Jim Clark: But You’ve Got to Finish to Win

For some years now,  saloon car racing has been as popular with spectators as any other form of motor racing.I  think there are two main reasons for this. First, in saloon car racing the spectator can identify the cars with those used on the road—and can to a certain extent identity himself with the drivers. But the second—and main—reason for its popularity is the spectacular way in which the cars corner and perform.

Note: I was unable to find an existing text version of this article. The image I found of the printed article was hard to read so I transcribed it to better understand Jim Clark’s thoughts. Please note the article referred to the Cortina-Lotus and not the more familiar Lotus-Cortina brand. 

Jim Clark at Play — © Michael Turner

By Jim Clark
The Ford Times magazine (U.K. edition), 1964

For some years now,  saloon car racing has been as popular with spectators as any other form of motor racing.

I  think there are two main reasons for this. First, in saloon car racing the spectator can identify the cars with those used on the road—and can to a certain extent identity himself with the drivers. (Quite often there is a genuine partisanship displayed by spectators, who cheer on their own particular make of car.)

But the second—and main—reason for its popularity is the spectacular way in which the cars corner and perform.

Part of the excitement undoubtedly stems from the stringent regulations governing the of saloon racing cars, which keep them within their various classes at a relatively equal potential.

Another point is the fact that, in most cases, the car reaches its limits before the driver reaches his. This is not so much the case in Grand Prix racing, where driver and car alike are driving on a finely balanced limit all the time.

I am often asked to compare saloon car racing with Formula Grand Prix racing. This I always find difficult because. although in both cases the aim is to get the car around the circuit as quickly as possible, the techniques are very different.

With an F1 car, everything is developed to the limit. Independent suspensions are used for roadholding, multi-speed gearboxes are the rule, high-revving engines with a narrow range are fitted, and so on.

The consequent margins for error are very small indeed, and one needs a very fine touch to guide a car, even with good roadholding, through a corner on the limit.

In a saloon car, however, with its comparatively reduced roadholding and brakes, it is easier for a driver to find the limit of the car. Although I firmly believe that a driver will show up in any form of racing, I feel that the differences are not likely to be so great in a saloon car race as, say in F1.

I have often watched saloon car races myself, of course, and like everyone else I have been thrilled—if not a little scared—at times. I don’t mind saying I entered my first full season of saloon car racing with mixed feelings.

However, I think that in saloon car events—as, indeed; in all forms of racing—things look more dangerous from the grandstand than they do from the driving-seat.

Whether driving or watching saloon car races, I never cease to be amazed at the punishment and work these production cars will stand. Let’s face it, there is very little one can alter on these cars to strengthen them for such severe tests.

You can never win a race without finishing, and in my first seven races which counted towards the 1964 saloon car championship, I never had a moment’s doubt about the car’s ability to finish. The Cortina-Lotus is a first class example of a production road car with the qualities which make a world-beating racing saloon.

For me, the acid test of this car’s toughness and reliability was the 1964 Sebring 12-hour endurance race for sports and GT cars.

As I was in America at the time for preliminary tests at Indianapolis, I was invited to go to Sebring to drive a Cortina-Lotus in the 250-km saloon car race. After finishing third overall (first in the class) to a Galaxie and Falcon, and having had a tremendous dice with Dan Gurney (my Indianapolis team-mate) in another Cortina, we decided to enter the car in the 12-hour endurance race.

We had very little time to prepare the car, and our only practice consisted of the final night session. My co-driver for the event was our chief mechanic on Cortinas—Ray Parsons— who had done a bit of test-driving with the car in England.

On reflection, our chances of success in a GT race with a saloon car looked remote. In our class were four of the very fast new works GTZ Alfa Romeos, as well as the usual Porsche contingent. In the bigger classes, we were sharing the track with such cars as the 4-liter works Ferraris.

Despite one or two interesting incidents, the Cortina came in second in class behind one of the GTZs, This proved to me that the car not only had speed but stamina too, for during the race we never eased off.

Since that day I have had a great deal of respect for the Cortina . . .  and this driver/ car confidence is essential to any success in any form of motor racing.  With confidence in this car, the saloon racing driver can use his skill to the full without having to hold himself back.

With the Cortina, for example, I make full use of the car’s astonishing ability to comer on three Wheels—even at speeds in of 100 mph. This is a great advantage on certain corners where knowing that the inside front wheel is off the ground. one can steal a few vital inches off the grass verge with absolute confidence.

The technique is one of many that are exclusive to saloon car racing, and which help to give it special excitement for both spectator and driver. If one were to try to apply the same techniques to Grand Prix racing, the effects’ might be spectacular but almost certainly slower!

For this reason, and the others I have mentioned, saloon car and Grand Prix racing are almost two different worlds. But without this difference, and the thrills and skills peculiar to each. motor racing as a sport would distinctly poorer.