On this day in 1936, Jim Clark, who will dominate Formula One (F1) racing in the mid-1960s and win two F1 world championships, is born in Scotland.
Clark grew up on a farm and as a teenager began competing in local car races. Initially, Clark’s family was less-than-enthusiastic about his involvement in racing and Clark himself was shy and disliked being in the spotlight when he won. However, according to his biography at Formula1.com: “Goaded on by his friends, the reluctant racer began to take it more seriously, demonstrating an outstanding natural talent that amazed everyone, and certainly surprised the man himself.”
In 1960, the Scotsman began his F1 racing career, competing for the British-based Team Lotus. (The team, which was established in the early 1950s, was dominant on the F1 circuit in the 1960s and 1970s, collecting seven F1 constructors’ championships and six drivers’ titles before it was disbanded in the mid-1990s.) Clark had some harrowing experiences early on. While competing in just his second Grand Prix, at Spa in Belgium, he narrowly missed hitting the body of a fellow competitor, who had been killed in a crash, on the track. Several laps later, Clark’s teammate and friend Alan Stacey lost control of his car after being smacked in the face by a bird and died. The following year, at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, Clark was involved in a collision with German driver Wolfgang von Trips of the Ferrari team. The accident, which was not considered Clark’s fault, killed the German driver and more than a dozen onlookers.
Starting in 1962, things improved for Clark and for the next four seasons, he typically only ever lost a race due to mechanical problems. An oil leak prevented Clark from collecting the championship title in 1962; however, in 1963 he won seven out of 10 Grand Prix races and took home the championship. Another oil leak caused him to miss out on the championship crown in 1964, but the following year he won six out of 10 races and claimed his second world championship. Also in 1965, he gained fame in America when he won that year’s Indianapolis 500 after leading the race for 190 out of 200 laps.
Clark collected his 25th Grand Prix victory in South Africa in 1968, passing the iconic Argentine driver Juan-Manuel Fangio’s (1911–1995) record of 24 Grand Prix wins. However, later that year, on April 7, 1968, Clark’s life was cut short at a Formula 2 race at Hockenheim in West Germany, when his car experienced a tire failure and crashed. The 32-year-old Scotsman died with a record of 25 wins in 72 starts and 33 pole positions.