Farmer first, racing driver second. It was always thus for Jim Clark. Lauded across the world, revered as the greatest racer of his time - perhaps of all time - but a man whose roots and heart were planted firmly in the soil of Berwickshire.
Had he lived, had he somehow survived the horrifying accident that ended his life at Hockenheim in April 1968, then Clark might still be farming at Edington Mains now, although maybe taking things easy in his 77th year. In truth, he was never really far from the place, even as he was collecting his 25 Grand Prix wins, his two world championship titles and his stunning victory at the Indianapolis 500 in 1965. Clark once said that the worst time of his life was the period of enforced tax exile in France, when his sense of separation from the land was an almost physical ache.
Sitting in Ian Scott Watson's front room, you can understand the longing. The soft, rolling hills stretch far off to the west, the villages of Gordon and Greenlaw tucked away in their folds. Tucked away, too, are the memories Scott Watson still holds dear, of the days when he and Clark, prosperous young farmers both, hurtled through the countryside in anything that came to hand, carefree and confident in their abilities.
Scott Watson reckoned he could drive a bit. He raced his little DKW Sonderklasse saloon at club meetings around Scotland and the north of England.
Clark would come along, too, happy just to help out. His parents, James and Helen, had put their feet down on the matter: he was not to drive himself. But Scott Watson had a plan.
"It was one time at Crimond, in Aberdeenshire, that I entered him as reserve driver," says Scott Watson.
"His parents had quite categorically said no to racing, although funnily enough they thought rallying was okay. I thought we would be fine at Crimond and that they wouldn't find out, but as it turned out half his cousins seemed to be there. But the time we got back to Kelso, his parents knew.
"I practised for about 20 minutes or so. I then got out the car and said to Jimmy that he should take it out as well, especially as it was his first time. He jumped in and within five laps he was three seconds per lap quicker than me. After that, I decided that the roles should be reversed, that Jimmy should do the racing and I would run things for him. He made his peace with his family and that was that."
It was an act of momentous generosity, and probably one of the most significant in the history of the sport. Left to his own devices, it is doubtful whether Clark would ever have been able to put the components of a racing career together. "He was just so incredibly indecisive," Scott Watson explains. "He could never make his mind up about anything.
"Jackie Stewart tells a story about one time when they were driving across the American prairies and they came to a level crossing. They could see for about 30 miles in every direction, and there wasn't a car or a train in sight, but Jimmy stopped the car and asked if it was safe to go."
TODAY IS the 50th anniversary of Clark's victory at the 1963 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, the win that secured his first Formula One world driver's title. It had been a dominant season and he had already won four other Championship races, in Belgium, Holland, France and Great Britain. There were still another three races to run that year, but Clark's win put him in an unassailable position. As it happened, he went on to win two of those three anyway.
Clark, 27 at the time, became the youngest driver ever to win the F1 title. Officially, he took the championship with 54 points, with Graham Hill and Richie Ginther sharing second on 29, but the scoring system at the time meant that a driver counted only his best six results. Had all his points counted then Clark's total would have been more than twice as many as his nearest rival.
Yet even that statistic does not provide a true measure of his domination. In the Coventry Climax-powered Lotus 25 that had been evolved over the previous three years, he was, quite literally, uncatchable. He led three of the races from start to finish. He set the fastest lap at six of the 10 world championship rounds and secured pole position at seven. His record of leading almost 72% of the season's racing laps still stands.
Scott Watson had nurtured and managed Clark's career until he teamed up with Lotus in 1960. The early seasons were years of innocence, derring-do and happy amateurism. Scott Watson revived the legendary Border Reivers racing name as a vehicle for Clark's talent and, with a group of friends in tow, set off for Le Mans and finished in an amazing second place. Farming was still the day job for most of them; with a mischievous nod to the Ecurie Ecosse team of the day they also formed a team called Ecurie Agricole.
As Clark became the focus of Lotus's assault on the F1 World Championship, Scott Watson became peripheral to Clark's racing career. Even now, there seems to be a sense of loss in his recollections of the time, but the two men remained firm friends. After Clark had won in Italy, he flew back to London, jumped in a car and drove straight back to Scotland. One of his first ports of call was to visit his original mentor.
"Although I wasn't really involved at the time, I did go to a number of races that season," Scott Watson recalls. "I think I went to the Belgian and the Dutch, and maybe the German Grand Prix as well. And the British, of course. I used to do the timekeeping for Lotus, but I wasn't really part of the team.
"We all used to share hotel rooms in those days, and I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the reasons I became less involved was because Jimmy was quite a ladies' man by then. Obviously, if I was in the room then that hindered him a little. People think he was shy, and many ways he was, but he was a far more complex character than that. So many women thought he was very attractive."
The Italian police had an interest in Clark as well. Celebrations after his victory in Monza were interrupted when he was served with notice to attend an interview in connection with his notorious collision with Ferrari's Wolfgang von Trips in the same event two years earlier, an accident that led to the deaths of 14 spectators as well as the German driver. Clark, who had been questioned on the matter already, refused to attend and left Italy as soon as he could.
Clark was clearly guiltless, but the affair cast a cloud over his triumph. It left no lasting stain on his reputation, though, and the years that followed only confirmed his greatness as a driver. Three months before clinching the title, he had finished second in his rookie appearance at the Indianapolis 500, an unprecedented achievement. Two years later, he became the first non-American in 45 years to win the legendary Indianapolis race.
"Jimmy is the best driver who ever lived," was the unequivocal assessment of Sir John Whitmore, the English aristocrat who raced with and against Clark. "He had possibly the greatest born ability of any world champion," said Stirling Moss.
What made him so good? Scott Watson smiles at a question he has been asked many times before. "I must have sat beside him in cars for thousands of miles," he says. "We would be driving along and suddenly he would lift his foot off the accelerator a little. I'd ask why, and he would point out a tractor coming down a farm road half a mile away. He had amazing reflexes, brilliant eyesight, and he just seemed to see things before anyone else."
Clark did not dwell on his success in clinching the title half a century ago. Five days later after taking the chequered flag at Monza, he turned up, unannounced, at the annual ram sales in Kelso and bought a few sheep. A man has his priorities, after all.