Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Jim Clark and Yuri Gagarin

Jim Clark and Lotus founder Colin Chapman flew to European race meetings in Chapman’s Piper Seneca (like the one above), landing close to the track, and in 1965 just after they had won Indy, flew to Clermont Ferrand for the French Grand Prix. It took four hours and Chapman had had a stressful time with a lot of last minute decisions. When they landed in the late afternoon they found something of a party in progress at Clermont's little airport and picking up their hire car, were invited by the mayor and corporation to meet Yuri Gagarin (the world's first astronaut whose flight took place 50 years ago yesterday), who had flown in from the air show at Le Bourget to a civic reception with a lot of Russians. The Lotus team was introduced, but the translators did not make a very good job. Gagarin shook hands, smiled politely and sat down.

They were enjoying the champagne when the world’s first astronaut realised he had just met Jim Clark. He leapt from his chair, came over, hugged and kissed Jim and Chapman, and told them he was an avid fan. He knew all about Indy, apologised profusely, and asked them to sit down and talk.

Gagarin made his flight in space in April 1961, and died on March 27 1968 when his MiG-15 jet trainer crashed near Moscow, barely 10 days before Jim Clark's fatal accident at Hockenheim.

From: The Jim Clark ebook on sale through Amazon for Kindles at £8.04 (ISBN 978-0-9554909-4-1) and through Waterstones for iPad and other tablets at £10.99 (978-0-955490958).

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