Post 1945 Drivers
Jim Clark & THE 49 first impressions

APART FROM YOUR SHORT BUT VERY WELCOME visit to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, you've not been in Britain since you left for the South African Grand Prix in December 1966. At that time the Lotus 49 Ford can hardly have been very well advanced?

JC Oh it wasn't very advanced at all. I think the first chassis jigs were being made. I knew of the car way back in August last year when I saw drawings of the brake calipers and all that kind of thing. and I sawall the layout drawings-but then. you know, I don't profess to know what they're all about. I first saw the Lotus Ford physically at Zandvoort when it arrived for the Dutch GP.

As a result of your absence, did you have to work hard at getting the car to suit you at Zandvoort in the spring?

JC No, By now, after however many years it is, Lotus have a rough idea of my shape. It was just a maner of packi ng and paddi ng my seat space, sening my pedals, steering wheel and everything. In fact the factory had more trouble the year before when they built the Fl, F2 and Indy cars an inch narrower. so when I returned from Australia I couldn't sit in the things. I couldn't even square my hips round: I was sining one hip high and one low. So they had to put a big ding in every chassis to fit me in. They seemed to think that because I'd driven the cars the year before and not complained

I must have had too much room, so they made them an inch narrower. But when they built the Lotus Ford grand prix car they didn't have that trouble again: they built it around Graham Hill.

When the Lotus Ford arrived at Zandvoort, I assume Graham had set up both cars. Did that mean you had to undo a certain amount of Graham's thinking to suit yourself?

JC Graham's had been run. Mine had never turned a wheel. I suppose mine had Graham's springs on it so we changed them. My first impression on driving the Lotus Ford was that it was very quick, and it had rather alarming characteristics. With an engine like the Ford you want to be driving it at rather lowish rpm under certain circumstances. My engine didn't seem to want this at all. The power came in with such a bang at 6500 revs that it was a case of wondering whether you had control of the car or not. The throtle control at the time was also a bit basic, it was very stiff, and it had no decent travel. I like something with an even response to the throttle all the way through the range. This engine had nothing until six-five, and when the power arrived it came so suddenly that it broke the wheels loose, especially if the car was in an attitude. At Zandvoort when you came on to the straight in front of the grandstand there was so much oil during the first few laps of the race that at six-five in fourth gear I was breaking the whole back end loose, so the car would be going down the straight with full opposite lock on. Now I suppose I have got used to it although we have altered the linkage quite a bit since then. With a better linkage and stronger return springs it's more refined than it was in the early days.

Between races now do you tell Colin Chapman just what you want for the next Grand Prix? I should think he misses you vvhen it comes to track testing.

JC Quite honestly, it's no different now than it has ever been. During previous seasons when I lived in the country I very rarely visited the factory between meetings anyway, We usually do everything at the meeting, when what I want is fresh in my mind, and we get a job list made up for later.

What was the trouble at Spa, when you had to drop out after leading the opening laps?

JC I was disappointed not to win there. I reckoned we had a fair chance of victory. The car was very comfortable while it was going. I never had to drive really hard at all. I was more disappointed at the second pit stop: I reckoned after the first stop that I may not have won the race, but I was all set to have a real go and with luck you might have seen some amazing lap times. The practice times would not have stood up very long, because I was in the mood. But I didn't get another full lap in we had the plugs falling out all the time. The porcelain kept on breaking around the plugs. One blew the porcelain right out. and the second broke it right in half. The theory was that they were over-tightened.

By Le Mans you'd virtually sorted the car out to your liking, even though you both suffered from crown wheel and pinion failure?

JC Le Mans was our sort of circuit for these cars. There you have to stop and drag race away from the corners, and the Lotus Fords are pretty good at that with their good power to weight ratio. They're a bit twitchy in the middle of a corner, though. At Le Mans you couldn't really get the power on in the way I would like, had to wait for it to straighten out. I suppose it's partly because we are handling three-litre cars now for the first time around some of the circuits and we're not used to it but I know when I drove the Lotus H 16 BRM car last year I could get the power on earlier than I can in the smaller and lighter Ford.

When you say you're not accustomed to this kind of power, what exactly do you mean?

JC Well, the thing you have got to remember is that this Lotus Ford has probably the highest power to weight ratio that has ever been achieved. By that I mean in a GP racing car, and they don't come much quicker. Naturally it's going to take some handling. Things happen very quickly. I know I have handled more power than this at Indy, but power is all relative. An Indy car is geared for 200mph. You have got power in an Indy car between 7000 and 9000rpm on one high gear ratio. The power transmined to the wheels by that sort of ratio is not very great-well, that's a sweeping statement; it is great. but in comparison to taking one of these Lotus Ford Fl cars and shoving it in second gear, third gear, fourth gear or even fifth with a low ratio in and sticking your boot in it (especially when it comes in with a bang at six-five round a corner on some of the Grand Prix circuits) it is hardly exciting. At Indy you are going faster, but the power isn't forever coming in suddenly: it's there all the time. You cannot even compare it with the Lotus 30 sports car. That was nice and forgiving (eh ?-Ed), it broke away early and was quite comfortable to drive. To get the maximum out of the 49 takes a lot more ability, and far more concentration.

You did a really fast lap during practice at the Nurburgring: did you feel you exploited the car fully then?

JC No. Its potential performance is much greater than I am prepared to extract just at the moment. I reckon I should have been able to open the throule much more often than I did under certain circumstances at the Ring. I should have been going quicker out of corners than I sometimes did. I reckon a lap around the Ring under eight minutes was quite feasible that day even the way I was driving, if it hadn't been for the throule trouble and the brakes locking on. I was being a bit cautious with the brake pedal because I was getting a lot of knock-off with some new pads. I also had the wrong ratios in that day: consequently I spent a lot of time in the 5500 to 6000 rev band where the engine has no power. If I'd had a lower gear ratio I could have used more of the power above six-five.

Exactly how much of the time do you spend on the limit in a race in the Lotus Ford?

JC I find it very difficult to drive on the limit all the time unless I have to. Unless I have an incentive, I won't bother. I'm just lazy about that sort of thing. Actually its not so much laziness - I spend time nursing the car along in a race, I'm worried something is going to break; in fact that realty worries me, more so at a place like the Ring. Around there you feel you could drive the car that much harder at times, but you're graunching it so hard that you don't feel like doing it. Almost every lap round the Ring you think there is something falling off. You hit a bump differently, Something happens. Your shock absorbers get clapped out, you start pattering across the road, and you immediately think something is coming away from the car. It's so difficult to tell around the Ring because it's so rough and bumpy that you're completely on edge wondering what it could be:

I spend time peering about to see if everything is still hanging on, and that costs me seconds a lap.

Does the sight of a team mate's accident upset you-for example, the sight of Graham Hill's Lotus battered after his shunt during practice at the Ring?

JC Not half. I went past him on a flying lap, and for the rest of that lap I was upset first for Graham, then for myself. I wondered what broke on his car. People say I have a lot of luck when it comes to shunts. I must say I seem to have got away with it. But what do you say? Is it luck? At Zandvoort I saved a wheel falling off during practice. I could have gone on until that bloody wheel had fallen off, but the night before I told them there was something wrong with the car and they didn't find it. Next day I was sure there was something wrong, so I brought the car into the pits and wouldn't drive it until they found the fault. You could hardly see it: a ball race had broken.

more about Clark

Clarks Indy win

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