THE small Berwickshire town of Duns will become a noisy revving shrine to motorsport history this weekend when Jim Clark’s World Championship-winning cars take to the streets he grew up on to launch the 50th anniversary of his first F1 success.
The Jim Clark Memorial Rally is just two weeks away, and entries for the event that maintains Clark’s legend closed this week with cars from across Europe set to be involved, but Club Lotus have ramped up their annual pilgrimage to the eastern Borders this weekend to bring a rare viewing of his Formula One cars.
Clark, who was born in Kilmany in Fife and grew up at Edington Mains Farm near Chirnside, was a popular figure in Berwickshire, but when he claimed his first F1 title in 1963 he became a world sporting star. Throughout his career he was associated with the Lotus marque, driving an Elite, Ford Cosworth and being crowned the F1 World Champion again, in 1965, and winning the Indianapolis 500 in the same year, in a Lotus 38.
At the time of his death, when he careered off the track into trees in an F2 race at Hockenheim, Germany, in 1968, aged just 32, Clark had won more Grand Prix races (25) and achieved more pole positions (33) than any other driver. He still tops polls for the greatest F1 driver of all time, ahead of Vettel, Schumacher, Senna and Prost.
To mark the 50th anniversary of his first world title, the Jim Clark Room museum in Duns will be the meeting point for a host of his former cars, friends and supporters. Clive Chapman and Classic Team Lotus will bring the Lotus 25s he raced to victory in 1963, and demonstrate them along the main street at midday tomorrow before the Club Lotus procession of sports and racing cars to Chirnside Parish Church, where a wreath will be laid at his grave.
Among the other cars involved will be the first Elan that Clark drove and touring car driver Andy Middlehurst’s Lotus Cortina and all the cars will be on display outside the Jim Clark Room, which itself will feature rare memorabilia not normally on show, all day today and tomorrow morning, while a number of Clark’s friends, including mentor Ian Scott Watson and his F1 and Indianapolis mechanic Bob Dance, join fans.
Clark’s great friend Sir Jackie Stewart, who would go on to surpass Clark with three F1 world titles, is delighted that Clark’s achievements are being marked and insisted that Clark was “Batman” to his “Robin”. “His modesty, manners and above all the way he drove a racing car set him apart from others in world of motor racing,” Sir Jackie recounted this week. “We shared a flat in London that we called ‘The Scottish Embassy’, and he was a great person to spend time with. I remember the two of us stood on the podium in three Grand Prix in 1965 and someone termed us ‘Batman and Robin’, and there was no mistaking who was ‘Robin’.
“He was a class apart as a driver. He was so smooth and unspectacular, but so, so quick. He was one of the few people to drive a Lotus in those early days that didn’t break it, because he was so gentle. I learned so much from him and it is fantastic that people are remembering him. I love seeing the rally mentioned and his name there, because that keeps the memory real. Wherever I travel around the world people still ask me about Jimmy.”
It is said that Clark perfected his sleek style of driving on the tight and twisty Berwickshire roads – he started out as a rally driver and even contested the 1966 RAC Rally of Great Britain in a Ford Lotus Cortina – so it is of little surprise that many leading Scottish rally talents of the past 30 years, including Louise Aitken-Walker, Dom Buckley and Euan Thorburn, all hail from the same part of the country.
The Jim Clark Rally, launched in 1970, and running from Friday 31 May to Sunday 2 June this year, will bring Thorburn and over 100 more eager rally enthusiasts back on to those roads in what remains the only closed public roads event on mainland Britain. But this weekend the cars will be of a different vintage, and the celebrations will continue at Silverstone Racing Circuit in July, with Clark honoured at a special event hosted by the British Racing Drivers’ Club and Silverstone Classic competitors, and at a Goodwood Revival meeting in September.
Looking ahead to this weekend, veteran motorsport journalist John Fife commented: “Jim Clark was not just a local or national hero; Jim Clark was motor racing world royalty.”