By Jackie Stewart
I first met him when he stopped at my father’s garage. I was about 19. He was driving a TR2 or 3 — I can’t remember which — but he was on his way back from the Rest-and-be-Thankful hilIclimb. He was dressed the same way as he was when he was going racing, which was usually a pair of flannels with a round-neck sweater, and a collar and tie. We lived in a bungalow, which was connected to the garage. When I saw him through the window, I ran over to the garage. I read all the comics, the motoring magazines, and obviously everybody was talking about him at that time. I was a fan, because I could see he was doing-something important. The next time we met was at Charterhall in about 1960-1, when! was driving the Marcos. He either drove a DBR1 or did a demonstration or something, while I was at the beginning of my little world!
From there our relationship developed rather mildly, as he was a much bigger entity. Later on I got to know him a lot better through Graham Gauld (Clark’s friend and biographer- ed). I went down with Graham to Edington Mains, to see him and later to stay with him, for example when we went to the Borders Motor Racing Club dinner/dance in Berwick-uponTweed. People like Trevor Taylor or Paddy Hopkirk would be there.
One night I recounted to him how I’d missed my braking point at Snetterton, but had managed not to crash. In those days you went into the Bombhole from a lefthander, under the bridge into a righthander. I think I was in something like a CooperMonaco: In those days we all drove two or three cars a day in different classes, and I just got it wrong. I remember going rushing in only to find myself out on the marbles. Somehow I teetered round.
Jim made a fairly pointed statement, “Well you couldn’t have been going fast enough, because if you were on the limit you’d never have made it.” That, maybe, was true, but not necessarily. But he was fairly black and white about it…
At that time I didn’t want to drive single-seaters. My ideal was to drive for somebody like John Coombs, where you’d drive a 3.8-litre Jaguar, or a GTO Ferrari, or lightweight Etype or something like that. That’s where I thought my future lay, because I saw myself working in the garage. I never saw myself getting a professional ride.
VVhen Ken Tyrrell asked me to drive in Formula Three in 1964, I asked Jimmy about it. Jimmy was very clear that if I was going to get into motor racing at all, I had to go to single-seaters, and if I was going that way, then Ken was the best man to go with. Jimmy had driven in Formula Junior against people like John Surtees and Henry Taylor, who were driving for Ken.
That year I was driving at the Daily Express Trophy at Silverstone in a Chequered Flag Lotus Elan, and he was driving an Ian Walker Elan. I didn’t know Silverstone at all, how quick you went at Stowe for example. In those days braking distances were quite important, because brakes were nothing like they are today. And I was driving an F3 car on the same day, and maybe a saloon car too. I asked Jimmy, “What’s your braking distance in the Elan going in there?” And he just wouldn’t tell me. It was in a dismissive way, like “Aye, I don’t know…”
I thought, “Hello, if he doesn’t want to tell me, then we must be kind of on the pace!”
At that time we were starting to share an apartment in London with John Whitmore, in Balfour Place we called it the Scottish Embassy. It was only a two-bedroom apartment, but John also had his country house, and we’d always stay there when we were racing at Brands Hatch.
We started to spend a lot of time together, because of the apartment in London. I got on very well with Jim, but he was always a very private man. Very shy, very frugal almost reclusive though introverted is probably the best word. He was very confident of his own talent, but he totally lacked confidence as an individual. He was always uptight, never totally relaxed.
He could be really quite tense.
We’d never cook, so we’d always be going out for dinner, or going to the movies together. But he could be impossible. For him, the grass was always greener on the other side of the fence. It was, “…why don’t we go and try this one?” Nothing was a case of yes or no. It was always a question of having to try the other. We’d leave it so late that there was never a movie that we got into. It was ridiculous.
Later, of course, there was the famous railway incident, which I’ve recounted ever since. It was in Florida, when we were to drive at Sebring. He was driving, and we got to a singletrack railway crossing, and stopped.
Florida is flat as a pancake, and you could see five miles in either direction. I was wondering what’s going on? There was not a thing in sight, and he said, “What do you think?” For me, that epitomised Jimmy’s lack of decision making, his needing somebody else to help him make a decision.
In 1964 I tested a Lotus F1 car, at the British GP meeting at Brands Hatch. It was at the end of practice; Colin Chapman went to the officials and said “I’d like this guy to do a few laps.” The gearbox was the reverse way round, quite complicated. Later that year I had offers from Lotus and BRM for 1965. I might have gone to Lotus, because of Jim. He thought it would be nice for us. I looked very carefully, and decided that every single driver who’d driven with Jim Clark and Team Lotus had never developed to be anywhere else, like Trevor Taylor and Peter Arundell. And Innes hadn’t done very well out of it either. I thought there was one man in Colin’s eyes, and that was Jim.
His relationship with Colin was the best there’s been in F1. I think Ken and I had a good relationship, but those are the only two examples that I can think of that were extraordinary. Until close to the end I think Jimmy had total belief in Colin, and total trust. Colin drove everything through with high confidence, and with ease.
At BRM I thought I could learn more from Graham Hill than I could from Jim, and I thought I’d get more testing with BRM than Lotus, which proved to be the case. And Colin was very difficult to deal with. He offered me a paltry amount of money, then doubled it, doubled it again and, finally, doubled it again. By then it was more than BRM was offering, but I thought I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I had to look over my shoulder every day. Why didn’t he just give me a decent offer to start with?
At the end of ’64 Jim was injured, throwing snowballs at the Cortina introduction! Colin called me up and asked me to drive an F1 car and a Lotus Cortina at the Rand GP in South Africa in December. I had already agreed to drive for BRM in ’65, so I was under contact. He asked me whether, if they would agree that I could do it, I would? He ‘phoned up Tony Rudd who said it would be OK, because he thought it would give me experience. So I agreed, and went down there with Mike Spence.
It was a brand new Lotus 25, never been raced. It was a lovely car. The big hassle in the saloons was Basil van Rooyen. The thing was that the local hero was going to nail me but his big disappointment was that he wasn’t going to get a chance to nail Jim Clark. This guy nobody had heard of was coming instead. I put the car on pole for the F1 race, and then a driveshaft broke. I still have it in my office. The race was in two parts, I had to start at the back of the grid for the second part, and I won it. Graham won overall.
Jimmy and I were first and second three times in 1965, at Spa, Clermont-Ferrand, and Zandvoort. He, at that time, was head and shoulders above everybody else. And we were driving in F2 as well, so were were going to places like Karlskoga in Sweden, Enna, Rouen, Pau and Albi. So we spent a lot of time together. Then when we went to the Tasman championship, we spent two months together we always stayed in the same hotels, and either shared a suite or had adjoining rooms.
The night before the New Zealand GP we were staying in a hotel in Auckland. Shell, who I was racing with at BRM, wanted a photograph of me with the trophy. They wanted to take it the night before the race with a laurel wreath around my neck, in my racing overalls! They said I had to do it because they were planning full-page advertising in the next day’s papers. I said, “I can’t do that – Jim Clark’s next door and he’s racing too”.
They said, “Well, we’ll just close the door,” and I said, “If we close the door, Jimmy’s going to think I’m up to something. The best thing is to wait until he gets in the shower, and as soon as he does, you can come in, I’ll put the top of my overalls on, with the helmet, the wreath and the trophy.”
We waited until the shower went on, and sure enough, bingo, we got the picture. Just as we finished he came through with a towel wrapped round him, and there’s me standing there with the bloody trophy for the GP the next day. Somewhere I’ve still got this great picture of him with his arm round me. It’s the best picture of Jimmy and I together.
At Indianapolis in ’66, again we had two rooms with connecting doors. We went out a lot, and they called us Batman and Robin. People mixed us up, although more often I was called Jim than him be called Jackie.
He adapted to the American scene pretty well. As time went on, he was getting much better at it, he was much more open, more liberated. He’d become very sophisticated while living as a tax exile in Paris, not only through Jabby Crombac, but a very good friend called Michel Fanquel. They were quite naughty together. Paris opened Jimmy out.
Before a race he used to go and eat with Geoff Murdoch in the Esso motorhome, which in those day was a very flashy thing. He’d always sit down and have a steak and chips, ‘and maybe a fried egg. I had gone to the trouble of finding out what you should eat before a race so that your performance would be improved, but the biggest risk is if you have an accident. With a full stomach it’s much more difficult for a doctor if he has to use an anaesthetic or perform an operation. That never entered Jimmy’s mind it wasn’t an issue. He felt the food gave him strength.
When we left a race in those days, we were always in a big rush. What he hated most was if anybody ever heard us talking about the escape. He thought that was terrible. I’d ask about how we were going to get out of here, and he said don’t let anybody hear us they might think we don’t care!
Jimmy was definitely in the Grand Prix Drivers Association at that time, and he would always give it his support. He never thought it was a bad idea, and was always positive. But Jimmy was never one for driving something like that. I don’t remember him being a Jo Bonnier or even a Graham, but he was definitely behind getting things done. However, I think his awareness of the danger was one of the reasons he never married. I think he did think it could happen to him. He was a kind of a fatalistic person in that respect. He was very conscious of it.
He had a lot of girlfriends, and I think every single one of them thought they were the only one. That was simply not true. He was very charming, and he really went out of his way to look after a girl. I think they each thought they were the only one. Sally Stokes was the long-term one, but there were lots of others who were quite serious, that Sally might not have known about either. I think Sally pushed him very hard to get married, but it was always “I won’t get married as a racing driver.”
I wasn’t doing all the F2 races, so I didn’t go to Hockenheirn in ’68. That weekend I was in Jarama doing a safety inspection. I was out on the track, and somebody drove round and said “Jim Clark’s had a big accident.”
In those days we were so used to very big accidents, but the one thing you asked somebody was, “Yes but is he alright ?,” meaning “It’s not life threatening is it?” They said, “I don’t know, but we know its serious.” Perhaps they didn’t want to tell me, although I don’t know whether they even knew.
I continued my inspection and then went back by road to Madrid, and stopped on the way to make a telephone call to Helen. I think it was at that time I found out that he had died. I’m not sure if I’d been told by then that there was a rumour, but I said “Have you heard?,” and she said “Yes, it seems that Jimmy’s died.” We were moving to Switzerland at that time, but she was still in Scotland. I flew from Madrid up to Geneva, and John Whitmore and I had dinner on the roof of the Intercontinental Hotel. I wanted to go back to Scotland for the funeral, which was difficult because I’d just gone non-resident. We had to get permission from the Prime Minister, and the only condition was that I came in and spoke to nobody about any business. I went by private plane, and then down to Duns. Dan Gurney was there, Graham was there. We went back to the house, and that was it. Then it was straight back the same day to Geneva.
I didn’t know Hockenheim, I’d never been there. All I knew was that it was a long right-hand bend and he’d gone off into the trees. Nobody could understand why he’d gone off the road. There was talk of mechanical failure, or that a tyre had gone down, or that somebody had crossed the road. Most of it was speculation. Jimmy’s was the first of four deaths on almost the same day every month. We had gone through quite a long period of none of us actually getting the chop. If somebody did, it wasn’t a leading driver. Later, I saw an awful lot of it, more probably than anybody else. Of course, you’re horrified. First you see the destruction it causes to everybody else, like the family. It’s never a good situation.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t think it affected me on the track, other than that you suddenly realise you’re doing something pretty silly, and there, sitting next to you, are your own wife and children. I think racing drivers are escapists. They’re not really responsible people in many respects. They can say they’re serious family men, but then they get back into their racing cars, and, in a large percentage of cases, behave like hooligans.
Motor racing is incredible in that respect. When you go back out in the race car you are so totally consumed, the lights go out. You bring your visor down, and it’s rose-coloured glasses for whatever time you’re out there. But it doesn’t stop you from realising what it’s done to others. None of us was worried about ourselves, but it was what it would do to other people. Jimmy really started that, because he was the first big name.
He was the best racing driver I ever raced against, arid I think one of the best drivers in the world. It’s impossible to say the best ever. Was he better than Fangio? You can only be the best of your time. Jim Clark was, without question, the best of his time.
Keep in mind, though, that Colin was producing a car which was unquestionably the best. Jimmy drove better than anybody else, but he also had the very best car out there. I was able to compare the Lotus with the BRM; the BRM felt as if it was two inches above the ground on grip, while the Lotus was six inches underneath the ground. And it had enormous traction. But Jimmy did drive it very well.
People thought that he didn’t operate well under pressure. They blamed his accident at Brands Hatch (at the 1965 Race of Champions -ed) on him not being used to being pressured that hard. He’d made a mistake under pressure. I don’t follow that. Sure, it didn’t happen too often, and maybe he didn’t have a lot of experience under those circumstances — because he’d always be clean away.
I don’t think he was very good technically, but he knew how to explain what he wanted. His talent was smoothness. He could drive so delicately, he could drive in a very unhurried fashion. It was an elegant, subtle way of driving. He just knew how to get the best out of a car. He could do that in a Lotus F1 car, but he could also do it in a Cortina, and he could do it in an IndyCar. Those skills come along every now and again. I certainly didn’t have it when he was there, and it only came to me at a higher level after jim had gone. Only then did I understand what he had. Jackie Stewart was talking to Adam Cooper