Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio
Firstly, Happy New Year, may 2014 be a good one!
– 1968: Formula One finally gives up its innocence
Whilst the world celebrated the dawn of a New Year, the Formula One teams had assembled in South Africa for the opening race of the 1968 season.
Who could have foreseen the historic events that would shape 1968. Chinese astrologers will tell you there is always seismic upheaval during the Year of the Monkey.
The assassinations of both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy stopped a nation; and the escalating war effort in Vietnam signalled the end of the age of ignorance.
In the insulated world of Formula One – South Africa would prove a turning point in the sport’s history; though not for any anti-apartheid sentiment.
This would be the last event that Lotus would run the famous British Racing Green and yellow stripe combination. It would be superseded by tobacco sponsorship and this world would never be the same again.
The favourite for the upcoming season was Jim Clark in the revolutionary Lotus 49. Chapman’s design had once again torn up the rule book and introduced a new chapter to Formula One’s history.
Chapman had convinced Ford to fund the development of the Cosworth DFV and from it’s inception was specifically designed to become a stress-bearing structural unit from which the rear suspension and gearbox were mounted.
Clark would win four races during 1967 – including the final two of the season – but teething problems had scuppered his chances of a third title.
At Kyalami, Clark qualified a second ahead of the sister car driven by Hill. Taking the final front row position was Jackie Stewart in the Matra.
At the start, Stewart reacted best and took an immediate lead. Clark followed but Hill dropped back to seventh behind Jochen Rindt, John Surtees, Jack Brabham and Chris Amon. Clark passed Stewart for the lead on the second lap and Hill passed Amon and Surtees to run in fifth place.
With Brabham suffering engine problems, Hill overtook Rindt and set about catching Stewart who he passed for second on lap 27.
Fifty three laps later Clark took the chequered flag ahead of Hill to record his twenty-fifth Grand Prix victory; thereby eclipsing the eleven year old wins record of Fangio.
Sadly, motor-racing was about to be dealt a deadly hand. The following Grand Prix in Spain was scheduled for May 12th but by then the Formula One fraternity was in mourning for the loss of this gentle man.
He had been contesting at Hockenheim – in an insignificant Formula 2 race – when something failed on the car and he was killed amongst the trees surrounding the circuit.
At the conclusion of the South African Grand Prix, Clark had contested seventy two Grand Prix. He had achieved 33 pole position, 25 races victories and had led 43 races.
A double World Champion – just thirty two years of age – and blessed with incomparable talent, nobody expected any serious challenge to the genius of Clark and Chapman combined.
In moments of reflection, Clark’s is one career that feels that it hadn’t reached it’s zenith, that somehow we were robbed..