Stirling Moss tried it. Didn’t like it, said it was the biggest mistake of his career. Nigel Mansell tried it…wrote off a couple Ford Mondeos. Jim Clark though, he managed to bring the polar opposite world’s of Grand Prix racing and humble saloon car action together by doing what he did best; winning.
Much has been said about the late Jim Clark. Superlative descriptions of his natural ability and precision behind the wheel of a racing car have decorated the pages of motor racing publications since his Formula One debut at the 1960 Dutch Grand Prix. His world championship victories in 1963 and 1965 cemented the Scot’s place in Grand Prix history but there’s a remarkable and all too often forgotten filling to Clark’s World title sandwich; he may have missed out on claiming a second consecutive title to fellow Brit John Surtees but there was championship success elsewhere for Clark. It came in our very own humble British Touring Car Championship and it underlined Clark’s ability to race – and win – in any discipline he turned his hand to.
Clark’s 1964 racing season saw him fly between glamorous locations such as Monaco and Monza to compete against World Champions Graham Hill, Jack Brabham and a collection of the ’60s greatest Grand Prix drivers. It also saw him tackle the humble race tracks of England; Snetterton, Goodwood, Brands Hatch and more in what was then known as the British Saloon Car Championship. The racing – as well as the locations – where quite different from one another.
The finesse Clark had shown time again behind the wheel of his Lotus Grand Prix car had no place when hustling his Lotus Cortina fender-to-fender and wheel-to-wheel with tin-top aces such as the two Johns; Whitmore and Fitzpatrick. Just a week before Clark took pole (and a rather disappointing fourth in the race) at the Monaco Grand Prix he had taken the chequered flag in his Cortina to win his class at Silverstone – his fifth win out of five races.
The BSCC at the time was split into four car classes; A, B, C and D – and the overall champion would be whoever performed best in their class. It was a controversial method for deciding the champion but in 1964 there was no doubt who deserved the title; of the 8 rounds Jim Clark contested, from Snetterton on March 14 through to Oulton Park in September, he won every single one of them. The footage of Clark sliding his Cortina around the fast flowing corners of Brands Hatch and Crystal Palace makes for compelling viewing and few were left doubting Clark’s status as one of the greatest racing drivers the world had seen.