IN 1961 JACK BRABHAM came to the Indianapolis 500 in a 2.7-liter Cooper Climax and finished ninth. In 1962, Mickey Thompson arrived at the Speedway with two Buick-powered rear-engined cars, both of which looked very promising but neither of which finished the race. In 1963, after Dan Gurney had bought Colin Chapman an airline ticket and convinced Ford that a Lotus-Ford combination could win the race, two rear-engined Lotuses with pushrod Ford engines finished second and seventh. In 1964, except for an unfortunate choice of tires, Jim Clark's Lotus-Ford would have won. In 1965, there was no doubt at all that a rear-engined car was going to win (27 of the 33 starters were in rear-engined cars) and very little doubt that a Ford engine (17 engines out of the 33) would power the winning car.

So there was little surprise at Jim Clark's victory in the Ford-powered Lotus. The only surprise came over the ease with which the victory was accomplished. Clark led 190 of the 200 laps of the race and after A. J. Foyt's Lotus-Ford broke its transmission (a German ZF) in lap 114, no one even threatened the little Scot. The car that Clark drove this year was a new Lotus 38, It was a typical Lotus with semi-monocoque chassis, lie-down driving position, ZF gearbox, spidery looking suspension arms and so on. It was slightly wider in the track than last year's Lotus and the frontal area was slightly smaller. The reduction in frontal area was made possible by the use of a smaller radiator, which in turn was made possible by the decision to use cooler-running alcohol fuel rather than gasoline as last year.

There was little doubt too that the Chapman-Lotus-Clark combination held a psychological advantage. In 1963 and 1964, Clark had come within a small miscalculation of winning the race. This year Team Lotus acted like it wasn't going to make a miscalculation of any sort. To begin with, Chapman and his men made the Indy race a major part of their effort this year. Clark passed up running at the Monaco GP, for example, and wasn't popping back and forth across the ocean for other races as he had in past years. When the track opened for practice, the car was ready to run, The first program undertaken was to run a series of full load tests. This was done to enable Chapman to decide what tires to use. Last year, the two Team Lotuses qualified on Dunlops, then discovered they were going to have trouble, which they did, and it led directly to their failure to finish the race. This year they tried both Goodyear and Firestone (Dunlop declining to make Indy tires this year), experienced a trace of the chunking problem that was later to plague Goodyear and settled on Firestones.

With their tire questions answered, Team Lotus then concentrated on going quickly for the qualifying session. This went smoothly, Clark qualifying second fastest (next to Foyt), which put him in the middle of the front row. Next to Clark was Dan Gurney in the second of the new Lotus 38s, Gurney's Lotus was being attended to by his own crew this year and he was committed to Goodyear tires, as was Foyt. This gave Goodyear a 2-to-l score for the front row, which rather put Firestone's nose out of joint, inasmuch as it had furnished tires for the last 41 consecutive winners.

About the tires, just to get that part of the story out of the way, it went like this: The compound used on the Goodyears was slightly softer than that of the Firestone tires-a shore hardness in the range of 61-63 for Goodyear compared to 62-65 for Firestone-and the tread was slightly deeper (7/32nds vs, 5132nds). Though it had not come to light during the early running when most were running light loads and short distances, the Goodyears began to chunk (lose bits of tread) just after the first weekend of qualifying when Foyt and others began doing full-load, long-distance runs to check out gas consumption and handling.

Goodyear's first report was that a defect in the manufacturing process had caused the chunking. A "blade fold," it was called, but hardly anyone bought this story. It sounded too much like a framistat. The tires were obviously running too hot and the obvious solution was to reduce the tread depth. But USAC's rules state that the same tires must be used in the race as were used in qualifying and Firestone was watching very carefully to see that the tires weren't changed, USAC unequivocally denied permission for Goodyear to grind some of the tread off the tires but did permit such tires to be used during practice while Goodyear attempted to find another solution. What happened, ultimately, was that a couple of drivers were sent over to the oval at nearby Indianapolis Raceway Park to "scrub in" the Goodyears that were to be used in the race. USAC accepted this.

As it turned out, no one had any tire trouble during the race. The Goodyears did not chunk, did not wear out. So far as the finishers went, the first eight cars were on Firestones. But the tire story was only a sidelight. Goodyear got its foot in the door, which it failed to do last year, and will undoubtedly return in 1966.

The big story was the performance of the Powered-by Ford Lotus of Jim Clark. As related earlier, Team Lotus answered their questions about tires, prepared for qualifying, then qualified Clark in the middle of the front row. This accomplished, Jim went back to Scotland to relax at the sheep farm and didn't return until just before the race. This also tended to intimidate the opposition, as the usual Indy procedure is to worry and fiddle and build up the tension.

Everybody else was having trouble, almost. The Ford engines were showing a distressing tendency to have throttles stick open, there was a rash of troubles with rear suspension components and some drivers were showing their lack of familiarity with rear-engined cars by losing control. These things, or combinations thereof, led to encounters with the walls by such worthies as Foyt (ex-Lotus), Jones (ex-Lotus), Lloyd Ruby (Halibrand-Ford), Don Branson (Watson Ford), Jim Hurtubise (Halibrand-Ford) and several others.

The most dramatic trouble was that of Rodger Ward. A. J, Watson had built two new monocoque cars for this year's race, Nice looking, pointy-nosed, Ford-powered machines, both of them. One for Ward, the other for Don Branson. Branson smote the wall briskly the Friday before qualifying but got it back together in time to make the lineup the first weekend. Ward's car never did get sorted out. First there was engine trouble that eluded correction even by experts from Ford. Then, when the engine was finally running decently, the car behaved so strangely that Ward couldn't hot-lap consistently. Twice the first day of qualifying, Ward went out to qualify and twice his crew called him in because he wasn't going fast enough. As it turned out, his first run might have put him in the race but it didn't seem fast enough at the time, On the final Saturday of qualifying, getting desperate as he tried to get up to speed, Ward lost it and banged the wall. The car was stuck back together again but there was too little time to get it to handle properly and Rodger wound up with the 34th fastest time to miss his first 500 in 15 years.

The Cinderella story of the 1965 500 would have to be that of Parnelli Jones. Parnelli has never made a secret of his lack of enchantment with rear-engined cars. All month everything went wrong, He lost a wheel early in the month, qualified fifth fastest the first day of qualifying and on the following Friday had a suspension bit break and put him in the wall, hard, The car was put back together in time for Parnelli to make a few laps during carburet ion runs the Saturday before the race but not enough for him to develop any feeling of confidence in the car. His car owner, J. C. Agajanian, said after the race that Parnelli had had so little confidence in the car before the race that he said he was going to give it a try and if it wasn't right he was going to bring it right back into the pits,

As it was, Parnelli said later that the rebuilt Lotus ran better and handled better than it had all month. He hung on in fourth place until Dan Gurney dropped out, then moved up again when Foyt departed, His luck was so good during the race that he was able to cross the finish line and coast to a stop out of gas, and still hold off third-place Mario Andretti,

But nobody was threatening Clark. He simply had the legs of everybody else at the Speedway, When the final laps had run out he had averaged a record 150,686 mph, the first foreign driver to win at Indy since Daria Resta did it in 1916 *! driving a Peugeot 300 mi at an average of 84.00 mph. It was the first victory for a car with a British-built chassis, the first time a Meyer-Drake hadn't been in the winner's circle since George Robson won the 1946 race in a 6-cyl Sparks engined Thorne Special and the first time that a Ford powered car had won the race. It was a historic occasion.

There was a total of 24 Ford-engined cars entered at Indy this year, 17 of which actually made the starting field. These engines were slightly improved versions of the dohc introduced last year, and were putting out 495 bhp at 8800 rpm compared with 475 at 8000 of 1964. Almost all the Fords were set up to run on alcohol-based fuels (the Sheraton Thompson cars of Foyt and AI Unser being two of the exceptions who were using gasoline) and were getting 3-4 mpg. This year's regulations required two pit stops (to reduce fuel loads) so 60-gal tanks were about the right size. This was the amount of fuel Clark's Lotus was carrying and his two stops were as quick and neat this year as they had been slow and sloppy in past years. Not everyone was carrying this quantity of fuel, strangely enough. AI Miller drove superbly in Carroll Horton's rebuilt Lotus-Ford but with a fuel capacity of only 35 gal he had to stop four times and was lucky to squeeze into fourth place.

Ford did what it could to help entrants using its engines. After the final qualifying sessions, for example, it flew all the Fords back home for service. There wasn't time to tear down and rebuild the entire lot, obviously, but all got inspected, freshened up where needed and dyno tuned before being returned to the Speedway. This care paid off, inasmuch as the Ford engines had little trouble during the race. Cold comfort, though, that is for those that did. Like-Dan Gurney. Dan had qualified third fastest and was stroking along an unstrained third in the early laps. Then a gear in the train at the front of the engine let go and Dan was through after only 42 laps. In general, though, the Ford-engined cars that retired were put out by something other than engine failure, as you can see in the results.

The last stand of the 4-cyl Meyer-Drake wasn't very impressive. Louis Meyer and Dale Drake, already having read the handwriting on the wall, didn't build any new engines this year though they did make spare parts and try to help those entrants using the familiar old air-pump. The strongest of the Offies were probably developing about 450 bhp, which was simply not enough to get the job done. There were 14 cars in the race using Meyer-Drake engines, 10 of which were rear-engined, but during the race there wasn't one of them anywhere within striking distance of the first three places. Several of the rear-engined Offies were impressive, considering that they weren't Fords. Jim McElreath charged up to sixth in the early going in a Brabham-based Offie then faded with rearend trouble. Walt Hansgen was right with McElreath and got up to fifth place in his Huffaker MG Liquid Suspension Special before slowing and finally retiring with overheating. Rookie Bill Foster impressed observers with the speed of his Vollstedt car when his car was running right. When the final flag fell there were four Offie-powered cars still running, the best placed of which was rookie Gordon Johncock's Watson roadster in fifth place, Johncock achieved that position through sheer steadiness and reliability, you understand, as his car was far from the fifth fastest in the race.

There was only one other kind of engine in the race, the supercharged Novi, two of which made the starting field. The older car, a roadster driven by Jim Hurtubise, blew its gearbox on the first lap. The other, the 4-wheel-drive Ferguson Novi of last year, screamed along in sixth and seventh places before retiring after 180 mi with an oil leak. This car, driven by Bobby Unser, was pressed into service when the newer, lighter 4wd Novi was wrecked during practice when unlucky Unser couldn't avoid a car that spun in front of him.

There were other engines that didn't make the race at all, though. Mickey Thompson was the best-known of the nonqualifiers. His front-engine, front-wheel-drive car used a Thompson variation on a small Chevrolet V-8, but the engine project was so far behind schedule that the car never really got a chance. Driver Bob Mathouser almost got it up to qualifying speed with the third (and strongest) engine but a broken crank eliminated their last hope. Jerry Eisert had Traco-modified pushrod Chevrolet engines in the two cars he'd built for J. Frank Harrison, but the combination of rookie cars and rookie drivers conspired to defeat whatever chances this entry had. There was also a Maserati powered car, a much-modified V-8 reportedly having 445 bhp, entered by Dan Gurney's old sponsor, Frank Arciero. Using a rear-engined chassis built by Pete Weisman, the car looked pretty good with rookie driver AI Unser, but it didn't come close to getting into the race.

All this discussion is purely academic, of course, as this year's Indy was a Lotus-Ford show from beginning to end. And because all the Ford engines were equal (albeit some may have been a bit more equal than others), it must have been the Lotus chassis that really made the difference. Was the Lotus all that much better? Yes, it probably was. The best performance by a non-Lotus came ,from the Al Dean entry built by Clint Brawner and Jim McGee and driven by the sensational rookie, Mario Andretti.

The car that Brawner built for Andretti was not an imitation Lotus, as so many of the rear-engined cars were, but had a large-tube chassis more along the lines of the older Brabham. It weighed 1340 Ib, well above the 1250-lb minimum established for this year's race and it was not only the first rear-engined car Brawner ever built but also the first rear-engined car Andretti ever drove. It was also the only car on the track that was not offset to the left. It has long been Indy practice to offset the chassis (even the Lotuses do it) to give better left turn performance and to even up the tire wear but Andretti ran the entire race on the same set of Firestones and had no more tire wear than anyone else. It is hard to believe that this lack of traditional offset gave Andretti any advantage in lap speed (though it may not have cost him any, considering that the modern rear-engined car has enough rubber on the track to assure maximum traction). It is probably more likely that the difference between Andretti's speed and the speed of other non-Lotus Ford entries was Andretti himself.

So is anybody going to beat the Lotuses at Indy next year? It doesn't seem likely. If this year's race proved anything it proved that you shouldn't expect to beat this year's Lotus with a last year's Lotus. It also proved that an imitation Lotus is hardly the same thing as a genuine Lotus. Colin Chapman and the men from Cheshunt may not fit the Indy image very comfortably but they are years ahead in experience with this kind of car. It is possible that some of the other British chassis builders will come up with a Lotus beater for next year-the Lolas looked nice this year but were too new and unsorted to have a chance-but then again, nobody in Grand Prix racing is building a chassis that is superior to the Lotus, so why expect they'll do it for Indy? It's the era of the Lotus. And that's almost as undeniable as the fact that it's also the era of the Ford.

Who might challenge the superiority of the Lotus-Ford combination? At the moment, there doesn't seem to be anyone. Except Ferrari. Ferrari has engines that could be tailored to Indy size, engines that have more cylinders (12) than the Fords (8) and which need take a back seat to no one in sheer potential. It also seems likely that Ferrari could come up with a chassis that would be competitive at Indy. Unfortunately, however, it doesn't appear that Ferrari is interested in challenging the Lotus-Ford reign at Indy. It would be a tremendously expensive project: one that would require Ford-like money to undertake. Which Ferrari doesn't have.

So it's the era of the Lotus, the era of the Ford and, undeniably, it's also the era of the smooth little driver, Jimmy Clark. The message has hardly ever been more clear.

cars with spec.'s

Lotus 1963

Aston Martin 1963

Ferrari 1963

Maserati 1963

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