Sporting Nation: Jim Clark – the Scot who was Senna’s hero

By Andy BurkeBBC Scotland

Throughout July, BBC Scotland’s Sporting Nation series will reflect on some of the greatest feats and personalities from Scottish sporting history. First up is Jim Clark, a two-time Formula 1 world champion and widely considered to be one of the greatest racing drivers of all time.

Jim Clark is the only driver to win the Formula One world title and the Indy 500 in the same season

Jim Clark is the only driver to win the Formula One world title and the Indy 500 in the same season

Jim Clark’s towering presence in the pantheon of iconic racing drivers was perhaps best encapsulated by another Formula 1 great, the late Ayrton Senna.

The legendary Brazilian commissioned Mexican artist Hugo Escobedo to capture his fantasy grand prix line-up in an oil painting. Juan Fangio, Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, Niki Lauda, and of course, Senna himself – the greatest drivers in history.

He gave Escobedo two instructions: first, he must exclude French multiple world champion Alain Prost, his bitter rival; and secondly, pole position among this galaxy of superstars must be filled by Clark. “After all, he was the best of the best,” Senna said.

Clark’s two Formula 1 world championships does not put him in the top 10 in terms of titles but, to many, the Scot is the most naturally gifted driver in the history of motor sport.

Those who raced alongside him, those who worked closely with him, those who observed him at close quarters in any capacity, all agree he had a unique understanding of how to maximise the machine at his disposal. Where mere mortals would push the car to its limits to try and gain that little bit extra, Clark’s approach was different. More serene, more effective.

“He was so smooth, he was so clean, he drove with such finesse. He never bullied a racing car, he sort of caressed it into doing the things he wanted it to do,” is how Jackie Stewart, a fellow Scot who claimed three F1 world titles of his own in the late 1960s and early 1970s, described Clark’s sorcery.

His introduction to top level competitive racing came at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 1959. His instincts and feel for his cars made Clark not only a world-class driver, but a versatile one. Sports cars, rally cars, touring cars, Formula 1 cars – he mastered them all.

As well as his F1 world titles in 1963 and 1965 – he would have won in 1964 were it not for an engine oil leak in the final grand prix of the season – Clark won the Indianapolis 500 in the United States.

He is the only driver to capture the F1 and Indy 500 crowns in the same year, also winning the Tasman Series and Formula 2’s Trophees de France in an extraordinary run of success in 1965.

Growing up on farms in Fife and the Borders, and with a naturally shy disposition, the glitz and glamour of life of a racing driver did not always sit easily with Clark. However, as the years passed, his confidence away from the track grew, and his performances on it were without peer.

But in 1968, the unfolding success story of motor racing’s biggest star came to an abrupt and tragic end.

During a gap in the Formula 1 season, Clark was competing in a Formula 2 grand prix in West Germany. On the fifth lap, his Lotus 48 veered off the Hockenheim track and crashed into the trees. He was fatally wounded and died before reaching the hospital. He was 32.

The cause of the crash was never fully determined, with investigators concluding a deflated rear tyre was the most likely explanation. The possibility of driver error was dismissed by Clark’s peers, who refused to believe the brilliant Scot was capable of such a mistake.

Jim Clark sitting in his Lotus car
Clark’s first F1 drivers’ title in 1963 also brought Lotus their maiden constructors’ crown

Just as his thrilling drives had captured the imagination of racing fans the world over, so Clark’s death shook the sport to its core.

“Jimmy’s death is probably the most tragic thing in the history of motor racing,” said Stewart. “Jimmy was not only a famous driver, he was an international personality, loved by all his fiercest rivals.”

Another colleague, Chris Amon, said of Clark’s death: “If it could happen to him, what chance do the rest of us have? I think we all felt that. It seemed like we’d lost our leader.”

More than half a century since his zenith, Clark is still revered as one of the greats, and his career accomplishments would surely have been burnished with more titles had he not been taken so young.

His records have stood the test of time. From 72 Formula 1 grands prix, he registered 25 wins and 33 pole positions. His winning ratio of 70% in his championship-winning 1963 season has never been matched.

It’s little wonder Clark loomed so large in the life of the young Senna. In 1991, the reigning Formula 1 world champion embarked on a pilgrimage to Scotland, visiting the Jim Clark Museum in Duns in the Scottish Borders, and addressing a crowd of pupils at Clark’s old boarding school, Loretto, in Musselburgh. “Jim Clark was my boyhood hero,” Senna told them.

Just three years later, Senna’s life was cut short in hauntingly similar circumstances to his idol when the Brazilian crashed while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix and died at the age of 34.

Cruelly snatched away in their prime, the legend of both men endures, their exploits and legacies carved in stone. Any debate around the greatest racing driver in history is sure to include the names Clark and Senna. After all, they were the best of the best.

Sporting Nation: Sir Jackie Stewart’s Formula 1 legacy goes beyond success

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Throughout July, BBC Scotland’s Sporting Nation series is reflecting on some of the greatest feats and personalities from Scottish sporting history. Here we look at Jackie Stewart, a three-time Formula 1 world champion and a driving force behind the campaign to introduce more safety measures to the sport.

It is October 1973 and Sir Jackie Stewart is preparing to bow out of Formula 1 by celebrating his third World Championship win. He has raced in 99 grands prix, and he wants the 100.

It should have been a weekend Stewart would never forget, one he could look back on with happiness, pride and satisfaction as he achieved that milestone.

“You’ve made all that money, you’ve had that success, you’ve had the adulation and baloney that goes with it, and, suddenly, God slaps you on the wrist,” Stewart says, painfully remembering that ill-fated Saturday afternoon in Watkins Glen, New York.

“Suddenly, he takes the life of the person you’re closest to outside of your family.”

That person was Francois Cevert, Stewart’s 29-year-old Tyrrell team-mate, his protege and his friend. He had died in a horrendous accident on the same track the Scot was due to perform his lap of honour.

“The injuries were so graphically horrible, I wouldn’t wish anyone to ever see something like it,” he said. “It was another time that someone I was really close to was killed right in front of me.

“I counted 57 people who died who we’d had in our home, stayed in our home, had dinner with, travelled with, holidayed with. It was hideously dangerous and it had to be changed.”

‘It wasn’t celebrated, it was ignored’

Even from a young age, Stewart was made well aware of the dangers of his biggest passion.

“There’s only ever going to be one racing driver in this family, and he’s just retired,” mother Jeannie told him, referring to his brother Jimmy, who was eight years older and had survived a few nasty crashes.

However, a conventional job was seemingly out of the question for young Jackie, as he struggled with his education and was later diagnosed with what he describes as “extreme dyslexia”.

Francois Cevert and Jackie Stewart
The death of friend and Tyrrell team-mate Francois Cevert (left) convinced Stewart to retire one race short of his 100th grand prix

He left school as a 16-year-old and went to work in his father’s garage, where his racing journey began. Initially, Stewart did not tell his mother, but she soon found out.

“I had to race under the pseudonym of ‘AN Other’,” he said. “Eventually it came out in newspapers about ‘Jimmy Stewart’s younger brother, Jackie’. Of course she read it…”

While Stewart’s achievements caused the sporting community to sit up and take notice, his mother closed her eyes and put her fingers in her ears. She didn’t want to know.

“She never once acknowledged that I was a racing driver,” he said. “If I won a grand prix, she would never say: ‘Oh, that was nice that you won.’

“When I won a World Championship it wasn’t celebrated, it was ignored. It was never discussed in the house, ever.”

Campaigning for greater safety in F1

In 1966, Jeannie’s worst fears very nearly became a reality. A crash at the Belgian Grand Prix left Stewart stuck in the cockpit of his BRM for 25 minutes with petrol leaking from the car.

“I was trapped for a long time,” he recalls. “I was soaked in fuel, the electrics were still ticking – they could have gone up in flames at any time.

“No assistance, no marshals, no medical people, no tools to get me out of the car. It was a wake-up call. It alerted me to what was wrong with driving racing cars.”

Stewart survived, but his colleagues would not be so lucky in the years to come.

“I don’t want to make any more friends in this sport. It’s too hard losing them,” Stewart had said after Jochen Rindt was killed in 1970, two years after Scot Jim Clark.

“Four drivers in four months died that were living with us, travelling with us, eating with us and racing with us. Nothing was being done.”

Jackie Stewart
Stewart won his third Formula 1 world title in 1973

Stewart knew he had to use his platform to change Formula 1 for the better. He campaigned for run-off areas, better barriers, advanced medical facilities and proper marshalling. He led boycotts of the biggest venues – such as Nurburgring and Spa-Francorchamps – because of poor safety measures.

His quest was met with adversity and a lack of recognition, but Stewart has been instrumental in the sport becoming vastly different in terms of driver safety since his heyday.

His glittering career was plastered with success and joy, but plagued by grief and loss.

“Racing was my life. It was my whole life. I was consumed by it,” he reflects.

“I never drew any blood from an accident involving motor racing. I came through it remarkably unscathed – but mentally damaged, I’m sure, by all the deaths.”

Sporting Nation: Stephen Hendry – the making of a winning machine

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Throughout July, BBC Scotland’s Sporting Nation series is reflecting on some of the greatest feats and personalities from Scottish sporting history. Here we look at snooker legend Stephen Hendry, winner of seven World Championships, more than any other player in history.

Stephen Hendry’s not altogether sure where the killer instinct came from. The nerveless brilliance that saw off Jimmy White in four Crucible finals and Nigel Bond, Peter Ebdon and Mark Williams in three more to bring up his record haul of seven world titles, but he’s sure it had something to do with those nights spent playing money matches at Minnesota Fats, one of the hardcore snooker institutions in 1980s Glasgow.

He was only a boy then. Seventeen years old. Unsmiling, for the most part, and as clinical as can be. Moulded by his manager, Ian Doyle, into a clone of Steve Davis, this was a snooker machine in the making.

Those events in the smoke-filled halls shaped him, no doubt about it. “Whether I enjoyed it or not, I don’t know. I didn’t like walking into the place, I didn’t like the surroundings or the atmosphere but once I got to the table it was fine. People are drinking and smoking, you can imagine. You walk in and you’re trying to hide your face. It could be quite intimidating. They’ve got their money on and they’re supporting their own man. You’re down playing a shot and you’d get, Miss, you b******!’ You’d hear it. A great education for later on when I was playing Jimmy and everybody wanted him to win.”

‘When I started winning, I became the enemy’

Hendry arrived into the world of professional snooker and had nothing in common with most of its inhabitants. He was younger and he was different. In the beginning, Alex Higgins took a shine to him. Before long, Hendry won his first ranking tournament and quickly the shine was removed.

“Alex was really good me to me when I first turned pro, but at 18 I won my first event and then won a few more and I became the enemy. He turned,” he said.

“I was like the second coming of Steve Davis, who he’d had a hate relationship with. He just became more cold, little snidey remarks in the press. Him and Jimmy were the proper players and me and Steve were boring machines. We were the anti-snooker players because we didn’t go out drinking and getting up to whatever they were getting up to. We wanted to practise five or six hours a day and win every tournament and that was seen as not being a character.”

Stephen Hendry
Hendry beat Jimmy White in 1990 to win the youngest ever world champion at 21, a record that still stands

That was the terrain of the time and he loved it. He said in one press conference that he’d be world champion by the time he was 21. “The response was kinda like, ‘Who’s this idiot?'” At 21, that’s exactly what he did in 1990. The youngest ever world snooker champion when beating White 18-12. Two years later he trailed White 14-8 in the third session of another final, won 10 frames in a row and a second world title. In 1993 and 1994 he did Jimmy again. Four crowns now. Nobody could touch him.

“Jimmy had taken over from Alex as the people’s champion. By ’93 and ’94 I’m getting booed by certain elements. Looking back to those days in Minnesota Fats, it toughened me up. The 1994 final was the one Jimmy should have won. It’s 17-17 and he was in the balls. He just needs to make a 50 break. I’d pretty much resigned myself to defeat. I looked up at a friend on the balcony and sort of gave a roll of the eyes. ‘It’s gone, this one’.

“He missed a black off the spot. Twitches it. I was out of my chair before the balls had stopped rolling.”

‘I said seven world titles was enough – I should have gone for 10’

Hendry made it five World Championships in 1995 with an 18-9 obliteration of Bond and made it six when beating Ebdon 18-12 a year later. Six was great, but Davis had six, so seven was the target. “Six was never enough.”

This is the mind of a champion – snooker’s greatest ever champion. He won his seventh title when beating Mark Williams 18-11 in 1999. In the press conference after the Williams final he said that if he never won another match he’d still retire happy. Looking back, he said that it was a “shocking thing to say”. What should he have said after fulfilling his life’s dream? “I should have been saying I’ve won seven but now I want to try to win 10.”

He could have won another. In 2002 he won a tumultuous semi-final against Ronnie O’Sullivan. “I thought that was the real final. I reckoned that whoever won between Ronnie and me would beat either of the other two. I got Ebdon in the final. I didn’t believe that Peter could beat me over four sessions. It’s one thing having confidence but it’s another thing when you don’t show your opponent enough respect – and I didn’t show Peter enough respect. He beat me 18-17. It’s a big regret. If I had been in there properly I would never have been in danger.”

The “downfall” happened from there. He developed the yips, occasionally at first and then more regularly. He played so badly in China in 2012 that he was reduced to tears. A short while later, Stephen Maguire did him in cold blood at the Crucible; 13-2. “I was playing like an absolute tool,” he says.

That ruthless self-examination was part of who he was, part of what made him the game’s ultimate winner.

You can listen to the full interview on This Sporting Life: Tom English meets Stephen Hendry podcast.

Scottish myths: The Blue Men of Minch

SCOTLAND’S longstanding relationship with the sea has spawned a variety of claims from sailors convinced they have seen sea-dwelling supernatural creatures.

The Blue Men of Minch are also known as Sea Kelpies. Image: TSPL

The Blue Men of Minch are also known as Sea Kelpies. Image: TSPL

THE SCOTSMAN

The strait between the Island of Lewis and the Shiant Isles was known in the 19th century as ‘the stream of the Blue Men’ because it was said to be inhabited by a strange group of creatures.

The Blue Men of the Minch, also known as Storm Kelpies, are said to occasionally prey on sailors making the crossing.

Those who are unlucky enough to come across the Blue Men note the distinctive green beards and hair they have, as well as their exceptionally-strong physique.

Mermaid-like in their appearance, the Blue Men of Minch are meant to lure sailors to their deaths in rough seas. Image: Warriors of Myth

Mermaid-like in their appearance, the Blue Men of Minch are meant to lure sailors to their deaths in rough seas. Image: Warriors of Myth

Other historical recordings of the creatures say that they lived in underwater caves in a clan system, while generations of folklore say they can only be beaten by making sure the last word is achieved in a rhyming duel.

It is said many a captain has escaped disaster on the seas with the sharpness of his tongue, while those less fortunate are left to perish in the cold and raging waters common to the region.

While the Blue Men slept the weather would remain fine, but they could conjure storms when they wished.

However, innocent fishermen who have done nothing to enrage the Sea Kelpies will be allowed safe passage through the area.

The Shiant Islands in Scotland

The Shiant Islands in Scotland

The Blue Men can also help the locals, with a Samhain or Halloween tradition involving the lighting of a candle by the sea.

Ale is then poured into the water in order to encourage the Blue Men to leave seaweed on the beach as fertiliser.

This extract from Donald Alexander Mackenzie book Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend, published in 1917, describes the legend of the creature:

“The strait which lies between the island on Lewis an the Shant Isles is called the ‘Sea-stream of the Blue Men’. They are of human size, and they have great strength. By day and by night they swim round and between the Shant Isles, and the sea there is never at rest.

“The Blue Men wear blue caps and grey faces which appear above the waves that they raise with their long restless arms. In summer weather they skim lightly below the surface but when the wind is high they revel in the storm and swim with heads erect, splashing the waters with mad delight. Sometimes they are seen floating from the waist out to sea, and sometimes turning round like purpoises when they dive.”

In Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, 1900, John Gregorson Campbell described a blue-coloured man with a long-grey face that followed boats slowly on the water, never quite in reach.

The origin of the Blue Men legend is unclear, with some suggestions that it originates with the Moorish or North African slaves marooned in Ireland in the 9th Century by Viking pirates and slave traders.

But to others, the Blue Men of Minch are a personification of the treacherous waters they inhabit.