A classic race battle and a rare mistake from Jimmy

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Speaking of Jim Clark reminds me of the day he made a mistake. Yes, really. It must have happened pretty often. Nobody is perfect. But in Jimmy’s case the shock of seeing him make a driving error led the packed crowd on the South Bank hillside at Brands Hatch simply to roar with disbelief. It was in March 1965 at the inaugural non-championship Brands Hatch Race of Champions.

Jimmy in his latest Lotus-Climax 33 had won the first 40-lap heat by 20 seconds from Dan Gurney’s works Brabham BT11. From the start of the second heat, black-helmeted Dan was pressing Jimmy ever harder for the first 10 laps. It was fantastic stuff to watch, Clark’s yellow-striped apple green Lotus inches ahead of big Dan’s dark green Brabham as they hurtled round the valley circuit faster and faster.

Then under the most intense pressure from the lanky Californian, Jimmy carried a little too much speed on the downhill approach to Bottom Bend. Suddenly he was off on the uncharted infield grass, the Lotus bucking and bouncing over the uneven tuffets. With the tail sliding he fought to arc round to the left to regain the track surface, but just at the crucial moment he ran out of the space to make it. There was an angled safety bank protecting a short service road leading up to the top end of the pits. And with a tremendous crummpp! that beautiful, elegant Lotus was reduced to virtual scrap, its right front wheel and suspension bounding away across the track.

The entire right side and front end of the monocoque had collapsed, but such was the advantage of that type of construction in those days that Jimmy was able to clamber free with nothing much worse than battered pride. The original Lotus 33 chassis R10 was history – and we all noted the score for that heat as Gurney 1, Clark 0.

Ho hum – as I said, nobody’s perfect… The great thing was that Clark himself would have been the first to say as much.