The Jim Clark Story

Looking back at the “Meet the Crew” video from last year, Burns Stainless CEO/President Vince Roman mentioned his favorite racer is Jim Clark. This would be a good time to figure out why.

Jim Clark OBE

Jim Clark is a famous British Formula One Driver from Scotland. Clark won two World Championships in 1963 and 1965. He competed in Sports Cars, Touring Cars and in the Indianapolis 500 which he won in 1965. He mostly raced Lotus racing cars. He died in a Formula Two accident in 1968 at Hockeheim West Germany at age 32. He had won more Grand Prix races (25) and acheieved more Grand Prix Pole positions (33) than any other driver of the time. 

James Clark Jr. was born in March of 1936 into a farming family at Kimany House Farm in Fife, Scotland. He grew up in different family farms. When he was of age, his parents did not like his fascination with racing. He started racing in local road rally and hill climb events in his own Sunbeam-Talbot and proved to be a feared competitor right from the start.

DKW Sonderklasse
His professional racing debut began in the middle of June in 1956, in his very first event, he was behind the wheel of a DKW Sonderklasse. The DKW looked like a squashed VW Beetle with bigger headlights bugging out of the rounded fenders. Two years later he was driving for the local Border Reivers team, racing Jaguar D-types and Porsches in national events which he won 18 races. On the day after Christmas (Boxing Day) in 1958, Clark raced against the man who would propel his racing stardom. Driving a Lotus Elite, he finished second to Colin Chapman in a 10-lap GT race at Brands Hatch in Kent, England. In 1959 Clark finished 10th in his class at Le Mans with John Whitmore and won the Bo’ness Hill Climb. Chapman was so impressed with Clark that he gave Clark a ride in one of his Formula Junior (FJ) cars. Boxing Day 1959 again at Brands Hatch, Clark won the one-off race driving a Gemini-B.M.C., Clark won the first Formula Junior race at Goodwood in 1960.

Jim Clark Airborne
Clark made his Formula One Grand Prix debut part way through the 1960 season as team Lotus lost John Surtees to go to the Isle of Man for TT racing. His second F1 race was the ’60 Belgian Grand Prix in the very fast and dangerous Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Reality set in as there were two fatal accidents in that race. Clark was quoted later that he was scared stiff pretty much through the entire race where he still finished 5th and his first points finish. The next year, Clark was involved in one of the worst accidents in the history of Formula 1 racing. In the 1961 Italian Grand Prix on 10 September at Monza, Wolfgang von Trips in his Ferrari collided with Clark's Lotus. Von Trips's car became airborne and crashed into a side barrier, fatally throwing von Trips out of the car, and killing fifteen spectators.

Team Lotus
In 1963 Clark finished second to Parnelli Jones in his first attempt at the Indianapolis 500 where he won Rookie of the Year honors. There was some controversy that Jones should have been disqualified because he was leaking oil. Neither Lotus or Ford would protest the call reasoning that winning because of disqualifications when Jones had led for 167 of the 200 laps (Clark led for 28) and Jones had set the lap record speed of 151.541mph on lap 114 would not have been received well by the public. Clark won the 1963 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps in extremely foggy and rainy conditions. After starting eighth on the grid, he passed all the cars in front of him, including early leader Graham Hill. About 17 laps into the race, with the rain coming down harder than ever, Clark had lapped the entire field except for Bruce McLaren, and was almost five minutes ahead of McLaren and his Cooper. This would be the first of seven victories for Clark and Team Lotus that year. 

Jim Clark
Clark came back to Indy in 1965 and led 190 of the 200 laps for the win as the first non-American in almost 50 years. He also won the World Championship that year in the Lotus 38.

In 1968 while competing in different formulas between Formula Racing season, Clark was again at Brands Hatch driving in the Deutschland trophäe Formula Two race for Lotus primarily due to contractual obligations with Firestone. Although a “Minor Race Meeting”, the entry list was impressive for the two-heat series. In the 5th lap of the first heat, Clark’s Lotus 48 veered off the track and crashed into the trees. He suffered a broken neck and fractured skull and died before reaching the hospital. The cause of the crash was never definitively identified, investigators concluded it was most likely due to a deflating rear tire.

Clark's death affected the racing community terribly, with fellow Formula One drivers and close friends Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Dan Gurney, John Surtees, Chris Amon and Jack Brabham all being personally affected by the tragedy. People came from all over the world to Clark's funeral. Colin Chapman was devastated and publicly stated that he had lost his best friend. The 1968 F1 Drivers' Championship was subsequently won by his Lotus teammate Graham Hill, who pulled the heartbroken team together and held off Jackie Stewart for the crown, which he later dedicated to Clark.

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