Born on 4th March 1934, Jim Clark never planned on making a career in racing. Participating in club rallies in his Sunbeam Talbot only upon the encouragement of his friends, Clark showed of his driving skills and race winning capabilities from his very first race. Winning many races from then on till 1958, Clark met the man who would give him his Formula One break, the founder of Lotus, Colin Chapman. He raced Colin in an identical car, and finished second to him. So impressed was Chapman, that he offered him a ride in one of his Formula Junior cars.
In 1960, “Jimmy”, as he was popularly known, debuted in Formula One with Team Lotus. In his first season, he scored a best of third position in the Portuguese Grand Prix, and finished 10th over all in the championship. His second season was slightly better with two podiums and a fastest lap, finishing 7th that year in the championship. In 1962, he first came into contention for the championship. With three wins and six pole positions, he missed on winning the title after an oil leak ruined his final race, paving the way for Graham Hill to win it. In 1963, Jim Clark won his first Drivers’ Championship, and Lotus their first Constructors’ Championship, racing the Lotus 25. With seven wins in ten races, Clark dominated the opposition, and finished the year on 54 points, the next best driver being Graham Hill on 29.
From then on till 1967, the Lotus driver won the Drivers’ Championship one more time in 1965, giving the team their second Constructors’ Championship that year as well. He notched up 14 wins and 18 podiums till then, coming close to winning the title another two times. In 1968, he started of the season magnificently, showing signs of winning the championship yet again, with a Pole-Win-Fastest lap combination in the season opener at South Africa. On 7th April 1968, the two time world champion was scheduled to race in the BOAC 1000 km sports car race at Brands Hatch, but contractual obligations to Firestone forced him to race in Formula Two for Lotus at the Hockenheimring in Germany. On the 4thlap of that race, his car veered of the track, crashing into some trees, ending his life prematurely. That year, Graham Hill, his now team mate at Lotus won the Drivers’ Championship, and Team Lotus won the Constructors Championship, which both the team and driver dedicated to their lost racer and friend.
Jim Clark was one of those rare drivers who started his career, ended his career, and raced through out it, for the same team, Lotus. Unlike many other Formula One stars, he was an introvert and shy man, hating press conferences, and despising being the centre of attention. But inside the car, he was exactly the opposite, confident and fearless. When he died, many felt that the sport had lost not just a great driver, but a great man as well, one whose loss could not be replaced.
-Rohhan A Divanji