Friends and Competitors

Lotus 23, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Snetterton, Autosport 3 Hours

Beginning in the early 1960s there was an important sports and GT race held on the original Snetterton circuit in Norfolk England, home of the famed 500cc driver Jim Russell who had created an early racing school there. This was the Autosport 3 Hours and here before the start on September 28, 1963 we have a famous duo, Jim Clark and Graham Hill, sitting in the small Lotus 23B which Clark would drive. Hill was not entered in this race, but Clark and Hill, driving for Lotus and BRM, respectively, would finish 1-2 in the 1963 World Championship of Formula 1 and would later be teammates at Lotus.

Snetterton was another of the British postwar circuits based on a former RAF wartime airfield, using a combination of runways and access roads. It was then 2.7 miles in length and Clark averaged over 97 mph to win this race, two laps ahead of a Ferrari 250GTO driven by Mike Parkes. Clark’s Lotus was entered by Normand Racing, a private team but receiving works assistance, whose normal lead driver was Mike Beckwith, holder of the class lap record at Snetterton. Beckwith drove another Normand Lotus 23 but did not finish.

The Lotus 23 was the first of a new breed of very lightweight rear-engined sports racing cars, developed from the latest single-seater Formula Juniors. The 23 originally was delivered with a Cosworth-modified four-cylinder Ford 105E pushrod 1500cc motor, producing about 120 hp. However, the car’s true potential was demonstrated by Jim Clark at the 1962 Nürburgring 1000 Km. race where he ran away from the field for several laps with a 23 fitted with a more powerful engine using a Cosworth twin-cam head on the 105 block. The 23s were later fitted with a 1600cc version of the engine used at the Nürburgring, but with the stronger 116E five main bearing block and crankshaft. This was the engine used by Clark to win the Autosport 3 Hours.

Snetterton still exists, albeit in modified and updated form, and the Autosport 3 Hours is again being run there.

Photo by Colin Waldeck ©The Klemantaski Collection

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2 comments

  1. The old Base known as Snetterton Heath was i believe an American Air Force base. Think it was first used in October of 1951 by the Aston Martin Owners Club,. with further improvements in 1953, Later on in March 1963 taken over by same management that operated the popular
    Brands Hatch course.
    I remember it most from letters I received from BRM driver Richie Ginther
    since that team used it for much testing. Ginther was actually living at home of
    their race manager , Tony Rudd and would delight Mrs Rudd by repairing so many things
    in the household.!

    jim sitz

    Like

  2. Jack Croul · · Reply

    During WWII I flew 33 missions out of Snetterton Heath as a lead navigator in a B-17 bomber.
    Jack Croul

    Like

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