The next week we took two cars to Silverstone, but unfortunately the weather was bad and we had to go out between rain - showers. One of the cars was set up with Indianapolis gear ratios, while the other had gearing for Trenton - which meant maximum speeds of about 195 mph and 155 mph.
We had fuel feed troubles with the Indy-ratio car, so I never got much running with it. But I drove the other car quite a bit, and in the end, without really using the brakes or pressing the car hard at all, I was lapping Silverstone around 1 min 38 s'ec. (and this, of course, without changing out of top gear). There was lots of power and I was having to back off halfway down the straight. Woodcote Corner felt a trifle strange with the offset suspension (we used the circuit the proper way round), but the car handled well and it was possible to find out quite a bit on the left-handers.
The cars were shipped to Trenton the following week for a shakedown and the possibility of racing there in the 100 mile championship race. Roger McCluskey and I went there for a couple of days of testing in the middle of the week preceding the race, but unfortunately the throttle stuck on McCluskey's car and he bent it pretty badly. This was a big knock to our program, as the third car had already been shipped to Dan Gurney in California - and we were left with only one. In the circumstances it was decided not to risk this remaining car at Trenton, but send it straight to Indianapolis and get all hands possible building up another car back at Cheshunt.
BECAUSE OF THE Tourist Trophy race at Oulton Park I missed the first two days of practice at Indianapolis, but we flew out on the Monday after the TT and arrived to find the car more or less ready to run. I stayed at Indy until qualifying on May 15.
Out at Indianapolis the car felt really good right from the first day. In fact, we spent most of the first week playing about with the fuel injection system on the Ford engine. This year the engine was fitted with what was called a boost venturi system which was designed to economize on the consumption of the alcohol fuel without reducing power. We had a little trouble getting it spot-on, but managed to get it/working properly all the way through the rev range. It is a very complicated system, and requires patience to tune it exactly.
We hardly had to work on the chassis at all, and were able to concentrate on the important job of fuel consumption checks-discovering how much we would need and working it out when I'd have to come in for pit stops. We more or less finalized our race tactics during that first week, when in fact very few entrants were even running their cars.
By the end of the week we were lapping at 159 mph, which was very satisfactory. The new Lotus didn't seem terribly different from the Type 34 we had used the year before, although because of a change in the rules it was a heavier car and felt good and solid.
In 1964 we had about 420 bhp running on gasoline, but for this year's race there was about 500 bhp available on alcohol. The engine we first used this year was pushing out close on 500 bhp, but with the extra weight of the car there felt little difference in the performance compared with the 1964 car. To qualify, we fitted another engine and added about 20 percent nitro to the fuel, which gave about 570 hp . . . and with a car weighing about 1250 Ib you can appreciate that this produced an interesting power-to-weight ratio.
Indianapolis can be a most depressing place. You can go out one day and fail to go quickly without being able to discover why. The next morning you can go out on the track and go like hell, and still not be able to figure out why it happens. It has been shown time and time again, though, that in the middle of a hot afternoon, with the track temperature around 140 degrees, you can be something like 3 mph down on your lap speeds. The fastest times are put up in the cool of the morning and the cool of the evening, though the race takes place between 11:00 in the morning and about 2:30 in the afternoon, and to get to know the race conditions it is essential to go out during the "slow" part of the day.
As time' went on, we went slower and slower-comparatively, that is and although we did a lot of fiddling, checking and re-checking, we couldn't find the reason. We were still working on the original engine, and by then had driven over twice the race distance. The fact that the engine had kept going so well gave us a great deal of confidence, and since the gearbox and chassis had covered the distance without any breakdown whatsoever we felt we had killed the canard that rear-engined designs such as ours were fragile. I was convinced that the Lotus was not going to break down in the 500 miles of the race.
WE CHANGED engines about three or, four days before qualifying, and had a big sort-out of the car. We made the final decision to run on Firestones after I had experienced similar symptoms with the Goodyears to those we met in the 1964 race. I felt that, however much quicker the Goodyears might be, I wanted to be certain of lasting the race distance at racing speeds. On the Friday before qualifying we started putting nitro in the tank. This was really something! I went out for a few warming-up laps and then started bootirig it. It was a thrilling experience, and it nearly became too thrillirig when I came out of one turn, put my foot down too hard, and very nearly lost it. The initial qualifying days were May 15 and 16, and for the first time numbers were pulled out of a hat to decide the order in which the cars went out on the track. This was a good idea because it put a stop to all the fighting for the best places during the day. That first day there were 32 cars ready to qualify and we drew number 32. So officially I was due to go out last, which could have been tricky if it had rained. But suddenly a lot of people drew out of line and opted to set off later, and in the end it was about 1:30 p.m. when I got out, instead of the cool of the late afternoon.
As a matter of fact this suited me, because I was due to catch a plane back to Britain at five o'clock and I wasn't so keen about getting pole position this year. The average speeds set during qualifying are always sky-high, and we realized that this was not a sprint but an endurance race.
As soon as I completed my qualifying laps I knew I'd made a mess of it. I was not as quick as I had hoped. There was quite a gusty wind, which was unsettling the car. I was skating about in the turns, and I felt I hadn't done the car full justice, although my times were still the quickest up to that stage. '
A. J. Foyt went out a little later and pipped me for the pole position, as I expected he would. However, all the other fast people didn't go as well as I thought they would, and I caught the plane fairly confident that I was still on the front, row for the start. With the qualifying hurdle over, I spent a very pleasant week back in Scotland.
After that I went back to Indianapolis on the Wednesday before the race, and everything there went smoothly. During the fortnight we were there practicing we had worked on the fuel system; we had scoured Indianapolis for the best type of fuel cock, and Colin Chapman had come up with a slight redesign of this part of the refueling system. A lot of thought went into all this, because Colin had calculated that the refueling stops-you had to make two this year under the rules, and fuel could only be added by gravity-were going to be vital.
The cars were both in good order when we went out on Saturday for a shakedown. The other Lotus team car was in the hands of Bobby Johns, a stock car driver who was an Indy "rookie," and he had managed to qualify fairly comfortably. The rules laid down that we had to use the same engine in the race as we had for qualifying. For the race we were not using nitro, and so it was really a matter of checking that the fuel system had been tuned to run properly on alcohol after the conversion back. The engine had been stripped and checked by Ford, and was running very well indeed. We had fitted up an extra 2-gallon reserve fuel tank, bolted on one side of the gearbox. The idea was that if I ran out of fuel from the main tanks I could switch over to the reserve tap 'and this would give me sufficient for a couple more laps. The drill would be to signal to the pits that I was coming in, and then come in! next time round. This would give the refueling team about a minute to get ready, which was essential if we were to get an efficient non-scheduled stop. (In fact I never had to use the reserve, but it was good knowing it was there).
WITH EVERYTHING going well with the car, the important thing was to relax and try to be in good shape ready to drive in the race. On the morning of race-day I was up around 7:30 (we were staying at a motel near the main gates of the Speedway) after a good night's sleep. Thousands of folk in Indianapolis hadn't had much sleep that night because the race is a big gala occasion and they make the most of it. Fortunately it was fairly quiet in the motel. We got to the track at about 9:15, but I'm afraid I couldn't take much interest in 'all the parades and suchlike which were laid on the spectators. I've no doubt I wasn't the only driver who was beginning to feel tensed-up. The cars were out on the pit apron having their final check, and about this time the drivers were descended upon by what seemed like 20,000 radio reporters - all wanting a last word with you just at a time when you are trying to concentrate on the coming race. I dived back into our garage and shut the door, getting a bit of peace and relaxing as much as I could while I cleaned my goggles.
Then it was time for business. My car started well and everything seemed fine. I was in the middle of the front row and surrounded by Lotuses, with Foyt and Gurney on each side and Parnelli Jones right behind me. We had just made two parade laps 'behind the pace car before it pulled off and the race was on. This was a 'big surprise for me, because previously there had been three or four laps with the pace car. Being the second fastest in qualifying, I had to be sure that I was behind pole man Foyt as the car crossed the starting line and I changed up early into top gear and put my foot hard down.
Foyt went over the line in his starting gear, and when he made his gear-change just afterwards, I automatically got a jump on him because my engine was nicely cleaned out and pulling hard. By the time we got to the first turn I was far enough ahead to be able to take the corner first, on Foyt's outside, and he had to follow me through with the other two Lotuses hard on our heels. I held the lead for the first lap. The track seemed a bit slippery. I suppose that was because of the dust turned up by the crowd. On the second lap, going up the back straight, I spotted Foyt pulling out to try to overtake me into turn, three, and I pulled over and backed off slightly. ,
At that stage of the race I didn't want to get involved. I'd also noticed that he was running on a mixture of alcohol and nitromethane, which should have given him more power (he had an extra fuel tank strapped on to the side of his car, presumably to cope with the extra fuel consumption).
Foyt's lead lasted only a lap. I wasn't worried about him getting past, because I knew he'd had tire troubles in practice and I calculated that if this was repeated it would be in the early part of the race: However, when he got in front I realized that he was not running as fast as I wanted to go, so the following lap I went by him again and then gradually pulled out a slight lead.
It didn't seem so much trouble passing tail-enders this time as it had been last year (which surprised me), and I found I was pulling away from Foyt when we started lapping other traffic (which also surprised me, because he doesn't hang about when he wants to overtake).
FOR THE FIRST third of the race, before the first compulsory pit stop, I hadn't reckoned on racing anybody. That first stop was very important, because we were hoping to do it in double-quick time and gain on our rivals.
No one else knew how long it would take us to refuel because we had kept it a secret, never carrying out the whole routine while outsiders were watching. But we had got it down to around 16 seconds, and since reports suggested that the fastest anyone else had done was about 29 seconds, we aimed on making a lot of ground when I came in for fuel. Because we had a shrewd idea that we were going to make a quicker pit stop than anyone else, I carefully paced myself and the car, not risking straining anything.
When I did come in, after 66 laps, the refueling seemed to take the heck of a time. I was sure it was all going wrong as the pit sloshed 55 gallons aboard, but in fact I was away again in less than 20 seconds.
Foyt had not yet made his first stop, and so when I rejoined the race I was in second place-knowing I would probably take the lead again when he went into his pit. Then, all of a sudden, I was with Parnelli Jones again, and I didn't know whether he had passed me or not. So I 'drove a little harder and got past him, and sat in front of him for a lap or two until my pit started giving me signals. They put up a board saying " + 58 Parnelli," which meant I was a lap ahead of him.' .
Then I lapped a familiar Lotus and realized it was Foyt, who had come out of his pit after making his first stop. The next time I got a signal " +58 + 58" which meant that I was a lap ahead of both Jones and Foyt. It seems that Foyt had stalled his engine, and this had cost him some time. This became a crucial stage of the race for me, because although the car was running beautifully, I knew I had to concentrate like mad. The race was not being run as fast as I'd anticipated, and I had to force myself to go slower than I'd thought necessary without letting my concentration falter for a moment. When you are really racing there is no problem about concentration, but when you are driving at less than ten-tenths you really have to force yourself to keep on the ball. This is not an easy thing to explain, but any top racing driver will agree that it's' difficult to keep your mind completely on the job when you're not under 100 percent pressure; there - are several instances where drivers have made serious errors after having been given a slowdown signal by their pits.
ONE THING that helped me to concentrate at that stage of the race was my knowledge of the responsibility I was carrying. I told myself that I was the final link in-an effort which had involved the efforts of, I suppose, hundreds of people, and I was determined not to let them down. After that, I was able to lead the race all the way to the checkered flag. My second pit stop was not as fast as the first, probably because we had gone down rather more on the fuel, but we had some time in hand and could afford to take care. I had already got the signal "Foyt Out," which was something of a relief, although for several laps I had let him past so that I could sit behind him (a lap ahead) and see what he was up to.
After the second stop I was two laps ahead of Parnelli Jones, and for the last 50 I slowed right down and virtually coasted in. Earlier, I had been lapping at around 154 -157 mph, but in the final stages I eased back to an average of 148-152 mph.
Providing the car held together which it did magnificently - I knew that the final laps would be plain sailing. But it's in a situation like this that you begin to worry. I began to hear some wheel patter over one of the bumpy sections, and wondered whether the transmission was beginning to falter. I became even more determined to finish and backed off as much as I could in an effort to nurse the car.
In fact, I had no cause for worry, because the car was stripped after the race and we could find nothing wrong with it. So much for the stories flying around Indianapolis before the race that these "newfangled rear-engined devices" were fast but fragile. Suddenly it was all over, and I felt pretty tired a lot of it, I'm sure, due to nervous reaction rather than physical exhaustion. From the time I went out after the first pit stop I hadn't really had to race anybody, and this was more tiring than having to concentrate on a real dice.
My wrists were sore-particularly my right wrist-through working the wheel round 800 corners, but apart from that I felt physically okay. (Most of the other drivers had fitted shock absorbers to their steering to take out some of the sting, but we had decided not to do this.
The Lotus-Ford had done a wonderful job for me. The handling was as perfect as it could be. I was getting something like 148-149 mph through the second turn when I was really trying and just before qualifying the car was timed at 195.8 mph down the straight on nitro fuel.
The race itself, after all the effort during practice and qualifying, had been something of an anti-climax for me, because all the tension and excitement built up over the month had suddenly exploded.
All the same, the race average topped 150 mph for the first time, and that, I think, is a tribute to the quality of the Lotus chassis and the stamina of the Ford engine. Without that, victory would have been quite out of the question.