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Archive for the tag “Bell Helmets”

Indy: Second Row for rookie Jim Clark

moremsportshistorySilverstone and that dramatic escape behind him, Jim Clark returned to the cauldron they call Indianapolis, this time residing at the Speedway Motel.  He and Dan Gurney were ready to roll on Monday morning – and to apply, therefore, the finishing touches to their all-important qualifying attempts.  If they didn’t make it on this first weekend there would be no Monaco Grand Prix.  It was as simple as that.  And if there was no Monaco Grand Prix, Jim Clark’s 1963 F1 season was going to become unnecessarily tough.  After losing the title in 1962 by a single point, and now having won Pau, Imola and Silverstone in quick succession, he was keen to keep the momentum going.

Jim was delighted to find that Hinchman and Bell were true to their word.  His brand new overalls were, he thought, a little on the gaudy side – but this was Indy; and the race suit, critically, met all the USAC regulations for flame resistance.  Hinchman didn’t seem to be in the business of two-piece suits (of the Dunlop type to which Jim was now accustomed), so this one-piece overall featured a neat little belt with a silver clip-buckle.  Once he’d decided that regular shirts and pullovers were a little too casual, Jim had never worn anything but blue Dunlop overalls – first in one-piece form and, since 1962, with a separate topped tucked into the leggings.  Now, as he tried on the Hinchmans for the first time, he saw in the mirror a completely different person.  The shiny overalls were a base primrose-yellow with mid-blue stripes down the arms, pin-striped in red.  There seemed to be no logic to the colours but he liked them all the same.  His name was embroidered at an angle below the left chest zip pocked and on the right side was a Pure logo.  Jim shrugged and packed the suit into his Leston bag.  He’d wear it in the car but, between runs, he would change quickly back into his sea-island cotton polo and slacks or perhaps his shirt and tie.  He also found a new Pure jacket waiting for him in his hotel room.  He liked it.  It was dark blue – his colour – with blue and white cuffs and collar.   Very Border Reivers.  And the Pure badge was neat and tidy.  Without even thinking about the implications for Esso, he decided then that this jacket would not only be useful at Indy but also in Europe.images

The new Bell Magnum felt only slightly heavier than his Everoak but was considerably thicker all over.  A neat white peak was clipped into place by four big studs – a significant improvement over the strap/stud arrangement that had caused so much trouble at Spa the year before, when the peak on his Everoak had been blown loose by the rush of air at high speed.  Problem was, the Bell was finished in plain silver.  Jim wanted to wear it right away, enabling him to get used to it in the build-up to qualifying.  In the meantime he would see if Bell could prepare another Magnum in dark blue.  It wouldn’t be ready for qualifying but he’d be able to take it back with him to Europe to use at Monaco.

Jim was amazed by the size of the crowd at the Speedway that Monday – and in the days that followed.  More and more, he seemed to be in demand.  Whenever he was in a public area they jumped on him for autographs and in Gasoline Alley the media were all over him.  For the perspective of a fan at the time (albeit 1966), read Don Fitzpatrick’s comment associated with our 1963 Silverstone International Trophy report.

There was a shortage of Halibrand wheels at Indy – itself a function of the trend-setting 15in Firestones being run on the Lotus 29s;  Dan, not completely comfortable with his set-up, spun his blue-and-white car into the wall; and the wind gusted up as Jim’s qualifying run approached:  it was tense and it was time to go to work.

Jim described his qualifying run thus:

“On the day of qualifying there was a fair-sized wind blowing at Indianapolis.  I knew I wouldn’t get another opportunity, and, though quite a number of cars had been out and had failed to qualify because of the conditions, I had to make a real effort.

“It was a tense time, with the wind blowing in 35mph gusts and the car was very twitchy indeed.  Three hours previously I had been going around pretty steadily at about 151.5 mph, and Colin timed one lap at 153 mph;  but these speeds were not possible when I went out for the official trials.

“Dan’s practice crash had caused some embarrassment, because he wrote-off two of the wide-rimmed wheels I was due to use on my car for qualifying.  So I did my qualifying with none of the rims matching – two wide ones on the outside wheels and narrow ones on the inside.

“Anyway, after a few minutes of gritting my teeth and fighting the wind gusts, I eventually managed to qualify at 149.750 mph, which put me in the middle of the second row.tumblr_m1lr6nfOXQ1r53nlzo1_500  You know, it’s amazing what a difference the track temperature and air temperature make to lap speeds at Indianapolis.  I went out one day and couldn’t do anything better than 148 mph.  Colin was trying to sort out the reason, and though he did everything he knew, the car just couldn’t be got round any quicker.  We realized later that the speed was being cut by the heat, and we also realized that at that time all the other drivers had parked their cars away and weren’t troubling to go out.  Local knowledge does help!

“The technique for the lap was relatively straightforward:  I dabbed the brakes going into each turn and had to smack them pretty hard when I had a full load of fuel aboard.  The difficulties about Indianapolis are the lack of distinguishing features around the circuit and the fact that there is no apex on the four turns.”

Jim had made it – and so, in the spare Lotus 29, painted in Jim’s green and yellow colours, had Dan.  They could relax.  And they could begin the rushed trip, with Colin, back to Europe.  Practice for the Monaco Grand Prix would begin on Thursday, May 23.S2530001

Captions from top: Jim, wearing new Hinchmans, in nail-biting mood as he listens to the pre-qualifying drivers’ briefing and draw; Middle: Jim loved the blue-and-white Pure jackets that came with the American oil company’s Indy sponsorship (via its Ford connections).  He wears it here over his Esso-badged blue Dunlops!; Above right: the official Indianapolis portrait of Jim Clark; Above: Jim, in the new silver Bell Magnum, after qualifying the Lotus 29 on the second row.  Around him, from left to right, are Colin Chapman, Jim Endruweit, David Lazenby and Colin Riley 

Pictures: Indianapolis Motor Speedway; Peter Windsor Collection; LAT Photographic

High Fives for Clark at Silverstone

moremsportshistoryFirst, though, the build-up to that May 11, 1963, 15th International Trophy Race:

Indianapolis became a steep learning-curve as the month of May gathered pace.  As well as embracing the ways of the idiosyncratic Speedway, and all that comes with it, Team Lotus faced the additional problems of being newcomers amongst the old guard, of initiating the winds of profound technical change and of trying many all-new components thus related.  Like big, aluminium, 4.2 litre Ford Fairlane V8 engines.  And Firestone tyres.  And Halibrand wheels.  And asymmetric suspension.  And seat belts.  And, yes, Bell Magnum helmets.

For most of the month of May, Jim, Colin Chapman and David Phipps, the talented photo-journalist, stayed in the house of Rodger Ward, the 1959 and 1962 Indy winner.   The days were relaxed by European racing standards, beginning with early morning tests, lunch work, more afternoon laps and then late-ish nights with the mechanics after early evening meals.   The issues were many:  the Dunlop D12s were quicker (Dan Gurney had lapped his Lotus 29 at 150mph while Jim was racing in Europe) but the Firestones were more durable.  With one pit stop to the roadsters’ two or three, Lotus could enjoy a big advantage even before the race was underway.  To achieve that, however, they needed to run the less grippy Firestones.

This, in turn, caused a furore.  Firestone built special tyres for Lotus around 15in wheels but then quickly found themselves under pressure from the Americans, who also expected the same, larger, footprint tyres for their roadsters (which normally ran 18in wheels).  AJ Foyt in particular took umbrage.  Expecting Firestone to be swamped, he approached Goodyear about using their stock car (NASCAR) tyres.  They agreed.  And, with that, the great Akron company began its single-seater racing history.

The switch to Firestones had additional implications for Jim.  Until now, he had worn at Indy his regular, light blue, two-piece Dunlop overalls, complete with Esso and BRDC badges.  With Ford’s engine supply now requiring the Lotus 29s to use Pure fuel and lubricants, those overalls were obviously redundant.  What to do?  Dan introduced Jim to Lew Hinchman, the local owner of a large garment and uniform factory.  Lew, whose father, JB,  built fire-retardant overalls for many of the American drivers, was in the process of making a dark blue, Ford-logo’d one-piece suit for Dan.  Why not make one for Jim, too?  Jim was measured up in the sweaty Team Lotus garage one lunch break (air-conditioning units were forbidden by the Speedway Safety Police due to the WWII-spec wiring in the garages!) and Jim was told that the overalls would be ready for the first week of qualifying.  Dan also pointed Jim in the direction of the Bell Helmets race rep.  Dan had been using a leather-edged McHal for a couple of years, and loved it.  Even so, he was impressed with the new Magnum. And so here was a chance for Jim to put his trusty Everoak out to pasture.  Jim examined the new silver helmet and decided to try it in the build-up to qualifying.  For Silverstone, next weekend, he would nonetheless race with the Everoak – for the last time, as it turned out.

Between runs in this leisurely week at Indy, Jim also had time to shape-up his travel schedule for the following weeks.  It would go something like this:

Tue, May 7: return to England (via Chicago). Pick up Lotus-Cortina at Heathrow. Drive to Silverstone. Check in to Green Man hotel. Thur-Fri-Sat: International Trophy F1 race, Silverstone. Sat, May 11: immediately after the race, fly with Colin and Dan Gurney to Heathrow in Colin’s Miles Messenger. Take flight to Chicago via New York. Change at Chicago for Indy. Check in to Speedway Motel. Begin testing Monday morning. Sat, May 18: Indy qualifying.  Leave Sunday, May 19, for London. Stay with Sir John Whitmore in Belgravia. Two days at the factory at Cheshunt. Wed, May 22 : fly to Nice from Heathrow. Check in to La Bananerie at Eze sur Mer. Thur, May 23-Sun May 26:  Monaco GP. Mon, May 27:  leave at 4:00am for London. Take flight to Chicago and then on to Indy. Thur, May 30: Indy 500. Fri, May 31: fly to Toronto and then drive on to Mosport. Sat, June 1: Players’ 200 sports car race (with Al Pease’s Lotus 23). Drive afterwards to Toronto. Take evening flight to London. Mon, June 3: Whitmonday Crystal Palace sports car race (Normand Lotus 23B). Wed, June 5: Leave London with Colin for Spa (Belgian GP).

In other words:  phew!  There was of course no internet back then; transatlantic phone calls were both a novelty and expensive.  Communications with the UK were via telexes and telegrams. Flight bookings were handled by Andrew Ferguson’s office in Cheshunt but re-arranged in the US by David Phipps.  And the tickets, of course, were big, carbon-copied wads of coupons. Jim’s black leather briefcase was literally jammed to the hilt.

There was little time, though, as one Indy issue followed another, to wonder if it would all be feasible.  If Jim didn’t qualify on the first weekend, for example – what would happen?  Would he miss Monaco or would he foresake Indy?  Given the powers behind the Indy effort – Ford, Firestone, etc – probably it would be Monaco.  For now, though, it was heads-down:  there was not a moment to spare – or even to think about the bigger problem.

In the midst of all this, Silverstone turned out to be a golden Saturday to be forever savoured. Thursday and Friday, by contrast, were best forgotten.  Dunlop were pushing R6 development to new frontiers;  Jim, as at Snetterton, found the Lotus 25 to be all over the place on the new tyres.  On a cold and windy Thursday, jet lag or no, he couldn’t find anything approaching a sweet spot with the car – and this was with exactly the chassis (R5) in which he’d been so quick at Aintree (on R5s).  He was only fifth that Thursday, focusing as he was on trying to make the car work just through Stowe and Club.   If he could find a balance there, he reasoned, then he could probably make up for deficiencies over the rest of the lap.

The mechanics – Jim Endruweit, Cedric Selzer Dick Scammell, Derek Wilde and the boys – worked through to six o’clock on Friday morning, rebuilding Jim’s car with yet another set-up change.   Perhaps, in addition, the rebuild might uncover a more fundamental chassis fault…

To no avail.  Saturday was cold and wet;  as all-weather as the new Dunlops undoubtedly were, little could be learned about a dry-weather balance.  The grid therefore being defined by Thursday’s times, Jim tried team-mate Trevor Taylor’s car for a few laps.  A spin at Copse capped an unremarkable day.  Innes Ireland, what’s more, would start from the pole in the BRP Lotus 24-BRM – a chassis that Jim had always liked.  Graham Hill was second in his trusty 1961/62 BRM, Bruce McLaren third in the new works Cooper and Jack Brabham fourth in his BT3, his engine down on power after a rushed rebuild.  Poor Dan Gurney had flown over with Jim from Indy but for him there would be no F1 debut with Brabham:  there was a dire shortage of Climax engines in this build up to the season proper, highlighted by Jack’s frequent runs up and down to Coventry.  Jack was more than ready to let Dan race the one and only BT3 at Silverstone but a short test at Goodwood confirmed that Dan was much too tall for Jack’s cockpit.  He would have to wait until Monaco to drive his tailor-made car.

This race was also notable for the appearance of the new 1963 Ferraris driven by John Surtees and Willy Mairesse.  Powered by regular V6 engines (with V8s rumoured to be on the way), the new cars showed glimpses of promise amidst predictable teething troubles.  This would be Surtees’ first F1 race for the Scuderia (and his first F1 race of the season;  the beautiful Lola GT, a forerunner of the 1964 Ford GT and a car with which Surtees had been closely involved form the outset, also had its maiden appearance this Silverstone weekend.  In a portent of the drama that was to explode three years later, Big John practiced the Lola on Thursday but was then forbidden by Ferrari from racing it on Saturday, even though the Sports Car Race was the last event of the day.  John appointed Tony Maggs in his place;  the South African started from the back of the grid and finished an excellent ninth.)

After Thursday’s all-nighter, and given the slight repairs that needed to be made to Trevor’s car after Jim’s spin, Colin decreed late on Friday afternoon that the boys should not overdo it.  “Just put everything back to standard on both cars.  Try to finish by nine. Get an early night.”

This they attempted.  After packing the 25s back into the transporter and driving it to their regular garage on the outskirts of Towcester, they race-prepared the cars to standard spec before repairing to their hotel, the Brave Old Oak, in time for a half-past-nine drink at the bar.   A “quick drink” then evolved into an all-nighter of a different kind – the liquid kind.  Come Saturday morning, as the bleary-eyed Team Lotus crew hustled their transporter through the early-race traffic, all the talk was of the blonde girl who worked behind the bar…Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden attended the 1963 International Trophy;  and the weather doffed its cap. A warm spring sun quickly replaced early cloud.  One hundred thousand spectators poured through Silverstone’s gates, filling the grandstands and the grass banks right around the circuit.  The British Grand Prix may have been but a couple of months in the future – here, at Silverstone – but the fans could not get enough.  A clear example of how less is definitely not more – providing the product is right. In the Team Lotus transporter, between laughs, Jim Clark reflected on the good news:  today they would forget the R6s.  They’d race R5s.  Dunlop wouldn’t like it but there you go.  A race is a race.A masterpiece of a race.  Jim started on the second row but was quickly up to second place, trailing his friend Bruce McLaren for a couple of laps before slicing past and pulling away.   Suddenly he had a Lotus 25 around him.  Suddenly he had balance and feel when on Thursday he been obliged to drive mainly on reflex, dumbing the understeer with induced flick oversteer.  Now he was four-wheel-drifting the 25 through Copse, Becketts, Stowe and Club.  Now he was using every inch of road through Woodcote and again past the pits, making the art of ten-tenths driving look sublimely simple.

18609.tifHe won it – and he won it with ease.  It was a Clark Classic on the old R5s in Lotus 25/R5.  Bruce finished second and Trevor drove well to make it a Team Lotus one-three.  Innes, quick all weekend, finished fourth – but not before recovering from a big spin at Woodcote, the thick tyre smoke of which effectively ushered-in a new era – the era of the soft-compound Dunlop R6.  Never before had rubber been so burnable – or so sticky.   Innes revolved the 24 at high speed – probably on oil dropped by the Surtees Ferrari, which eventually retired – but kept the car on the Ireland.  A few years before, the odds of that happening would have been too small even to contemplate.   Now, if we can combine those new grip levels with more compliant sidewalls, thought Jim and Colin, then we’ll definitely have a race tyre

It was a fun day, too.  Sir John Whitmore was again magnificent in the Cooper S;  Mike Beckwith won his class with the Normand Lotus 23B;  Jack Sears scored the first of his many wins with the big Ford Galaxie – a car that Jim had driven over at Indy, when he was filling in some time one quiet day at the Speedway; Jim in Galaxy '62Graham Hill won the GT race in John Coombs’ lightweight E-Type; and Denny Hulme again won the Formula Junior race in the factory Brabham, just beating David Hobbs and Paul Hawkins.  Earlier that week, Jack himself had driven the FJ car, helping Denny with set-up and with a few circuit pointers.  Then there was the business with the Miles Messenger.  Racing over, Jim and Dan piled into the cramped four-seat cockpit; bags were stuffed into the small luggage compartment (no room for the trophy!); Colin fired up the DeHaviland Gipsy engine, opened the throttle…and nothing happened.  The old four-seater remained bogged in the Stowe mud, its wheels intransigent.   Out jumped an amused Silverstone winner and his buddy, Dan  – and off, in a lighter Miles, set Colin.  Even as the little aeroplane was gathering speed, Jim and Dan were scambling aboard.

Four connections and 4,000 miles later, the two Team Lotus friends were at Indy, ready to test on a warm Monday morning.

Captions from top:  Dan Gurney, in new Hinchmans, Colin Chapman and Jim Clark, still in Dunlop blues, talk wheels and tyres early in the Indy month of May;  Jim fingertips 25/R5 out of Becketts en route to victory; late in ’62 Jim had fun at the Speedway with a road-going Mercury Monterey.  Images: LAT Photographic, Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For more on Hinchman overalls: http://hinchmanracewear.com

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