1963 & '65: Jim Clark

Back in Australia in early 1966, when I was 13 and the world seemed to go on forever, the talk among my buddies was of The Beatles and Vietnam. For me, though, the long summer holidays (December through to late February) brought another focus: midday on sun-filled Saturdays – and therefore hopefully allowing for the time difference to New Zealand – I’d spend hours ‘tuning’ my trannie to find news of the weekend’s Tasman race.

I succeeded rarely. There’d be the occasional crackle of a mention that included a ‘Jackie Stewart’ or a ‘Graham Hill’ but for the most part I sat alone in my room, turning over endless scenarios of what might be transpiring at Pukekohe while my mates went surfing or ‘jumped’ the Manly ferries.

Then it struck me. Jim Clark, at some point, must fly in to Sydney. Warwick Farm’s International 100 was scheduled for mid-February. I’d go to Mascot to meet him. I’d wait there until the drivers arrived.

I rang Qantas; and, those being the days when airlines loved to help, I was asked to wait. “Hello. Yes. A Mr J Clark is flying to Sydney from Auckland on Monday.” I trembled with excitement – but would it be the real Jim Clark?

I went for the clincher: “Could you tell me if there is a Mr J Stewart on that flight, too?” “One second. Yes. A Mr J Stewart is also on the manifest.” I wore my school uniform, I remember. I walked to Manly wharf, caught the ferry, alighted at Circular Quay, took three buses – and then I was there. Mascot Airport. Gum trees and concrete. Holdens and Valiants meandering into the new car park. I walked into the terminal. To my surprise, Geoff Sykes was there – Geoff the legendary promoter of the Warwick Farm circuit. I was delighted to see that he, too, was in a jacket and tie.

I waited nervously, sick with tension. Jackie Stewart emerged first. Jackie, wearing light blue short-sleeved shirt and dark trousers. And there was Jim behind him. Suntanned; red and white shortsleeve shirt; tan slacks. Quickly a group formed around Geoff. I recognised Bill Bryce, the New Zealand journalist/manager. And there was Graham Hill…

I stood in the background, staring at Jim. He was shaking hands with Geoff, laughing at the jokes of Graham and Jackie. A few minutes passed. People began to move. Then Geoff waved me forwards. “Oh. Jim, Jackie: I’d like you to meet Peter Windsor, a young man who helps us from time to time in the club ofices.”

I shook their hands. Jim, I remember, said: “Will I see you at the race this weekend?” I stammered something in the affirmative. And, with that, they were off. I saw Jim win at Warwick Farm a few days later: his green and yellow Lotus 39 dominated. Morosely riding the top deck of the 387 bus to school on the Monday afterwards, sick with anticlimax,

I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: I wanted to work in motor racing. I wanted never to wake up on a Monday morning with that backtoschool feeling. I wanted to write. I wanted perhaps to manage drivers, to run a team. My compass north was Jim Clark.

To me, he was the motor racing world. And so I travelled to Mascot again in 1968, this time with my father in our white Zephyr Six. Jim was leaving Australia on this occasion; it was early March. The Tasman Series had again been won. Jim was heading for Chicago and then to Indy, where he would test the new Lotus 56 turbine wedge car. Geoff was there to say farewell, together with Mary Packard and John Stranger from the AARC office.

I shook Jim’s hand and wished him luck for the season to come. Then I ran upstairs with my Dad to watch him fly in the PanAm 707. It didn’t. It taxied back to the terminal. Jim and the other passengers filed back inside. My dad and I were almost alone in the arrivals lounge. “You’re still here!” said Jim. “Good.

The lights’ been delayed. Come and have a cup of coffee or something.” We went upstairs to the restaurant. Jim drew up an extra chair for an attractive light attendant. And then we spoke for 20 minutes or so. I asked him about the weekend’s wet Tasman race at Longford – “the conditions were terrible; it was almost too wet to race. I was very happy for Piers, though. He really deserved to win…”; about what he was doingnext - “testing at Indy, then back to Europe for a couple of F2 races before the F1 season begins”; and about why he wore a dark blue peak on his helmet in the 1964 Dutch and 1966 Mexican GPs – “I broke the white one and had to borrow one. That’s all I could get….”. I then told Jim about my ambitions.

Did he think it would be possible for me to work in motor sport? “Of course,” he said. “If you really want it badly enough. Just never give up. That’s all. Never give up.”

“We’ve taken enough of your time,” said dad, sensing that Jim would like some private space with said flight attendant. “We should be going. Come on Pete, let’s give Mr Clark some peace and quiet.”

I left reluctantly, remembering that last thumbnail: Jim, his hair slightly longer than in previous years, his suntanned face a little more lived-in, smiling that smile, laughing that laugh.

Always polite. Always humble. It was difficult to imagine that he was, too, the ferociously fast racing driver who only a few weeks before had been balancing a Gold Leaf Lotus 49 on a knife-edge right by my lag post at The Farm, dark blue Buco leaning left, fingertips guiding the wheel. That he was the driver who would never give up. Never. Even when he was dealing with the savage resistance of a Lotus 30, or competing in some minor F2 race somewhere in Germany, in the wet, between the trees, with handling that didn’t feel right.

Those two Clarks will never be married in my mind; there will always exist the dichotomy. And so I live with images born in the Australian sun, in golden days at Warwick Farm, against a backdrop of a ribbon of Tarmac, green grass, blue sky, white picket fencing, gum trees, lags, bunting and girls in mini dresses, head scarves and Wayfarers. And of a racing driver, nervously biting his nails, adding new depth to what my young mind understood greatness to be.

GRANDS PRIX: 72
POLE POSITIONS: 33
FASTEST LAPS: 28
WINS: 25
CHAMPIONSHIPS: 2
OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS: 1965 Indianapolis 500 (1st), many saloon car victories

From the Archives
Nobody was more pleased with this Lotus victory by reliability, and hard driving by Clark, than Colin Chapman and his mechanics, for with wins at Zandvoort, Spa, Reims, Silverstone and Monza it made Lotus the undisputed champion manufacturers of 1963, and Clark the undisputed Champion Driver for 1963, and if you add on a second place at Indianapolis and first place at Milwaukee you have a driver/car combination that must be champion regardless of any points system.
Denis Jenkinson, October 1963

To vote for Jim Clark as your favourite driver, go to www.motorsportmagazine.com/worldchampions