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Jim Clark - 1965 British Grand Prix

Jim Clark won the Formula One British GP five times. One particular year, however, was a feat of excellence; during the final laps, whilst fending off a challenge from Graham Hill, only tyre squeal could be heard coming from his Lotus in the corners...

By Jethro Noble

Type 25 images via Lotus Media

he year is 1965. Racing in Formula One is more dangerous than going ten rounds with a grizzly bear and spectators are now flooding to the races in their thousands while the grid is full to the gunwales with legendary drivers: John Surtees, Graham Hill, Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Richard Attwood, Dan Gurney and Mike Hailwood were all battling it out on the global stage. Arguably, this is the most full a Formula One field has ever been with championship-winning talent. Unfortunately for them however, if one particular Scotsman showed up on form then they were all battling for second place.


That particular driver was a fairly young, quiet and humble farmer from Fife called Jim Clark. Often, the only reason that Jim Clark didn’t come out on top was that his car had suffered a race-ending mechanical or that he didn’t show up at all. Jackie Stewart recognised that he “drove in such a way that he just didn’t make the mistakes that other drivers did”. His consistency and ability to repeatedly put down fast lap after fast lap was unparalleled, much to the envy of everyone else. It wasn’t just Formula One he raced In though. In 1965, Clark stirred up the competition in five different classes.


In his Lotus 25, he would chomp through the Formula One grid. A Lotus Type 38 is used at the Indy 500, while a Type 35 was used to win both the British and French Formula 2 championships. To add a bit of closed-wheel spice into the mix, he also raced a Ford Lotus Cortina in the British Touring car championship, which he won in 1964.

he year is 1965. Racing in Formula One is more dangerous than going ten rounds with a grizzly bear and spectators are now flooding to the races in their thousands while the grid is full to the gunwales with legendary drivers: John Surtees, Graham Hill, Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Richard Attwood, Dan Gurney and Mike Hailwood were all battling it out on the global stage. Arguably, this is the most full a Formula One field has ever been with championship-winning talent. Unfortunately for them however, if one particular Scotsman showed up on form then they were all battling for second place.


That particular driver was a fairly young, quiet and humble farmer from Fife called Jim Clark. Often, the only reason that Jim Clark didn’t come out on top was that his car had suffered a race-ending mechanical or that he didn’t show up at all. Jackie Stewart recognised that he “drove in such a way that he just didn’t make the mistakes that other drivers did”. His consistency and ability to repeatedly put down fast lap after fast lap was unparalleled, much to the envy of everyone else. It wasn’t just Formula One he raced In though. In 1965, Clark stirred up the competition in five different classes.


In his Lotus 25, he would chomp through the Formula One grid. A Lotus Type 38 is used at the Indy 500, while a Type 35 was used to win both the British and French Formula 2 championships. To add a bit of closed-wheel spice into the mix, he also raced a Ford Lotus Cortina in the British Touring car championship, which he won in 1964.

One of the most prolific drivers to ever sit in a racing car, he won 25 out of the 72 races he entered in F1, which as a percentage puts him ahead of Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Stirling Moss. The 1965 season was dominated by Clark, and he won six of the ten races that season to take the overall championship. By mid-summer at Silverstone, he had amassed three victories from four races in the calendar, missing out at Monaco while he was away winning the Indy 500, so to say he was on form coming into the British GP would be both true and a mild understatement.


Unsurprisingly, the race meeting started very well for Clark, sticking his British Racing Green clad Lotus 25 at the top of the grid during qualifying and setting himself up firmly for the victory, despite the fact that eleven of the other drivers had broken the previous lap record, such was the high standards of the field.






Out of the gate, Clark was challenged to the top spot by Honda’s American driver, Richie Ginther. Try as he might, Richie couldn’t hold the lead for long and so it was down to Graham Hill in his BRM to try and hold onto the Lotus 25’s exhausts, but Clark was just creeping away, corner by corner.


However, the fragile 25 started to develop issues towards the end of the race. During lap fifty, it was noticed that the Climax engine started to misfire, getting more evident as time went on. A faulty fuel pump was causing the car to choke and lose power, but the pace was not significantly reduced, so Clark soldiered on despite the BRM-powered Graham Hill catching wind of the misfortune. Hill was almost half a lap behind but pushed even harder to catch up.

One of the most prolific drivers to ever sit in a racing car, he won 25 out of the 72 races he entered in F1, which as a percentage puts him ahead of Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Stirling Moss. The 1965 season was dominated by Clark, and he won six of the ten races that season to take the overall championship. By mid-summer at Silverstone, he had amassed three victories from four races in the calendar, missing out at Monaco while he was away winning the Indy 500, so to say he was on form coming into the British GP would be both true and a mild understatement.


Unsurprisingly, the race meeting started very well for Clark, sticking his British Racing Green clad Lotus 25 at the top of the grid during qualifying and setting himself up firmly for the victory, despite the fact that eleven of the other drivers had broken the previous lap record, such was the high standards of the field.






Out of the gate, Clark was challenged to the top spot by Honda’s American driver, Richie Ginther. Try as he might, Richie couldn’t hold the lead for long and so it was down to Graham Hill in his BRM to try and hold onto the Lotus 25’s exhausts, but Clark was just creeping away, corner by corner.


However, the fragile 25 started to develop issues towards the end of the race. During lap fifty, it was noticed that the Climax engine started to misfire, getting more evident as time went on. A faulty fuel pump was causing the car to choke and lose power, but the pace was not significantly reduced, so Clark soldiered on despite the BRM-powered Graham Hill catching wind of the misfortune. Hill was almost half a lap behind but pushed even harder to catch up.

Having lapped all of the field that Clark was going to catch, all he had to do was keep the lap times down and get to the finish line. On lap 63 however, disaster struck - the Climax-engined Lotus had been slowly losing oil alongside the misfire. It was now so low in the sump, during the faster turns of Silverstone, the oil wasn’t reaching the end of the feed pipe, leading to low pressure. Highly strung race engines quite clearly don’t like to be run without sufficient oil, so Clark had to think fast if he wanted to hold onto the lead.


Being the driver he was, Clark found a solution. As ever, he had his sensible hat on and decided the best course of action if he wanted to finish was not to carry on with his fingers crossed and hope for the best, it was in fact to simply turn the engine off when it wasn’t being fed oil. This meant going without power for most of the corners and turning it back on to power along the straights where the engine had oil pressure. No, seriously. That’s what he did.






Obviously, this was detrimental to his lap times, but not so much as you may think. Clark was famously a dab hand at keeping the momentum of his vehicle high through corners which was why he was so fast in the low-powered 1.5-litre cars that he raced in.


Going into the last lap, the gap had shrunk enough for Hill to be visible in the mirror of Clark’s Lotus, but the race was in the Scotsman’s hands, and he finished the 80th lap 3.2 seconds clear of Hill in second place. Had the race been a lap longer, the story could well be different, but to nurse a very sick car to the end for almost twenty laps takes some skill.


To be able to put enough of a gap into the man behind you that you can win the race after such an event just takes superhuman abilities. Had Jim Clark’s time with us not been caught so short In a 1968 accident, he would undoubtedly be right up there with Senna and Hamilton.

Having lapped all of the field that Clark was going to catch, all he had to do was keep the lap times down and get to the finish line. On lap 63 however, disaster struck - the Climax-engined Lotus had been slowly losing oil alongside the misfire. It was now so low in the sump, during the faster turns of Silverstone, the oil wasn’t reaching the end of the feed pipe, leading to low pressure. Highly strung race engines quite clearly don’t like to be run without sufficient oil, so Clark had to think fast if he wanted to hold onto the lead.


Being the driver he was, Clark found a solution. As ever, he had his sensible hat on and decided the best course of action if he wanted to finish was not to carry on with his fingers crossed and hope for the best, it was in fact to simply turn the engine off when it wasn’t being fed oil. This meant going without power for most of the corners and turning it back on to power along the straights where the engine had oil pressure. No, seriously. That’s what he did.






Obviously, this was detrimental to his lap times, but not so much as you may think. Clark was famously a dab hand at keeping the momentum of his vehicle high through corners which was why he was so fast in the low-powered 1.5-litre cars that he raced in.


Going into the last lap, the gap had shrunk enough for Hill to be visible in the mirror of Clark’s Lotus, but the race was in the Scotsman’s hands, and he finished the 80th lap 3.2 seconds clear of Hill in second place. Had the race been a lap longer, the story could well be different, but to nurse a very sick car to the end for almost twenty laps takes some skill.


To be able to put enough of a gap into the man behind you that you can win the race after such an event just takes superhuman abilities. Had Jim Clark’s time with us not been caught so short In a 1968 accident, he would undoubtedly be right up there with Senna and Hamilton.

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