On that auspicious afternoon Scotland’s 24-year-old rising star narrowly defeated then-five-time World Motorcycle Champion John Surtees, two years his senior, who started Ken Tyrrell’s Cooper-BMC T52 from pole position. As the Union Flag fell and ‘Big John’ side-stepped the clutch, the first four-wheeled race he’d seen unfolded as the field screamed towards Madgwick Corner!
Two months later it was Surtees, not Clark, who made his Formula 1 debut for Lotus founder Colin Chapman at the Monaco GP. Indeed, by year’s end John had come close to winning the Portuguese GP at Oporto, his third F1 race. The poleman crashed while leading in a powerful 2.5-litre Coventry-Climax FPF-engined 18, when leaking fuel caused his foot to slip from the brake pedal. Clark became Great Britain’s third World Champion in ’63 – after Ferrari’s Mike Hawthorn (an MM winner in ’51 and ’52 with pre-war Rileys) and BRM’s Graham Hill. Surtees landed the ’64 crown in a dramatic finale for Enzo Ferrari.
As it was across motorsport’s higher echelons, the influence of Chapman’s cars on the British Automobile Racing Club’s Private Members’ Meetings at Goodwood – basic non-promoted events for the enjoyment of subscribers – was profound. The potent lightweights from Hornsey, Cheshunt and Hethel won 129 of the 590 races within them, a strike rate of 22 per cent. More than closest rivals MG (45), Jaguar (35), Austin-Healey/Austin (23) and Triumph (22) combined…
A more remarkable statistic, perhaps, is that 75 Lotus drivers passed the chequered flag victorious at the former RAF Westhampnett aerodrome, 23 in Type Eleven sportscars! Like the Members’ Meetings, the wide range of zippy models powered in the main by Ford or Ford-derived engines enabled the man or woman in the street to go racing. The more pecunious among them admittedly. Over the 71 period events run initially for sports and saloon cars, the majority were driven to the meetings. Single-seaters joined in from the 32nd MM in September 1958, by which time 500cc motorcycle-engined Formula 3 was fading, to be succeeded by Italian Count ‘Johnny’ Lurani’s 1,100cc Formula Junior initiative.