Clark and Lotus
Jim Clark made his F1 Grand Prix debut, part-way through the season, at the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort on June 6, 1960. “Lotus had lost Surtees, as he had gone to the Isle of Man to do some serious motorcycle racing, so they had Ireland, Stacey and Clark, the last-named being an acceptable substitute.” He retired on lap 49 with final drive failure.
Early in his career in the 1960 Belgian Grand Prix, his second ever Formula One race, at the extremely fast and dangerous Spa-Francorchamps circuit, he got a taste of reality when there were two fatal accidents at that race (Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey). Clark was later quoted as saying in a 1964 interview: “I was driving scared stiff pretty much all through the race”, even though he finished 5th and scored his first points finish. The next year, Jim Clark was involved in one of the worst accidents in the history of Formula 1 racing. In the 1961 Italian Grand Prix on September 10 at Monza, Wolfgang von Trips in his Ferrari collided with Jim Clark’s Lotus. Trips’ car became airborne and crashed into a side barrier, fatally throwing von Trips out of the car, killing fifteen spectators.
His first Drivers’ World Championship came driving the Lotus 25 in 1963, winning seven out of the ten races and Lotus its first Constructors’ World Championship. That year he also competed in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time, and only the oil on the track from winner Parnelli Jones’s car prevented him from winning, as he finished in second position and won Rookie of the Year honours. In 1964 Clark came within just a few laps of retaining his World Championship crown, but just as in 1962, an oil leak from the engine robbed him of the title, this time conceding to John Surtees. Tyre failure damaging the Lotus’ suspension put paid to that year’s attempt at the Indianapolis 500. He made amends and won the Championship again in 1965 and also the Indianapolis 500 in the Lotus 38.
He had to miss the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix in order to compete at Indianapolis, but made history by driving the first mid-engined car to win at the fabled “Brickyard,” as well as becoming the only driver to date to win both that race and the F1 title in the same year.
At the same time, Clark was competing in the Australasia based Tasman series, run for older F1 cars, and was series champion in 1965, 1967 and 1968 driving for Lotus. He won fourteen races in all, a record for the series.
The FIA decreed from 1966, new 3-litre engine regulations would come into force. Lotus were less competitive. Starting with a 2-litre Coventry-Climax engine in the Lotus 33, Clark did not score points until the British Grand Prix and a third place at the following Dutch Grand Prix. From the Italian Grand Prix onwards Lotus used the highly complex BRM H16 engine in the Lotus 43 car, with which Clark won the United States Grand Prix. He also picked up another second place at the Indianapolis 500, this time behind Graham Hill.
During 1967 Lotus and Clark used three completely different cars and engines. The Lotus 43 performed poorly at the opening South African Grand Prix, so Clark used an old Lotus 33 at the following Monaco Grand Prix, retiring with suspension failure. Lotus then began its fruitful association with Ford-Cosworth. Their first car, the Lotus 49 featuring the most successful F1 engine in history, the Ford-Cosworth DFV, won its first race at the Dutch Grand Prix, driven by Clark. He won with it again at the British, United States and Mexican Grands Prix; and, in January 1968, at the South African Grand Prix.
Jim Clark won the 1963 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps in extremely wet, foggy and rainy conditions. After starting eighth on the grid Clark passed all of the cars in front of him, including early leader Graham Hill. About 17 laps into the race, with the rain coming down harder than ever, Clark had not only lapped the entire field except for Bruce McLaren, but he was almost five minutes ahead of McLaren and his Cooper. This would be the first of 7 victories for Clark and Team Lotus that year.
In the 1967 Italian Grand Prix at Monza after starting from pole, Clark was leading in his Lotus 49 (chassis R2), when a tyre punctured. He lost an entire lap while having the wheel changed in the pits. Rejoining sixteenth, Clark ripped back through the field, progressively lowering the lap record and eventually equalling his pole time of 1m 28.5s, to regain the lost lap and the lead. He was narrowly ahead of Brabham and Surtees starting the last lap, but his car had not been filled with enough fuel for such a performance: it faltered, and finally coasted across the finish line in third place.
In his Indianapolis 500 win, Clark led for 190 of the 200 laps, with an unprecedented average speed of over 150 miles per hour (240 km/h), to become the first non-American in almost half a century to win the famous race.