In an Era of FORMULA 1 Legends, Jim Clark Stands Out
Iconic F1 legends: Racers with staying power
With this crowded field of talent and competitive spirit, standing-out from the pack wasn’t for the faint-of-heart. But in the ‘60s, a decade with no back-to-back Drivers’ Championship winners (although Aussie hero Jack Brabham did win in both 1959 and 1960), Scottish driver Jim Clark nonetheless managed to emerge victorious twice. He took home the championship for Lotus in both 1963 and 1965, which may seem like small potatoes compared to the seven-title record shared by Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher, but here we are, 54 years following Clark’s tragic death, industry experts continue to speculate Clark’s unique place in the history of the sport as the greatest racing driver ever.
And that’s largely because Clark’s career encompassed more than just F1: he also competed in the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, winning the former in 1965. If you’re keeping track, that was the same year that Clark also won the F1 Drivers’ Championship, making him the only driver in history to win the world title and the Indy 500 in the same year. Clark also competed in Formula Two until 1968, when he was killed in a racing accident at Hockenheim in Germany. Sir Jackie Stewart mourned him at the time as the “finest racing driver” of the era.
These days, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Clark’s storied legacy, and chief among them is a visit to the Jim Clark Motorsport Museum in Scotland. While there had been a Jim Clark memorial in the Scottish town of Duns since 1969 (the year after his death), the current museum did not open until 50 years later. It was a project that drew in more than a few motorsports greats, with Jackie Stewart presiding over the museum’s 2019 opening and all 20 of the 2018 Formula One drivers signing a special edition Lotus Evora that was auctioned in support of the museum’s trust. Now that Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, visitors can come in person to see exhibitions such as Clark’s Lotus Type 25 Formula One car, his 1967 Lotus Elan S3 Coupe, and a collection of race trophies donated by Clark’s family.
The presence of a motorsports museum like this one can go a long way towards keeping the past alive and reminding the public of its relevance to the present. Although many believe Jim Clark was the most naturally gifted Formula One driver ever, he wasn’t able to escape the dangers of the sport in its early era, and his tragic death is a reminder that no driver is invincible. In a season when porpoising issues have put driver safety back at the forefront of the F1 conversation, we could all benefit from some time reflecting on the incredible success of a bold driver who, for all his talents, lacked the gift of years.