Thank you for the ‘Jim Clark’ issue of Motor Sport. It really did tell a very true story about him and you obviously spoke to all the right people to put it together so convincingly.
You may have ruffled a few Borders feathers by describing Duns and Chirnside as hamlets; Duns celebrated the 500th anniversary of the granting of its royal burgh charter three years ago, and Chimside houses the largest industrial complex in Berwickshire (every time you drink a cup of tea, the paper the tea-bag is made from probably started life there!). Graham’s tale of the test day we had at Brands, when Border Reivers was contemplating the acquisition of the ‘Mini-Vanwall’ front-engined Lotus, wasn’t quite complete. What I actually said to Colin (who had clearly never read about Jimmy’s exploits in the Reivers D-type) was: “Yeah, not bad for a chap who hasn’t been to Brands before and never sat in a single-seater before.” Colin suddenly went ashen-white and said “Bring him in before he kills himself!” After five laps, Jimmy’s times had equalled those of Cliff Allison, Graham Hill and Innes Ireland, all of whom were present and had driven it on the same day. Colin was obviously worried that this was a boy-racer over-stretching himself. A rear suspension strut broke, which is what caused Graham’s crash four laps later, and I remember being told subsequently thal it took them the best end of a week to find the missing wheel/ suspension unit, lodged in the branches of a tree!
Jimmy’s ability to get his lap times down so quickly in an unfamiliar car on an unfamiliar circuit was incredible, right from that fateful day when I gave him my helmet and told him to have a go in practice at Crimond. Within five laps he was three seconds a lap quicker than me after I’d spent half an hour practising to get my best time. (I found that helmet in a cupboard the other day, an old motorcycle ‘corker’.)
That day at Brands was very much a watershed in Jimmy’s career. I persuaded Colin to let Jim have a drive in the prototype Elite which was being tested by Mike Costin at the same time. When Jimmy came in, he was grinning like a Cheshire cat, and said, “That was much more fun than the single-seater.” There and then, in the paddock at Brands Hatch, I replied by saying that if he would buy my old Porsche, then I would buy him an Elite for the 1959 season. He looked at me, clearly astonished, not believing that I would actually buy a car specifically for him to race, and was so clearly happy when I confirmed the offer that we shook hands there and then. Next stop was Brands Hatch on Boxing Day, where his dice with Colin convinced him that Jim had to be a potential Team Lotus member. Pro tern, he asked me to enter the Elite for Le Mans and the Autosport championship.
One error I noticed (and have also spotted in another publication) was in the caption to the photo of the DBR1 at the Le Mans start in 1961: Jimmy was in a Border Reivers car and we were very proud to have an all-Scottish entry with Ron and Jim. There was quite a rivalry between Ecurie Ecosse and Border Reivers and the ‘opposition’ had always tended to claim to be the Scottish motor racing team.
it’s a pity so few of the good photographs from that era were in colour, but they had to be good in black and white to be published, and they do often capture the action better.
I thought that Graham, Bernard and Peter made a wonderful job of organising the Jim Clark Reunion Weekend and I reckon Jimmy, up there, must have been granted control of the taps for the duration and would certainly have approved the format and enjoyed such a gathering.
I haven’t, I’m ashamed to admit, read Motor Sport recently, but congratulations on a much-improved publication. I’ve enjoyed reading it from cover to cover.
Bernard Buss mentioned something about hamlets at the Clark Festival. I really only meant to suggest that the towns have an engaging natural tranquility in comparison to so many places that Jimmy ventured. No offence intended; I shall drink even more tea to make amends!
Re the error, I used the same reference that you read! D J T