The Lotus 48 Formula 2 car I campaigned for a couple of years for Colin Chapman, without doubt, is my idea of a great racecar. Its design was just a good combination, a monocoque like the Formula 1 car with a tubular subframe that formed the bay for a first-rate Cosworth FVA, 1,599-cc engine. It was a brand-new car to conform to the new 1967 Formula 2 regulations. The car was first used in one of the Tasman races by Graham Hill but was retired with transmission problems; it was the prototype, but “teething” problems are expected with a new car. Ironically, when I drove it, it did a mighty job around the 14-mile gruelling Nürburgring track later that year, when Formula 2 cars competed with Grand Prix cars for the German GP. I was 5th overall and 1st of the Formula 2 cars to finish. It was the same chassis that Graham had used in Australia; eventually I finished in 5th place for the 1967 Formula 2 championship for ungraded drivers. Lotus used the car to launch the Gold Leaf-brand sponsorship, as the F1 car, the Lotus 49, wasn’t ready. Sadly, it was the car Jimmy Clark was killed in at the Hockenheim track in 1968, an enormous loss to the sport, but a greater loss, personally, as a good friend. He had had great success with the car winning several races and having podium places, too.
I know I raced the Lotus 49, a brilliant car and, yes, a great racecar in many people’s eyes. However, Colin Chapman chose me to replace Jimmy, a most daunting prospect. Graham Hill had won many Grands Prix and the Formula 1 World Championship with it. But, for me, I had no experience…and what boots I had to fill! Colin was not too helpful—not that he didn’t like me—but he wasn’t in the right frame of mind so soon after losing Jimmy. I had gotten one of the best cars in Formula 1, at that time, for my baptism. I wasn’t fully prepared. I didn’t know the circuits. For me it was a hard opening at the coal face. I remember having an accident while testing the car; many may have seen the pictures. I went off on the straight. Yes, the car was fitted with those awful high wings which were quite unstable. The truth of the matter really was that too much was expected from me with so little experience. I was plunged in without any knowledge of what to expect or how the car would handle or any data like that. So this great car became a bit of a nightmare experience for me purely because it was the wrong car at the wrong time. Lewis Hamilton, the new boy in Formula 1 now, has had the benefit of a number of years racing experience. He has been nurtured and tutored by McLaren for many years, prior to his debut. I was just too raw.