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John Surtees Pays Tribute to Jim Clark

Former world champion John Surtees today paid tribute to his former teammate Jim Clark, who died 40 years ago today.

Surtees and Clark drove for Lotus together in 1960, before Surtees left to drive for Cooper, Lola, and then Ferrari who he won the 1964 title with.

Clark, meanwhile, remained with Lotus throughout his career and won the world championship in 1963 and 1965. He was killed during a European Formula Two race at Hockenheim in 1968.

“There were no sides to him,” Surtees told “He was a straightforward guy and an enthusiast that loved his driving. He was a great ambassador for the sport and you always knew you could compete with him honestly – you could race him closely and know what he was and wasn’t going to do.

“I had a great dice with him at Goodwood in the first race I competed in, and after that Colin Chapman asked me to drive with him so I joined Jimmy there and we became quite close.

“He actually introduced me to my first wife. I was woken up by a lot of noise in the hotel at the Belgian Grand Prix and it was Jimmy and this girl dancing. He was actually my best man at our wedding.”

Surtees left Lotus for Cooper at the end of the season and two the two were never teammates again in Formula One, although they remained friends as well as rivals.

“At the end of 1960, Colin Chapman offered me a position and asked who I’d want with me and I said Jimmy. I didn’t stay at Lotus in the end because of a big argument involving Innes Ireland, otherwise it would have been myself and Jimmy at Lotus in 1961.

“When you joined a team like Ferrari in those days you isolated yourself quite a lot from the British contingent, so my relationship with Jim didn’t develop after those early years, but we remained friends.

“We did the Tasman Series together one year and spent quite a lot of time white water rafting and messing about on jet boats. The cars kept falling apart so the racing wasn’t much fun, but we still had a good time.”

Clark’s two titles sandwiched Surtees’s win and the latter has ambivalent memories of their rivalry.

“Jimmy created a superb on-going relationship with Colin Chapman and Coventry Climax, then Ford Cosworth,” added Surtees.

“They made a very strong combination and you didn’t enjoy them as opponents, although you had to appreciate that it was something rather special. When something like that comes to an end in that fashion like that it’s very sad.

“His death was a tragedy and there was all the uncertainty over whether it was his mistake, a tyre failure, or something else. I think it was some factor other than Jimmy, something definitely went wrong.”