Jim Clark might be the best driver that ever competed in F1.He achieved some amazing results and was the first foreign race driver in nearly 50 years that won the Indianapolis 500 in 1965. He also led 190 of the 200 laps of the race.
The greatest Formula 1 driver in the history of the planet for many, Jim Clark was born on the 4th of March of 1936. Clark grew up in Scotland with his family and without ever thinking about motor racing until he was 13 years young.
His family did not want to see him drive cars for a purpose different to transport and other activities needed. Once he left the secret rides on the family car and tractors of the farm behind, he bought a Sunbeam Talbot and started competing with it in 1956 in several rallies and other motorsport activities such as hill climb competitions.
His speed was noticeable from the beginning, although for him it was a total surprise. Jim was a little reluctant to compete since his family really did not want him to do so, but his talent was not going to be stopped. His performances were stunning, but the key moment in his early motorsport career occurred on the 26th of December of 1958 when he competed against Lotus founder Colin Chapman.
Clark and Chapman were both driving a Lotus Elite and finished 1-2 in the race, with Chapman as the victor and impressed with the abilities of the Scottish driver. Chapman gave Clark the chance to race in Formula Junior with Lotus and the journey which would see the pair dominate the Formula 1 world began.
In the 1960 Dutch Grand Prix, Clark made his Formula 1 debut driving a Lotus 18. He started the race in 11th place but could not finish due to mechanical issues. In just his second race, Clark had to endure harsh experiences after Chris Bristow and Clark’s teammate Alan Stacey died at the highly fast and dangerous Spa-Francorchamps. Clark finished the race in fifth out of six cars and scored his first World Championship points. In the following round, he repeated his fifth place and was the highest-placed Lotus driver again.
Clark achieved his first podium finish in the 1960 Portuguese Grand Prix at the Circuito da Boavista after starting from eighth. He thought about retirement after the fatal events during the race at Spa in 1960, and he had to face another situation which brought back the retirement thoughts into his head. In the 1961 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Ferrari driver Wolfgang von Trips touched Clark’s car and flew into the crowd. The accident tragically took the lives of 14 spectators and von Trips', who was fighting for the championship with his teammate Phil Hill.
However, Clark continued in Formula 1 and 1962 brought the Lotus 25 and his first shot at the World Drivers’ Championship. He achieved the first of his 33 Pole Positions in the 1962 Monaco Grand Prix and the first of his then record-breaking 25 wins at the 1962 Belgian Grand Prix.
Clark finished second in the championship with his successes at Britain and the USA putting his win tally at three. Graham Hill won his first title in the last race, the 1962 South African Grand Prix. Many could argue that the title should have been Clark’s since he suffered mechanical failures in four races in which he was leading or in podium positions. In the final race, Clark needed to win to overtake Hill on the standings and take his maiden championship, but an oil leak put an end to his quest for glory.
Four Pole Positions and four wins in the first five races of 1963 gave Clark a clear look for his first championship. With only the best six results counting towards the championship, Clark’s magnificent start to the season seemed enough for the title. In a soaked wet 1963 Belgian Grand Prix, he achieved one of his greatest victories. He started from eighth and won the race with a gap of four minutes and 54 seconds over Bruce McLaren, who was the only car that was not lapped by the lightning-fast Scottish driver.
Clark secured the championship in the 1963 Italian Grand Prix, lapping the entire field but the car in second place. He became the first driver to clinch the title with three races to spare. Seven wins in 1963 and only the best six results counting towards the championship meant that he matched Alberto Ascari record of achieving 100% of the possible World Championship points. His seven wins remained a record for a single season until 1988 when Ayrton Senna won eight races with the McLaren MP4/4.
After winning on the 1st of January in South Africa, the next race was set for the 12th of May in Spain. Clark and other drivers participated in an F2 race on the 7th of April at Hockenheim, Germany.
Clark had an accident and the injuries took his life, which was a huge impact on the sport and his fellow drivers. He was aged 32 at the moment of his untimely death and probably had more Formula 1 victories and championships ahead of him, as well as continuing to make those around him happy and be the great man he was.
His teammate at the time of his death, Graham Hill, won the 1968 WDC for Lotus and dedicated it to the great Scottish champion. Clark’s legacy will forever live in every mind that cares about motor racing and its glorious history. After all, his name should always appear when you discuss the greatest drivers to ever sit behind a Formula 1 wheel.
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Astoundingly, Clark’s total of laps led is still seventh best of all time, behind only those drivers who have started more than two or three times as many Grands Prix, and he is also in the Top 10 for converting poles into wins – 15 times, joint seventh with Fangio and Nico Rosberg. Examine those stats a little deeper to see the number of times a driver took pole, fastest lap and win, however, and Clark suddenly moves into third, having achieved that special hat-trick on 11 occasions behind Schumacher and Hamilton. In percentage terms, he’s again third, but beaten by Fangio and Ascari.
Refine the stats still further to those who have achieved the four-pronged slam of pole, fastest lap, led every lap and victory, and here everyone cedes best to Clark in absolute terms, for on eight occasions he was simply in a league of his own from qualifying all the way through to the dropping of the checkered flag on race day. The only current drivers in the same ballpark are Hamilton (six) and Vettel (four), while in percentage terms, only Ascari is ahead, having had his career cut tragically short after just 33 World Championship Grands Prix yet still finding time to grand-slam five of them.
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