Rare Footage: Jim Clark tests Lotus F2 – Fuji Speedway 1966
Here is some quite remarkable footage of Jim Clark’s official visit to Fuji Speedway during March 1966.
The Fuji Speedway Corporation was established in 1963, as Japan NASCAR Corporation. The plan was to build a NASCAR style high banked super speedway, but the money ran out and only one of the bankings was ever built. Mitsubishi Estate Company took over the management, converted it into a road course and opened the Speedway in December 1965.
It seems someone at the Speedway thought it would be a good idea to bring the reigning F1 World Champion Jim Clark over for some test laps as part of a fabulous PR exercise.
The video opens with Clark flying in on a Japan Airlines DC 8. He is greeted like royalty on arrival and is presented with a bouquet of flowers complete with STP logo.
Present at the airport and never far from Clark’s side during the trip, is the founder of the Shadow F1 team, the mysterious Don Nichols. Rumoured to have been working for the CIA in Asia in the 50s and 60s, Nichols was living in Japan at the time. His job was selling Firestone and Goodyear tyres and helping to develop the racing community as well as consulting on design and helping to establish the Fuji Speedway. It’s a good bet that Don was behind the plan to get Clark to Japan.
Once the initial greetings were over, Clark is whisked to a press conference where he is shown photos of the highly impressive Fuji track, complete with its imposing 30 degree banked corner.
Next, Jim is driven to the circuit in a Rolls Royce, which is, of course, completely appropriate transport for the Flying Scotsman. Jim is then guest of honour at a Touring Car race and congratulates the drivers on the podium.
Then he is taken for some sighting laps in the Rolls, before a quick shakedown lap in a Lotus F2 car. Then it’s back into his suit and tie for another press conference.
The busy schedule continues with Jim taking the wheel of a glorious red E Type Jaguar and he sets off around the track with Nichols, before answering more questions from the local journalists at the end of his laps.
Finally it’s back into the F2 Lotus for a proper test session. Judging by the lines Clark is running, the flat out howl of the engine and the squealing tyres, the ’65 World Champ is really pushing.
He completes several filmed laps before yet another official function.
This time the president of the Fuji Speedway is hosting a traditional Japanese dinner in Clark’s honour. Formalities are carried out including a speech by Jim where he thanks his hosts, before it’s time for the guests to eat.
Jim looks very nervous as all eyes are on him whilst being given instructions on how to use his chopsticks by a glamourous Japanese lady. Jim succeeds with the chopsticks , but doesn’t look like he enjoyed his food very much.
At the end of the dinner Jim is presented with a gift box containing a beautiful pearl necklace. Ever the gentleman, Jim replies “Thank you very much indeed.”
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