Gray stone buildings loomed in the headlights' glow. Suddenly a sickle-horned ram trotted out onto the narrow road. The small sports car swung past the ram, past the barns and cottages and into the courtyard of a massive stone farmhouse. It has been called Edington Mains (Eed-ington) since time out of mind. Keeping a vigil there for almost as long is a ghost known as The White Lady. The Scottish night was cool. A light went on in the house; and a housekeeper, dressed in sweater and slippers and smiling, came to the kitchen door.
"Well, Jim, you've come home," she said.
"Aye," said Jim Clark, racing driver and farmer. He walked into the kitchen and the welcome nimbus of heat from a great coal cookstove. "Well, Helen, I wonder if we might have some tea."
In the summer of Clark's leap to fame, this was to be his last journey home as a reasonably private citizen. A little more than a fortnight later, he was to capture the Italian Grand Prix and thus, at 27, become the youngest world champion driver in history. His had been a year of achievement. In May, Clark had come close to winning the Indianapolis "500." He had then triumphed in four European Grand Prix events and, shocking American racing men, had returned to the U.S. and easily won a national championship event at Milwaukee. This week, though he does not need the points, he will race in the U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, N.Y.
If he thinks of it at all, Jim Clark accepts his reputation casually. Others do not. Stirling Moss, foremost among Grand Prix drivers between 1958 and 1962, thought of Clark as something special. " Clark," Moss said, "has possibly the greatest born ability of any world champion. Of Clark and myself, I would say that he is the more talented. He is not Juan Fangio. I would not put him in that class. Fangio was the one absolute of driving, but Clark may be close."
Says America's Dan Gurney, whom Moss ranks (with Britain's John Surtees) just beneath Clark at the peak of present Grand Prix competition: "Racing drivers try to spot weaknesses in one another. Offhand, I can't see any in Jimmy. If you ever should beat him when he is not having problems with his car, then you have done something worth mentioning."
A perceptive Indianapolis man, viewing the results of last spring's "500," said, " Clark showed us things that we had never seen before." It had been an article of faith among U.S. specialists that foreign road-racing men were severely handicapped at Indianapolis. But Clark finished only 34 seconds behind winner Parnelli Jones and, at one stage, before Jones's oil leak ended a remarkable chase, Clark was but 4� seconds back and closing fast. What Clark, in his revolutionary Lotus-Ford, showed was an uncanny mastery of Indy's 140-mph corners. Once he raced side by side into the first turn with Rodger Ward, a two-time winner. Ward had the groove, the fastest, safest line through the turn. Clark went inside Ward and simply motored past him. He was relying, of course, on the road racer's technique in fast corners. "Unless you are concentrating hard," says Clark, "you either go too fast and go off the road or too slow and lose the race."
However, concentration is not always enough. Two days after Milwaukee, something snapped in the steering gear of Clark's Lotus-Ford during a test run at the Trenton, N.J. speedway. He crashed into a wall at 100 mph, but walked from the wreckage unhurt. That night, he was on a jet back to London. He spent the next day going over his mail in London and late in the afternoon climbed into his Lotus Elan sports car and drove like the wind over 350 miles of twisting English roads to reach Scottish soil by midnight. He might have been seriously injured or killed the day before. Had the memory of this slowed him down? No. I accompanied him, and he amply proved during the journey from London that Trenton had impaired neither his courage nor his skills.
Except in sharp turns, at traffic circles, in cities (where Clark scrupulously respected speed limits; there are none on the open road) and when overtaking dawdlers, Clark's foot was all the way into the Elan. The road was the A-1, a main highway, but one with more kinks than a boa constrictor, and there was a moderate amount of traffic. During the entire trip, most of it in darkness, Clark's touch was sure. Not once did he have to hit his brakes for a panic slowdown. Never did he put the tail of the Elan out in an incipient slide—and more often than not he was driving at 100 to 110 mph. Moss has said that he regards "the ability to drive fast cars a little faster than most people as an intangible, almost abstract thing, like an ear for music, but with a motor car perhaps it is balance." Those who have analyzed Clark's driving insist on the point: his balance is phenomenal. It is. "Jimmy," the English driver Sir John Whitmore has said, "is the best driver who ever lived." He just might be, I thought, as English hedges whizzed past in a blur, although when dismounted I am inclined to second Moss on Fangio.
Beyond Berwick-upon-Tweed and its fretwork of bridges, Clark entered Scotland. The blacktop roads were empty, and Clark was soon enjoying his tea. Thus began a few days seized from an insanely complicated professional life. Clark refreshed himself in his native land, and what follows has mainly to do with that interlude, because the biggest single fact about Clark is his Scottishness. Blood and bone of the strong, amiable, upright farming men of the Scottish Lowlands, James Clark, like the James Clark before him and the James Clark before him, is middle-sized (5 feet 7�) and slender, with thick dark-brown hair, gray eyes and a husky, slightly nasal voice. Somber at times, he seems suddenly lighthearted and boyish when he smiles.