to take over the family farm. Clark, undeterred continued to race in rallies and other local races under the guidance of his close friend
Ian Scott-Watson. Later he joined a team run by Jock McBain known as the Border Reivers named after raiders who plagued the border regions between Scotland and England during the 13th-16th centuries. According to fellow Border Reiver Ian Scott Watson, "Jim drove so fast that most people were scared stiff to sit next to him." In one of these races Clark drove a Lotus Elite against none other than Colin Chapman who was a fair driver in his own right.
Chapman was very impressed by the young Scotsman and he would keep an eye on this young
lad.Ironically in 1959 the Border Reivers planned to buy a single-seater Formula 2 Lotus
for Clark but after watching Graham Hill lose a wheel in a
similar car, Clark decided that the Lotus cars were not safe and that he would stick to
sports cars for the time being. Eventually he graduated to an Aston Martin which brought
him to the attention of Reg Parnell, the factory team manager. Aston Martin was planning
on entering Formula 1 and after a test he signed the young Scotsman. Clark had also by
this time signed a Formula 2 contract with Colin Chapman's Lotus team. Aston Martin's
Formula 1 car was a disaster and the factory decided to abandon its efforts. In Formula 2
Clark enjoyed immediate success and when the Aston Martin drive failed to materialize,
Clark signed on with Lotus for their Formula 1 efforts as well.
His first race for Lotus was at the Dutch Grand Prix in 1960, where he raced in place of John Surtees who was still racing motorcycles at the time. His race was pretty uneventful as he worked his way up to fifth place before he had to retire with a seized gearbox. The next race was at Spa in Belgium. This was the most dangerous course in Grand Prix racing, a 9 mille monster and in 1960 it took the lives of two drivers including Clark's teammate Alan Stacey. Yet in spite of this Clark would manage to finish fifth in his second Grand Prix. The next year was met with limited success and some controversy. At the Italian Grand Prix, Clark's Lotus came into contact with the Ferrari of Wolfgang von Trips. The Ferrari was propelled into the crowed killing several spectators as well as the German driver, Germany's best hope in decades. Lost in the tragedy, this was the last Grand Prix won by a front-engined car when Phil Hill's Ferrari crossed the finish line. Phil Hill would go on to become America's first World Champion that year.
The new 3-litre Formula introduced in 1966 led to a down year for Lotus as they did not have an engine that was competitive. It was not till the arrival of the Ford Cosworth DFV in 1967 that brought Lotus back to the fore. Clark won at Zandvoort in the legendary engine's first start yet it was too late in the season and Clark had to settle for 3rd place in the World Championship. 1968 started with a win in South Africa, which allowed Clark to surpass Juan-Manuel Fangio in Grand Prix victories. Sadly this was to be his last win for he was killed in a Formula 2 race in Hockenheim that year. A shy unassuming man his legend lives on as one of the very best and places him amongst the giants of the sport Nuvolari, Fangio and Senna.
|Michael Turner's artwork can be purchased at Studio 88|
Buy from Art.com
Buy from Art.com