Posted 07 April 2003 - 09:39
I've posted this here before, but for those who've not read it (and those who have) this is Innes Ireland's moving tribute to Jimmy published in the Autocar i/d April 11th 1968.
JIM CLARK OBE
It all started as a subdued whisper – as if the whisperer was afraid to utter the words in case they were true: and even if they were, would be reluctant to believe them.
I was at Brands Hatch for the BOAC 500 race when I heard the rumour which finally contained such tragic truth – “Clark has had an accident at Hockenheim”. At first I thought it was just a motor racing incident: for even Clark has had those before: the possibility of anything more serious never entered my head. In the scramble for accurate information, the hope that it was all a mistake dwindled rapidly until only the stark, unreal and unbelievable fact was confirmed – Jim Clark was dead.
At first my mind refused to believe that this could be true. Drivers like Clark are indestructible, despite the fact that he may have had previous accidents. As confirmation piled upon confirmation, I reluctantly remembered having the same feelings about Alan Stacey, and slowly the finality of death impressed itself upon me. The inevitability of this realization shook, once more, the rules by which I have lived.
When the life of a young driver, so much in the public eye, is cut short at the height of a career, the man in the street begins to wonder “Why do they do it – what’s it all about – what are they thinking of?”
To begin with, all those who engage in the Sport, do so from the love of driving a fast car. This is something intangible, as is the feeling of conquering a mountain peak, or ski-ing down an Alpine slope over virgin snow, or jumping out of an aeroplane at 20000ft and pulling the ripcord at 1000ft, or sailing round the world singlehanded. It is a sensuous thing, and as such, is perhaps indefinable. The longer they do it, the more they realize the fact that there are risks involved, but without the risks there would be nothing. And so they adopt a fatalistic outlook on life, which is the only code by which one can live – or die.
I well remember a book which Peter Garnier wrote about the Monaco Grand Prix. In it he asked himself if a racing driver ever thought, as he closed his bedroom door on the morning of race day, “I wonder if I shall be alive to open it tonight?” Peter felt this was a question he could never, ever ask.
I can tell him the answer now: it is “Yes” – or certainly in my case. But it is a thought that lingers for but an instant, to be put aside with more important and realistic things, the belief in one’s own ability, the countless races that have gone before – the narrow squeaks, the accidents one has survived when all the indications were one shouldn’t have done, the raison d’etre as it were which brings us back to his fatalistic outlook.
I have known Jim Clark for perhaps longer than any of his contemporaries, for my father was a veterinary surgeon in the area of the Clark farms in Scotland – in fact I bought one of my first racing cars from his brother-in-law, another farmer nearby. We spent two good years together with Team Lotus in 1960 and 1961. But to my great regret, I did not know him as well as I might, for our early friendship was later clouded over by the circumstances surrounding my leaving Lotus.
His past performances need no recollection here – they are indelibly printed in the record book for posterity. He had a great love for his heritage, which was the basically simple, rustic life of farming and animal husbandry: but his dedication to motor racing was even greater, for he forced himself to leave all this behind to concentrate on his chosen profession. And it is in this light that we must regard him, for he died as he lived, giving his all in a racing car. I am sure that he would express no regrets at the violence of his passing, and surely this is answer enough for those of us who are left.
I know, from past experience of being with Colin Chapman during such a trial, how utterly futile life and effort must seem at this time. But to him, and to Jim’s parents, relatives and friends, I can only say to look at it as he would have done – otherwise his life has been in vain.
And to those who still question the wisdom of people who wish to risk their lives in racing carsI would say that motor racing, as a sport, is the most exacting, demanding, exhilarating and, above all, satisfying sport in which a man with red blood in his veins could indulge.
To Jim’s parents, his sisters and relatives, I, and the staff of Autocar, extend our most sincere condolences.
The following week, Autocar published Ireland’s report of Clark’s funeral:
On Wednesday, 10 April, great numbers of people from all walks of life and many parts of the country, even from abroad, journeyed to the little village of Chirnside in Berwickshire to pay their last respects to a quiet Scottish farmer and racing driver, Jim Clark. The significant thing about the mourners was not the famous, who were many in number, but the ordinary countryfolk who had known Jim, the farmer, from his schoolboy days, whose numbers were legion.
The service was held at Chirnside Old Church which was packed to capacity with 600 people. There were many more than this number standing outside, and the sincere but simple service was relayed to them by loud speakers. As it was carried into the church, so the coffin was carried to its last resting place by six farmworkers from Jim’s farm, Edington Mains. It was reverently laid to rest by eight cord-bearers with Jim’s father at the head, other close relatives, and Colin Chapman.
After the service many close friends went back to Jim’s house to meet the womenfolk, as is the Scottish custom, filled with a sense that the hosts of flowers, the numbers in attendance from far and near and the service itself had been a fitting tribute to this gallant driver.