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On This Day: 50 years since Jim Clark's death

On This Day: 50 years since Jim Clark's death

F1 News

On This Day: 50 years since Jim Clark's death

On This Day: 50 years since Jim Clark's death

A Formula 1 legend passed away on this day 50 years ago as Jim Clark suffered a fatal crash at the Hockenheimring. Regarded at the time as one of the greatest drivers of all time, Clark was twice F1 world champion and also found success in other formulas, such as IndyCar and sports cars.

To those who knew and watched him race, no driver has ever surpassed the driving skill and natural talent that the Scot possessed.

Clark was near synonymous with Lotus, for whom he raced 73 times in the World Championship, winning 25 races and adding 33 pole positions, as well as tasting the ultimate success in 1963 and 1965.

Those tallies stood as records for over two decades, until Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and McLaren began to dominate the sport.

Away from the racetrack, Clark was a farmer - indeed this profession is listed on his gravestone ahead of his triumphs behind the wheel - born in Fife, Scotland in March 1936.

Clark's big break came in 1958, when he competed in a race against Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus, and impressed him so much that Chapman soon signed him to compete in junior formulas, before he was handed a Grand Prix debut at Zandvoort, the Netherlands in June 1960.

A fortnight later, Clark competed in the Belgian Grand Prix, where Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey were both killed, an early introduction to the perils of motor racing at the time, which were brought home again at Monza the following year.

Clark's Lotus was involved in a collision with the Ferrari of Wolfgang von Trips.

Von Trips was thrown from the car as it launched into the air and slammed into the crowd at the side of the track, killing 15 spectators.

Clark secured his first race win in 1962 at Spa-Francorchamps and won twice more that year, but finished second in the championship behind Graham Hill.

The next year, however, Clark was dominant, winning seven of the 10 races to take the title by a then-mammoth 25 points from Hill.

His tally of wins stood as a record until 1988 when Senna won eight of 16 races in his first title-winning year.

Perhaps his most spectacular victory that year was his first, again in Belgium, as Clark lapped all drivers bar second-placed Bruce McLaren, who finished nearly five minutes off the pace of the supreme Clark in wretched wet weather.

Clark's victory in Zandvoort two weeks later also came with none of his rivals on the lead lap.

By this point Clark was also competing regularly in the Indianapolis 500, as well as series like Formula 2 and Tasman.

In 1965, Clark won his second World Championship and the Indy 500 in the same year - to date he is the only man to do so.

Lotus struggled in 1966, but Clark was third in the championship after picking up three wins in the 1967 season.

He won the 1968 season-opener in South Africa, but it would be his final World Championship race.

Competing in a Formula 2 race in Germany, Clark was reportedly neither fond of his car or the track but Chapman had contracted him to race. The driver had apparently told his team he would be taking it easy.

On a wet track, however, Clark's Lotus spun at 170mph and collided with trees, leaving him with a broken neck and fractured skull.

He was pronounced dead before he arrived at hospital.

A nearby track marshal who witnessed the accident was quoted by the BBC as saying: "Everything happened so fast. The car skidded off to the left and seemed to dive through the fence only 10 yards from me.

"It went skidding and somersaulting across the grass and hit a tree with a tremendous thump. The car seemed to be in a thousand pieces."

Great rival Hill said Clark's death "leaves a hell of a gap in the racing scene", while fellow Scot Jackie Stewart said: "Jimmy's death is probably the most tragic thing in my experience of motor racing - probably in the history of motor racing."

A series of events in Scotland will mark the half-century since Clark's passing. Though much time has passed, his is a legend that remains as bright as ever.

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