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The Sports Lowdown’s Greatest Formula One Drivers of all time No. 5 – Jim Clark

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Formula One has been blessed with some truly outstanding drivers in the past, and whilst they should all be respected in their own right as world champions – many of whom have won multiple titles – it is human nature to try and compare drivers of different generations. Here at ‘The Sports Lowdown’ our chief Formula One writers Dan Culyer and Ben Boorman attempt to do just that. In a daily countdown, they will formulate a list of the greatest drivers – past and present – in an attempt to decipher who is the greatest the sport has ever seen.

Whether it is Senna; or Schumacher; or Prost; or Hamilton; or Clark; or Stewart; or Vettel – be sure to keep an eye on proceedings at The Sports Lowdown, and as usual we would love to hear your views on our list, so any comments would be greatly appreciated.


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No. 5 – Jim Clark

Jim Clark was the true gentleman. A generation ahead of his time with his speed and brilliance behind the wheel, making him arguably the greatest driver of the 1960s. He had the unique ability of getting into the car on the opening lap of the day and instantly getting up to speed without needing to make any major set-up changes – a skill few others had in their arsenal.

His debut season in 1960, saw him have some initial success in his first season and then in 1961, he began showing his true potential before his eventual breakthrough a year later. He won 3 Grand Prix in the difficult revolutionary Lotus 25 which was described by other drivers and even by Clark’s team mate Trevor Taylor as an ‘untamed animal’, Clark managed to produce great performances to finish 2nd in the Championship behind fellow British driver Graham Hill. Had Clark not suffered five mechanical retirements, it could have been he, and not Hill, who won the Championship that year.

In 1963, the now refined Lotus 25 dominated the season as Clark also became a record-breaker that season. He took 7 Pole Positions, 7 Fastest Laps and 7 Race Wins as he won his 1st World Title, and after the opening race where he failed to finish, he was on the podium for the remainder of the season, finishing with almost triple the points his nearest challenger Graham Hill achieved.

1964 should have resulted in another title for Clark, as he won 4 Grand Prix and was comfortably leading the standings before five consecutive retirements due to unreliability problems, including an oil leak in the final laps of the last race of the season,  costing him the Championship. But he came back stronger than ever, and in 1965 he had an immaculate season as he won 6 races in a row to win his 2nd Championship, but that season was mostly remembered by Clark for another achievement.

That year Clark and the Lotus team entered the prestigious race, the Indianapolis 500. Clark took to the Brickyard like a duck to water as he crushed the opposition leading almost every single lap of the race as he won convincingly and made history, becoming the very first and so far only man in history to win the F1 World Championship and the Indy 500 in the same year.

In 1966, drastic rule changes meant Lotus lost their dominant touch that they’d held for the last 4 years and Clark failed to win a race in 1966 and then, a year later, he started in the same vein as more reliability problems continued to plague his season. It wasn’t until mid-1967 that Lotus rolled out the new Lotus 49 that Clark became a race winner in again as he won 4 races to put him firmly in contention for a third world title. 1968 started with Clark winning his 25th Grand Prix, a new record, and many believed the title would be his. Sadly he never had that opportunity.

On 7th April 1968, in a German F2 race at Hockenheim, Jim Clark was killed when his Lotus suffered a deflating right rear tyre and he crashed head first into the trees out in the woods far out into the circuit. The sport mourned his loss, and many drivers feared for their lives now Clark was gone. Chris Amon infamously said ‘If it could happen to him, what chance do the rest of us have?’ The Lotus team boss Colin Chapman seriously considered quitting the sport after Clark’s death, due to a feeling of guilt and loss. Clark’s teammate Graham Hill convinced Chapman that they can go on and he vowed to win the title for Clark. Hill went on to pull the Lotus team together and indeed he won the 1968 title and said afterwards to friends ‘Jim, this is your Championship, this is our thank you’.

Jim Clark was an inspiration to all his other drivers on the grid. Jackie Stewart called him ‘The Best Ever’, Colin Chapman said ‘He was my best friend and the greatest man I knew’ and Graham Hill said ‘ He was our leader, he led by example in the car and off the track’. There’s no doubt that Jim Clark could have – and probably would have – won at least one or even two more world titles if he had had the chance to do so. Instead we are left wondering what might have been, but we should all be proud of his amazing achievements and the standards he set both on and off the track.


Thank you for reading this article. Leave comments below.

@Dan_Culyer  @benboorman21

Tomorrow: Number 5 – ?


See also:

No. 6 – Alain Prost – https://thesportslowdown.co.uk/2015/09/the-sports-lowdowns-greatest-formula-one-drivers-of-all-time-no-6-alain-prost/

No. 7 – Sir Jackie Stewart – https://thesportslowdown.co.uk/2015/09/sports-lowdowns-greatest-formula-one-drivers-time-no-7-sir-jackie-stewart/

No. 8 – Niki Lauda – https://thesportslowdown.co.uk/2015/09/the-sports-lowdowns-greatest-formula-one-drivers-of-all-time-no-8-niki-lauda/

No. 9   – Sebastian Vettel – https://thesportslowdown.co.uk/2015/09/the-sports-lowdowns-greatest-formula-one-drivers-of-all-time-no-9-sebastian-vettel/

No. 10 – Sir Jack Brabham – https://thesportslowdown.co.uk/2015/09/sports-lowdowns-greatest-formula-one-drivers-time-no-10-jack-brabham/


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