On This Day in #F1: 01 January

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 It would be superseded by tobacco sponsorship and this world would never be the same again.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..

10 responses to “On This Day in #F1: 01 January

  1. I think there can be no doubt Clark would have achieved much more.
    And I’ve always liked the idea of setting these stories in their historical context.
    You’ve really done your homework to come up with so many stories during the normal winter break – thanks.

  2. Many thanks Carlo. And Happy New Year as well! Many of the greats seem to depart before we’re ready. Clifford, Bix, Fats, just a few who had a lot left to do when they left us abruptly. *Sigh* Some things are beyond explaining. Best to enjoy while we can.

  3. I always wondered if Clark would have retired after 1968, with wings and JYS coming on strong. Lotus did also win in 1970 with Rindt and 1972 with Fittipaldi. But now, we’ll never know..

  4. Wonderful Carlo – as usual.

    I wasn’t around for the Clarke era and I really feel I missed out. Not just with Jimmy, but with the other epic throttle jockies of the time.

    The look of the cars and how they moved around also appeals greatly.

    Thank you, once again.

  5. Nice article, thanks.

    I enjoy reading about the times I haven’t lived through.

    I would love to see today’s crop of drivers in cars like the lotus but, with all the modern gizmos just no aero to really speak of and see who came out on top.

  6. The more I read about Jim Clark the more I am starting to think of him as the greatest ever. His career just from a statistical point of view is just amazing, and from what i’ve noticed, his 2 championships could have easily been 5 or 6 if not for DNF’s, which i assume were mostly mechanical issues.

    Outside of his championship winning years, he was DNF’ing over 50% of races he started, yet when he did finish, it was usually always a win.

    1962 – 5 out of 9 races finished, managed 3 wins and a 4th.

    1964 – 6 out of 11 races finished, managed 3 wins and a 4th and 5th.

    1966 – 3 out of 8 races finished, and those 3 races netted him a win, 3rd, 4th.

    1967 – 6 out of 11 races finished, managed 4 wins and a 3rd and 6th.

    1968 – 1 win from 1 race before his death, teammate wins the championship.

    What could he have achieved with some reliability? It seems the Lotus back then was fast but horridly unreliable, and that Jim was unbeatable with the car held together.

    Senna will always be my favorite driver but i think part of that is that i was able to watch his career, something I obviously missed with drivers of the 60’s and 50’s, but if someone was to tell me that Clark was the best, then i wouldn’t doubt it, the guy seemed to be pure genius behind the wheel.

    • Amazing how he lost 2 championships when only 23 laps from the finish collectively, and both from a comfortable lead. One was on the last lap – 64 with an oil leak! Imagine if Vettel lost 2010 and 2012 (which he could have to Alonso and Hamilton).. he’d only have 2 totally dominant championships right now, with Alonso on 3 and Hamilton on 2.

      Clark is always near that top 5, while Stewart has a similarly impressive career without the H16 BRM of 66 and 67 (Clark won his 66 race with the Lotus 43-BRM (H16 engine) at Watkins Glen, perhaps the last win for an engine with more than 12 cylinders?), placing regularly in the top 10 of F1 drivers. From this current era, it looks like Vettel will also make the top 10 and push on towards the top 5 (but things could change after 2014/RB).

      It’s hard for a top ten not to include Senna, Fangio, Clark, Schumacher, Prost, Moss, Stewart, Lauda, Ascari etc. Vettel will probably join that list, with Alonso, Hamilton and Raikkonen falling further down the list like Piquet, Mansell and Hakkinen. But Alonso, like Gilles Villeneuve, will always have that chance to be near the top 10 IMO.

    • Jimmy became my hero once reading the long-lost Sports Car Graphic Magazine way back in 1962. watching him collecting the Lotus 25? from the seized engine by pushing in the clutch while leading Brands Hatch as seen an ABC Sports did not hurt. neither did reading about his “race with Sir Jackie in dump trucks up on 2 wheels ’round Brands Hatch”, nor all the wins in Ford Cortinas, nor that he broke the record of an Olympic bobsled record down the run at Cortina, Italy while driving a Ford Cortina during a Ford Motorsport event – Jimmy was not only fastest, but never put a scratch on the paint. Colin nearly killed himself with an over-the-top barrel roll and the games were stopped… or how about his amazing run at Riverside – driving a Coventry Climax Lotus 23 to third, I think, in a big block Can Am race!. or how amazed the Wood’s Brothers were about the minimal damage at competitive speeds when a tire blew out at DIR in his first tintop attempt.
      I only got to see Jimmy live 5 times – blowing away the field at Indy in ’64 until his Dunlop tire blew apart in turn one, dominating Indy while leading 190 of 200 laps in ’65, watching him finish officially second at Indy in ’66 – where he became the FIRST driver to ever spin a mid-engine car without hitting the wall – TWICE – after the sway bar broke. Graham officially won the race, but there is still much debate as to which driver ACTUALLY won due to really poor USAC records at the time… Graham, Jimmy, and Sir Jackie were all pretty awesome that year…
      Saw Jimmy in F1 at Mosport and the Glen in ’67…
      the Lotus 49 was soo smooth exiting Moss Corner on Jimmie’s few practice/qualy laps (~17 total on Fri/Sat if I remember correctly) until watching the 16 fps 8mm film on an editor. every other frame saw the front wheels pointed in partial opposite lock while the left rear never saw more than about 25 to 30% touch the grass while the Cosworth kicked in HARD as it hit 6,500 RPM…
      the man was pure brilliance behind the wheel of anything…

      • Always confused me that there could be so much confusion as to who actually won the race? Surely, with the amount of fans, timekeepers, video recording, it could be given a definitive answer.

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