Jim Clark was born on a farm in Kilmany, Fife, Scotland.
The youngest of the family, and the only boy among four sisters, Jim moved
to a Border districts farm, Edington Mains near Duns, Berwickshire, at
the age of six.His sister Betty recalls exuberant bicycle races and her
brother's excellent musical skills, even singing lead treble at a school
choir concert. Rally driving ace Andrew Cowan, who grew up on a nearby
Border farm, was a fellow member of the Ednam Young Farmers Club, and of
the Berwick and District Motor Club. Membership of the two organisations
seemed to go hand in hand, as much for the social opportunities as anything
else. Says Cowan: "We were absolute hooligans. It was more fun in those
days!" Jim Clark's first real race was in a German-built DKW 3-6 at Crimond
Airfield, near Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1956. He didn't win. He didn't even
come close. But last place didn't put him off and soon he was graduating
to better cars. A very spirited driver in his own Sunbeam Talbot Mark III,
Clark's move to racing was not welcomed by his farmer parents, who rather
expected their son to take over the family property.
His first big win came on October 5, 1957 in
a friend's Porsche 1600 Super (Jim later bought it), taking the Border
Motor Racing Club Trophy at Charterhall. He had graduated to a Triumph
TR-3 for personal transport, using the car to win the Rest-and-be-Thankful
Hillclimb in 1957.
By 1958 his talent was being clearly recognised.
Supplied with a Jaguar D-Type by the Border Reivers team, Clark was now
entering races in England, with varied success, and May of 1958 saw the
Border Reivers venture to Belgium for the GP de Spa at Spa Francorchamps.
In his first foreign race Jimmy brought the car into 8th. Wins in the Jaguar,
his Triumph and the Porsche were coming more regularly but a race at Brands
Hatch on Boxing Day, 1958, pointed the way to the top of the sport.Competing
in a Lotus 14 (Elite), and leading most of the way, Clark finished second
to the car's manufacturer, a man rated by many as a very good racer indeed;
Chapman, now a fledgling Formula One entrant,
had invited Clark down to Brands Hatch two months earlier to try out the
Lotus Formula Two car (basically a Grand Prix Lotus 16 fitted with a 1.5
litre Coventry Climax FPF engine, instead of the F1 car's 2.5 litre version),
currently under consideration by the Border Reivers.
a photo of the Porsche 1600
Super in which Jim scored first race win (6K)
While his times were slower than Grand Prix team
driver Graham Hill's, they were good enough for Chapman to take notice.
Watching Hill lose a wheel, and flip the Lotus, did little to boost Clark's
confidence in the car, so competing in a single seater was to wait another
fourteen months. The Reivers bought an Elite instead and entered the Boxing
The first win in the Elite came in the Mallory
Park 1000cc - 1600cc GT car race in March. The Border Reivers had also
moved him up to a Lister-Jaguar with which he was regularly winning or
Performances during 1959 pointed increasingly
to a Grand Prix career as Clark turned in lap times and placings as good
as the Formula One stars of the day. When Aston Martin bid for his services
early in 1960, Clark was ready to make the jump.Impressing Aston Martin
team boss Reg Parnell enough to win a contract offer, Clark also tested
Colin Chapman's new rear-engined Lotus 18 Cosworth Formula Junior.
Clark had one major obstacle; his father and
mother continued to be unhappy with his plans to race full-time. Parnell
went to Berwickshire to talk to James Clark Senior who was mollified only
by Parnell's blunt assertion that the farmer's son was good enough to be
As it turned out, the Aston Martin team failed
to produce a car it thought worthy of a Formula One effort so Clark found
himself free to drive the Lotus FJ, taking the British Championship.He
was eventually released by Parnell to drive Colin Chapman's Formula One
cars as well, beginning at the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. He ran as
high as 4th before the gearbox failed. The shy young racer was on his way.