Caught napping by third-fastest qualifier Jackie Stewart at the start, Clark had to give best to his fellow Scot’s Matra MS9 on the opening lap. It wasn’t long, however, before the superior Lotus got to the front. Once ahead, Clark pulled away in the car sporting the traditional green-and-yellow livery for the final time – Gold Leaf tobacco sponsorship would ensure the car featured a red-white-and-gold colour scheme for the Spanish GP onwards.
Stewart maintained second place, albeit more than a dozen seconds adrift of the leader, until lap 27 when Hill edged past to make it a Lotus one-two. And that’s how it stayed until the end. Clark’s advantage after 80 laps was 25 seconds over Hill, the Englishman finishing five seconds ahead of Jochen Rindt’s Brabham-Repco.
To no one’s great surprise Jim Clark had taken a record-breaking 25th Grand Prix victory. What would soon become a terrible shock was that it proved to be his last. On 7 April, Clark crashed to his death in a rain-lashed European Formula 2 Championship race at Hockenheim. His record 25 wins (not overhauled until July 1973 when friend and compatriot Stewart took his 26th victory), 33 pole positions (beaten by Ayrton Senna in 1989) and 28 fastest laps (eclipsed by Alain Prost in ’89) – from just 72 starts – remains one of F1’s best hit-rates by one of its greatest stars.
South African GP, 1968
1. Jim Clark (GB) – Lotus 49-Cosworth, 80 laps
2. Graham Hill (GB) – Lotus 49-Cosworth, 80 laps
3. Jochen Rindt (A) – Brabham BT24-Repco, 80 laps
4. Chris Amon (NZ) – Ferrari 312, 78 laps
5. Denis Hulme (NZ) – McLaren M5A-BRM, 78 laps
6. Jean-Pierre Beltoise (F) – Matra MS7-Cosworth, 77 laps