Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jim Clark: Tribute to a Champion


I'm not especially interested in cars beyond shape and colour, and neither am I particularly fascinated by motor racing. However, I do have a family connection with the motor industry: my father Eric Dymock happens to be a pre-eminent motoring author and journalist. He's written several books and won several industry awards, but his proudest achievement by far was penning the universally acclaimed biography of 1960s superstar racing driver - and fellow Scot - Jim Clark.

I wouldn't normally mention Daddy's books here (most of them are authoritative reference tomes - indispensible to journalists and automotive history buffs but not exactly what you might call bedtime reading), but a funny thing happened. When his company employed me to digitise the Jim Clark book, I started reading snatches of the text, and I found myself getting drawn into the story of the shy Scottish farmer who became one of racing's greatest legends. Almost before I realised it I'd read the book from cover to cover.

Jim Clark's career began in teenage forays into Scottish rally driving and rose to double World Champion, before ending prematurely in the fatal accident which sent shockwaves around the world - and it really did. The 1960s was the era of the original celebrity sportsmen, and Jim was up there with George Best and Joe DiMaggio - everyone knew his name. Following the news of the crash a Los Angeles radio DJ said "If you are mourning the death of the great driver Jim Clark, put on your headlights". The whole freeway lit up at midday.

The book is a deeply personal portrait of a complex man - the author knew "Jimmy" Clark in his rallying days, and then spent much of the 1960s trackside covering racing for various publications. Motor racing was a relatively small and close-knit community. Researching this, the only authorised biography, he talked to the people who knew Clark best, and the book brings together amusing anecdotes illustrating his prodigious talent, and fascinating insights into the psychology of an intriguing man.

Beyond the driver, this is also a portrait of the industry itself. It captures the atmosphere of 1960s motor racing so vividly you can almost smell the fumes - a heady world of engine oil and adrenaline, exciting and exhilirating and yet infused with incredible tragedy, with bright stars regularly extinguished in fatal crashes. And few had burned as brightly as the phenomenally talented Jimmy Clark.

A perfect Christmas gift for the petrolhead in your life. Jim Clark: Tribute to a Champion is available for Kindles from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com, and for iPad and other iOS devices from iTunes.

3 comments:

  1. A cousin of mine is an engineer and was involved in various rally teams, been all over the world, lucky devil!

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  2. I love an excellent historical or biographical book on nearly any subject or person (with exceptions made for classic lit, I read nonfiction almost exclusively most of the time, and always have a few interesting history related books on go), and sense that I would very much enjoy your rather's book on this fascinating sounding man. It's a slim shot indeed, but I'm going to see if my wee little library has a copy the next time I'm there.

    ♥ Jessica

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