There is perhaps no other driver in the history of car racing that has solidified a legacy as immovable as Jim Clark. The Scotsman is one of the oldest and most sacred grandfather heroes of driving, placed alongside the likes of Sterling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio.
As incredible as his story is, far too many F1 fans today aren't familiar with his many historical exploits. This is to be an education on one of the most essential racing drivers of all time. In chronological order, here are 10 things you may not have known about Jim Clark.
10 From Simple Beginnings
James Clark Jr. was born to a family of farmers a small town called Kilmany just outside of Fife, Scotland. He was the youngest in his family and among his five siblings he was the only boy of the group. He started racing cars in local road rallies and hill climbs (much to the chagrin of his parents whom he decided to hide his driving from). His first race in 1956 was driven in a DKW sonderklasse; he was 20 years old.
9 His First Single-Seater Win Was In The Brand New Formula Junior
In the late 1950s Formula 3's popularity was rapidly declining (the exact details are complicated; essentially the regulations were forcing sameness and repressing innovation and interest).
Formula Junior was a driving class that was first introduced in 1958 with rules and regulations that were much more popular with engineers. It was intended as an intermediate class for up and coming drivers to gain driving experience for single-seater racing. It was in March (midway through the season) at Goodwood, that Clark (in his Lotus 18) scored his first win.
8 In That Same Season, He Had Podium Finishes For F1 And F2 As Well
What Clark is perhaps most famous for - that no drivers since have done - is driving in multiple classes at once. It is customary for drivers to start in small engine racing (usually carts) and work their way up to faster car classes as they get better; the fastest and most prestigious class being Formula One. In order to stay competitive at the highest level, drivers will often focus on honing their skills at whatever driving class they are in.
Clark wasn't like this, he perceived all driving classes as equal and raced in all of them; earning himself the reputation as the greatest all-round driver in the history of the sport. The same year he was racing in Formula Junior, he was making the podium in F1, F2 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well.
7 His Career Nearly Ended Before It Had Even Really Started
Race car driving was far from safe in the days of Clark's racing (FJ was the only class to have introduced a roll bar in 1960). As a result, there were many brushes with death that came dangerously close to ending his career and his life.
One of the most notable instances was the 1961 Italian Grand Prix, in which Wolfgang von Trips collided with Clark. Although Clark was relatively unscathed, Trips crashed into a stand full of spectators killing 16 people, including himself.
6 1965 Was Arguably The Greatest Year A Single Driver Has Ever Had
This is the year that most fans point to as evidence of Clark's genius. In 1965, Jim Clark raced in 63 races. To put that into perspective, most modern F1 drivers do about 21 races a year; Clark tripled that. He raced in multiple series; including Formula 1, both the British Formula 2 and French Formula 2, the Tasman Series, and the Indy 500; he won the championship for every single on of them.
5 The Perfect Match Of Man And Car
By modern standards, cars like Clark's Lotus 25 were not powerful cars (summoning only 210 brake horsepower for 1.5 litres). The car still had enormous speed, owed mainly to it's incredibly light weight and revolutionary aerodynamics for its day.
The aerodynamics, in particular, could be owed to its aluminum alloy monocoque chassis; a design inspired by aeronautical vehicles of the time. In 1963, it was this car that Clark won his first F1 championship with a record of seven out of ten first place victories.
4 The Tasman Series
In 1965, out of the 8 races in the series, Clark won 5 and easily won the championship by a tidy 11 points. It was his first season in the Tasman series but it wasn't to be his last. Clark raced another three times in 1966, 1967, and 1968, nearly winning the championship every year.
It was in 1966 that he came third due to another up-and-coming Scottish racing legend edging him out; it was Jackie Stewart's first season. Stewart and Clark battled for second and first place the following year, with Clark regaining the crown. Stewart would go on to win his first F1 championship a year after Clark's death.
3 The Greatest F1 Driver To Ever Race The Indy 500
Clark won the Indy 500 in 1965, although it wasn't his first time racing it; that was 1963 (in which he came second). The race required Clark to drive at speeds far exceeding what he was used to, creating skepticism from officials about his involvement. Even though he already had one F1 championship win under his belt, it was insisted upon him that he take a rookie driving test.
Following that, he qualified in second place; going on to eventually win with a gap of over 2 minutes. He was the first European since 1916 to win, and also set a new record for an average speed of 150.69 mph.
2 127 Drivers Died The Same Year As His Fatal Crash In 1968
Jim Clark died on the 7th of April 1968, during the fifth lap of a Formula 2 race at the Hockenheimring. He veered off the track crashing into trees at the edge of the circuit; he broke his neck, fractured his skull, and died before reaching the hospital. The cause of the crash was never officially identified, but investigators claimed a deflating rear tire was the most likely explanation.
As mentioned above, the state of safety for race car driving at the time was on the borderline between extremely poor and unacceptable. Clark's old Scottish rival was instrumental in advocating for safety regulations to be implemented in the late 1960s.
1 He Still Holds Records To This Day
Some notable records include, the highest percentage of laps led in a season (71.47% in 1963) and biggest winning margin (four minutes and 54 seconds at the 1963 Belgian Grand Prix).
Perhaps most impressive of all his current records, he holds a total of eight grand slams. A "grand slam" is a grand prix in which a single driver has achieved pole position in qualifying, the fastest lap, and led every single lap of the race. For comparison; the next highest number of grand slams is five (held by the likes of Schumacher, Hamilton, and Ascari).