The day I met Jim Clark

Before you call me crazy I already know what you are thinking and your right, the famous racing driver Jim Clark did die tragically in a Formula 2 race in 1968. However I met Jim Clark last year after a big crash at a street race in Aarhus, Denmark.

The crash

Sunday the 24th of May 2015. Aarhus, Denmark.

We had 3 races this day on a challenging street course in the city of Aarhus i Denmark. I absolutely love this race weekend. There are 40.000 visitors to a fantastic paddock primarily filled with classic racecars, F1 cars and motorbikes. The pitlane and long stretch of the track runs along the seaside on the most expensive street in the city. Huge villas and garages filled with cars most of us only dream of. Back to the race. It got off to a good start, however about half way through there was a really bad crash and we were under safety car. I had taken a hit from a guy behind me and had my rear bumper trailing behind the car. My mechanic called me into the pit and I lost my position in the race. Left the pit and had to catch up to the rest of the field before the safety car went in again. Green flag and now running at the back of the pack I knew I was faster than some of these cars and planned to overtake before the race was over. Down the long stretch, going at 220 km/h I went on the left side of a competitor before a hard braking into a hairpin turn. My plan was to follow him side by side through the hairpin and then hopefully overtake up the next hill.

No brakes. I pushed the pedal all the way to the floor twice. Everything went quiet. I thought several things. I didn´t want to hit the 2 cars that were in front of us. Where is there a way out of this. What about all the people behind the concrete wall? So many things I managed to think of in the space of 1,4 seconds. Brake fluid went to the rear brakes. They locked up and I was officially a passenger in a car out of control in over 200 km/h. My first thought then was that I didn´t want to see what was going to happen next, because it wasn´t going to be good. Then after what felt like forever I hit something. All the energy going out of my body on impact was a bit like being winded, just different. I still had my eyes closed and I realised that more was to come because the first hit wasn´t hard enough. Then I hit the wall. About twice as hard as the first impact which was another car. I went from one moment thinking that my life could be over, to opening my eyes, looking down at my body and seeing that everything was ok. A crazy and shocking moment. Anyway, I then thought that I better get out of the car quickly because of the smoke coming from the engine room. I collapsed as I got out, but was quickly on my feet again. I was taken straight to an ambulance, even though it felt totally unnecessary.

Hello, who are you?

In the ambulance they put on a neck brace as I was to be checked for any injuries. I was wheeled into a room, quite calm and happy really considering what had just happened. I don´t think I could quite belive that it had gone so well. Since I was forced to lie on my back and only able to stare at the ceiling my mechanic who was with me was telling me what was going on. Not long after we had arrived someone else was wheeled into the same room. My mechanic said that the was also wearing a racing suit, so he had probably crashed on the same track. We heard that he was English and after chatting a bit with my mechanic he asked to borrow his phone so that he could call home. After that I said,

-Hello, who are you?
-Hi, my name is Jim Clark. I was racing my 1965 Lotus Cortina when I lost my brakes. I think my foot is broken.

Famous racing driver Jim Clark and his Lotus Cortina

Hearing these word´s, and not being able to see him I had to pinch myself quite hard in the arm. Yes, for 2 seconds I did consider the possibility that things maybe hadn´t gone so well after all. I am a big fan of the famous racing driver Jim Clark and just 3 weeks prior to my crash I had been working at the racing track Hockenheim in Germany. Since this was the place of his fatal crash I walked to Clark´s memorial site spent some time there thinking about what had happened 47 years ago.

Jim Clark memorial at Hockenheim track in Germany

However the nice english man at this hospital in Aarhus was indeed Jim Clark, a very nice man from England who just happens to share his name with a very famous racing driver from the 60´s. I smiled when he added me on Facebook, when we spoke on messenger the first time and when he "likes" something I write. They share more than just the same name, they also both seem to love Lotus cars. Very glad to make his acquaintance and it´s fun that I can share this story!

This was a surreal day in many ways - meeting Jim Clark was one of them.