During a recent conversation with a friend of mine about great historic racing cars and the drivers that made them great we came upon the legend that is Jim Clark.

It was always going to be difficult coming up with a top ten, there are so many great names and marques to choose from. It should have been no surprise that Jim Clark featured so highly on both our lists, especially considering how many career highlights he had before his untimely death.

We argued about his relationship with Lotus. Clark was lucky to escape death after colliding with von Trips Ferrari at Monza in 1961 yet Clark went on to claim the first of Lotus’ World Championships in 1963 at the wheel of a Lotus 25, winning seven out of ten races that season. That was great, but what he did at Indy was even more remarkable.

In 1965, after some unsuccessful attempts and unlucky mechanical failures he won the Indy 500 and The F1 World Title at the hands of a Lotus 38. He is the only driver to ever win the double in the same year. He also won three titles in the Tasman F1 series, run for older cars whilst challenging for F1 honours – a record for the series. Can you imagine today’s F1 drivers competing in two series in the same year and winning both of them?Jim Clark racing in his Lotus Cortina

As if that wasn’t enough Clark was perhaps even more fabled for his exploits in a works Lotus-Cortina in which he competed in and won the 1964 British Touring Car Championship (pictured above).

He would have won the RAC Rally of Great Britain had it not been for a crash near to the end. Clark was able to adapt to any car he drove with ease and mastery.

He had often commented on why he found it difficult to understand why other drivers weren’t as quick as him.

Clark’s stats and results speak for themselves but perhaps his greatest achievement was to be a man that was universally held in high regard by all his peers and his devoted fans.

He was a gentleman, a racing driver of unparalleled talent and gave us some of the most memorable motor racing moments of all time. Who can fails to marvel at the footage of him four wheel drifting his Cortina with one arm hanging out of the window? Genius.

31 replies
  1. Eric Falce says:

    I was driving past one day in early 1960s when I heard the something of a big V8 immediately turn around and drove into Brian’s patch and parked up just outside the pellet area.. a lotus 30 was out on the track and I was very excited especially when it came out of Druids into bottom bend as it was then, and spun.I waited and was surprised to see Jim was the driver. By the time I got there he was talking to Colin Chapman, Chapman walked away and I asked James what was rhe problem.,’ Ack, nothing, just sorting out a couple of problems ‘
    . in a broad Scottish accent.
    Always treasured that moment, watched him.on TV , always was and always will be my absolute hero.

  2. Daniel Byrne says:

    Just a small recollection amongst all the previous wonderful tributes!
    I still remember watching a race on tv (Donnington?): Jim Clark had just turned onto an uphill section and driving his rear-engined Lotus swept past a rival as if he was flying a jet! That’s all I remember of that race: it was in black and white but it’s still a vivid, vibrant memory.

  3. Terry Henshall says:

    I first watched Jim Clark race at the Oulton Park Gold Cup in September 1961 as a 13yr old. I was in the paddock with my father when Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Jack Brabham were together talking. I managed to get all three autographs. In 1962 I went to Aintree and watched him win the British Grand Prix. I was also at Silverstone in 1963 and 1965 where he again won the British Grand Prix. In 2007 with my wife we went to the Jim Clark rooms in Duns and later to the churchyard where he is buried. Fond memories of a wonderful man and racing driver.

  4. Peter Pickup says:

    I was 18 years old when Jim clark died and there has hardly been one day since when I haven’t thought about Jim Clark It’s incredible. I felt like part of me had died. Would love to meet some one who knew him

  5. John Vosilla says:

    Growing up, I loved football (American) and baseball, but Jim Clark was my athlete-hero. Even today, many decades later, I can still remember, while waiting for a college class to begin, opening the New York Times and being shocked to read that Jim had been killed. He brought so much dignity to a sport that was and still is overloaded with glitz.

  6. Pete Clarke says:

    Was Jim Clark the Greatest? Yes. His stats speak for themselves. World champion twice. Winner of the Indy 500. 72 Grand Prix starts- 25 victories. 33 Pole positions. He was capable of driving the wheels off *any* car, F1, F2, saloon car etc. He was an absolute gentleman, highly regarded by his peers, and adored by fans. He was ultra smooth, and very sympathetic to the cars he drove. One of his Lotus Team mechanics has gone on record and stated that Clark could make a set of brake pads last three times longer than his team mates. He also stated that he could always identify the gearbox from Jim’s car due to the relative lack of wear on the internals, compared to any of his team mates. Even Senna said Jim was the Greatest. Senna visited the Jim Clark Museum at Duns in the early 90’s. He spent hours there and signed the guest book. Shortly after his visit, Senna commissioned an artist to paint a fantasy F1 grid, depicting Senna’s favourite driver’s. He gave the artist carte blanche to place the respective driver’s and cars anywhere on the grid. There was one exception to this, Senna stipulated that Jim Clark be depicted on pole position, telling the artist, “Because Jim was the Greatest of all.” Good enough for Senna, good enough for me! We will never see such prodigious natural talent again I suspect. Jim did not spent his childhood and teenage years racing carts- unlike the likes of Senna. He just had terrific natural talent. Genius!

    • Swarez says:

      Thank you so much Peter – some great insights into the man and his genius. Really enjoyed reading that and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment! Regards. Ed.

      • Roger Graham says:

        Clark was the greatest. While a sports writer I wrote an article on Jim Clark many years ago. I was evaluating all the greats. I decided to give everyone a two-season “learning” experience in Formula 1. I then examined their records. I stumbled upon an amazing stat unique to Clark. After his first two seasons he won every single race in which he competed in which the car did not develop a fault. He even won some when the car did develop a fault. No one else did that.

    • Marc Spence says:

      Another small fact about Senna visiting the Jim Clark museum is Senna bought all the Jim Clark pencils to take home to Brazil for his friends. I found this both hilarious and superb at the same time. Just a small thing but brilliant all the same.

  7. Gordon Fisher says:

    Not only the greatest driver of all time, but a gentleman too. Today’s drivers seem too concerned with ego and image. Clark just loved his cars and racing. Legend!

  8. Andrew Gilmore says:

    I was a bit young to remember his exploits at the time but the more I read about his performances on different surfaces the more I marvel at his ability. If some of the past greats talk in awe about how good he was that’ll do for me – Scotland should be proud of a terrific racing driver & he remains a real sporting hero of mine

  9. Robert Mc Nicol says:

    Jim Clark was and still is my hero. Was devastated that Sunday in April 1968 when the news came through that Jimmy had died at Hockenheim. As previous comments have said there will never be another driver who perfected and dominated both saloon car racing with the three wheeling Lotus Cortina and Formula 1 with the technically advanced but fragile Lotus F1 cars. Nobody but Jimmy could have nursed sick cars to victory. If a car had problems he was a master at driving round the problems. I raise my glass to him on each anniversary of his birthday.

    • GEOFF FOSTER says:

      Well said Rob. I echo your sentiments entirely. I grew up with his exploits and in
      the end I began to think he was invincible. I celebrate his birthday every year and mourn his passing every anniversary. A gentleman, and a terrific sportsman.
      We shall not see his likes again, or of a genius like Colin Chapman.

  10. Roger Graham says:

    As a journalist I did an article on Clark many years ago. During my research I came upon a stat unique to Clark. I gave all F1 drivers two seasons as a bedding-in period. Then I examined their win-start records. Remarkably, Clark won every single race in which there was no mechanical fault with the car; he even won on occasions when the car did develop a fault.

    • swarez says:

      Thanks for the comments Roger – I never knew that about him – that’s a truly incredible statistic and a feat no-one is ever likely to match. That puts him in an ever higher echelon of greatness in my opinion. Thanks for dropping by. Cheers. Ed

  11. Dudley Newiss says:

    Making comparisons across different eras is difficult, but one area in which Jim Clark shone was the margins he won by. Today’s champions win by seconds, but Jim usually won by minutes and often lapped the field. In addition, nowadays the GP drivers only compete in F1, whereas in Jim’s era, drivers competed in several categories and he shone in them all. What a pity there wasn’t the safety culture back in 1968 which exists today.

    Dudley Newiss

      • Dudley Newiss says:

        To add to my comments above, in every era there has been a driver who stood above the rest such as Jackie Stewart following Jim Clark’s untimely fatal crash. I think that Jim Clark stood much higher above his contemporaries than those who followed him. He was a clean driver, but I can’t say that about Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso or Sebastian Vettel who appear to drive dangerously to secure a victory.

  12. Chris Hines says:

    I saw Clark race in a Formula One (non-championship) event in Solitude,Germany in 1964. On a wet but drying track he alone used wet tires to get far enough ahead of his competitors (which were dry shod) so that he could later change to drys and still be in the lead. However his pit stop was bungled and he re-entered the race far back in the field. He then, methodically and with characteristic calm, passed each car in front of him and won the race going away. It was the greatest display of racing genius I had ever seen and may have been Clark’s greatest race ever.

  13. David Brown says:

    Jimmy Clark was and still is the greatest Racing driver that’s ever walked the face of this earth….I respect other peoples opinions that differ to this…but their wrong! The stats speak for themselves, and he was as good a human being as he was a racing driver…Senna and the rest aren’t fit to lace his boots. Monza 1967 states all of the above in one go….I never saw Senna achieve a drive like that, not even Donnington in 1993 that a lot of the current generation bleat on and on about. Their lack of acknowledgement to Jimmy just uncovers their ignorance of F1. RIP Jimmy, the greatest of them all!

  14. Leo Würde says:

    Jim Clark was by a league the greatest driver ever. His natural skill, elegance and smoothness compared with unsurpassed speed is unique in the history of motor racing. Races like the 1.000 KM on the Nürburgring in 1962 with the small Lotus Type 23, or the Italian GP 1967 in Monza shows Jimmy Clark at its best…a level that no other driver, before or after, reached again.

  15. Alistair Miller says:

    I was born one month before Jim Clark, and I followed his
    career from beginning to its tragic, untimely end. No one
    else,and I have watched them all, came close to matching
    his skill, and ability to win races in ‘sick’ cars!

    Fangio declared that Jim was the best ever, and I, certainly,concur with his judgement!

  16. irene keane says:

    To be able to watch the best driver race,as I did way back then is to realise how good Jim was,he was and still is my hero

  17. Ken addison says:

    Greatest cheat maybe but not driver Clark stats prove he was the greatest once at a wet spa he lapped the entire field but one and finsihed 5 mins ahead of everyone else and on another ocasion he was 1 lap down after a wheel change went on to unlap and was winning only tor run out of fuel and coasted to third and if he had not had mechanical failure he would have won the world champianship another twice and in only 72 races


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