SIR Jackie Stewart praised Jim Clark as a driver and as a friend when he officially opened the refurbished Jim Clark Museum on Thursday in Duns.

Clark won two Formula 1 World Championships, in 1963 and 1965, claiming overall a total of 25 Grand Prix victories with 33 pole starts, and also the Indianapolis 500 in 1965 before he died in a horrific crash at Hockenheim in 1968.

Sir Jackie, who later was flying off to Spain for the weekend’s Grand Prix, recalled his friendship with Clark.

And he revealed how he regularly visited the Borders to meet up with his ‘great friend'.

He said: “When Jim Clark was racing he was my hero and was certainly the best racing driver I ever raced against.

"We had a great life together and he was an enormous help to me. The manner in which he drove racing cars was just different.

“The museum is a fitting tribute to Jimmy and we should all be very proud of it.”

Sir Jackie said that Formula 1 was a global sport, but lacked the camaraderie it had in Clark’s day.

Now, he explained racing drivers flew off in helicopters after races.

He added: “We were all close together, but we do not have the same depth of friendship today.

“Sport was even more dangerous then, even before Jim died, and we had great respect for each other.

"It was a much closer group of people. I think these were the halcyon days and we do not have the friendships today like Jimmy and Graham Hill and so on.”

Clark will be remembered by all associated with motor sport and beyond with a huge crowd gathering at the museum to see Sir Jackie and three-time Le Mans winner, Allan McNish, unveil a plaque to mark the occasion.

The museum, which opened to the public in mid-July, has already welcomed more than 5,000 visitors in that time.

Doug Niven, cousin of Jim Clark and trustee of The Jim Clark Trust, added: “Sir Jackie has given the museum and the redevelopment project a huge amount of support and encouragement over many years and I was delighted to show him round the finished product today and see his reaction.

“The official opening was an opportunity to thank all those people, from across Scotland and the rest of the world who backed this project, financially and with contributions to the new exhibitions, and it was particularly pleasing to see so many people here who had a close connection to Jim, either through racing or his life here in Berwickshire.”

Funding for the £1.6million partnership project has come from Scottish Borders Council, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Museums Galleries Scotland and The Jim Clark Trust, the latter including a grant from the Fallago Environment Fund and individual donations from around the world.

Euan Jardine, Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Culture and Sport, said: “Today’s event marked the culmination of the efforts of so many people from various organisations over a significant period of time.

“Having Sir Jackie here along with other Jim Clark Trust Patrons, Jim’s family, friends and racing compatriots was fitting to not only officially unveil this outstanding new museum but also reflect on Jim’s enduring legacy and the inspiration he has provided, and continues to do so, to so many people.”