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#6 Hall of Fame: Jim Clark

2021-04-12 01:00

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#Hall of Fame,

#6 Hall of Fame: Jim Clark

Jim Clark nasce a Kilmany, piccolo centro della regione del Fifeshire in Scozia, il 4 Marzo 1936, da una famiglia di origine pastorale e contadina. Il

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Jim Clark was born in Kilmany, a small town in the Fifeshire region of Scotland, on March 4, 1936, into a family of pastoral and peasant origin. The young Jim drives his first car at the age of seven, an Austin Seven owned by his father James Clark Sr., while at the age of ten he tries his hand at the wheel of an Alvin Speed Twenty, demonstrating from an early age an immense passion for engines. Jim experiences driving with a wide range of vehicles and starts competing in local competitions against the will of his parents, and without their knowledge, on board the Sunbeam staff.

 

The participation in the first events of the race coincides with the opportunity for the young boy to show off and demonstrate his premature talent, This is the case of Ian Scott-Watson, an amateur driver and friend of Jim’s, with which it grows together among the farms of the Fife region sharing the same unconditional love for racing. After the first amateur races, it is Ian himself who recognizes Jim’s talent, telling the following:

 

"During his first amateur races Jim was three seconds faster than anyone else, including me. That’s why it didn’t seem like there was any reason for me to keep running".

 

Clark himself will tell about his own:

 

"I often feel like a poet: my role is not to stand on the sidelines, sidelined or estranged from life. When they give me a car and I start the engine, I feel like a lion. I have little time to look and think; I have to run, run, and finish first. And I must be careful never to make mistakes. My role depends on how you are and the courage you have".

 

Ian convinces the young Clark to take part in the first official competitions, the first of which takes place inside the abandoned airfield of Crimond, in the region of Aberdeen, entrusting him for the occasion the steering wheel of his DKW Sonderklasse, a car with an 856cc engine, well below the potential available to its opponents. The clear limits of the car’s power do not allow it to go beyond the last position but the young Clark makes the most of the opportunity to score some amazing, impressive lap times, to the point that the team of Scott-Watson is disqualified at the end of the race on suspicion of breaking the rules.

 

Sixteen months later on the Chaterhall circuit, aboard a Porsche 1600 S, Clark participated in three races of the BMRC Trophy finishing respectively in third, second and first position, beating the much more experienced and quoted founder of Border Reivers, John Mcbain, and climbing to the top of the final leaderboard to win the competition.

 

The victory just achieved allows Ian to introduce Jim to the Berwick & District Motor Club within which he has the opportunity to participate in some driving tests and, obtained excellent results, join the Border Reivers team and become the most representative driver. In 1958 the first races were organized on the Winfield circuit with Clark himself to demonstrate once more his immense driving skills by setting the record on the Full Sutton circuit, competing at an average of over 100 miles per hour, First ever on board a Jaguar D-Type.

 

In May of the same year the young Scotsman has a first taste of continental competitions competing at Spa-Francorchamps in a Lotus Elite, where he arrives a few centimeters from Colin Chapman in the same car: It is the opportunity for the two to get to know each other and the same Chapman to realize the talent of Clark with which he will enter into one of the closest collaborations in the history of Motorsport.

 

1959 is the year of Clark’s definitive affirmation as an emerging driver: the occasion is presented in one of the most glorious competitions ever, the 24 Hours of Le Mans: the young Scotsman participates alongside John Whitmore on board a Lotus Elise, finishing second in category and tenth overall. A capital performance that gives him a contract with Aston Martin, but with which Clark will never compete as a car will never be built for competitions. Chapman senses the opportunity and, mindful of the experience on the circuit of Spa of the previous year, puts the driver under contract by starting one of the most winning binomials that the racing world has been able to appreciate.

 

1960 was a crucial turning point in Clark’s career, which immediately established itself in the Formula Junior Championship, winning it, and thus building the opportunity to debut in Formula 1. In June of the same year he participates in the Dutch Grand Prix at the Zandvoort circuit on board a Lotus 18, going to join the British Innes Ireland and Alan Stacey. The first appointment with the premier class of Motorsport, however, is evidently of break-in and the young Scotsman does not go beyond the eleventh position on the grid, with over three seconds of gap from the poleman Stirling Moss, and then retire in the race for problems with the transmission of their own car.

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The following month the Circus makes a stop in Belgium, on the circuit of Spa, with Clark who will enter the top ten at the end of qualifying and will reach the points area the next day, finishing fifth at the finish line, in a race remembered as one of the many black pages of the history of the time because of the disappearances of Chris Bristow aboard a Cooper-Climax and Alan Stacey, Clark’s teammate.

 

After a further place in the points area thanks to the fifth place in the French Grand Prix and a disappointing debut on the Silverstone circuit, with the Scottish bishop placed in sixteenth final position, we arrive in Portugal. On the Oporto circuit, Clark is the protagonist of a bad accident during the tests, with his Lotus 18 that crashes into the protection barriers and comes out severely damaged.

 

The damages reported are such as to put at serious risk the participation to the event of the Scottish bishop and the repairs do not go beyond some patch through the use of glue or tape of paper. The disastrous conditions of the car however will end up exalting Clark, who will qualify in eighth place and in race will do even better by rising to third place at the end of a stoic resistance that will allow him to maintain the position from the return of Ferrari of the German von Trips.

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The incredible test of the Oporto Grand Prix allows Clark to carve out a not indifferent reputation as a fast and stubborn driver, but at the same time able to put into practice a surgical guide that did not affect the mechanical strength of his vehicle. A few years later, Jackie Stewart will say:

 

"Many good drivers drove for Lotus and put the pens back in some cases because Lotus were very fragile cars, but Jim was so precise in driving that he never put too much stress on the area of the car that he could give up".

 

This innate talent is more important and useful in a long race and among these the 24 Hours of Le Mans looks like the most challenging stage. Clark participated in the 1960 edition aboard an Aston Martin DBR1 of the Border Reivers team alongside Roy Salvadori, going to compete for the scepter to the incredibly fast Ferrari 250 TR59.

 

The duo stages a test of incredible constancy throughout the competition and when the same runs towards the eighth hour of running, the duo even travels in second position.

 

With the passing of the laps, however, an intense rain begins to descend copious on the French track, benefiting the greater power available to the cars of Maranello. Clark and Salvadori thus came third, giving way to Gendebien and Frère of the Scuderia Ferrari, and to the standard-bearers Pilette and Ricardo Rodrìguez, but interrupting a domination of the Maranello team that positions their cars up to the seventh position.

 

Starting in 1961, Clark became the leading driver of the team led by Chapman, taking part in the Formula 1 Championship since the first race. The British company presents for the season that is about to start a new car, the Lotus 21, equipped with central engine and frame in tubes covered with fiberglass, driven by a Coventry Climax FPF engine.

 

The season that is about to begin, however, sees a change of regulations with the transition to aspirated engines with a maximum displacement of 1500 cc and minimum weight of 450 kg; the best interpreters of these new cars are the engineers of Maranello who, taking inspiration from the engines Dino 156 F2, develop the fast Ferrari 156, passed to history as well as for its speed also for the ovoidal air intakes present on the anterior zone that will be worth the nickname of Muzzle shark.

 

Within this context is placed the season of Clark, marked by a continuous hover in the middle of the standings with some sudden cues, as the third place on the grid in the opening race on the circuit of Monte-Carlo and the third place at the end of the Dutch and French Grand Prix, on the tracks of Zandvoort and Reims.

 

The Scotsman will close with eleven points total and the seventh place in the overall standings a championship in chiaroscuro that will go down in history, unfortunately, only for the accident of which he will be the protagonist with von Trips during the Italian Grand Prix when the two, Travelling more than 200 km/h, they collide before facing the Vedano curve: the result of this tragic fatality is the German’s Ferrari’s overcrowding that, leaving the embankment and shaving the fence network, ends up on the crowd. The dramatic report will speak of more than a dozen deaths including the same driver of the Maranello team.

 

The 1962 season, characterized by an epochal turning point in the world of Formula 1, is therefore reached: the merit is once again that of Colin Chapman and Lotus. The engineers of the English company developed a car with a monocoque chassis, taking its cue from what happened in 1915 in Indianapolis and in 1923 during the French Grand Prix, when Harry Blood and Gabriel Voisin first experimented with this solution.

 

The same Chapman is not new to similar found, having already experienced a similar chassis a few years earlier on a Lotus Elan. A unitary structure is thus created that allows to obtain the necessary space for the pilot and for the fuel tank, with the engine placed in the middle between the rear axle of the tires and the driver who would have to race in a reclined position, lying down.

 

The result of this solution allows the stable to increase the torsional rigidity of the frame, to significantly reduce its weight and to obtain a much smaller frontal area. The greater rigidity of the frame allows, moreover, to use much more flexible suspensions, obtaining a higher speed in the slow and narrow curves.

 

A curious anecdote in the design phase of the car tells of a Colin Chapman protagonist of the first test seat of the car: once Calatosi inside the cockpit, the visionary English engineer immediately notes a remarkable comfort, declaring:

 

"This cockpit is too big, take off another inch and a half".

 

Dick Scammell, one of the mechanics involved in the construction of the first car later stated:

 

"None of us knew exactly what he was doing, but it all took shape gracefully and in the end the result was remarkable".

 

The start of the season, however, lays bare the limits of a project not yet winning: The Lotus 25 is incredibly fast but lacks reliability, forcing its drivers to give way to opponents. It’s the case, for example, of the second round of the season on the Monte-Carlo circuit when Clark gets his first pole position in his career, preceding Graham Hill and Bruce Mclaren, before being forced to retire in the race due to a clutch problem.

 

The third round of the season takes place on the Belgian circuit of Spa: qualifying relegate a disappointing Clark in twelfth position with his team mate, Trevor Taylor, in third position behind the poleman Graham Hill and Mclaren. In the race is excellent the cue of Taylor and Ferrari driver Willy Mairesse, with the two bishops who compete for the first position until the ninth lap, when a splendid Clark, in recovery, takes the lead of the race.

 

Without problems of reliability, the combination of Clark-Lotus 25 is unattainable for everyone: the Scotsman sacrifices himself alone and leads the race to the finish line, going to take the first career victory in Formula 1 with an abysmal advantage (+44.1 seconds) on Graham Hill and with more than two minutes on the third, Phil Hill on Ferrari. The clear affirmation in the race mixed with the growing notoriety will be worth to Clark the nickname of flying Scottish.

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It is reached in France, on the track of Rouen, and for the second time in season Clark conquers the pole position preceding the usual B.R.M. of Hill and Mclaren but, during a very tight race, The suspension of the Scottish’s Lotus yielded to the second retirement in four races.

 

At the Aintree circuit in Great Britain, fifth round of the season, Clark took the third pole position ahead of Surtees and Ireland and dominated the race from the first to the last lap, inflicting deep detachments to all opponents with Surtees, first of the pursuers, at fifty seconds and Mclaren at almost two minutes, reopening the fight for the world championship with the head of the standings occupied by Graham Hill, now only one point away.

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The following races, however, will definitely drive away the dreams of the Scottish world crown, as he will finish in fourth place the German Grand Prix and will retire at Monza after scoring the fourth pole position of the season; To take advantage of it it will be Hill, who will sign both successes and dig a deep groove between himself and his pursuers.

 

Useless and almost mocking will be the motorcycle of pride of Clark who, during the last two races of the season, will sign two pole positions and a victory in the United States Grand Prix with a hint of comeback frustrated by the umpteenth retirement during the last round of the season on the South African circuit named after Prince George.

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Jim Clark finished second in the overall standings, behind World Champion Graham Hill, a season that saw him establish himself as the undisputed ruler of qualifying sessions, results that will often miss a follow-up in the race due to too many reliability problems of his Lotus 25.

 

The potential of the design of the new single-seater is however evident and the English team is missing only one last step before entrusting Clark a car clearly superior to the opponents.

 

Chapman thus decides, for the 1963 season, to bring back Len Terry, designer and engineer, with whom he had collaborated until 1958, when Terry himself was fired by the English manager following a collaboration with the engine manufacturer Brian. Hart with whom he had managed to create a winning version of the Jaguar MKII.

 

Returning to the base of Hethel, Terry concentrates on a scrupulous work of tuning the car and refining the initial project of the 25, in an attempt to eliminate the mechanical problems that have made Clark's claim to the title fade away.

 

At the starting line of the new season, on the Monte-Carlo circuit, he starts where he finished: Clark signs another pole position ahead of Graham Hill and Richie Ginther, both on B.R.M. In the race the Scotsman will immediately lose the lead overtaken by the two B.R.M. drivers but he will recover during the eighteenth lap to begin a solitary ride to victory, interrupted on lap seventy-eight by the failure of the gearbox. For Lotus, the ghosts of the previous season return, ending up discouraging the whole environment around the Scottish driver.

 

For the second round of the season we arrive in Belgium, the event takes place on the Spa circuit. Clark disappoints expectations in qualifying by finishing the session only in eighth place, being more than three seconds behind poleman Graham Hill. In the race, however, we witness a masterful performance: the Scottish comeback and at the end of the first lap he is already first, starting one of his usual solo escapes.

 

What makes the race incredible, however, is the mechanical problem, once again with the gearbox, which gets in the way between Clark and glory. However, the driver decided not to give up and continued the race in the pouring rain, keeping the steering wheel of his Lotus in one hand and the gear lever in position with the other, all at a speed of 160 miles per hour. A huge risk that pays off in the end: Clark not only won a race in adverse conditions to say the least, but he did so by five minutes ahead of the first of his pursuers, Bruce McLaren on Cooper-Climax. It is a victory that relegates the British driver by right to the Olympus of drivers in the premier class of Motorsport, projecting his name into the myth.

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From this moment on, the reliability problems are solved, starting an unstoppable ride: Clark dominates the following three races in Holland, France and Great Britain, signing all the pole positions and winning the races with disproportionate gaps, even lapping all the drivers in Zandvoort.

 

In Germany, sixth round of the season, he signs pole position again but he will have to surrender to Surtees on Ferrari in the race while in the Italian Grand Prix, in Monza, he starts third and then wins with over a minute and a half advantage over Ginther, realizing the dream of becoming World Champion with three races to go.

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In the remaining three races two further pole positions and two wins will come, in Mexico and South Africa, finishing third in the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen circuit.

 

In the 1963 season he won seven out of ten races and obtained the maximum points obtainable in a season according to the current rules which counted only the best six seasonal placings. At the end of the season also comes one of his rare statements:

 

"I started driving as an amateur without having the slightest idea of becoming World Champion. I was simply curious to find out what it meant to drive to the limit, to test myself in these circuits, to drive these cars".

 

An embarrassing superiority that the Clark-Chapman duo hopes to replicate in the legendary Indianapolis 500 in the same year. For the occasion, the engineer Terry, Chapman and Clark decide to design a car based on the unbeatable model 25: the new car, later nicknamed Lotus 29, is built on the basis of a monocoque chassis, now wider to be able to allow the adoption of a 4000 cc Ford V8 engine, also adopting a Weber carburetor and a Colotti T.37 gearbox.

 

The main challenge becomes that of allowing its drivers to compete against American cars equipped with front-end engines, faster in the straights but substantially slower along the curves, trying to impose a change of philosophy in the construction of the cars by focusing on greater efficiency, aerodynamics and strength of the chassis. Lotus' strategy is to make only one pit stop as opposed to the two or three planned by the American cars, thus attempting to overcome the gap that would inevitably have been created along the straights of the oval circuit.

 

Once in the race, all the preconditions that preceded the start of the competition are concretized: the favorite to the final victory, Parnelli Jones, starts in pole position and the Lotus of Clark and Gurney, who on this occasion alongside the Scotsman, come to the wheel of the leader with a gap of just over twenty seconds. On the sixty-second lap the first series of pit stops of the American roadsters begins, with Jones resuming the race in third position behind the Lotus that instead continue until the stop scheduled on lap ninety-five and ninety-six.

 

Upon returning to the track, the lead of Jones increases to forty seconds, and remains virtually unchanged until the moment of the second pit stop, thirty laps to go. Back on the track maintaining the leadership, the advantage is reduced to ten seconds. Jones meanwhile begins to suffer the loss of power caused by an oil leak that began around the beginning of the second half of the race, favoring the overbearing return of Clark who, with the race coming to an end, shortens the gap to a few seconds.

 

Hence a vehement dispute that takes place in the pit lane with Joshua C. James, owner of the team of which Jones is the driver, who diminishes the mechanical problem by trying to avoid the black flag for his driver. After a discussion lasting a few minutes, the race directors decide not to penalize Jones and unleashing the anger of Chapman, who accuses the race management of favoritism towards the stars and stripes constructors, to the detriment of the Europeans. The race ends with the victory of Parnelli Jones' roadster, while Clark has to settle for second position, while achieving a memorable result.

 

The amazing performance on American soil, mixed with the alleged snatch of which Clark and Lotus himself were the protagonists, only increases the popularity of the English manufacturer and of the driver himself, who - once more - strongly demonstrates his own driving skills and versatility within completely different competitions. A talent, that of Clark, and an extremely natural speed, as later told by Cedric Selber, track engineer of Team Lotus:

 

"Jimmy was an absolute natural talent, just think of the fact that he himself drove without thinking too much: he actually did not know why he drove with that particular style, or with those exact driving dynamics. In the period we are talking about, we had cars with 1.5-liter engines and 200 horsepower. If these cars are driven too much to the limit, paradoxically, you would lose speed but if at the same time you lose some speed it would be too difficult to get back to the limit. Jimmy's talent was just to keep the momentum of the car. I don't think any of the modern drivers could have driven the car the slightest bit as fast as Jimmy did, and that's because he was so precise in doing it".

 

After a triumphant season, however, it is time to concentrate on a new challenge, in a new World Championship. At the starting line of the 1964 season, Team Lotus shows up with the usual model 25, so clearly superior to the rival contenders who, with the experience gained in the season just ended, work diligently to try to reduce the gap from the English team.

 

Ferrari, in particular, is working on a new single-seater inspired by the Lotus 25 itself. The new creation from Maranello is the Ferrari 158 which, with a monocoque structure and steel tube frame combined with a new and innovative V8 engine from 190 horsepower and unusual 15 "magnesium alloy wheels, promises to give Clark and the men of the British team a hard time.

 

The start of the season begins as usual on the Monegasque circuit and, as the previous season ended, Clark signs his first pole start of the season in front of the new Brabham BT11, the B.R.M. of Graham Hill and the Ferrari 158 of Surtees.

However, after dominating the race for thirty-six laps, the Scot begins to suffer a loss of power that forces him to give way to Gurney and Hill and to settle for fourth place.

 

In Netherlands it is once again a Lotus monologue: Clark starts in second position behind Gurney's Brabham, but dominates the race by winning by more than fifty seconds over John Surtees and Peter Arundell.

 

Once in Belgium, one of the most exciting Formula 1 races of this era takes place: Clark qualifies only in sixth position, behind his rivals for the title: Dan Gurney, Graham Hill, Jack Brabham and John Surtees. In the race Gurney leads the standings but is constantly undermined by Clark and Hill, with the three exchanging the leadership of the Grand Prix several times, while Brabham is far behind and follows in fourth position.

 

The positions remain unchanged until the final, full of twists: Gurney is forced to return to the pits for a refueling but, once he reaches the pit lane, he cannot top up due to lack of petrol and is forced to leave again. and then stop shortly after along the track.

Hill takes the top spot, but he is forced to retire in the middle of the last lap due to a problem with the petrol pump. The lead is therefore taken by McLaren, who however suffers from the breakage of the alternator belt at the beginning of the last corner.

 

The New Zealander still tries to reach the finish line with the engine off, taking advantage of the descent that leads to the finish line, but is overtaken at the photo finish by Clark, who wins spectacularly in front of McLaren himself and Brabham who, staying out of trouble, gets on the lowest step of the podium.

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The Belgian Grand Prix will be followed by two other pole positions for the Scot, converted into victory only at the British Grand Prix, at Brand Hatch, while he will be forced to retire due to trouble with the Climax engine at the French Grand Prix.

 

Halfway through the season, Clark is hoisted in first position in the championship standings, with a small margin of four points on Hill, while Surtees is clearly more delayed, with a gap of twenty points. It seems the prelude to another triumphal season for the Scotsman who, however, in the second part of the championship will pay a chance for Team Lotus himself: the team of the patron Chapman decides, in full fight for the title, to throw the new one into the fray, the Lotus 33, a single-seater developed in the footsteps of the winning 25.

 

The new car of the British team, however, is still immature, especially in terms of tuning and reliability, with Clark forced to retire in the two subsequent rounds of the German and Austrian Grand Prix where the Ferraris of Surtees first, and of Bandini later will prevail.

 

Chapman therefore decides to change his mind and re-propose the Lotus 25 for the Italian Grand Prix, but also on this occasion Clark is forced to retire due to engine problems. After three consecutive retirements, however, the first position remains within reach and, thanks to the comeback of Surtees in the standings, Clark finds himself in second position two points behind Hill, and two points ahead of the British Ferrari.

 

This brings us to the penultimate and crucial race on the Watkins Glen circuit. Clark starts from pole position but, once again, is forced to retire with eight laps to go; title hopes are now hanging by a thread, with the Scotsman forced to win the last race in Mexico and hope that Surtees will not go beyond third and Hill beyond fourth.

 

In Mexico City Jim Clark sets the best time in qualifying as usual, and in the race the Scotsman immediately starts well, taking the lead, while Surtees has a problem that makes him fall back to thirteenth place; already on lap eighteenth, however, the Englishman from Ferrari recovered up to fifth place, behind Clark, Gurney, Hill and Bandini. In this situation, the World title is firmly in the hands of the Scottish Lotus driver.

 

On lap 31, Bandini, undermining Hill for third place, collided with the B.R.M. and sends him into a spin, forcing him to a pit stop which pushes him to the back of the group, thus bringing Clark closer to winning the World Championship; Bandini is not damaged and continues in third position ahead of Surtees.

 

But in the lap 63 the engine fails on Clark's Lotus-Climax, which dominated the race so far, and the Scotsman loses several positions, still managing to finish in fifth place. Gurney thus takes the lead, ahead of Bandini and Surtees; in this situation the title would go to Hill, currently in eleventh position, two laps from the head of the race, but Bandini leaves his position to Surtees, allowing his teammate to get the points necessary to win his unique, daring World Championship.

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The disappointment of too many retirements in the championship just brought the English team to tame the 1965 season with a sporting ferocity that was never seen before. The work of Terry and the other Lotus engineers is meticulous, looking for perfection in every single element of the new car. The Lotus 33 was, in 1964, thrown into the fray with too much lightness and superficiality: Chapman has unusually wrong assessments, probably enticed by the idea of ​​having a more powerful car than the previous one.

 

The new Coventry Climax eight-cylinder V engine produces a maximum of 220 horsepower, a dozen more than the B.R.M. P261 driven by Graham Hill, direct rival in the previous championship. The work of the British engineers therefore aims to reinforce and enlarge the chassis of the Lotus 25 to be able to insert the new and more voluminous engine, opting for larger suspension and tires.

 

The result delivers a solid car, precise in corner entry and fast along the straights, made even faster by Jim Clark who will dominate the scene far and wide, sweeping away the opponents with an impressive hunger for victories.

 

The flying Scot took pole position in four of the first six rounds of the season and won all the races dominating from the first to the last lap, except for the first five laps of the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort. An absolute and embarrassing domination that allows Clark to win the World Championship three months early without even having taken part in the Monte-Carlo race, due to commitment in the United States for the Indianapolis 500.

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The American challenge has become kind of an obsession for Chapman and Clark: the mugging, as the 1963 edition is nicknamed, represents a still deep and unhealed wound in the heart of the Chapman-Clark couple. Following this, the 1964 edition also represented another unsuccessful attempt to impose the much-desired change of philosophy, with the breaking of the suspension to nullify the pole position captured during qualifying.

 

In 1965, however, nothing was left to chance: the car with which to attack the American crown was developed on the basis of the Lotus 34, with the addition of a new 195cc Ford V8 engine; the suspensions are also modified, with the British team turning to a rather unusual choice of a system with arms of asymmetrical length between the right and left side, with the aim of favoring handling on oval circuits where turns are only to the left.

Chapman also decides to hire the Wood brothers, mechanics specialized in Nascar racing and famous for their ability to make pit stops in half the time taken by their opponents.

 

The prerequisites for an encouraging result are all there but, once we get to the race, the result exceeds all expectations: Clark starts in second position behind Foyt, also on Lotus-Ford, and starting from the third lap the typical solo escape begins which has characterized Clark since the first races in Europe. The flying Scotsman gives up the leadership only at the Foyt pit stop and wins the race ahead of his historical rival Parnelli Jones, leaving only five drivers at full laps.

 

The race, which also includes an additional prize of $150 for each lap spent in the lead, allows Clark to return to Europe with a rather substantial loot, confiding to journalist Walter Hayes:

 

"It was like playing with a cash register. I walked around and click, $150, then click, another $150".

 

The victory of the Indianapolis 500 is the first affirmation of a single-seater with a central engine. Clark also rewrites every record in the Motorsport book once again, as he is the only driver to have won the Formula 1 World Championship and the legendary US race in the same year.

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The domination of the Clark-Lotus duo, however, is abruptly interrupted at the end of the memorable season just ended due to a drastic change in regulations that obliges the teams to equip their cars with 3.0-liter engines, sending the 1.5-liter ones to retire. The Coventry Climax, which already in 1963 had threatened to leave the world of Motorsport in the event of new and drastic changes, finds itself totally unprepared to face such a generational change and the consequence is the loss of competitiveness of Clark and Lotus.

 

Chapman's team presents itself at the starting line of the new season with an unsuitable engine, arranged for the occasion with a displacement of 2000 cc but, despite the large deficit, Clark manages to sign the first pole position of the season on the Monte Carlo circuit, proving to be champion not by chance.

 

The first position of the qualifying round of the Monegasque event is, however, the highest point of a troubled and dismayed season of retirements: Clark is in constant struggle with the limits of his car even before his opponents, and is forced to a continuous search for limit to remain competitive. This is the case of the Zandvoort Grand Prix, a moment in which the exasperated search for performance ends up frightening his colleagues, including Peter Arundell who will tell about him as follows:

 

"At a given moment I saw him at the top of the hill with the car running sideway at full throttle. He kept it in that position for the entire straight that separated him from the right corner of Schievlak, where he was forced to brake with the car sideways . If you have to drive like that to be able to win, I prefer to finish last".

 

The champion, however, makes himself noticeable above all in difficult moments and Clark gives a demonstration of this at the US round of Watkins Glen. With the definitive farewell of Coventry-Climax, Lotus equips the new H16 engine from B.R.M. The Scotsman exploits his newfound competitiveness and, after starting in second position behind the new World Champion, wins the race trimming the usual lap behind the second classified, the Austrian Rindt on Cooper-Maserati.

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Despite Clark's victory at Watkins Glen, it soon became clear in Lotus circles that the new B.R.M. is inadequate due to its excessive weight, thus deciding to start a new project that will lead to the construction of the Lotus 49.

 

Chapman's new single-seater features a new Ford-Cosworth DFV engine that becomes a real structural element of the car, taking up a solution conceived and brought to the track for the first time by Ferrari in 1964. The solution adopted by Lotus allows for the implementation of structural compactness and to be limiting the weight of the car at the same time, reaching high standards of efficiency.

 

Although the concept was highly innovative for motorsport of this era, the team had to deal with an engine that was not properly optimized, whose sudden jerks of power greatly compromise the driveability of the car.

 

The new car was entrusted for the 1967 season to Clark and Graham Hill, the historic rival now teammate, but only starting from the third round of the season, which takes place in Holland, at the Zandvoort circuit. The result is the pole position for Hill, later retired in the race, and the victory of Clark in front of the duo Brabham-Hulme.

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The competitiveness of the Lotus 49 is evident and the two drivers divide the starts on pole in the following five rounds, but the reliability problems continue to torment the British team and the Scotsman pays the price in France, Germany and Canada, in which he is always forced to retire. On the other hand, when the car manages to finish the scheduled laps, the result is victory, and this is the case of the British Grand Prix, at the Silverstone circuit, where Clark will once again win.

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We arrive in Monza, where one of the most exciting races of the entire decade is staged. Clark signs the pole position, but there are eight cars behind him closed in just one second and the consequence is that in the race there is a group of drivers who exchange positions on the track for many laps.

 

On lap thirteenth, however, Clark suffered a puncture and was forced to restart from the bottom of the standings with one lap behind the leading group. The Scot begins a comeback that is unbelievable: unleashed, he recovers his positions in a succession of overtaking, doubles and with a few laps from the end he incredibly regains the lead. When he is about to crown an unimaginable victory he runs out of petrol and, at the height of the Ascari corner, is overtaken by Surtees and Brabham, finishing in third position. A few hours later Hayes will tell:

 

"Clark was born on the same day as Einstein or Strauss. Today in Monza I understood why".

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The Scottish genius does not stop there and at Watkins Glen he is still the protagonist of a crazy race finale: the two Lotus monopolize the front row and travel alone for most of the race, with Hill in front of Clark. Around halfway through the race the two standard bearers swap heads, with Clark continuing to increase his lead over his teammate until, two laps from the end, he breaks the right rear suspension and the tire tilts dangerously inward.

 

The flying Scot, however, does not stop in the pits and decides to continue and finish the race by drawing perfect trajectories at each corner that allow him to win for a few seconds on Hill. It is an incredible victory, practically on three wheels, the culmination of a career constantly lived to the fullest, very often beyond the very limit. Clark also wins the final race in Mexico and ends the season in third place in the drivers' standings, dragging Team Lotus to second in the constructors' standings.

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The next Formula 1 World Championship starts again from where it just ended: still driving the Lotus 49, Clark conquers pole position and wins the inaugural race in South Africa, on the Kyalami circuit, setting the stage for another absolute season protagonist.

 

However, between the first and second race of the season, the Scotsman decides to participate in one of the many competitions outside the Formula 1 World Championship, choosing on this occasion a Formula 2 race in Hockenheim, as an alternative to another. race on the Brands Hatch circuit.

 

It is April 7, 1968, and the Hockenheim track is wet; the atmosphere is humid and foggy, and it is difficult to bring the tires up to temperature. Chapman is not on the track, he has taken a bit of a vacation in the snow while Clark is obviously not interested in the event, strangely sad and silent. He goes around his car and before the start he approaches his mechanic exclaiming:

 

"Don't expect anything from me today. Just keep me informed where I am and how many laps to go".

 

Phrases that you would never expect to come from a lover of racing and speed. Words that are almost a premonition of what would soon happen. The race starts as usual and reaches the fifth lap: Clark takes a right curve but loses control of his car which ends up over the fences and crashes into a tree. It is a terrible impact where the Scotsman can do nothing.

 

There will be various testimonies that will follow the fatality: Chris Amon will tell how there were puddles of water everywhere, Derek Bell will say that the curve of the accident was long, sweet and wide and could be covered in pairs at 240 km/h even below. the rain, while Max Mosley will still remember how the splashes of water raised by the cars did not allow any visibility and that the only thing to do was to turn following the cars in front, but without knowing exactly where to put the wheels.

 

The stories are discordant, the reconstructions even more confused: the hypotheses of a Clark forced to avoid the accidental passage of an animal, of a boy who was suddenly crossing the road or, again, a tire that was progressively deflating will be examined. There will never be an answer to a tragedy that will never find witnesses, but what remains is the disappearance of one of the clearest talents that motorsport history has ever encountered. There are numerous certificates of esteem from some of the most illustrious personalities in the world of motors. This is how Enzo Ferrari will tell about him:

 

"Jim Clark was undoubtedly a great one. One of those you can count on your fingertips. They described him as not very talkative, intelligent, unscrupulous in racing. He was a driver like Alberto Ascari. He hated seeing the wheels around him. He started in the lead. and he went away. But if he had to stay in the fray, to battle, the game would get tougher for him. Better alone, delayed, to reassemble. Like in Monza in 1967, when he drove fans crazy with enthusiasm. I would have liked to entrust him with enthusiasm. a Ferrari. Someone told me I could take him to my team. I never believed it. Clark would never have raced in a non-English car. For him, as for the others who had not had any serious accidents, or at least physical trouble, the first was also the last. Like Bandini. Everyone still continues to wonder why. We have read and heard so many: from the mechanical failure, which an X-ray wants to attribute to the shock absorbers, to the conditions of the Hockenheim track, to the rubber, to an unwary young spectator. They also said about Ascari in Monza. Unfortunately, there is always a lack of well-founded testimony from those supreme moments. Perhaps not even the pilot, if he had survived, he would have been able to explain it".

 

Chris Amon's words are clear:

 

"If this could have happened to Jimmy, what hope does the rest of us have? I think this is what everyone feels. It’s like we’ve just lost our leader".

 

Luca Varano

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