- Full name James Clark
- Birth date March 4, 1936
- Birthplace Kilmany, Scotland, Great Britain
- Date of death April 7, 1968 (32 years 34 days)
- Place of death Hockenheim, Germany
- Teams Team Lotus
|First race||Dutch Grand Prix||Zandvoort||June 6, 1960||Race results|
|Last race||South African Grand Prix||Kyalami||January 1, 1968||Race results|
Jim Clark is a driver who always features near or at the top of any list of the greatest drivers of all time. He won the world title twice - 1963 and 1965 - and was the first Formula One driver to cross the Atlantic and win the Indianapolis 500, and in the car had an almost unparalleled feel for what is was doing.
Out of the car, Clark was unassuming to the point of anonymity, a shy indecisive character who Peter Warr of Lotus said "could get befuddled through this extraordinary indecisiveness". In it, he was a changed man.
Clark, the son of a Scottish farmer, was introduced to racing when his eldest sister married a local racer and soon after a local garage owner invited him to enter a race. He won. After a number of rallies, Ian Scott-Watson lent him a DKW for his first race. For 1957, Scott-Watson bought a Porsche and Clark became serious.
In 1958 in a Jaguar D-type he scored 12 wins from 20 starts but was shaken when Scott-Watson was killed at Spa.
A Formula One deal with Aston Martin failed to materialise and so Clark joined Lotus to drive in Formula Two and Formula Junior in 1960. He won convincingly and Lotus boss Colin Chapman immediately elevated him to a Formula One drive in the Dutch Grand Prix where he was as high as fifth before he retired. At Spa he again witnessed the wretched side of the sport. First Stirling Moss was seriously hurt in practice, and then Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey were killed in the race.
Nineteen sixty one was Clark's first full year in Formula One but it ended in tragedy when Wolfgang von Trips was killed along with 14 spectators and Clark was blamed by many for his involvement. The affair was to haunt him for years and almost led to him quitting the sport.
In 1962 with Chapman's new Lotus 25 Clark won his first grand prix and ran Graham Hill all the way to the final race. But in 1963 he was untouchable, winning seven of the ten races he started and coming runner-up in the Indianapolis 500. In 1965 six grand prix wins secured him his second drivers' championship, with enough to spare that he was able to miss the Monaco Grand Prix to travel to the USA and win the Indianapolis 500.
Lotus did not have the engines to challenge in 1966 under new 3-litre regulations, but Clark and Lotus were back to form in 1967 when he ran second to Denny Hulme.
He opened 1968 with a win in South Africa. Three months later in a low-key Formula Two race at Hockenheim, his Lotus suffered a blowout, flew off the road and he was killed instantly. He was 32 and at the time of his death held records for the most wins and most poles.
Strengths and weaknesses
Brilliant in the wet, he possessed a unique combination of reflexes, instinct and fitness and was able to get the most out of Lotus cars others were unable to master. His seeming vulnerability made him popular with fans and his contemporaries were in awe of his natural talent
While many of Clark's 25 grand prix wins were superb exhibitions, perhaps the real tests of his skill came in adversity when he invariably rose to the occasion. However, his win at the 1965 Indy 500 silenced Americans who put down Formula One drivers, but such was his character that even then he won over the local fans and media.
His collision with von Trips at Monza in 1961 led to the German's death along with 14 spectators. Clark also crashed but was unhurt, and was accused by some of being to blame. He seriously considered retirement but was persuaded to continue by Chapman
"If it could happen to him, what hope did the rest of us have?" - Chris Amon after Clark's death
"He was so smooth, he was so clean, he drove with such finesse. He never bullied a racing car, he sort of caressed it into doing the things he wanted it to do" - Jackie Stewart
Clark's headstone lists him as being a farmer ahead of him being a driver, at his own request
He ran a 1200-acre farm in Berwick, although he became a tax exile in 1967, and was regarded as an expert on cattle and pedigree sheep
He was an accomplished pilot who flew his Comanche aircraft across Europe to races