Richard James Clark (born 13 June 1995) is a British racing driver who won the 2014 FF3M championship driving for the MacPherson team after a season long battle against Mattia Alfonsi.
Clark was born in Altrincham, Greater Manchester and is an only child to parents who enjoy considerable wealth from their jobs as actuaries. He resented his childhood for a number of reasons, such as an intense dislike for his first name, and, to put it mildly, general disagreements with his parents. To give a few examples, Clark's parents were devout Manchester United fans and took their son to as many games as possible, but Clark hated football. Also, Clark's parents wanted their son to follow their footsteps in the actuary field, but Clark was vehemently against this.
Clark fell in love with racing after a weekend road trip with his uncle led Clark to the 2001 European Grand Prix, scene of Nick Heidfeld's 4th win of the season and to date, FF1M's only visit to Brands Hatch. From then, Clark dreamt of becoming a racing driver and his uncle decided to lend his support and funding despite a far more modest annual wage as a truck mechanic compared to the six figure sums of Clark's parents. Although he shares the name of the Scottish racing legend Jim Clark, James Clark’s hero was James Hunt, and Clark therefore decided to base his helmet on that of the Englishman.
Clark's racing career began at Daytona Karting in Manchester before moving onto club level racing at Hooton Park and Three Sisters, which in turn led to winning the national karting championship in 2010. In 2011, he participated in the FFFordM championship, and despite narrowly losing out to Benjamin Pryor for the championship, the two became good friends off track as Clark looked up to Pryor as a brotherly figure.
It wasn't until Clark entered the 2012 FF4M Europe Season when his parents found out about his racing career after an article was published in the Manchester Evening News newspaper. Neither parent was happy about this and tried to forbid their son from furthering his racing career on "safety grounds" as they didn't want to see their son getting hurt in an accident. Ironically, Clark's father would suffer a fractured cheekbone and dislocated shoulder after becoming involved in a football-related brawl.
His parents' belligerence forced Clark to leave home at the age of 16 and shared a one bedroom flat with Benjamin Pryor, although both would end up racing in separate FF4M series. Even so, Clark would go on to win the championship having taken three wins at Magny-Cours, Oulton Park, and the Hungaroring.
During the season, a rivalry developed between Clark and Italian driver Mattia Alfonsi, which was inevitably exaggerated by local media representatives when Alfonsi was seen throwing his helmet across his garage after narrowly missing out on the championship. The Italian press picked up on this and scapegoated Clark for Alfonsi's championship, even though Clark was driving for an Italian team that season.
Clark's championship win guaranteed a drive for the 2013 FF3M Season, which saw him drive for the French Lascelles team with Alexander MacDonald as his teammate, and also under Gojira's young drivers programme. Clark more than had the measure over his Canadian teammate and scored five podium finishes. He ended the season 8th, tied on points with Alfonsi, but behind as the Italian had taken victory at the first Aragon race, a result which the Italian press described as "a tremendous success for Alfonsi." They neglected to mention that Alfonsi was outscored by his own teammate and five others.
Clark remained in FF3M for the 2014 season but moved to MacPherson Racing to partner rookie Harrison Evans. Also, Clark was no longer under Gojira's young drivers programme as the Brazilian team favoured Alessandro Farina. As was the case in the previous two years, Clark would find himself battling with Alfonsi throughout the season. Both were so determined to beat each other that they ended up sharing 13 out of 17 wins and much was made over their championship battle, which went down to the wire at Macau. However, it ended somewhat anti-climactically as Mason Taylor shunted polesitter Alfonsi into retirement at the final race, securing Clark the championship and guaranteeing an FF2M drive for the 2015 season.
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