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17 October 2014

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Formula One

Jim Clark's wonder year 1965

Born on a farm in little-known Kilmany, Fife, no-one could have foreseen the impact that Jim Clark would have on international motor racing. His obvious racing skill had seemed indestructible yet his death in a Formula Two race at Hockenheim, Germany rocked the sport to its core.

Clark's reputation has remained intact over the years and associates from Lotus and former racers still recall his natural ability and sportsmanship.

He enjoyed success in the World Driver's Championship, Indycar racing, the Indianapolis 500, British and European Touring Car Championships, the British and European Formula Two Championships, the Tasman Cup and won races in the Lotus 23B and the highly difficult Lotus 30 sports cars. Even rallying and NASCAR racing were not beyond his reach.

Clark's achievements were made more impressive by the fact he lacked the backing of his parents, who were unhappy with his choice of career, and would have preferred if their son had chosen the more sedate life as a farmer.

October 5th 1957 was the first time Clark's tasted victory inside a motorcar, winning the Border Motor Racing Club Trophy at Charterhall. The Rest-and-be-Thankful Hillclimb was next, which he took in his own automobile, a Triumph TR-3.

The following year, driving a Jaguar D-Type for the Borders Reivers team, Clark's talent was beginning to be noticed and, as a result, he was invited to enter races all over England – which he did with varying degrees of success.

The race for the GP de Spa at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium was his first taste of foreign action, in which he came 8th.

Yet, although he now ventured overseas, it was a race closer to home, at Brands Hatch, which helped him onto the path to the very top of the sport. He raced against Colin Chapman with great aplomb, impressing the media and racing officials and became the name on everyone's lips.

In 1959, with regular wins and placings behind him, and turning in lap times as good as the Formula One stars of the day, the natural progression to Grand Prix was gathering pace.

Reg Parnell, the Aston Martin team boss, agreed that Clark had done enough to merit a contract, yet one major obstacle still stood in Clark's way; his parents.

Parnell engaged all his persuasive skills and eventually made them come round by stating bluntly that their son – if he had their backing - was good enough to become world champion. They reluctantly gave him their blessing.

Clark's first GP points came in Belgium with a fifth place finish, but the shine was taken off by a near fatal crash in practise for Stirling Moss and the deaths of Alan Stacey and Chris Bristow. The campaign finished with Jack Brabham winning the World Championship, and Jim Clark finishing 8th with 8points.

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