Approved, almost on the eve of what would have been his 81st birthday, the printer’s running sheets for the new edition of Jim Clark: Tribute to a Champion. These pages are now being bound into books at 10:10 in Hong Kong and will be in good bookshops and on Amazon next month. Beautifully redesigned by Andrew Barron, with a new jacket featuring a portrait by Graham Turner, it is a book about the nail-biting curiously vulnerable Clark for a generation that missed the first edition 20 years ago.
Think of Clark as a prototype David Beckham. Good looking, boyish, supremely skilled, a gift to the modern celebrity culture. Admired by men, adored by women, he would have had none of Beckham’s self-regard indeed he could not have understood it. Shy and self-effacing (although not all the time) he would have frustrated a 21st century purveyor of public relations. He was not really commercial. He thought himself fortunate to be paid to follow his passion for motor racing; professional sports stars earning millions was a lifetime away. A picture in the book shows him at the launch of Gold Leaf Team Lotus in one of his last racing cars.
Jim Clark tended to be cautious with the press lest his family and friends at home got the wrong idea about his globe-trotting glamorous life style. Something Presbyterian lingered with him. He preferred to trust people he knew, retaining accountants and lawyers that soon got out of their depth, leaving difficulties for his family long after his death. He was never fully attuned to the rough and tumble of Colin Chapman’s regime as revealed in detail by Lotus racing manager Andrew Ferguson. All that mattered was that Chapman’s engineering genius provided him with exquisite racing cars.
Some of Clark’s records have been overtaken. He came within an ace of four consecutive world championships. The British Grand Prix at Aintree, 21 July 1962, was the first of his eight “grand slams” (pole position, leading every lap, fastest lap and winning), an achievement unlikely ever to be bettered.
Yet Tribute to a Champion is not exclusively motor racing and I cherish the words of Walter Hayes, who as Ford’s Vice President of Public Affairs played a crucial role in Jim’s career, to say nothing of giving sage advice on how to structure this book. “I finished it very late last night and decided that nobody will ever better define Jimmy or, for that matter any great racing driver.”
A royalty on copies of the book will go to the Jim Clark Trust towards rebuilding the Jim Clark Museum, Duns, Scottish Borders.