We chat with the man who set Jim Clark on the path to world domination
What made Clark different from modern Formula 1 champions?
“Firstly, the ever-present risk of death: Sid Watkins’ successful measures to minimise danger did not exist in Jim’s day. He used to be pretty upset when his competitors were killed and by the number of race widows, although he seemed to switch that fear off in the cockpit. Also, Jim never really appeared to worry about the lack of money he was earning compared with today’s drivers. He raced for the love of the sport. Finally, he was essentially a gentleman, and behaving in the way some more recent drivers have would just never occur to him. He would have worried about the risk of causing fatal accidents.”
Are there similarities between Clark and other drivers?
“While I am sure Jim would have considered Jenson Button a worthy competitor, I doubt whether he would have felt the same about Mansell, Senna, Schumacher, Vettel and Hamilton. He always seemed to like Bruce McLaren and Dan Gurney, who shared his parameters.”
He had talked about retiring young. Do you think he would have raced much longer?
“I think he would most probably have been champion in 1968, and possibly beyond, but could well have retired then. I think he would have deemed it a good idea to retire at the top. Although he loved living on the farm, I think he would have wanted some other challenge first. He enjoyed flying and I believe he and Colin [Chapman] had been considering developing composite planes.”
What made Clark a great driver?
“Jim had an extraordinary natural talent, quite remarkable vision and incredibly rapid reactions. He was a brilliant shot and had played hockey and cricket for Borders teams. His ability to overcome problems with the car he was driving was legendary. To start, I had great trouble in getting him to believe in his own ability. Chatting at Goodwood after his first stint in the 1959 Tourist Trophy, he asked: ‘Why is everyone going so slowly?’ I replied: ‘It’s not that. It is that you are so quick!’ I noticed a change in him then. I think that was the first occasion when he really began to believe that perhaps he actually was that much quicker than his peers.”