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Dave ‘Beaky’ Sims: Passion for racing

Submitted by on May 9, 2011

If you have seen the moving documentary “The Killer Years”, you will have seen the memories of Dave ‘Beaky’ Sims, Jim Clark’s mechanic on that fateful April day at Hockenheim in 1968. If you haven’t seen it, click here

Beaky has been in motorsport since the 1960s, and worked with some of the greats, and is still in the sport today with the Risi Competizione team running a Ferrari 458 Italia GT in the American Le Mans Series. As emotional being behind a Ferrari competition programme can be, Beaky’s history is a tour of the who’s who of motorsport greats.

“I was in Formula 1 from the 1960s,” says Sims. “Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt, Graham Hill, Mario Andretti. All those guys drove for us at Lotus. I still keep on terms with Mario.”

Lotus at the time, with Chapman’s imagination and innovation was at the forefront of pushing the boundaries in F1, something not lost on Sims.

“If you can imagine the talent and ability of Clark, Chapman and computers, and if you could put that together today it would be something else,” he says. “He was light years ahead on futuristic design, and the aerodynamics of the cars. He was right on. Jochen and Graham developed stuff. The feedback from the drivers was phenomenal, and it had to be because there was no data!”

Having been a spanner man at Lotus, Beaky moved on to become an engineer for two more future legends, Niki Lauda and Ronnie Peterson at March. His next step was Hesketh, the unique, privateer Formula 1 team run by Lord Hesketh.

Beaky explains just how different that team was to anything before or since: “Lord Hesketh was 23-years-old and would not accept sponsorship. The car was red white and blue, the Union Jack. That was it. It was parties, we even had grand piano in the back of the pitlane! All his friends came from Oxford, and they were there singing songs. It was something you’ll never see again….” The team’s one and only win came with James Hunt at Zandvoort, Holland, in 1975. The celebrations were fitting for such an outgoing team…

After almost 50 years of being involved in racing what are Beaky’s biggest memories? “Graham Hill winning in ’68 – the year Jimmy died in April in the F2 at Hockenheim. Lotus put me to F1 straight after that – to win the championship that year was something else. Also the races with Jochen Rindt, but he unfortunately was killed in Monza. They are the good and bad memories.”

Sims was one of those interviewed in the BBC’s emotional film: “The documentary, the Killer Years, was done with Jackie Stewart, Jacky Ickx, John Surtees, Nina Rindt,” he says. “It was a beautifully done but a very sad documentary. We didn’t realise how bad it was.

“There was no safety. There were no barriers. There was no spin off areas, nothing. Just trees and no seat belts. Fuel was a constant worry. If the car turned over… there were always fires.”

Sims’ career has taken him from Formula 1 in the ’60s to America and Indy, and now the American Le Mans Series with sports cars in 2011. Beaky acknowledges the sport has moved on, is safer, but also more professional. “Times have changed, and you have to go with the times. Fun-wise, when you were younger you did a lot of stuff. You worked in a lot of different countries. We did things in F1 you couldn’t do now.”

He joined Risi Competizione in 2002. The team, founded only in 1998, has already scored two Le Mans 24 Hours class wins, three Sebring 12 Hours class wins and two class wins at Petit Le Mans. Not a bad record in such a competitive arena.

Beaky’s passion for racing is understandably still alive and well. Not surprising when you read who he’s worked with during his career. “Moving around was something you adapted to,” he says. “From F1 to sports cars to IndyCars, back to sports cars. I enjoy it.

“It’s the same attitude – if you don’t like this, you don’t do it.”

Additional reporting by Tony Di Zinno.

By Andy Hallbery

Race Images: The Cahier Archive

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