Jim Clark: A Little Bit Of History


Henry Rempe '27

On April 7th, it was the anniversary of the passing of Jim Clark, arguably the best racing driver ever. Even if you have no interest in Formula 1 whatsoever, you might enjoy this.

 Jim Clark was born of a humble family in Scotland in 1936. Jim Clark never dreamed of having fame, but was interested in racing. Later when he was asked why he got into racing he said that he just wanted to see what going fast in a car was like. Clark started out as a rookie sensation in 1960, and in his first 5 years of racing, he won two championships in F1. One of his most famous years was 1965, where he won the Indy 500, the Tarzan Series,  and the Formula 1 championship. In the Indy 500, racing against America’s finest racers and won by over 2 minutes! That may not sound like much, but if someone wins a race by over 20 seconds, that is considered a lot. In one instance, after Jim Clark had finished a race, he came back into the pits, and said something was wrong with the back left of his car. His engineers looked at the back and saw nothing, but Clark insisted that there was something wrong. Late that night, the main engineer decided to take apart the entire back and found that the rear suspension bolt had just started to weather. 

But do not think he always had to have a perfect car to win. In a race at Spa, Jim Clark’s gear stick started to slip, so with one hand, he held the gear stick in place, and drove with the other hand, in the wet at Spa, and still won by over 5 minutes! Also at another race, his oil pressure started to fail, so if he went around a corner, the G force would be so great that his engine would blow up. To solve this problem he drove normally until he got to a corner, then switched off his engine and coasted around the corner, then switched it back on. And he still won.                                                                                             

Lotus was Jim’s partner since the beginning of his racing career. They had created many great cars for Clark over the years. Some of these cars were the Lotus 25, 49 and 38. For the Indy 500, and together with Ford, they engineered a car for Clark with a rear mounted V8. Of course he won, and it was the first rear engine car to win, and no front engine car has won since.

Fatefully on April 7th, he entered a Formula 2 race at Hockenheim, Germany. He started out in the lead, and it looked like he would win the race, but on the starting laps, his tire failed and sent him spinning out of control and into a tree. His death sent the world into shock. In California, a radio announcer announced the death of Jim, and asked people to turn on their lights as a sign of respect, and the freeways lit up. As far as percentages go, Clark is the best racing driver to ever live.