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…chance doesn't exist; there's always a cause and a reason for everything – Elahi

Where art met function

It’s difficult to imagine now,  that unprepossessing red-brick industrial building producing a string of racing cars like that – each astounding in their beauty and outrageous in their performance.  Formula One, Formula 2, Formula Junior, Formula 3, Indy, Sports cars, Lotus Cortinas, Sevens, Elans… It was a golden age not only for Lotus but also for British motor racing and Great British Sports Cars. It looked Sixties-slick back then, with Colin Chapman in his neat suits and sports jackets, Jim Clark carrying his leather briefcase and the boys all bedecked in white coats. It was the epicentre.  It was motor racing.

It is no more. That Lotus has long since disappeared. Chapman vacated Cheshunt at the end of 1966 and opened a new factory in Hethel, Norwich. The historic buildings, though, remain. One of them is now an enormous, well-stocked weight-lifting gym – full of life, full of people. The other sits quietly. Cheshunt’s roots were sunk in WWII, when Italian prisoners-of-war populated the market gardens and greenhouses. Cheshunt came under the heading of “rural”. Now the greenery is fading but the solitude is returning, perhaps for ever.

And so they gathered, many of the original Cheshunt staff, plus Hazel Chapman, whose father owned land in the area, and Clive and many Lotus stalwarts like Mike Costin (who went on to found Cosworth with Keith Duckworth), Warren King, the Lotus accountant, Dick Scammell, Bob Sparshott, John Miles, who raced for Team Lotus from 1968, and also Dougie Niven, Jim Clark’s cousin and key member of the Jim Clark Trust.  Under the auspices of the 750 Motor Club (of which Colin was an enthusiastic member from the start) and the Historic Lotus Register, and in front of this dazzling personnel line-up, Hazel Chapman was invited to pull the cord…

 

Jim Clark wins the Indy 500

victory laneIn celebration of Jim Clark’s historic win at the 49th Indianapolis 500, there is perhaps no better person to recount the occasion than Jim himself. This is what he wrote shortly after the race in the (rare) updated version of his autobiography, Jim Clark at the Wheel:

“Practice at Indianapolis often serves as a guide to ultimate performances, but it goes deeper than this because even such things as the time of day can influence your practice times. Also, you are not restricted to a particular grade of fuel, as you are in European racing, so it is quite easy to brew up some juice to give you a great deal more power. We tried a nitro mix in our fuel in practice and got ourselves an extra 50bhp but in the race we chose to run on alcohol and play safe. AJ Foyt, my greatest rival, ran nitro in the race.

“I found myself in the middle of the front row with AJ on the pole. Unlike 1963, however, this race was going to be run with different tactics. For one thing, I didn’t expect to change tyres at all during the race; we would stop only twice (for fuel). We had the Wood Brothers from NASCAR and we knew we were going to be able to load 60 gallons in just 16 seconds. Foyt was carrying more fuel – and was using more power to counteract that.

“I had heard that he had had some gearbox trouble with the car and I guessed that all this extra power and weight might make his car suspect in the race. This is how it turned out.

“I made a good start and was first into Turn One, which, I was later told, was the first time in Speedway history this had been done. This is just one of the statistics that is thrown at you at a race like this. I don’t think it means too much. On lap two Foyt was right behind me and I saw him pull out to pass. I let him go but quickly he began to slow down, and though I didn’t mind him running faster than me, I didn’t want him running slower. So I repassed him and kept the lead from that point onwards.

“I am often asked when I felt as thought the race was won and my stock reply is about 100 yards from the chequered flag. I did, though, begin to feel pretty confident after my first pit stop. I rejoined the track to find Parnelli Jones beside me and I didn’t know if he’d had his pit stop or whether he was a lap ahead of me. I set out and passed him and then a couple of laps later my pit board read ‘PLUS 58 PARNELLI’. I remember thinking ‘that’s good’ for, although we were actually running together, he was a lap behind me on the road. Then suddenly we shot past another car I didn’t recognize until I saw the number on the side: it was Foyt. He had just been in for his pit stop and when he saw us going past he got all gathered up again and started pushing hard. I let him past again and then shortly afterwards got another sign saying, ‘PLUS 58, PLUS 58’, telling me I was now a lap ahead of both of them.

“As I write these words Indianapolis is only a matter of three weeks behind me and I am only just beginning to realize that I did actually win the race. I remember the crowds cheering, the interviews – oh, the interviews! – and of course the wild claims of the tremendous amount of money I am supposed to have earned. At this moment I haven’t the faintest idea what I have won but I know it will be nothing like the fantastic figures quoted.

“Having missed Monaco, I had some points to catch up in the World Championship table and so, for my part, Indianapolis was quickly forgotten in preparation for Spa and the Belgian GP…”

Let’s hear also from two members of Jim’s pit crew during the race – the very talented Australian marine engineer, Jim Smith, and Allan Moffat, the Canadian-Australian who went on to become one of the greatest racing drivers in Australian touring car history. Finally, in this Indy-related trilogy, Dick Scammell, Team Lotus Chief Mechanic in 1965, recalls how Jimmy gave him the actual gloves he used to win the Indy 500 and how he tuned in to the American Forces’ Network (AFN) radio station in order to listen to the race live in the UK.

 

Jim Clark’s Indy 500 – the vital statistics

IMG_1703

Jim’s daily best speeds in build-up to Qualifying  May 3: first laps of Speedway. Best lap: 152.500 (P2); May 4: 152.284 (P1); May 6: 154.772 (P1); May 7: 156.500 (P1); May 8: 158.926 (P1); May 9: 158.7 (P1); May 10: 157.168 (P2); May 11: 157.800 (P2); May 12: 156.9 (P3); May 13: 160.142 (P2); May 14: 160.100 (P1); May 15: (Pole day)

Jim’s qualifying lap speeds: 160.772, 160.973, 160.714, 160.456 = 160.729 average (P2)

Jim’s official driver stats: Home town: Duns, Scotland; Age: 29; Birthdate: March 4, 1936; Height: 5ft 8in; Weight: 160 lbs; Marital status: single

Jim’s pit stops: L66 (17sec; fuel only), L136 (24.7sec; fuel only)

Jim’s winning time: 3hr 19min 5.34sec

Jim’s winning speed: 150.686 mph

Top three finishers 1) Jim Clark (Lotus 38-Ford); 2) Parnelli Jones (Agajanian Lotus 34-Ford); 3) Mario Andretti (Dean Van Lines “Brabham”-Ford)

Rookie of the Year: Mario Andretti

Jim’s race prize money: $166,621; equivalent value in 2015: $1,251,504; Jim’s share of race prize money: £46,000; equivalent value in 2015: £833,559

Additional Prizes:

Plymouth Sports Fury Convertible Pace Car; Borg-Warner Trophy; L.Strauss & Co Trophy; Bardach Brothers Ring; WFBM Trophy; John Hobbs Trophy; Wynn Oil Co diamond-studded pin; Premier Corp engraved watch; $1000 wardrobe from Dick’s Mens’ store, Wabash; Power twin-welder from Marquette Corp; Proto Tool Co “tote tray”; $100 merchandise certificate from Dorothy’s Inc; Speedway blanket from College House studios

(Note: Jim led 190 of the 200 laps, earning an extra $28,500 at the rate of $150 per lap although Colin Chapman always reckoned they were owed another $150 for the extra lap driven by Jim when the chequered flag was waved a lap late)

Jim’s Qualifying prize money: $1700; equivalent value in 2015: $12,769

1965 Festival Queen: Miss Suzanne Devine, of Chevy Chase Lane, Carmel, In.

Official race day attendance: 350,000

Jim Clark wins at Indy: photo album/4

JC wins 500Signed picThis copy of The Indianapolis News, published as the chequered flag flew (top) needs no introduction…  Above, I asked Jim to sign this photo (the front cover of Motor Racing magazine, August, 1965) when I met him during the 1966 Tasman in Sydney. It adorned my bedroom wall for many a year thereafter (thus its condition) but for me it says everything about that day: enormous achievement; job done. Here we see Jim in the winner’s circle. Note the bespectacled Allan Moffat on the left and Mike Underwood (right) studying said newspaper headline. And, below, here’s Jim chatting to a radio journalist before his victory lap in the Plymouth Pace Car.
victory laneVictory lapJim and Colin flew to New York two days after the race, to the Ford stand at the 1964-65 World’s Fair, and there Jim met both Henry Ford II and the company’s President, Lee Iacocca. Jim took the opportunity to ask them if he might swap the Plymouth (one of his prizes) for one of the 1964 Mustangs showcased at the Fair.
JC, LI, HFThey agreed (above) – but the story doesn’t end there: the Mustang was destroyed months later on the docks in England while being unloaded from its ship. Ford then gave Jim the big Ford Galaxie with which he lit up the roads of England and Scotland throughout most of 1966. (The Plymouth  meanwhile, is now owned by Dario Franchitti.) From NYC, Jim flew in a Ford company aircraft to Wabash, Indiana, there to choose a new ($1000) wardrobe of clothing from Dick’s Menswear (a local store owned by Dick Miller and part of the Indy prize fund!). After signing hundreds of autographs and chatting to Fort Wayne TV networks with Rookie of the Year, Mario Andretti, Jim then flew to Toronto to race the Lotus 30 Mk2 in the Player’s 200 at Mosport; Sally Swart (nee Stokes) recently sent me this photo of the two of them “shortly after the chequered flag” at Indy;With Sally  below, AJ Foyt, the 1964 winner, “passes the baton” to an immaculately-suited Jim at the 1965 victory dinner on the night of the race; victory dinnerbelow (right) is how the Speedway Holiday Inn – where Jim and Team Lotus stayed for the race – marked his victory the morning afterwards;Holiday InnMichael Turner’s Xmas card interpretation of Jim’s celebrated win (below – also from my wall!); by nominating “Duns” as his home town for the detail-crazy US audience, Jim forever changed the public’s perception of Berwickshire and the Borders (below right); and (below) Jim made it to the front cover of Time magazine, elevating his sport to heights previously unimaginedMichael Turner  Berwick newsS1420011

Now make sure y’all come back again for next year’s race! Here’s the rain check:rain check

 

1965 Indy 500 race programme

They always do a nice job with the Indy 500 race programmes – and the 1965 edition, that of Jim Clark’s epic year, was no exception. I particularly liked the way they remembered Eddie Sachs, Dave MacDonald and Bobby Marshman. Here’s a sample of some of the contents:S3090005S3090011 S3090006 S3090010 S3090017 S3090018 S3090024 S3090023 S3090022 S3090021 S3090020 S3090019 S3090025 S3090026 S3090027 S3090028 S3090029 S3090030

The month of May (1965): photo album/3

In shirtsleeves
And so it was time for qualifying. Saturday, May 15. Over 200,000 fans streamed into the Speedway. The sun was warm, the atmosphere electric. Jim wore a short-sleeved shirt to the track, then changed into his Hinchmans.  It was a media frenzy; the qualifying line was a mass of people, cars and equipment.  Jim found shelter under the Lotus pit wall gantry.Shelter2 Qual readyHe was due on track shortly after Mario, who took the temporary pole with a four-lap average of 158.849mph in his Clint Brawner/Jim McGee Brabham copy.

Jim and Mike fired up the Ford V8. The first engine had covered an amazing 1500 miles over the opening week, with a new boost-venturi fuel injection system providing improved consumption with no loss of power.  Jim had revved the engine to 9,300 in this period but would restrict the race engine to 9,100 for qualifying and then 8,800 for the 500 miles. No-one believed that Firestone could take the pole – and so it proved.Qual out  Having said that, Jim’s second lap broke the 160mph barrier (160.973mph) for the first time and paved the way to a four-lap average of 159.405mph. Amazingly, as Colin and the media swarmed around him, Jim apologised for “making a mess of it” on laps three and four due to the sudden gusts of wind. Qualifying P2

AJ Foyt (below) stalled his Ford engine just prior to his run but eventually took to the track in calmer conditions. Maximising his softer Goodyears, he won the pole at a stunning average of 161.233mph. Foyt on poleJim would start from the middle of the front row, with Dan to his right.

Then, for Jim, came a welcome break: he headed for the airport and a flight back to London. He would spend a few days in Scotland and then return, with Sally Stokes, to Indy for the race. Jim’s team-mate, Bobby Johns, would “sit in” for him during the traditional front-row photographs on the Monday.

Images: The Henry Ford Collection, The Peter Windsor Collection

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