Scotland

Racing legend Jim Clark fascinates new generation

Jim Clark Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Scottish driver was crowned world champion twice in the 1960s

More than 50 years after his death, Scottish racing legend Jim Clark continues to fascinate new generations.

The Jim Clark Museum will be formally opened in the Borders town of Duns on Thursday by three-time F1 World Champion Jackie Stewart.

He was a friend of the late racing driver, who won two Formula One World championships in 1963 and 1965.

Clark also won the Indianapolis 500 in 1965, becoming the only driver to win both the Indy 500 and the F1 title in the same year.

He was British sports car champion in 1959, took a third place at the Le Mans 24 hour race in 1960 and was British saloon car champion in 64... the list goes on.

Image caption The museum contains a Lotus that was driven by Jim Clark

Give Jim Clark a car, almost any car, and he could somehow make it go faster than anyone else.

Doug Niven, Clark's cousin and a trustee of the museum which bears his name, said: "He was a natural driver as opposed to a manufactured driver.

"Jim was driving anything at all from tractors to Sunbeam-Talbots to Minis to anything, from a very early age."

"He was such a balanced driver, good with his machinery, he treated it very kindly."

Mr Niven said this balanced approach carried into Clark's private life.

"Jim was a very modest person, just quiet and unassuming." he said.

"He just liked to get on with the job."

The new museum only opened in the middle of July but already more than 5,000 visitors - way ahead of expectations - have come through the doors to find out more about his story, and see trophies, racing memorabilia and one of his famous green and yellow Lotus single-seaters which brought him so much success.

Image caption The museum in Duns has already attracted 5,000 visitors

Andrew Tulloch, assistant curator of the Jim Clark Motorsport Museum, said: "Jim is a special figure. Scottish, good looks, quiet, shy and with an almost unbeatable skill."

Mr Tulloch said the level of fame he achieved in the 1960s was quite unusual for motor racing, which was a "niche" sport at the time.

"It wasn't on TV. It just wasn't like today," he said.

So what is the appeal for people visiting the museum like 15-year-old Daniel Donnelly and his dad Martin from Bedford who somehow know about Jim Clark, the Borders sheep farmer and Grand Prix driver extraordinaire.

Daniel said: "We have some famous, really good, historical drivers like Jim Clark and I just like how he learned how to drive, where he came from and his background."

His father Martin said: "I don't think there has ever been anyone like him. Part of his appeal was that he was a young farmer who went out and did something he enjoyed and became a master of it."

But of course there is tragedy in the Jim Clark story.

He raced at a time when a number of drivers would not expect to survive the season, where safety consisted of a few bales of hay.

And in a Formula Two race at Hockenheim in west Germany in 1968 he was killed in a high-speed crash, possibly because of a deflating rear tyre or collapsed rear suspension which sent him off the barrier-free track and into a tree.

His death, at the age of just 32, was one in a long line which spurred Jackie Stewart into action to demand better track safety.

So it is fitting that the three-time world champion will formally open his friend's museum.

Doug Niven said: "I remember Jackie telling me that in his career he saw 27 drivers killed, on average once every three months.

"After Jim was killed Jackie said 'that's it, we are going to do something about this'."

Jim Clark was born in Fife but he will forever be a man of the Borders and his story will continue to be told here in Duns and far beyond.

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