Biography by Andrew Tulloch – Assistant Curator Jim Clark Memorial Room
Jim Clark was born on the 4th March 1936 in Kilmany in Fife where his father, also James Clark, had a farm. Jim was the only boy in the family, and the youngest with four elder sisters. In 1942 the Clarks moved to the farm at Edington Mains just outside Chirnside in Berwickshire. Although technically a Fifer Jim became very much a Borderer, spending his formative years in the area. He was educated initially at Chirnside before going to Clifton Hall prep school in Edinburgh and then finally at Loretto School just outside the city.
Jim left school in 1952 to work on the family farm. At this time he had no intention of being a racing driver. As a farmer’s son he had been driving cars and tractors since he was a child. He was already interested in racing and was a regular reader of Autosport but the thought of being a racing driver was not yet there. However that was to change slowly. In 1953 he obtained a full driving license, joined the Ednam Young Farmers Club and met Ian Scott-Watson in the process. Although he did not yet know it, he was about to be steered towards his future career.
The Early Years
Initially his motor sport consisted of club events; local rallies, driving tests and similar events, nothing that could be described as a race. His first actual race was in June 1956 when Ian Scott-Watson entered his DKW Sonderklasse in a race meeting in Crimond near Fraserburgh. He also secretly entered Jim in the sports car race. Jim had always been reluctant to race near home as his parents felt motor racing was frivolous, expensive and dangerous. Crimond was far enough away from home that it seemed they wouldn’t find out. As a novice, and in a car that wasn’t really competitive in such a race, it was no surprise that Jim came last in the race, but his times were so good that Ian was penalised in the handicap race. The organisers deemed that Ian had been “sandbagging” in practice to improve his chances of victory.
Jim did not race again until September of 1957. This time it was at Charterhall in Berwickshire and Jim competed in three races, winning the final one, the BMRC Trophy. He defeated Jock McBain, a local garage owner, but one who was also a very experienced racing driver. As the experienced driver, racing in the most powerful car Jock was the clear favourite and it was a huge feat for Jim to win race.
The Border Reivers
Another result of this victory was the reformation of the Border Reivers racing team. Jock put up the finance and the resources of his garage behind the team and Ian was to be the secretary. Jim was the main driver, other drivers being recruited locally, most of which were farmers. None of them were paid to race although there was some prize money to be won.
Over the next two years Jim raced for the Reivers in Britain and increasingly in continental Europe. Highlights of this period included his win at Full Sutton in April 1958 when he became the first driver to average 100mph in a British sports car race. The following month saw his first continental race at Spa where Archie Scott Brown was killed. At the end of the year on Boxing Day he raced against Colin Chapman. Both were driving Elites and Jim was very unlucky to finish second. The following summer the Border Reivers entered an Elite in the Le Mans 24 Hours race. Jim was partnered with Sir John Whitmore. They finished 10th overall and 2nd in class.
Jim had been really unknown when he started racing with the Reivers but by the end of the 1959 he was signed up to the Aston Martin Grand Prix team. They unfortunately failed to produce their car but he was also signed to Lotus to race in Formula Junior with the possibility of driving for the Lotus Grand Prix team as well. 1960 was a year of success; Jim won the Formula Junior Championship and raced in four Grand Prix for Lotus including finishing 3rd in the Portuguese GP. This was despite driving a car that had been rebuilt after practice, and one which was really only held together with glue and masking tape!
Lotus Grand Prix Team
From 1961 onwards Jim was a fixture in the Lotus Grand Prix team and by the end of the season he was their main driver. In this year he won the non-championship Grand Prix at Pau. Soon after the start of the 1962 season Colin Chapman revolutionised his single-seater car designs with the introduction of the monocoque Lotus 25. Jim went onto to win four Grand Prix and came second in the World Championship missing out to Graham Hill in the final raced when an oil leak forced him to retire from the South African GP.
1963 was even better; Jim won seven out of ten World Championship Grand Prix, winning the championship with three races to spare. At 27 years old he was the then youngest ever World Champion. More than this he had also become a well known figure in the US. Lotus had entered the Indy 500 with Jim finishing second on his first attempt at an oval circuit.
Another World Championship was to follow in 1965. Jim even missed out on the Monaco GP this year to concentrate on Indianapolis. This was a good decision as he was to dominate the race, leading 190 of the 200 laps and finishing over two laps ahead of his nearest rival.
Jim didn’t win another World Championship after 1965 but he was still the man to beat. Even with an uncompetitive car he won one Grand Prix in 1966 with the Lotus 43. The development of the Lotus 49 in 1967showed that he would be the driver to beat in 1968 if he had not been killed at Hockenheim in a Formula 2 race on the 7th April.
Jim Clark’s Racing Statistics
Today top drivers are judged, at least by the media, almost solely on their abilities in Formula 1 but in the 1960s a racing driver had to be an all rounder, comfortable in most forms of motor sport. At Grand Prix meetings they often drove in the support races as well. Jim competed and excelled in most forms of driving; in 1964 he was British and French Formula 2 champion and British Saloon Car champion too.
Although more recent drivers have won more races at Formula 1 level Jim was competing in an era where there were only 8-10 Championship races a season. During his career he competed in 72 Championship Grand prix, winning 25 of them. In addition between 1960 and his death he won another 24 non-championship Grand Prix, plus winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1965. This resulted in two Word Championships in 1963 and 1965 plus two seconds places in 1962 and 1964, both of which were decided in the last race of the season. It is even more impressive when you consider that this was in an era with less reliable cars than today and Colin Chapman’s Lotus cars while brilliant designs were also noted for being more likely to break.
Another feature of Jim’s ability was that when he did not win he had often not finished the race. In his Grand Prix career he only had one second place. Some of Jim’s wins and minor places were occurred when he was nursing an ailing car and only his ability got it to the finish line. In 1967 he was third in the World Championship, but he actually won more races than anyone else; four compared to the champion’s two wins. Unfortunately while the Lotus 49 was very fast it was still unreliable.