Three-car trick

Jim Clark was at the height of his powers in 1965 — no matter which car or what conditions, he seemed unbeatable. Gordon Cruickshank recalls a ‘typical’ day

Snow, hail and a sidelined champion; doesn’t sound like the recipe for a sensational raceday. But that was Easter Monday Goodwood, 1965: bitter winds, frozen crowd – and a multi-discipline hat-trick for a farmer from Duns.

Headlining the meeting was the F1 International Trophy. Despite it being a non-championship race, it had a first-class field. All the top runners were there – barring the world champion. Ferrari wasn’t wasting money with no points to be had, so John Surtees came only to drive his Lola sportscar.

Jim Clark’s Lotus 33 arrived with new four-valve heads, which he hoped would give him an edge over the on-song BRMs of Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart. Practice saw his lap record broken by five people, with he and Stewart tying for pole…

But first, other business. Shivering F3 drivers saw sleet stop play, and the delay cut the saloon race from 10 to five laps, “In the interests, not of safety,” snarled Jenks, “but the great god television.” Fair point; these close-fought saloon tussles were a highlight for the crowd, who could watch F1 superstars thrashing the bolts off a car like theirs. That day it was Lotus Cortinas against the brawn of Mike Salmon’s Mustang and the pint-size cheek of the Minis; one of each on the front row, one of which had Clark aboard. This was a warm-up; one of three races he had been entered for. The rain washed away Salmon’s V8 power advantage as Clark and team-mate Jack Sears splashed to a runaway 1-2 result.

Wet-and-dry practice had jumbled the F1 grid, though Clark and Hill had front-row slots. So while Hill’s BRM leapt in front of Jimmy, it was Dan Gurney’s Brabham that pulled a blinder from the third row to tag onto the lead pair. But in five laps Clark took control, and as Hill, Gurney and JYS swapped places behind, he turned in another of those sublime, relaxed and utterly dominating drives, and sailed to victory number two.

Now came the cooling-down performance, stepping into the difficult Lotus 30, that knee-high bar of soap nobody could tame. Except the quiet Scotsman, who led from the flag to the sportscar’s first serious win. Even a flying Bruce McLaren with Olds V8 power trailed. Clark looked unspectacular and unhurried; but his best lap was only four-tenths off his new F1 record.

Three races, three utterly different machines, the same unshowy, understated skill mediating between eyes and fingertips. And a triple reward for the hardy Goodwood onlookers.