Jim Clark wasn’t just a master behind the wheel, his chief mechanic tells Rob Widdows
Jim Endruweit was Jim Clark’s chief mechanic. Life in the Grand Prix pitlane doesn’t get much better than that. Very few of these guys get to work with the Gods.
Jim went to Team Lotus in 1958 and stayed for 10 years, becoming chief mechanic on the Grand Prix cars at the team’s new race shop in Hethel. He thinks back over four decades, happy to share some memories of one of the true greats of Grand Prix racing. Jim was a huge fan of Jimmy Clark, as were all the Lotus mechanics.
“He was just such a nice guy,” smiles Jim, “and they’d all give their eye teeth to work for him. Jimmy made it all so easy – he was a thinker, and he knew what he wanted from the car. He had this tremendous natural ability, he could drive anything. I remember that at Rouen there was some event going on for veteran cars and one of the owners asked Jimmy if he’d like to give this old car [ERA ‘Remus’] a try. He’d never even seen the car before but within three laps he was miles faster than the owner had ever been. And the car wasn’t even sweating, you know. He could simply race anything.”
The bond between Clark and Colin Chapman was a key factor in the success of Team Lotus. They were very close.
“Yes, Jimmy was not very good at describing exactly what the car was doing,” says Jim.
“But Colin could always interpret what he was trying to say. It was a tremendous thing to see, this communication between them; they could sort things out almost without talking. They had this special bond and it made everything that much easier. When Trevor Taylor joined the team Jimmy would always help get the car sorted. He was a nice lad, Trevor, but the old man would ask Jimmy to do a few laps in his car if there were problems in practice or something.”
Jim remembers a race at the Nürburgring as one of the finest examples of Clark’s God-given ability.
“He was on the front row, with Gurney, Hill and Surtees, but he fluffed the start. He forgot to switch the fuel pump on and stalled it, getting away last. But he made up so much ground over those long laps, catching the leading bunch every time round, until there was hardly a gap to Gurney, Hill and Surtees. It was incredible, with the rain and fog, but it was a proper track and he had it taped. Then suddenly he wasn’t getting any closer. Afterwards I asked him what happened. ‘I got it sideways and slid all the way down the road so I decided to settle for fourth,’ he said. That was Jimmy, always a thinker. He could lose a lap and still win, and I remember him doing that at Monza.”
But not all his fondest memories are from the circuits.
“I used to fly with Jimmy in his Twin Commanche and he flew like he drove – very calmly, nothing showy, no excitement. But on one trip we were landing at a military airbase in Germany, and suddenly there was all this shouting over the radio, and it didn’t sound good. So we kept flying straight and then we saw a bunch of Starfighters heading for our runway. We watched them come in, then over the radio came ‘yes, Mr Clark, come in now, please,’ and Jimmy just landed very calmly, no fuss. That was him.”
Jim, like all the Scot’s mechanics, loved not only Clark the racer, but also the man.
“He was one of nature’s gentlemen,” says Jim. “He hardly ever raised his voice and he never threw his weight about. He inspired such great loyalty in everyone who worked for him; the lads would do anything for him, whatever it took. There’d be another all-nighter, but nobody complained if it was for Jimmy. We knew he’d probably go out and win the race on the Sunday.”
Everybody loves a winner, especially mechanics.
Jim Endruweit joined Lotus in 1958 and became one of Colin Chapman’s most trusted men, rising to the post of chief mechanic and then engineering director. Jim is now happily retired and still lives in Norfolk.