By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Fans, family and friends of Jim Clark, the Formula One great who died at Hockenheim on April 7, 1968, are in a race to raise funds for a new museum in his Scottish homeland as the 50th anniversary of his death approaches.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors, including the late Ayrton Senna, have passed through a memorial room in the small Borders market town of Duns since 1969 but the plans now are for something bigger.
"The footfall has gone down gradually over the years to about 4-5,000 a year. We hope to more than double if not treble that," Clark's cousin and family trustee Doug Niven told Reuters in a telephone interview.
The target is to raise 1.6 million pounds ($2.00 million) to build a space where cars and other memorabilia can be exhibited and help new generations of fans to learn about the legend.
The Scottish Borders Council have committed 620,000 pounds, and lottery funding will account for a further 654,000. The Jim Clark Trust, with triple world champion Jackie Stewart as honorary president, must come up with the rest.
With some 240,000 pounds raised since February, much of it through direct donations and pledges as well as a crowd-funding initiative that runs to April 21, a push is on to speed the project over the finish line.
"Jim’s 50th anniversary is April 2018, but it (the museum) won’t be ready for that date," said Niven, who was confident the target will be reached.
"We can see now that we will be doing it ... somebody else has said I’m going to send you a check for 25,000. I got a check for 2,000 pounds in the post last night. So it’s coming in steadily."
Stewart, a close friend of the late double world champion, said it was the right thing to do.
"Jimmy was one of my best friends. We shared an apartment in London and we raced against each other," he told Reuters. "(Argentina's late five times world champion Juan Manuel) Fangio was my absolute hero but Jimmy was certainly the greatest driver I ever raced against.
"He carried the sport ... he carried it with dignity and style. He was a quiet, shy Border Scot. A farmer. He was more at ease herding a flock of sheep with a dog than he would have been at a grand prix circuit.
"Every interview, they always say who was the best driver you ever raced against? Unquestionably Jim Clark."
If the death of Brazil's triple champion Senna at Imola on May 1, 1994, was a seismic moment for a modern generation, Clark's death in a Formula Two race 26 years earlier was of no less magnitude.
The Scot, always a Lotus driver, had won more races (25) and taken more pole positions (33) than anyone in the history of the sport.
In 1965, he won the Indianapolis 500 -- finishing two laps ahead of his nearest rival -- and the Formula One title in the same year.
Americans make up a large proportion of the visitors.
"He was big in America with Indianapolis and we get lots of interest from there. You only have to look at the names in the book, they’re mostly foreigners now," said Niven.
"We’re finding that people are saying ‘I only know of Jim through my father...my father kept talking about him and we just got the buzz about him and want to keep following him.’
"The legacy just seems to be growing."
($1 = 0.8010 pounds)
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Nick Mulvenney)