The year was 1965 and the Formula One circus was on the move once again bringing the carnival to the East coast of South Africa where the host of the race, Prince George circuit was located. The teams arrived 3 days ahead of the scheduled race day carrying huge and heavy bulks of apparatus and components that would become the backdrop of a Formula One car and its technical supplements. In an otherwise settings, it was the last two days of the year 1964 that would eventually launched the arrival of 1965 in accordance with the inauguration of the first Formula One race of the season. The 1965 South African Grand Prix was about to open the floor to what would become one of the most exciting years in the Formula One’s records.
The Most Advanced Formula One Car of The 60s circa, The Lotus 33-Climax
As for the mindful founder and engineer of Lotus F1 team, Mr. Colin Chapman, the chronicle was about to launch a brand new start to his own career as he sets out to unveil Lotus’s latest and most innovative vortex from the already expansive and monumental benchmark of Lotus racing car series. The latest magnum opus of Formula One’s engineering pioneers was made in the wake of its predecessor, the Lotus 25-Climax and spotted the same iconic colours that had become a sentimental trademark of the team. The new Lotus 33-climax was engineered to perfection; spotting the universal praxis of its constructor’s with the usual striking yellow that was set within a swaddle of green – yes, that was the car that was set to drive its pilot to his second World Championship title as far as hopes and resolutions were concerned, it created a magnetic vibe it the air, the confidence was equally strong.
The 33-Climax materialised Chapman’s ground breaking discovery that was first idealised in the Lotus 24, which was later preceded by the 25-Climax that became the first car that broke Formula One’s provincial grounds. The speed machine, which had had gone through some prominent changes and upgrades was an obvious winner on the field moulding its pilot into becoming the quickest driver on the track but as far as consistency in performance was concerned, its aerodynamic features failed to create the proficiency that was expected of it hence ripping its pilot off his 2nd World title in 1964 after suffering technical problems at the most important race of the season. However it was also the car that managed to take 7 pole positions and set the 6 fastest laps out of the 10 cycle race. The narrow miss at the penultimate lap of the final race that was contributed by an engine burst became a cause of frustration for both the team and the pilot. The technology was achieved and quite astonishingly so to speak, but the downfall of its breakdowns were equally unreal and with that, the team was set to retribute the 1964 lost with the development of the first ground breaking and most advanced Formula One’s car out of the 60s racing dominion.
When Colin Chapman decided to fully discard the 25 for a brand new prototype; it quickly became a major metamorphosis to the previous model. Build using the most advance 33 chassis, the new 33 was constructed with the G.R.P body as opposed to the previous model’s fibreglass body on the aluminium monocoque. With the addition of cantilever top arm and lower wishbone to the front suspension, it dramatically increased the car’s horsepower by a 10% margin while still being able to remain within the approved weight that was allowed for the Formula One cars. It was indeed a total reformation compared to all the previous models, it was one of its kind – in fact, it was one of the best and technically sophisticated Formula One cars that was made during its time.
It was the car that first contributed to Formula One’s major and prevailing changes that would continue until the dawn of the latest century. The 33-Climax set the tone and pace of the European sport’s most pivotal moments and spawned the beginning of revolutionary engineering at its best. It was set to live through the jewelled vision of another constructor’s trophy and award for the year. That was the vibe that kickstarted the season, that further developed into the most advanced Formula One cars that we have today.
The 1965 South African Grand Prix was held on a very special day as it marked the end of 1964′s succession as it ushered in the 1965 evolution. The Formula One teams celebrated the final day of the year during the qualifying session that saw Lotus’s driver taking the first pole position of the season – a streak that would continue till the end of the competition. The car quickly dominated the tracks and set the bar suitably high by taking the pole, setting the fastest lap of the race and finishing the race at the top of the podium. A spectacular streak on its debut by any standard.
When the American journalists arrived in East London, South Africa to the genesis of British’s motor sports, the instructions from their respective publications and editors couldn’t be any clearer. The man they were to lookout for was the foregoing World Champion, John Surtees but it wasn’t the only thing they had to oversee. The focus was set on the 1964′s second runner up, the man who had engaged title winner, John Surtees and second place’s Graham Hill in a race-long battle to the championship title that was marred with a technical failure just as he was closing up on the title. He did not win but somehow he managed to catapult the kind of debate that continued to travel way past the 1964 Mexican Grand Prix, the race that decided the season’s champion. The debate conquered the fact that Surtees was the official winner but in an alternate reality, it was the Lotus’s driver who was the most worthy of the title, he was after all the season’s favourite. The ongoing analysis somehow blighted Surtees’s first and only Formula One victory leaving the British driver struggling for relevance in between the paramount comparison that was known to instantly shackle Grand Prix drivers and race winners who emerged victorious in a close run-outs and the aftermath that obliterated their statures.
The man they had been inferring to was none other than the naturally talented farmer and Lotus driver who was 4 and half years old in his Grand Prix experience with only a single title to his name but nevertheless had accumulated a cult that had consorted him as the most exciting talent in the history of motor sports if not the most incredibly gifted driver the racing community had lived to witness. His supreme abilities had already out shined many of his ilk with a reputation that rose above many legends from the past. The man’s overall persona confirmed his sovereign artistry.
The Man Who Was Known As Jim Clark
The fertile grounds of Scotland has unleashed many gifted and effectual legends from its vault and some of them are still highly regarded in the modern history. Some of the most imposing figures would be the man who invented the first practical telephone; Alexander Graham Bell, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexander Flemings who discovered the most effective life-saving drug known as Penicillin and there’s no end to the list that holds the names of historical aristocrats that has served this generation one way or another.
As for the post World War 2 generation when the British motor sports finally hit its most pivotal moments, Scotland once again gave birth to a giant of a man 78 years ago. Jim Clark had the kind of charisma that was almost instantly audible without the downside of being all too flashy. His finest traits was his modesty and ordinary attitude that was instantly visible in his character, his manner and his style. But the one thing that made the man so arresting was his simplicity. His idiosyncratic image only made him all the more desirable and by the 1965 season he had become far more popular with the opposite gender compared to any other driver of his generation. In simple words, any news about Jim Clark would make a solid headline for any publication anywhere in the world with an advantage of completely selling the print material for the day.
Jimmy Jim Clark, born on March 4, 1934 in Kilmany, Scotland made a solid proposition on the Formula One tracks but in person he was not as you would have imagined him to be. Your first impression would travel through a myriad of thoughts because he had none of the champion’s imperiousness or vanity. Neither was he the typical rabble-rousing Scottish from the land that was famous with its century-old whiskeys nor did he looked like the kind of man who would have marched in unison with the rest of the Scottish troops in the Battle Of Stirling Bridge. That facet would have better suited the likes of Stirling Moss, Fangio or even Gurney who by all means were not even Scottish. Clark in his truest form was just another Scottish farmer as how he liked to be known but instead of plowing the fields of Berwickshire, he was plowing the race tracks with moments of sheer vehemence and raw power. In the sight of the 1965 Formula One Championship, when he was yet to win his second crowning glory; his stature was already firmly cemented. There was a genuine presence to the proceeding.
Here was, another legend in the making if it wasn’t already done, Jim Clark who had nothing of a winner’s vanity or arrogance. He was simply a man who was always profoundly lost somewhere in his thoughts with a distant look in his eyes while subconsciously biting on his nails. Besides the thick black hair that was always combed to the side like a Scottish revolutionist, perfectly ironed blue racing overalls, which at times was matched with a subversive cardigan, the nail-nibbling was yet another prominent features of Clark. Was it pre-race jitters or just the force of habits, no one really knew. But he was somehow always nibbling on his nails, deep down to the roots of his perfectly trimmed fingers. Yes, he was Jim Clark, motor racings most genuine talent, the man who had the ability to harness and civilise even the most unruly and decisive race machines. Aye, Jim Clark and race cars got together like Scotland and rain.
The Clark-Chapman Formation
By the 1965 season as the new Lotus 33-Climax was introduced and Clark being in his most outstanding form, the man who was to benefit the most out of the combination was of course, Colin Chapman. Chapman was also the man who kickstarted Clark’s career in the Formula One racing after the then 24-year-old Scotsman managed to leave behind a lasting impression on the technologist when he took the second place to Chapman’s first in a 10-lap GT race at Brands Hatch. After launching him as the most imposing prospect out of the Formula One’s dominion, the Scot’s further outlived the first impression he made on Chapman through his sheer aggression as he quickly picked up the pace in becoming motor racing’s most exciting talent in recent years.
While his skills skyrocketed on the tracks, his stardom started to travel at an equal pace and yet Clark remained endearing humble throughout his extraordinary stature. He was camera shy, never truly got adjusted to the fame as he was never really comfortable with all the huge media attention. Part of this could be due to the fact that he never truly understood his own extensive abilities, which always left him with a question to why he was becoming insanely famous. The shyness was incredibly touching as it was arresting. His natural talents in tuning the most difficult of cars was not only impressive but also consequential and he was the most beloved champion on the racing grounds that it was almost difficult for others to see him as an opponent or a contender, he had such a special aura that it illuminated the path and the rest would just gladly follow his trail with no questions asked. The pairing between Colin Chapman and Jim Clark left behind a legacy that has travelled through universal kalam and is still highly credited and accorded in the motor racing history. Together, the Chapman-Clark combination soared to grandiose heights, took the drivers and constructers title and became the augurs that succeeded in pushing the claustrophobic envelope.
His Existence Was Like The Emergence Of A Rare Comet – It Happens Only Once In A Lifetime
The 1965 South African Grand Prix that kicked off the racing season started on the same day as the Scottish New Year eve known as Hogmanay and proved to be one of Clark’s sweetest victories when he won his first Grand Prix race of the season by half a minute from BRM’s Graham Hill. Clark led the race from pole breaking the 100mph barrier and even had the time to complete an extra lap after the chequered flag. This further proved Clark’s succession on the map and the Lotus 33-Climax’s adduce in the Formula One circuits, with the South African race being the first out of the 6 winning streaks for Clark. It would have been 7 continuous wins if he had not been away winning the Indianapolis500 and missing the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix. Clark’s title was secured as early as August that year with 3 races left to the end of the season for winning more races than any other drivers in the league. Not only did he win 6 races out of the 10 contested cycle, he also took a total of 6 pole positions and equalled the number by setting 6 fastest laps out of the race season. The 1965 Formula One Season is held in great respect in accordance to Clark’s racing career for his early dominance from the start of the Grand Prix season, which secured his second World Championship title. It was also the year where Clark emerged as the Indianapolis 500 champion that automatically sealed his merits in the book of history. He became the only Grand Prix racer who had commanded both the European and American motor sports in the same year – a record that has never been challenged or bested. His Indianapolis 500 win is highly regarded in terms of his skills and talents. He commanded the race for 190 laps out of the 200 with a phenomenal and unparalleled speed of 150 miles p/h (240 km/h) that broke new grounds in the America’s most prestigious motor racing’s history as he became the first British driver to win at such an outlandish and incomparable feat in almost half a century.
Clark was also among the only 17 drivers in motorsports history who had the merit’s of competing in all three legs of the Triple Crown and to have won at least one of the events comprising of Indianapolis 500, 24 Hours of Le Mans and Monaco Grand Prix with Graham Hill being the only driver in history to have completed all three levels of The Triple Crown. Since two out of the three prestigious races were contested over the same weekend with Indianapolis 500 practise session and race day clashing with Monaco’s qualifying and weekend race, it was humanly impossible for a driver to be able to compete in all three races without missing one. The most ludicrous prospect of the two races was the fact that they were located on the opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean and scheduled on the same day.
What he himself never understood was what the world couldn’t truly digest. What he did was something that was never done before. How he won was something that no one was able to replicate and how incredible was his talents was something that Colin Chapman summed up by simply stating;
‘There are other racing drivers who have generally to attract attention to themselves to make up for the lack of ability; but Jimmy has not had to do any of that and if he left motor racing tomorrow, he would leave with an example which other would find hard to follow’ - Colin Chapman, Lotus F1 team founder, 1965.
The Resignation Of Clark And The Persuasion Of Chapman
The late great Ayrton Senna once described his feeling at the speed of 300 mph as emotion, pleasure and challenge. The man who has visually remained as motor sports most outstanding talent summed up the essence of speed in three simple words that left behind such a momentous effect. Speed for racers was some form of art, created through layers of moving images in which they expressed their greatest fears and also their tremendous desires. From the starting grid to the first corner as the momentum starts to rise at the increasing speed that would at one point of the race reached its maximum performing power, the world around them disappeared. It was in return replaced by moments of sheer clarity out of the shadowy presence of existence. Life had no meaning where speed was concerned for speed was life itself. There was no ruler here, nothing to fight over, nothing to lose, because at the height of personal satisfaction, even death became trivial. Speed was such a treacherous form of art for it made them believe that they could be mortal, in full control of everything and yet it never did travel alone. It travelled in the favour of its closest companion who understandably had such a paramount obsession with the fearless. They said it was merciless and yet it was the most merciful form of destruction because the dead did not see what they had left behind, the life ended too quickly to have the time to reflect.
The biggest lessons in life are learned through experience and failures, and the best encounters with reality happens when destruction is witnessed firsthand. It was in one of the most cruel events that came in a form of one of the most gruesome encounters that finally snapped him back into reality. It wasn’t rocket science even when it did sometimes appeared to be just that, the sport was extremely dangerous and it didn’t need some form of scientific explanation to break down the formula for one’s understanding. Formula One cars were the most powerful speed machines in the world but there were also known to be the deadliest apparatus invented by man. It was only his second race out of his debut season and he managed to finish in the top 6 position at number 5. A very impressive performance by a rookie by any means or standards but the joy was an ill feeling. He left the 1960 Belgian Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit with no joy, nothing left to celebrate. His finishing stunt and first ever championship points of his Formula One career came at the expense of two dead drivers. He went back with a feeling of resignation. The joy was subdued.
The 1960 Belgian Grand Prix became the first ever darkest day in Formula One history – a day that would live until it was preceded by the great Imola tragedy 26 years later at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix when the tragic weekend of the race, which would start with Simtek rookie’s death, Roland Ratzanberger during the qualifying day marking the first fatality of the season hence ending the fatal-free era that stood for a record of 12 years. The week came to a tragic end with the second fatality in a race weekend with the premature death of Formula One’s most supreme legend, Ayrton Senna. The events in Imola was a reminiscent of the Great Belgian tragedy in which 23-year-old Chris Bristow lost his life after loosing control of his vehicle at the fast right hand bend known as the Burneville corner. Bristow fatal crash was followed by Clark’s Lotus’s team mate 26-year-old Alan Stacey who also crashed fatally at the same exact spot just a few minutes after Bristow.
Bristow’s fatal crash occurred at Lap 19 in one the most gruesome freak accidents when he lost control of his car and crashed into the embankment throwing the driver into the barbed wire fence. The impact decapitated Bristow throwing his lifeless body back onto the track’s surface and an approaching Clark narrowly missed running over the headless body of the unfortunate driver. The start to the tragic race weekend was already marred with two heavy crashes when both team mates Stirling Moss and Mike Taylor would crash separately with Moss’s crashing at the same corner that would contribute to the premature death of two other drivers. Both Moss and Taylor were seriously injured in the crashes, with Taylor’s most prominent career ending injuries that left him paralysed.
The nightmares were just taking its form for Clark when after the race he no longer felt the urge of staying in Formula One but Chapman managed to persuaded him to stay, which he did only to face yet another awful tragedy in the following year where he was unwillingly dragged into the crash that eventually became the deadliest F1 Grand Prix tragedy, which included non-drivers fatalities. Von Trips’s Ferrari collided with Clark’s Lotus and while Clark escaped unhurt, the crash killed the impending World Champion, German’s Wolfgang von Trips and 15 spectators.
The reality robbed him of his impending joy, the sports that he had come to love and hate at equal measures proved to be more treacherous than he had ever imagined. Death followed the Formula One circus at a close proximity and it travelled like a mad man without a steering wheel going at 350mph. When it came, it took away more than it gave. It was then when Clark decided that it was just too much for him, there was nothing ideal about a sport that offer joys in one moment and grief in another. He felt partially responsible for Von Trip’s death even when it was clear that he had nothing to do with the tragic end of the future world champion. Sadly for Clark, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. It was the ironic flair of the statement because the tragedy in Hockenheimring also happened under similar affairs.
Chapman, Lotus team founder and chief who had build a close bond with the Scotsman, acted as the only encouragement force that stood between Clark’s prorated desires towards the whole racing circa and its constitution. He would have not ventured very far from the race tracks even if he had decided to leave – it was too obvious that the man was born to be in a Formula One car, he was enormously gifted and strikingly resilient. If an insane man was to describe Clark in the most glaring term, he would say that Clark brought out the soul in the machine, it was as if there was some kind of cosmic reality being woven together between the man and the machine that would nullify the law of man. What Clark had would profess above the law of man, he was delivered from the divine law of God. He was curated to understand a language no man could or would be able to do, he spoke to the machines, and seemingly they understood him as they would eventually obey.
Clark descended from the divine law and Chapman was almost a rocket scientist who practised on cars and together they were known as the Chapman-Clark twins. The Chapman-Clark interfusion has lived to serve as the most innovative and revolutionary era in Formula One history. But the divine law was nowhere near Hockenheimring on the unfortunate day when the Formula 2 championship was contested as it eventually robbed Formula One out of its most outstanding and irreplaceable talent.
7 April 1968, Hockenheimring, Germany
The day was 7 April 1968 when Clark’s Lotus 48 disappeared while running on an isolated path of the track in a Formula 2 race – a drive that was taken rather reluctantly due to the obligations the team had with the sponsors. Clark’s fate was sealed and the man who had been so enormously famous in life with reporters hunting him down all the way to his private sanctuary, died in a solitary confinements of Hockeinheim’s thick and brooding jungle with only the ancient trees bearing witness to the end of a legacy. And with that Clark’s secrets was forever buried within the forest of the ring. His death left a significant mark on the racing community, it was as huge as his life had been. No one knew what happened, was it the tyres? Was it the steering column that gave up on him ? Was it the debris? Or simply a driver’s error? No one knows and the momentary sadness left behind a permanent damage, there was never really a closure here because no satisfactory conclusion was ever provided. It was the first time the racing community was investigated ever so thoroughly, no one was spared, not the teams, not the drivers who tragically only found out once the race was over, no one. If they could have spoken to the trees, they would have done that too because it was printed in words, sealed in such high expectation that asserted the impracticality that Clark cannot die. For that reason alone, the aircraft crash investigators was called to investigate the cause of his death. The world called for a complete inquiry. It had to be done, people needed some kind of comfort and there was none, never been. The closure is still open somewhere in the heavily constructed circuit. The scene that ripped away the life of the legend is no longer a part of the track’s course, it is just a grim memory of a distant past that still calls to millions of fans to sometimes visit the spirits of the forest who waited with his cold body.
The simple irony was that, if Clark could die than the sport had lost all of it virtue and decency. What Chris Amon said about Clark’s death would be the cliche of assertion to what Clark had been through his short years;
‘If it could happen to Clark, what chance do the rest of us have?’
Lotus was placed under heavy interrogation, Chapman struggled to cope with the devastation citing the lost of not only the greatest driver to have ever lived but also a very close friend. It is to Graham Hill’s credits that the team managed to go through the 1968 season when he pulled the heartbroken team together to win the 1968 championship title which he later dedicated to Clark.
It was here when the divine law ended and in its place, the very elements of the man-made law stood out. Even the greatest of men dies and the path to the tragedy is always taken alone on live’s loneliest roads. There was a marshal at the scene who was too dumbfounded to even speak. Who wouldn’t be when Clark, the safest driver out of the Formula One’s vault almost took the marshal out on his way to his own tragic end.
His death altered the vibe, the settings and everything Formula One was at the time of Clark’s life. Every department from the nuts to the bolts to every specs of the car was inspected, altered, modified, changed and all this was just the beginning of a life long attempts to make the sport’s safer. And yet, the death toll somehow continued to rise. From the premature death of Formula One beau ideal, Jim Clark whose graven image would follow F1 to its grave to the sad dismissal of Formula One’s notable icons, title holders and uncrowned kings – this sport’s that had given the world some of the best heroes of this century also took back on equal terms. It was after all the unforgiving nature of the sports, everyone knew this the moment they stepped into the Formula One cars, Senna knew this when he took the unfaithful drive at Imola that marked his tragic end that catapulted him into what became known as the pagan symbol, worshipped till the end of civilisation.
His talents and skills was beyond comparison and in the modern Formula One history, the closest any Formula One driver ever got in replicating the great Jim Clark could have been French man Alain Prost. His achievements and notoriety would be on equal grounds like the late great Ayrton Senna and 7-time-world-champion, Michael Schumacher. It would take the combination of Tazio Nuvolari’s swagger, Alberto Ascari’s style, Fangio’s mastery, Gilles Villeneuve’s gallantry, Ayrton Senna’s unprecedented speed, Alain Prost’s perfection and Shucmacher’s greatest success to create one and only Jim Clark that this generation of racers had come to know or see. His success was never measured with the 2 championship titles he won, his arrival to Formula One circuits kickstarted an era that lasted throughout his reign and ended with his unfortunate demise while his small build and humble nature minified his generation of drivers.
Jim Clark remains as the epitome of perfection in the modern Formula One racing, with his heart-on-sleeve passion, he kickstarted an era, in which the Lotus empire reach the peak of it prowess, and no one has ever come close to emulating him almost half a century after inception. He was Jimmy Jim Clark, who was more comfortable being the farmer that he was rather than the World Champion he had become. He was Jim Clark, the race car whisperer.
Jim Clark would have turned 78 today had he not died in the deep forest of Hockenheimring in the spring of 1968, exactly 46 years ago when his glorious life was cut short by an unidentified cause while his death was witnessed by the ancient keepers of the jungle that had stood through the test of time, through the legendary birth of modern superheroes such as Ayrton Senna, they have refused to die and they will continue to carry the deadliest secret of one of Formula One’s greatest tragedy and insurmountable sadness in recent history. He was Jim Clark, he was only a farmer, a short man with broad shoulders, he could have been a boxer if he wanted to but he was never meant to be one, he was born to be in a Formula One car, it was one of those dangerous love affairs, the killing kind of love.
For additional reading, log on to Peter Windsor’s website as he explores the life of Jim Clark from his own personal experience of having met the legend in person.
For your warmth and for your credibility, for your youth is sealed in your tragedy, in your short years, you left behind a legacy, the world will remember you for who you are and not for what you’ve been. You are alive in the hearts of those who carries your memories in every waking hour of their lives. Rest In Peace, Mr Farmer.