An absolute gem to own, “Jim Clark At The Wheel: His Own Exciting Story” is a great insight into the little-publicised life of the 1963 and 1965 Formula One World Drivers Champion.
At The Wheel takes the reader on a very personal story with Clark from his early life until the end of 1963 (or half-way through 1965 if you are able to find the new edition). Written in his own voice, the text is a brilliant source of stories and personal opinions that provide excellent insight into the renowned racing star.
There’s a lot of information to be taken in. As a result, it’s a book that can’t be read fast. Though it appears short, the 180 pages will take you many hours of reading to get through. By no means does this detract from the autobiography – in this modern day there’s a dangerously little amount of information available about Clark and every sentence should be cherished. Despite his success and legacy, the Jim Clark story seems to be told in detail by substantially fewer texts than other motor-racing greats.
The book is also a treasure chest of anecdotes regarding his life, both pre-Formula One and during his career. The story introduces many familiar faces and provides a familiar personality to them, but also identifies to the reader a number of influential people in Clark’s life who do not get a mention as often as they should. Ian Scott Watson – the man without whom Jim Clark may have abandoned motor-racing if not for his constant support during his early career – is one of those.
The beauty of the book is that it reads like you would imagine Jim Clark to. The words flow so freely and the stories leave nothing to be asked. The experience is one that I have found to be rare in autobiographical pieces. You can imagine yourself sitting opposite Clark as he regales his life stories. This is definitely the voice of a soft-spoken, well-educated Scotsman.
Overall, for both its sentimental value 50 years after it was first published and for the text’s level of detail into Clark’s life, I highly recommend this book. If you can find it, don’t hesitate to purchase it. Clark detailing, near the end of the book, his wish to retire from Formula One at a relatively young age because of the dangers of the sport really sticks with you and ends the book on a very moving note.
The following story takes place at the end of the 1961 season.
At East London, we had the opportunity to go water skiing. As I had never done this before, Stirling undertook to teach me. We put on our skis at the end of the jetty and Stirling leapt into the water, landing gracefully on his skis and taking up his position ready to be towed. It looked quite easy and I decided to follow suit. I leapt gaily off the edge expecting my skis to cushion the landing. Instead, I got a tremendous shock as I sank to the bottom like a stone. I surfaced spluttering to find a very amused Moss pointing to my skis which lay neatly side by side on the jetty where I had jumped clean out of them!