Clark and Lotus define an era of brilliant innovation and driving skill. But it is also a deadly decade, prompting Stewart to begin his safety crusade
By Eoin Young

Formula 1 changed forever during the 1960s, as did the world. Front engines were finally phased out. Enzo Ferrari finished with his heroic front-engined cars at the end of the 1960 season – and immediately snatched the world title in ’61 with his new rear-engined car, while the Brits refused to accept that the formula could lose a litre overnight. The British teams believed the 1.5-litre Formula 1 would go away if they refused to accept it and stick with 2.5-litre engines. This heads-in-the-Grand-Prix-sand mood served only to present the 1961 world title to Ferrari on a plate, even if his season came to a stormy end with German aristocrat Wolfgang von Trips being killed at the Italian Grand Prix and a tense American, Phil Hill, inheriting the crown.

Ironically, Stirling Moss would win the last F1 race in a front-engined car with victory in the non-championship Oulton Park Gold Cup in September 1961 in the Ferguson P99. It was not only the last victory for a front-engined car but the only F1 win for a car with four-wheel drive.

If anyone asked me which was my favourite Grand Prix, it was always Monaco, and in the ’60s it still had all the excitement and charm it must have had in the ’30s. Drivers would arrive at the popular Tip Top bar on the swooping downhill approach to Mirabeau after dinner on Sunday night at the palace. In later years the race suffered from its own success and was overtaken by the wrong crowd. I don’t imagine the drivers are allowed near the Tip Top these days!

In the ’60s I never thought it was unusual to walk around the Monaco footpaths during the Grand Prix to get a close-up on the action, never mind being herded into a crowded media centre to watch the race on a tiny TV. Ahead of races it was normal to stand on the grass in front of the grid to get a good close-up of the start… and then walk across to the pitlane.

The Beatles and the Rolling Stones commanded the music world as the ’60s rocked and rolled. George Harrison was a keen motor racing fan. Later, Chris Rea would be too. I remember the movie he made, woven around the death of von Trips. Chris titled it La Passione, commissioned a copy of the Sharknose Ferrari because Enzo had scrapped all the originals, and invited Nigel Roebuck and I to his home cinema for a private premiere. We sat up front and watched the movie while he operated the projector at the back. When it was over and the lights came up, he appeared with a big grin and said in his broad accent, “It’s ooss, isn’t it?”

Jack Brabham won the last championship of the 1950s and the first of the ’60s, and would pioneer putting your own name on the nose of your car, scoring two championships for Brabham in 1966-67, the second with another Kiwi, Denny Hulme. As history would have it, Bruce McLaren also started building his own F1 cars in 1966 but, while Brabham scored immediately, McLaren would struggle.

It was McLaren who won the first Grand Prix of the decade at Argentina in 1960, and a McLaren car would win the last GP of the decade in Mexico – now driven by Hulme.

Having come on strong to win in 1961, Ferrari then typically wobbled for a couple of seasons. It scored again when John Surtees – who had won seven world motorcycle titles, many on Italian MVs – became the only man in history to win World Championships on two wheels and four. He took Ferrari back to the top in 1964. John’s main strength was his fierce belief in himself – always was, always will be. Two years later he argued with team manager Tavoni, and announced he was quitting Ferrari. This was in the summer of ’66, and he asked me to go to Maranello with him when he officially quit. John wanted the Fleet Street papers the next morning to headline ‘Surtees Quits Ferrari’, not to say that Ferrari had sacked him. He was so sure that Ferrari would have him arrested as he came through immigration in Milan that he asked me to carry his briefcase. Fame is a curiously relative quality, and to my amazement I saw it in one of those restaurants that span the Autostrada. We had stopped for a coffee because we were early for the meeting, and while we were in the queue to be served I noticed people nudging and nodding and pointing in our direction. Soon the crowded restaurant exploded into applause. Surtees was a hero in Italy, and no mistake.

In 1962 Graham Hill would win the title for BRM, a team regarded almost as Britain’s equivalent of Ferrari – for either winning or losing heroically. By then the British teams were off the ropes and there were elegant little 1.5-litre V8s from Coventry Climax and BRM. Hill would win the Monaco Grand Prix an incredible five times in the ’60s. Monaco and the original 14½-mile Nürburgring were regarded as the measure of driver skill. While Ferrari swept the board in ’61, the two races it failed to win were the GPs at Monaco and the ’Ring, both claimed by the skill of Moss in his Lotus. By coincidence, Hulme would win at Monaco and the ’Ring on his way to claiming his title in ’67.

Back to BRM. There had been the wildly over-engineered 1.5-litre V16 BRM in the 1950s, a dramatic piece of mechanical art that seldom lived up to its distinctive exhaust shriek. As if to confirm confusion, BRM did it again when the formula doubled to 3 litres in 1966, building another 16-cylinder engine in a hefty ‘H’ formation – effectively two V8s flattened and laid one atop the other. It was far more than the challenge required, and it was somehow fitting that the only time the H16 ever won a GP was in the back of a Lotus at Watkins Glen in ’66, with Jim Clark at the wheel. Sir Jackie Stewart recalls the H16 as being too heavy and having to carry too much oil, too much water and too much fuel in order to lubricate it, cool it and feed it!

Cooper had inherited the mantle of successful engineering, winning GPs as the decade began, but it soon became apparent that the success had stalled and it was Colin Chapman at Lotus who built a lightweight rear-engined car with a Coventry-Climax engine. It became the car to beat, driven by Clark for the works and Moss in a private Lotus for Rob Walker.

Chapman was a martinet and well used to having his own way in designing his cars and running his team. The quirkily named Scotsman Innes Ireland won the first GP for Lotus at Watkins Glen at the end of 1961, but he found himself sacked when Chapman announced his lead driver for ’62 would be another Scotsman, Jim Clark. This was logic with which Ireland couldn’t cope. Innes would have fitted well with Mike
Hawthorn in the ’50s. He liked a good party and wanted to be a winner, but I always felt he was winning for himself and Chapman wanted a driver who would win for Lotus. Clark was his ideal choice. I almost thought that Jim was so good, he wasn’t aware of his ability. He thought he was normal.

I first met Jim (we called him Jimmy then) in teeming rain on the back straight of the Wigram airfield circuit on the outskirts of Christchurch, New Zealand, in January 1961. For reasons now unclear I was standing on the circuit infield soaked to the skin with Wal Willmott, who would later become McLaren’s first team mechanic – although we couldn’t see our involvement so far ahead that rainy afternoon. The Lotus came spinning out of the spray and we stood transfixed, aware later that whichever way we ran would probably be into the path of the gyrating car. He gestured to us to push-start him, but on the soaked grass it was useless. Then he suggested we push-start him on the track (!) and at this point we suggested abandonment as the safest policy.

We walked back to the pits and were friends for the rest of his life.

Whenever I am asked about the driver who most impressed me, I would always name Jimmy, when on reflection I should have been more impressed with Moss, the driver who was the consummate professional racer in an era when the top British drivers tended more towards using their racing as an entree to the parties and the girls. Stirling was a ladies’ man too, but he devoted himself to his talent on the track and the first personal sponsorship contracts. All this ended in the bank at St Mary’s Corner, Goodwood on that Easter Monday in 1962. The crash has forever been a mystery. Stirling was unconscious for weeks and, though he would recover, he had no recollection of the cause of his accident and never raced in F1 again. The way the sport was changing, Moss would forever be a legend, become a knight of the realm, and enjoy more success than most – off and on the track – even though he never won the World Championship. Surviving that accident probably saved his life in a decade where driver deaths seemed monthly and safety was regarded as somehow effeminate. Motor racing was dangerous. It said so on the back of every ticket.

Then Jackie Stewart arrived on the scene, another Scot with skill and speed, but also a fierce desire to survive. To this end he battled for safety harnesses, rollcages that were more than decoration and car construction designed to protect the man who drove it at speed. It seems hard to believe now how unpopular Stewart became among his peers, even though he was trying to save their lives as well as his own. His crusade was prompted by a crash in the rain at Spa in 1966, when his BRM spun off on a river across one of the fastest parts of the ultra-fast circuit made up of public roads. He was trapped in the bent cockpit, soaked in fuel and with a cracked collarbone. It served to focus his attention on his safety crusade. The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association would be formed to bring some sort of agreement between drivers and organisers on safety and survival.

Commitment was one of Stewart’s strengths. Confidence in his own talent was another, and when Chapman offered him a Lotus ride beside Clark in ’65, he chose to join Hill at BRM.

Sir Jackie remembers the situation: “The robustness of the Lotus had a lot to do with my decision, in addition to which the amount of money that Colin offered me to begin with was very small. He doubled it, and when I refused that, he doubled it again, so you can imagine how little it was in the beginning. It ended up that he was offering me more than BRM, but I couldn’t get away from the fact that I thought if he was prepared to wheel and deal to that extent, I might not have the kind of trust and confidence that I could have got out of the management at BRM.”

He would win a few races, but BRM was on the wane and Stewart was winning in Formula 2 with Ken Tyrrell. In 1968 he and Tyrrell put together a deal with Ford for the new Cosworth DFV V8 that would change the face of F1 as the decade closed. He was second in the World Championship in 1968, and champion the following summer.

Underlining Stewart’s commitment and service to sponsors he was with Ford, Rolex and Moët & Chandon for 40 years, and is still with Moët. I remember him practicing and polishing his immaculate autograph signature when he first arrived in F1, and this from a young lad who had left school to work in a Scottish country garage.

Jackie’s dedication with his signature is underlined by the indecipherable signatures of modern drivers. I recall commentator Murray Walker in a race paddock taking particular care of his signature for a fan. “If you ask Michael Schumacher for his autograph, you get a scribble. Ask Murray Walker for his autograph and you get an essay…”

In 1962 Chapman brought his aero engineering experience to designing the first full monocoque chassis in motor sport, and soon every other team had abandoned the simple spaceframe. Formula 1 was now hi-tech.

High finance also came in with Lotus, and I was in the Christchurch garage during the 1968 Tasman Series on the night before the Wigram Trophy when Clark’s 49B received the first commercial livery. The historic green with a yellow central stripe became the colourful look of a Gold Leaf cigarette packet. Sponsorship had arrived, but sadly Jimmy wouldn’t be around to enjoy it. Three months later he was dead, killed in a no-account Formula 2 race in the rain at Hockenheim. It was generally reckoned that Clark, like Moss, was too talented to have an accident and that it must have been a car failure. A tyre problem was eventually blamed.

The new 3-litre F1 formula in 1966 meant another scramble for engines and horsepower. Bruce McLaren had been establishing his command of the Can-Am sports car series in North America, using aluminium Oldsmobile V8s tuned by Traco Engineering in California. When the Grand Prix formula doubled from 1.5 to three litres, Bruce was superbly placed to capitalise on his engine experience in Can-Am. But what happened? Bruce decided to accept the offer of free four-cam Indianapolis Ford V8s which he would battle to reduce to three litres, a battle he would never win. Jack Brabham, meanwhile, plucked the Oldsmobiles down to Australia where Repco turned them into instant winners. Repco powered Brabham to be champion in 1966 and Hulme in ’67, while McLaren struggled from failure to failure.

Brabham had won the World Championships in 1959-60 and six years later he was champion again, even though he was reckoned to be too old at 40. He walked to the grid of the Dutch GP wearing a false beard and hobbling on a stick to make light of the situation.

Walter Hayes was the polished and perceptive Director of Public Affairs at Ford who was persuaded by Chapman to invest £100,000 in an F1 engine from Keith Duckworth and Mike Costin at Cosworth Engineering for the exclusive use of Lotus. It would become the GP bargain of the century, never mind the decade. Clark won first time out with the compact, powerful new V8 in the back of his Lotus 49 in the Dutch GP at Zandvoort in ’67, and three more wins would come his way that summer. Hayes could see the value in making the motor available to other teams at a modest, perhaps subsidised £7500 and they queued for Ford power in ’68. It would change the face of Formula 1 for a generation.

Chris Amon was the third Kiwi on the Grand Prix scene, having started the decade racing his 250F Maserati in New Zealand as a teenager, where he was spotted and signed by Reg Parnell. He was driving in the first F1 race he saw, aged 19! Bruce McLaren realised his countryman’s talent and signed him for an F1 drive that staggered with the awful Indy Ford engine fiasco of ’66. When an offer came from Enzo Ferrari, Amon moved to Italy for three seasons without a glimmer of success. If Moss was the greatest driver never to win the championship, Christopher was the greatest driver never to win a Grand Prix.

I was another of the Kiwi brigade in F1 during the ’60s, arriving in 1961 and touring the European Formula Junior season with Denny Hulme and his Cooper. He imagined me to be a mechanic but soon discovered that I had been a bank clerk, now determined to be a motor sport journalist. I had been covering the New Zealand international races for Motoring News and also reported on those 1961 FJ races for the weekly paper. I realised later in my career how fortunate I had been to meet the world of European racing as a mate of Denny’s. I wrote the report of my first race at Rouen and asked Denis Jenkinson – having been introduced to the Motor Sport doyen by Denny as a mate not as a journalist – if he would deliver my report to Motoring News, then in the same publishing house. No problem, he said, and duly did. It was only later that I discovered he never acknowledged the existence of the weekly stablemate, and this was the first favour he had ever given them.

The following season McLaren asked me to be his secretary and, when he won the first GP we went to in Monaco, I decided I’d made the right career choice. I was a founder director of the new McLaren team and, as Ron Dennis recently reported, only Ferrari and McLaren have survived since the ’60s. I set up my own business in 1966 working with the team via sponsors. At Monaco Bruce asked me to go down the pitlane and invite some of the other drivers to dinner, and the table that evening looked like a sitting-down grid, all enjoying each other’s company. This was the norm, a measure of a camaraderie long forgotten in the modern era, when drivers barely acknowledge each other’s existence, never mind dining with rivals from other teams.

Jackie Stewart remembers the fragility and friendship of pitlane life in the ’60s: “They were turbulent years because of the enormous fatality rate the sport was enduring, and I would have to say that from a boy you became a man very quickly. We travelled together, hotelled together, partied together and holidayed together. The GPDA meetings took place at every Grand Prix and the GPDA really had power and influence in those days, as indeed it had to have, because many of the issues which should have been handled by the sport’s governing body, specifically safety, were not being looked after correctly. However many accidents there were and however many deaths that occurred, the spirit within the sport was incredibly strong. Keep in mind that the statistics at that time, between ’68 and ’73 for example, provided a driver like myself with a one in three chance of living and a two in three chance of being killed. With what we have today and how the sport has developed, the modern Grand Prix driver would not have a clue of what we had to deal with in those days…”

Hollywood director John Frankenheimer strode through Formula 1 during the summer of 1966, building replica cars to recreate his Grand Prix script and staging special races on circuits between the real GPs – even painting the ill-fated McLaren in the livery of a Japanese team. We hated the result. It never reflected what racing was really like. When Steve McQueen arrived a few summers later to shoot his Le Mans movie, we knew this would be the right stuff. It wasn’t. It made Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix epic almost a record of the centre of a racing decade. A memory of 10 years in motor racing that I’m glad I didn’t miss.

That was the decade that was

1960 Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy take part in the first televised presidential debate – Kennedy later becomes the youngest elected US president aged 43, Cassius Clay wins his first professional fight, and Alfred Hitchcock releases Psycho. Jack Brabham and Cooper win a second World Championship, while Ferrari stays with front-engined cars. Alan Stacey and Chris Bristow are killed at Spa.

1961 Construction of the Berlin Wall begins, war starts in Vietnam, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space and The Beatles play the Cavern Club. Phil Hill wins world title in a rear-engined Ferrari 156 ‘Sharknose’ but team-mate Wolfgang von Trips is killed at Monza. Giancarlo Baghetti becomes the first – and so far only – driver to win his maiden Grand Prix.

1962 The Cuban Missile Crisis threatens world peace, Marilyn Monroe dies, the Rolling Stones make their debut at London’s Marquee Club and The Beatles release Love Me Do. Graham Hill wins the world title for BRM, while Jim Clark scores his first GP victory. Stirling Moss crashes at Goodwood, ending his F1 career, and Ricardo Rodríguez is killed in Mexico.

1963 Martin Luther King delivers his “I have a dream” speech, John F Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, the first Bond film Dr No is shown in US cinemas and the first episode of Doctor Who is broadcast in the UK. Jim Clark claims the championship with Chapman’s monocoque Lotus 25, winning seven out of 10 races.

1964 Muhammad Ali is crowned heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life imprisonment in South Africa, America passes a Civil Rights Act, and The Beatles get to number one in America with I Want to Hold Your Hand. John Surtees becomes the only man ever to win the world title on both two wheels and four, his Ferrari pipping Graham Hill’s BRM to the post.

1965 The Vietnam War escalates, civil rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated, there are race riots in Los Angeles, and Ian Brady and Myra Hindley appear in court charged with murder. Jim Clark and Lotus dominate the World Championship and win the Indianapolis 500, while Jackie Stewart wins his first Grand Prix.

1966 England wins the World Cup, demonstrations are held across the US against the Vietnam War, John Lennon meets Yoko Ono, Chairman Mao launches his Cultural Revolution in China, and Star Trek hits TV screens. Jack Brabham makes history by winning the world title in a car of his own construction, the Brabham-Repco. New 3-litre formula is introduced.

1967 The Beatles release Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Six-Day War breaks out in the Middle East, Che Guevara is executed, and Christian Barnard carries out the world’s first heart transplant. The Brabham team wins the title again, this time with Denny Hulme, while Lorenzo Bandini is killed in the Monaco GP and privateer Bob Anderson dies in testing at Silverstone.

1968 Martin Luther King is shot dead in Memphis, US presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy is shot in Los Angeles and dies the next day, and Manchester United becomes the first English team to win the European Cup Final. Corporate sponsorship arrives in F1 with Gold Leaf Team Lotus for whom Graham Hill wins the championship. Team-mate Jim Clark is killed in an F2 race at Hockenheim.

1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first men on the Moon, Charles Manson and his gang are arrested for the murder of film star Sharon Tate among others, Judy Garland dies of a drug overdose, and rock fans gather at Woodstock. In F1 it’s the year of the high wings and aerofoils, later banned after several big accidents. Jackie Stewart in a Matra wins his first World Championship.

DSJ on...
1965 British Grand Prix, Motor Sport, August 1965

It was a magnificent start, with the Lotus of Clark and Ginther’s Honda surging ahead. They went into Copse side by side, with the Lotus being squeezed against the wall on the inside. The cheeky Ginther held his place and for once Clark did not get the lead on the first corner, and, in fact, it was not until Hangar Straight that Clark got ahead.

Once in front he gave it all he had and finished the opening lap well in the lead, but there were a lot of determined drivers behind him. Hill and Surtees got by the Honda on lap two and the BRM driver was practically holding the leading Lotus, but Surtees could not keep up and Ginther began to worry him…

…Shortly after 50 laps Clark’s Climax began to develop a small misfire, as if the fuel injection pump pressure was not the full 100 lb/sq inch. This encouraged the BRM pit, who transmitted the information to Hill. All eyes were on the slightly sick sounding Lotus and the healthy sounding BRM, but there was nearly half a lap between them.

Slowly but surely the gap began to close and the situation began to get tense, for in addition to the misfire the Climax was losing oil and the level of the tank was now so low that it was surging away from the feed pipe on corners, with a resultant loss of pressure. The crafty Clark was coasting round the corners and only using power on the straights while he had pressure on the oil gauge.

Clark was looking anxiously in his mirrors and driving as hard as he dare, without risking blowing up the engine. As he started his last lap Hill had him in sight, and as the Lotus went into Copse Clark could see the BRM, but he obviously had command of the situation as when he finished the 80th lap he was virtually the same distance ahead, officially 3.2sec.

It had been a close thing. Had Clark not driven with such determination in the first half he might not have been able to nurse the Lotus to the finish ahead of Hill for his fourth consecutive British GP victory, for the BRM driver set a new lap record on the last lap.