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GP Week : Issue 5
5 Minutes with ... JACKIE STEWART GPWEEK: Sir Jackie, 40 years after his passing, what are your memories of Jim Clark? JYS: Only good ones. He was a very good friend and enormously important in the manner in which I went motor racing, because he was such a good example. He was shy and he was modest. He was at heart a border farmer who just happened to be able to drive racing cars in a remarkable fashion. I never quite understood why, I don’t think. We shared an apartment together for quite a few years which we called the Scottish Embassy. We holidayed together. He would have been godfather to my second son Mark, because he had agreed to do that after Mark was born in the January of 1968 and we hadn’t had the christening by the time Jimmy died. He had a big influence on my life, because of the example that he set. The manner in which he drove racing cars was so smooth and elegant; he never bullied a car and for that reason I always thought that was the way in which I should drive cars. What does it say about Jim Clark that today, 40 years after his death, he is as revered and highly regarded by fans and fellow racing drivers as he was back then? Because he was somebody who didn’t make a lot of mistakes. You never saw him flying off the road – but in those days you couldn’t afford to fly off the road because there were no run off areas, no gravel traps, so the margin of error was very, very small. I think the fact that he only won two world championships does not represent the skills and abilities that he had. He was certainly the best racing driver I ever raced against. He was just the best of his era, which is all you can do. He won at Indianapolis. He drove almost exclusively for Lotus. He drove Lotus Cortinas, he drove the Lotus 23, he drove the Lotus 30, he drove the Formula 1 car and the Formula 2 car, and he occasionally stepped into other cars like a DB4 GTS Aston Martin at Goodwood, or jumped into an historic ERA which belonged to Prince Bira. He was just the best. How much did his passing influence you to become so involved in the campaign for improved safety in Formula 1? April 1968 was the first of the four worst months that motor racing had ever seen in the sense of deaths. He died on the seventh of April. On the same weekend in May, Mike Spence died, who was his team-mate. On the same weekend in June, Ludovico Scarfiotti was killed, and in July on that same weekend, Jo Schlesser died. So four Grand Prix drivers died in consecutive months on the same weekend – and we raced on the same weekend in August, in terrible weather, at the Nürburgring. So he started my education through grieving, because I had never lost anybody close to me before in that way, and it was an experience that I gained which I hope modern Grand Prix drivers will never have to experience. But, having said that, Jimmy’s death was a complete shock to the motor racing community, because at that time we hadn’t had a run of terrible accidents. The belief was, well, my God if this can happen to Jim Clark it can happen to anybody, and then suddenly, bang, bang, bang, bang. It was at that time, from 1968 to 1973, that there was a two-out-of-three chance that you would die if you drove in Formula 1 for five years. It was a very dangerous time because the cars had gone up to three litres. In the first year or so it took a little while for the three-litre engines to really deliver – a two- litre BRM could almost keep up with the three-litre Ferrari – but the Ford engine changed all that and suddenly we were having more high speed accidents on race tracks that had not changed, with medical facilities that hardly existed. The driver apparel, whether it was helmets, overalls or whatever else, had never changed. It drove me to take a bigger interest in safety and take no prisoners, because race tracks were saying, "you can say what you want, we’re not going to spend this kind of money" or "we’re not going to change." So we halted the German Grand Prix and we halted Spa, the two dockets of sacrilege, because they weren’t prepared to do anything. At that time the sport didn’t pay attention. But the GPDA, of which Jimmy had been a strong member, took that on. That was the beginning of it and, sadly, Jimmy’s accident was the start of the bad period. ... from 1968 to 1973 there was a two-out- of-three chance you would die if you drove in Formula 1 for five years 40 years after the tragic loss of the great Jim Clark, JYS recalls how it, and what followed, started him on the road to improving F1 driver safety. He spoke to WILL BUXTON 20