On Easter Monday 1965 I sat in the Goodwood chicane grandstand and watched Jim Clark break the lap record as he tried to put some distance between his Lotus-Climax and Graham Hill’s BRM.
It was the last time contemporary Formula 1 cars raced at Goodwood, so Clark’s time — 1 min 20.4sec, matched before the chequered flag by Jackie Stewart — stands as a memorial to the great man.
Later that April afternoon I watched in awe as Clark came back out and won the saloon car race in his Lotus Cortina. The cars had been held on the grid while a hailstorm passed over the circuit, but Clark tore through the puddles and standing water as though the track were dry. Only Jack Sears was anywhere near him, eventually finishing 11 seconds back as the supremely talented Scot took his second win of the day.
Three years later, almost to the day, Clark died in a Formula 2 race at Hockenheim and the accident was never satisfactorily explained. He had won the first Grand Prix of the season, at Kyalami, soundly beating new Lotus team-mate Hill, who went on to win the World Championship. There can be little doubt that Clark, in the superb Lotus 49, would have notched up his third title that year.
I will soon be back at Goodwood for the Revival, one of the highlights being a special tribute to Jim Clark on the 50th anniversary of his first World Championship in 1963. A daily track parade will remind us of the diverse range of cars he drove, including a Lotus Cortina in which he set a few fastest stage times in the 1966 RAC Rally. We can also expect to see his Lotus 25, a Lotus 38 (in which he won the 1965 Indianapolis 500), a Jaguar D-type from his Border Reivers days, the Lotus Elite and Aston Martin DBR1 from his forays at Le Mans and the Ford Galaxie he tamed like no other. These, and many more, will remind us of his extraordinary ability to jump into almost any car and win.
Many thousands of words have been written about Clark and many more will be spoken in tribute at the Revival, where we can expect to see Jackie Stewart, John Surtees, Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks pay their respects alongside us, the fans. I first saw Clark drive in the 1963 Pau Grand Prix, a race he won three years running through to ’65. It was an event that graphically illustrated his incredibly precise, smooth and relaxed style. The slightest mistake on the streets of Pau usually ends in retirement but that day, as ever, he dominated from pole, allowing Lotus team-mate Trevor Taylor to close up as they crossed the line in a formation finish.
Jackie Stewart is far better qualified to describe what it was that made his fellow Scot one of the greatest racing drivers of all time. “He was so smooth and so clean,” saysJackie, “and he drove with such finesse. He never bullied a racing car, he sort of caressed it into doing the things he wanted it to do!’ High praise from JYS, and surely the perfect description of the man who mesmerised those of us lucky enough to have seen him race.
Last year Dan Gurney was honoured with a tribute at the Revival, the American having enjoyed many a battle with Clark. After his son’s death, Clark’s father told Gurney he was the only driver Jim had really feared. As for his other rivals, the Scot often said that he didn’t understand why they were not closer.
The Clark tribute is just one of many reasons to be in Sussex for the 2013 Revival, an event unrivalled anywhere in the world. It is unique, a spectacularly dramatic and enthralling piece of theatre. See you there.
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