Jim Clark: his life:

Clark was undeniably quicker and smoother than his competition and he made it look easy. Race after race, Jim Clark's Lotus grabbed the lead at the drop of the green flag and pulled away from the field so rapidly it overwhelmed the rest. If the Scot finished a race, he was likely to win.
I read the name Jim Clark for the first time during the 1960 Grand Prix season, in the motor racing magazines, when the 24 year old farmer from Berwickshire in Scotland made his Grand Prix debut. I began paying attention to Jim Clark during his first full season in Formula One in 1961.

Although I recognized Clark to be a promising newcomer in 1961, the most notable thing I knew about Jim Clark was his involvement in the tragic second lap accident in September's Grand Prix of Italy that took the lives of Ferrari driver Wolfgang von Trips and fourteen spectators.

Clark's Lotus 21 - Climax and von Trips' Ferrari collided coming out of the Parabolica corner at Monza while battling for fourth position. The Ferrari careened up a high embankment, hit a spectator fence and went into a series of barrel rolls. von Trips' racer went end over end into a helpless crowd of fans standing behind the fence at the top of the embankment like a huge razor sharp blade cutting a swath through a field of high grass. Then the German driver's body was thrown from the car as it somersaulted down to the racing circuit. That might have been the moment when Wolfgang von Trips died. He was killed instantly.Including a German language narration over grisly images of spectators laying dead on the ground and von Trips' lifeless body being picked up by onlookers, covered instantly and carried away on a stretcher while a dazed Clark stands at the edge of the track waving other race cars away from the crash.

The scenes in the German language video are violent and graphic. There is a film sequence which opens with a woman's scream as people try to attend to the mangled bodies of lifeless spectators. The next footage shows von Trips body rushed across the track while a limp arm hangs out from under the blanket covering the corpse.

The video presents death in a nightmarish sequence of events. It's frightening and it reminds me how dangerous racing was in that era! The video of the crash on September 10, 1961 is unnerving. Watch it and see how you feel. It made me shiver.

Clark was plagued by Italian authorities for years after that for his involvement in the crash. One has to wonder how the Scot was able to overcome the tragedy and develop into the greatest race driving talent the world has ever seen.

Come 1962, the transformation from contender to winner was complete. The young Scotsman won three non Championship Formula One races in South Africa at the end of 1961. Non title F1 events back then were fairly numerous.

I have yet to comprehend the nature and personality of the 1960s style Formula One events which did not count for World Championship points. From all accounts they were curious competitions and the closest contemporary F1 event I can relate them to are the pre season testing days that precede modern Grand Prix seasons such as the four day sessions that recently concluded at Jerez in Spain.

For instance, Jim Clark scored his first Formula One victory on April 3, 1961, on the 1.7 mile temporary street circuit in Pau, France. Jimmy's Lotus - Climax was one of twenty one cars entered for the race and sixteen that actually started the 100 lap 171 mile race.

The entry for Pau included one F1 factory, Team Lotus, and several privately entered Lotuses and Coopers driven by a collection of Grand Prix regulars and serious enthusiasts such as 1959 - 1960 World Champion Jack Brabham, Jo Bonnier, Lorenzo Bandini, Maurice Trintignant, Trevor Taylor, many time Le Mans winner Olivier Gendebien and drivers I never heard of before like Andre Wicky and Gino Munaron.

Jim Clark won his first actual World Championship event in the Grand Prix of Belgium on June 17, 1962 and I took special notice. Five weeks later, on July 21, he won another championship race, the Grand Prix of Britain, at the Aintree circuit near Liverpool. Then on October 2, at Watkins Glen Clark won yet another F1 victory; the Grand Prix of the United States.

By then, Jim Clark was competing with the Lotus 25, which was the first full monocoque race car in history and possibly the first in a series of revolutionary and highly successful Lotus creations from Colin Chapman who was arguably the greatest racing car designer of all time. Clark acquired the image as a "can't miss" emerging star who was headed straight for the top of the world of motor sport. I quickly became tuned in to the story and I liked it -- a lot. 

Jim Clark, Colin Chapman and crew members from Team Lotus went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October 1962, a few days after winning at Watkins Glen, with the victorious Lotus 25 - Climax. The Scot tested the fabled 2.5 mile oval. Without preparation, Clark turned laps in the 145 mph range within a short time of taking to the track.

That caught my attention in a big way. There was no Internet in October 1962 but the rumors began flying around Indiana that Team Lotus and Jim Clark would join forces with Ford Motor Company and Dan Gurney in an attempt to conquer the "Indianapolis 500."

There was a non championship Formula One race in Mexico and a couple non title F1 races early in December in South Africa during the period between Watkins Glen and the world championship finale in East London.
Jim Clark and Graham Hill each won three championship rounds during the 1962 season coming into the ninth and final race of the season. Hill had more points but if Clark won the Grand Prix of South Africa, the 1962 World Championship was his.

The Scotsman put the Lotus 25 on pole and pulled away from Hill at the start of the 82 lap race. Clark was faster and Graham's BRM was unable to keep pace.

Unfortunately the Climax engine powering the Lotus began smoking on lap 56 and five laps later Clark was out with an oil leak. Hill won the race and the World Championship. But I realized after I read results from South Africa that Jim Clark was well on his way to a World Championship and it would likely occur in the upcoming 1963 season.

Sometime near the end of 1962, it was announced officially that Ford Motor Company would partner with Team Lotus to enter cars for the 1963 Indianapolis 500 for Dan Gurney and Jim Clark.

My first racing hero was Tony Bettenhausen, the two time (1951 and 1958) Indy car National Champion driver from Tinley Park, Illinois. During the first five "Indianapolis 500" events I attended from 1956 through 1960, I cheered for Tony Bettenhausen to win with every ounce of worship I could muster. Tragically Bettenhausen was killed on May 12, 1961 in a practice crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway without ever having won the "Indy 500."

Bettenhausen finished fourth in the 1959 "Indianapolis 500." It was his second consecutive fourth place finish in the "500."

The loss of Tony Bettenhausen was tough for a fourteen year old kid to take. I mourned Tony for two years. I became enthusiastic about Len Sutton when he led nine laps and finished second in the 1962 "500." Unfortunately Sutton was injured in the race following the 1962 "Indianapolis 500" at Milwaukee and missed most of the rest of the 1962 season. Then Sutton missed the 1963 "500" when he failed to qualify among the fastest 33 cars.

During May 1963 however, I became fascinated by Jim Clark. I found a new hero. I don't remember how many days of practice I visited the Speedway during May 1963. I received my driver's license the previous month and my parents had purchased my first car, a 1957 Buick (God that was a monster of an automobile), but for whatever reason I don't recall going to the track for practice much that May. It was probably because that two tone light blue and white Buick broke down a lot and I was embarrassed to be seen driving that ugly beast.

My intense focus on Jim Clark probably began in earnest on May 18, 1963, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on pole day for the 1963 "Indy 500."
My dad's cousin came to visit my family that weekend at our home in Carmel, Indiana and one of the visitors was her son, my distant cousin Ferdinand. My dad told me I had to take "Ferd" with me to pole day qualifications at the Speedway. I wasn't happy about that but I agreed it would have been embarrassing for my father if I had left Ferd at the house.
My plan was to go to the track with my pal Steve Schern, the person who turned me on to the "500" and racing in a big way in 1955; what a marvelous friend! Steve borrowed a Corvette from another friend Don Miller and Ferd and I stuffed into the car and set out for the Speedway early on a sunny Saturday May 18.

"Indy 500" pole day is my second favorite day of the year next to "Indianapolis 500" race day -- of course. I have attended every "Indianapolis 500" since 1956. But I have also been to all "500" pole days since 1956 with the exception of 1957 and 1996. 

The previous May Parnelli Jones became the first driver to officially eclipse the one minute 150 mph barrier at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during qualifications with a one lap record of 150.729 mph and four lap average speeds of 150.370 mph.

In the 1962 "Indianapolis 500" the race looked for a long time like a Parnelli Jones runaway. Jones led 120 of the first 125 laps before fading brakes forced the number 98 Agajanian Special to ease pace enabling 1959 "500" winner Rodger Ward to assume control of the race and take his second "Indy" victory.

During the two weeks of practice leading up to qualifications in May 1963, Parnelli Jones set the pace again in the same Agajanian Willard Battery Special he had driven the previous two years. However the car, which was an A.J. Watson roadster built for the 1960 "Indianapolis 500" and driven by Lloyd Ruby, was heavily modified for 1963 with custom body work that distinguished number 98 from the other original Watson creations and copies that filled the old wooden garages across Gasoline Alley from the Tower Terrace grandstands and pits at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Colin Chapman built three new Lotus 29 models for Indianapolis. The Lotus 29 was a physically larger variation of its Formula One sibling the Lotus 25 and looked very similar except the chassis was offset to the left for oval racing and featured a longer wheelbase. Clark's Lotus was painted in traditional British racing dark green with a pale yellow stripe extending from the nose. Gurney's Lotus was painted in white with a Ford blue stripe.

Ford Motor Company designed a 255 cid DOHC V8 engine specifically for the "Indianapolis 500." It had four valves per cylinder and was an advancement on the traditional four cylinder Offy concept that dominated the "500" since 1947.

For 1963 however, Ford and Colin Chapman decided to use a lightweight version of the production Ford Fairlane V8 instead. The Ford was fitted with Weber carburetors rather than fuel injection like the Offies. The engine ran on gasoline instead of methanol which powered the Offies and that offered better fuel mileage which Colin Chapman and Ford felt would make up for the power deficit to the specially built for racing four cylinder Offy engine.

Team Lotus raced on Dunlop tires in Grand Prix competition but Ford Motor Company mandated the use of Firestone for Indianapolis. Firestone designed and manufactured wider, lower tires for the Lotus - Fords. The regular competitors protested that was unfair. So Firestone produced enough of the new profile tire for use on the "Indy" roadsters.

By the start of qualifications, the new tires were on all the cars but the new low slung Mickey Thompson entries, which were powered by a production based Chevrolet V8 engine, and raced with even smaller diameter tires.
Jim Clark's rival Graham Hill came to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May 1963 and practiced for a few days in one of the exotic looking rear engine Thompson creations but the reigning World Champion left after suffering a crash during a practice.    

I stood along the fence separating the pits at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Tower Terrace grandstands on pole day. Even behind the fence you could get a close look at the cars, drivers and crews as they prepared to take to the 2.5 mile oval. The racers were running morning practice in attempt to get their cars set up for qualifications which began at 11 am.

When Team Lotus pushed Clark's number 92 and Gurney's number 93 to the pits a group of Ford Motor Company officials followed. Even though it was two years since 1959 - 1960 World Champion Jack Brabham finished ninth in the 1961 "Indianapolis 500" driving a rear engine Cooper - Climax that was essentially a Formula One machine, the larger traditional "Indy" front engine roadsters continued to dominate.

I spotted Colin Chapman, dressed in suit pants, white shirt and a tie, as he followed his cars accompanied by Jim Clark and Dan Gurney. He looked proud of his newest racing creations.

Dan Gurney was the original master mind of the Lotus - Ford project.
Dan made his debut at Indianapolis in the 1962 "Indy 500" driving one of the first rear engine Indy car built by hot rod legend Mickey Thompson and powered by a Buick V8. Gurney paid for Chapman to come to Indianapolis for the 1962 race and then after the English car builder became interested in racing in the "500," Gurney brought Colin Chapman and Ford Motor Company together to do the big race.

The Lotus - Ford association became a strong if not sometimes stormy partnership for the next fifteen years in one project or another after Dan Gurney brought Colin Chapman and the blue oval gang from Dearborn, Michigan together.

The sun shone brightly at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 18, 1963 and the traditional huge crowd turned out. In those days a regular crowd in excess of 200,000 appeared at the track to watch the annual battle for the "500" pole and the frequent quest to topple existing speed records at IMS. So large were pole day crowds back then, the atmosphere was very similar to race day.

Huge crowds, approaching two thirds those of race day, prevailed at the Speedway through May 14, 1977 when Tom Sneva exceeded 200 mph during his qualifying run for the "500."

The following May rain wiped out the entire first weekend of "Indy" time trials and crowds began to drop off after that. I particularly recall stories in the local newspapers following pole day 1980 that crowds were estimated at 125,000, which was considered to be the smallest first day qualification crowd since the race was resumed in 1946 after World War II.

In the years following, many pole days were ruined by weather and even though record speeds were often the prospect and the weather was beautiful, the crowds only hit 100,000 a couple times during a five year period from 1984 through 1988. But weather intervened again frequently over the next several Mays and crowds dropped even lower. By the early 1990s, even before the Indy car split, the crowds to see pole day action had fallen into the 50,000 - 70,000 range.

The last time track records were beaten at IMS was 1996 and by then the Speedway had broken away from CART and formed the Indy Racing League. Since then "Indy 500" time trials have attracted only those most interested.
There was one exception. On a cool but sunny "500" pole day in 1998, a reasonable crowd showed up at the track. But other than that, the crowds have been embarrassingly small despite the fact the action has been fascinating in recent years with the addition of new procedures implemented to spice up the show like having only the eleven fastest cars locked into the starting field each of the first three qualifying days.

Back in the day however, "Indianapolis 500" pole qualifying was huge; one of the three biggest days in the metropolitan Indianapolis area, along with the "500" race itself and the Indiana high school basketball championships every year.

WFBM TV channel 6 carried an hour's live coverage from 4:30 to 5:30 pm each qualifying day with the legendary Tom Carnegie calling the action. Local channels would carry thirty minute highlights in the evening. But there wasn't all day live coverage like that provided for many years by ABC and ESPN and now the Versus cable channel. There was no Internet and if you weren't at the Speedway in person, the only way you knew what was happening on the track throughout the day was to listen to Lou Palmer's live reports on WIBC AM 1070 radio.

Lou Palmer was a  tradition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway every May from 1958 through the early 1990s.

Palmer became famous for his broadcasts covering practice activity from the Speedway on a twice an hour basis on Indianapolis radio station WIBC AM 1070 and his day long qualification broadcasts on the same station.

Palmer joined the IMS Radio Network at the invitation of chief announcer Sid Collins for the 1958 "Indianapolis 500" and called the tragic multi-car crash in turn three on the opening lap of the race that claimed the life of driver Pat O'Connor.

In later years he interviewed the new "500" winner in the winner circle on the radio. Then in 1988, Palmer succeeded Paul Page as the third man to be chief radio announcer for the race. Palmer also headed the 1989 IMS radio broadcast and then was replaced by Bob Jenkins.

Palmer died in January 2008 at 75. I will always remember Palmer's rich voice. He was a big part of the "Indy 500" experience each May  and if I was not at the Speedway and I was in Indianapolis, I had WIBC on the radio waiting to hear Lou Palmer tell me what was happening at 16th and Georgetown.

For many families, going to qualifications was more convenient and affordable than attending the race in person. They would shuffle into the track at 7 am carrying their picnic baskets and coolers of soda and beer and spend the entire day celebrating and sometimes waiting out rainy weather or breaks in the action when no cars were on track.  

For many years, in the infamous turn one infield "snake pit," there was all manner of debauchery taking place among misguided youth; drunken binges, rampant drug use and raw sex although probably not so much in 1963 -- at least in terms of drugs and sex.

Still the "snake pit" at the Speedway was a huge attraction in 1963 too although in a Frankie and Annette "Beach Blanket Bingo" drive in movie sort of way. It was a place to celebrate the coming of summer in a few weeks.
"Indy" pole day was a glorious event. It remains a terrific show but is only a shadow of its former self in terms of mass appeal.

In May 1963 however, it was a major happening and the fans jammed the Speedway to witness all of it. From an entertainment aspect, pole day 1963 was not one of the more exciting. Despite sunny skies and pleasant temperatures, there was a stiff wind that kept activity on the track slow.
Parnelli Jones raised the one lap record to 151.847 mph and the four lap mark to 151.150 mph for his second consecutive "Indy" pole position. Unfortunately, only a total seven cars completed qualification attempts that day.

Perhaps the most interesting happening occurred when Parnelli Jones' old sprint car rival and buddy Jim Hurtibise made his qualifying run later in the day. Hurtibise was driving a brand new day glow red and white Hotel Tropicana, Las Vegas Kurtis powered by the powerful Novi supercharged V8 engine, which "Indy 500" fans loved.

In those days, whoever was driving the Novi was the crowd favorite at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "Hercules," as Hurtibise was known, came close to beating Jones with a four lap average speed of 150.250 mph and ended up in the middle of the front row of the "Indy" grid.

Veteran driver Don Branson, a gritty dirt track racing wizard, from Urbana, Illinois, qualified for the outside of the front row, at 150.180 mph. Branson was driving a new A.J. Watson built Offy roadster for the number one Indy car team of the day Leader Card Racers.

Defending "Indianapolis 500" winner and reigning Indy car champion Rodger Ward qualified his Watson Leader Card entry, the Kaiser Aluminum Special, fourth with an average speed of 149.800 mph.

I spent much of the day focusing on Jim Clark during the morning practice on May 18, 1963. Unlike many of the American drivers who wore crew cuts and short hair, Clark's black hair was longer (not too long mind you -- Beatlemania was  only just starting to sweep Great Britain in May 1963) and he constantly ran his fingers through it as if to push it out of his way.

The Scot was 5'8" and slim. He wore a pale yellow driving suit with turquoise stripes on the shoulders. Clark donned a new Bell helmet that day. The helmet was silver and yet to be painted in Jimmy's traditional dark blue. 

I did not know a lot about Clark's background in May 1963, but he appeared to be a shy personality who was more comfortable talking to the Lotus mechanics and Colin Chapman than the people passing by.

In Mays to come as I became more familiar with Jim Clark, I saw him bite his finger nails on occasion; a trait which he indulged when he was nervous. He was running his hands through his hair continuously and appeared uncomfortable when he was approached by media and fans. It was my first in person exposure to the shy, introverted Clark personality.

Pure Oil Company was one of the sponsors of the Lotus - Ford program at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the mechanics were dressed in white shirts and slacks with Pure logos instead of the usual Team Lotus dark green coveralls.

Jim Clark, Dan Gurney, Colin Chapman, the Lotus mechanics and assorted Ford Motor Company officials stood around Jimmy's dark green Lotus number 92 and Gurney's white number 93 in a tight enclave, isolated from the other teams lined up in the pits.

Clark qualified mid day with an average speed of 149.750 mph that placed him fifth on the "Indy" grid. It was a consistent if unspectacular effort.

Gurney was not so fortunate. His Lotus was caught by a gust of wind coming off the first turn later in the day and car 93 hit the wall hard, destroying the chassis.

Dan's crash looked spectacular. The monocoque construction of the Lotus 29 disintegrated upon hitting the concrete outer retaining wall at the south end of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Debris scattered everywhere. It was the first example of the modern concept of racing safety where the energy of a crash was absorbed by the car collapsing rather than the driver having to suffer the force of the crash.

Texan Jim McElreath qualified sixth in yet another A.J. Watson roadster with an average speed of 149.740 mph. McElreath was followed on the grid by Bobby Marshman, a promising driver, from Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in his third "500" appearance driving a Quinn Epperly lay down Offy roadster unlike the Watson chassis which featured the Offy mounted upright.

That was it for "500" pole day 1963; six traditional front engine cars, five powered by the venerable four cylinder Offy and one with the legendary and much loved supercharged V8 Novi engine with Jim Clark's tiny green and yellow Lotus - Ford positioned near the middle of that group.

Steve Schern parked the Corvette in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield when we arrived in the morning. We sat in traffic on Hulman Boulevard, which runs through the middle of IMS, until after dark, waiting to get out of the Speedway. That was typical for "Indy 500" pole day back in those days.

The next day, eight drivers led by A.J. Foyt at 150.610 mph, qualified for the 1963 "Indianapolis 500." Among the eight to qualify was Dan Gurney who put the spare Lotus - Ford, still painted green, in the field at 149.010 mph.

The following weekend Jim Clark and Dan Gurney were in Monte Carlo for the opening of the 1963 World Championship, the Grand Prix of Monaco. Clark put the Lotus 25 on pole and pulled away from the field in typical fashion putting the race out of reach for the competition. Unfortunately the gearbox in the Lotus locked up on lap 78, only twenty two  circuits from the finish.

This left the race to Graham Hill's BRM, followed to the checkered flag by teammate Richie Ginther of the United States, Bruce McLaren's Cooper - Climax and the Ferrari driven by John Surtees

At the same time, across the Atlantic, the second weekend of "Indy" qualifications took place and the 33 car field was set for the 47th "500" on Thursday May 30, 1963.

The starting lineup for the 1963 "500" was the most unique in decades to that time. There was an interesting mix of cars which included fourteen Offy roadsters built by A.J. Watson. There were twelve Offy powered cars constructed by other builders with a mixture of upright and lay down Offies. Andy Granatelli's three Novi racers were in the field. Then of course there were the two rear engine Lotus - Fords and also two new rear engine cars designed and built by Mickey Thompson with Chevy V8 power. 

The field included four former Indianapolis winners; Rodger Ward (1959, 1962), A.J. Foyt (1961), Jim Rathmann (1960) and Troy Ruttman (1952). There were five rookies; Jim Clark, Bobby Unser, Art Malone, Johnny Rutherford and Al Miller.

In terms of speed, only 3.32 mph separated the fastest qualifier, pole sitter Parnelli Jones (151.150) and the two slowest drivers in the field, Jim Rathmann and Dempsey Wilson, both in at 147.830 mph.

Going into race day, Parnelli was the overwhelming favorite to win with Rodger Ward and A.J. Foyt were considered the leading competition. There was a lot of curiosity about the Lotuses and perhaps Gurney was given more consideration as a potential threat to win than Clark, but I do not recall that either Lotus - Ford was spoken of as a possible winner.

The two most recent starts at Indianapolis by rear engine cars had been respectable but neither Jack Brabham's Cooper - Climax, in 1961, nor Dan Gurney's Mickey Thompson Buick powered creation, in 1962, contended for victory. So even though Clark and Gurney looked like the most formidable rear engine entries yet, neither were universally taken seriously as potential winners.

The 1962 - 63 school year was over before race day and my sophomore year at Carmel High School was completed -- albeit not too successfully. I spent May 29 asking for a summer job at the family owned Eagle Machine Company east of downtown Indianapolis. My mother's oldest brother, who was president of Eagle Machine, did not give me the job my dad assured me would happen and I spent most of my time visiting with my older cousin Dave, who was working in the machine shop.

My Buick broke down that day, one of many times that would happen that summer, and since I had planned to drive it to the "Indianapolis 500" the following day with my buddy Dave Willmuth, it was a serious development.
I found my dad at the golf course at Woodland Country Club, where my family were members, playing golf with my mom and their good friends Bob and Fran Burr. I told Dad of my predicament and he told me I could use his business car, a 1962 Chevrolet station wagon, to go to the race.

I also saw Steve Schern briefly that afternoon and shouted to him, asking who he thought was going to win the race. Steve yelled back that he thought Rodger Ward was going to take the "500" for the third time. Steve's prediction seemed reasonable to me although it was difficult to overlook Parnelli Jones when picking a potential "Indy 500" winner. It was Parnelli's legitimate time to win the "500."

Race day May 30, 1963 dawned cool with sunshine and clear blue skies. Later in the day, the temperatures would reach 70 degrees. Dave Willmuth showed up early and we set out in my dad's Chevy station wagon for Glendale Shopping Center, at 62nd Street and Keystone Avenue where we going to catch the shuttle bus service downtown and then west to the 16th and Georgetown and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This was the first time I attended the "Indianapolis 500" without adult supervision.

I started going to the "500" in 1956 with my father and we went together to the race through 1961. Mom joined us in 1957 and 1961. In 1962, I was invited to accompany Steve Schern, his brother Mike and dad Ed Schern for the race. We caught a taxi to the Speedway from the downtown Indianapolis Athletic Club.

While I was waiting for a cab with the Scherns, I caught a glimpse of Clint Eastwood who at that time was one of the stars of the TV western drama "Rawhide." We also saw the hottest TV star of 1962 Vince Edwards who played Dr. Ben Casey. The stars of the television comedy "Mr. Ed" were also standing nearby at the Athletic Club. "W-i-l-b-u-r."  

For the 1963 "Indianapolis 500" my pal Dave Willmuth and I were on our own. I think about Dave Willmuth from time to time. I haven't seen him since 1983. I don't even know if he is still alive. If he is, I would give a lot to see him and talk things over. Dave and I shared a lot throughout my early years.

We caught a public transit bus, which is now called IndyGo, at Glendale and the bus headed south on Keystone Avenue, then turned southwest on Fall Creek Boulevard and eventually ended up on Monument Circle, in downtown Indianapolis, where we caught another bus that took us west to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It was my eighth trip to the "Indy 500" and it was a glorious, beautiful day with bright sunshine and clear blue skies. Dave and I had tickets in the cheap seats -- so to speak. Our race location was in the old dark green North Terrace bleachers on the inside of the main straightaway just north of the pits which were replaced with the newer and larger Tower Terrace seats constructed for the 1995 "500."

From that vantage point, we could see the cars coming out of turn four and most of the way south where they went out of view going into turn one. They weren't the best seats but good enough for a couple sixteen year olds on their own at the "greatest spectacle in racing."

The sun shined brightly off the blue green metallic Chrysler 300 pace car as it led the 33 car field to the green flag. At the start Jim Hurtibise brought a roar from the huge crowd when he passed Parnelli Jones down the straight to the starting line to lead the first lap in the Novi. Jones regained the lead on lap two but the yellow flag came out when rookie Bobby Unser crashed in yellow and black Novi in turn one.

After that, the race settled into Parnelli versus the field. Hurtibise tried to keep up for awhile but he faded and eventually retired after 102 laps with an oil leak; yet another example of one of the all time legends of the Speedway -- the curse of the Novi.

The two Lotus - Fords ran together for much of the first fifty laps of the race within a group contending for position outside of the top five cars but within the top ten. During the early laps, Clark's green and yellow number 92 fell back to twelfth place but after getting familiar with the larger roadsters around him and drivers he had never raced with before, the Scot appeared to become comfortable and began passing cars.

For a while Gurney's white and blue Lotus tried to keep pace with Jimmy but it was apparent Clark was faster. I still remember how strange the smaller Lotus - Fords looked in contrast to the big Offy roadsters and how easy it was to spot them in a pack of cars. The tiny cigar shaped Lotus - Fords looked exotic on May 30, 1963 racing the soon to be obsolete American dinosaurs manhandled by the giants of U.S. open wheel racing Rodger Ward, A.J. Foyt and the rest of the regular "Indy" drivers.

The leader Parnelli Jones pitted his Agajanian Willard battery Special car 98 on lap 64 and Roger McCluskey inherited the lead in his number 14 Konstant Hot Special, a brand new A.J. Watson roadster. While the other front running cars pitted, Jim Clark and Dan Gurney remained on track. The fuel efficiency of the gasoline burning Ford Fairlane V8 engines came into play at this point and with it, the complexion of the race changed.

Parnelli had been the obvious driver to beat but there was a new factor to be considered as Clark moved into first place on lap 68 when McCluskey pitted. Running second was Gurney. It was as if the crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway realized it was a new race when Tom Carnegie announced over the public address in a surprised tone that Jim Clark was now leading in the Lotus - Ford.

The engine was in the rear and it was a Ford V8 instead of a four cylinder Offy. The car was painted green which had long been considered taboo in Indy car racing. The driver running in front was from Scotland, not an American. He was a rookie and no first year driver had won the "Indianapolis 500" since George Souders in 1927.

This was a huge deal -- like a shock to the system. It was a new scenario.
I thought it was sensational that Grand Prix winner Jim Clark was leading "Indy" and the more I watched the Lotus - Ford the more I loved the car.
Clark stayed on track in the lead until he made his only stop on lap 96. Had Team Lotus given Jimmy faster service in the pits he would have likely retained the lead but the stop was too slow and Parnelli Jones regained first place.

To that time, the Team Lotus crew had never serviced a race car during a competitive pit stop. Colin Chapman and Ford officials, led by Lee Iaccoca who was later credited with being the father of the Ford Mustang, had analyzed the impact of fuel efficiency when mating Ford Fairlane pushrod V8 power with the Lotus 29 and by the halfway point of the 1963 "Indianapolis 500," their strategy appeared to be correct. Unfortunately their preparation failed to factor in the importance of speed in the pits and it cost Clark dearly, perhaps even costing him victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Parnelli Jones, the "one minute" man at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway appeared to be set to become the latest driver to win the "Indianapolis 500" as the race reached the halfway point of 250 miles and 100 laps.

The race progressed to the three quarter mark with Jones leading Jim Clark. As the "500" entered the final 50 laps, Clark was on the move chasing Parnelli. The Scot quickly cut Parnelli's advantage from twelve to three seconds.

Parnelli's Agajanian Willard Battery Special was leaking oil. Colin Chapman went to Harlan Fengler, "500" chief steward, to remind the USAC official that competitors were told at the pre race drivers meeting that cars losing oil would be black flagged. Parnelli's car owner J.C. Agajanian argued that car 98 should be allowed to continue since the leaking had stopped which wasn't true.

For those of you reading this too young to remember Harlan Fengler served as Chief Steward of the "Indy 500" beginning in May 1958. Fengler was a race driver in the 1920s and raced in the 1923 "500." He was born in Chicago and lived in Dayton, Ohio. He used to wear a red dress hat, not unlike those worn by singers Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, except the crooner's hats were usually plaid.

Fengler was an arrogant man and at times tried to run the month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway like a drill sergeant in a U.S. Marines boot camp. When he was irritated or felt like he was losing control of the situation, Fengler would not hesitate to grab a public address microphone and lash out at competitors and fans. Needless to say for most of Harlan Fengler's tenure as "Indy 500" boss, he was an object of derision by the racers and fans alike. IMS owner Tony Hulman had to fire Fengler after the rain and controversy of the 1973 "500" and it was a very popular move.   

On May 30, 1963, Fengler decided to allow the Agajanian car to continue. Clark slowed his pace, settling for a second place finish 33.84 seconds behind Jones rather than spinning in the oil still coming from Parnelli's car.

It was a controversial finish and there was even some minor disagreement about who was the legitimate "500" winner for several days after the race. It was an exciting time and a feeling of change was in the air. The "Indy 500" would never be the same again and it would only be a matter of time before Indy race cars converted from front engine roadsters to Grand Prix style racers with engines mounted behind the driver.

Although I believed Parnelli Jones deserved to be an "Indianapolis 500" winner and ranked with the best to ever race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I felt a sense of injustice that Fengler and USAC allowed him to continue when it was obvious car 98 was throwing oil on the track surface.
Two drivers, Eddie Sachs and Roger McCluskey, were following Parnelli and both spun in that oil. It cost McCluskey a third place finish. The morning following the 1963 race Sachs confronted Jones about the oil and received a punch in the face from Parnelli.

That morning I felt the urge to go to the Speedway if for no other reason than to see what was going on. I was also still digging the race and not ready to let it pass for another year. I caught the bus at the old IMS museum at the main gate at 16th Street and Georgetown Road for a tour around the track. Back in those days it never ceased to amaze me how low the cement reataining walls were on either side of the main straightaway. As the bus was concluding the tour and the driver was pulling up to the point of entry, we saw Parnelli Jones drive by, at the wheel of the Chrysler pace car.

The top was down on the car and the new "Indy" champion looked happy and relaxed, dressed in a white shirt and blue cardigan sweater. Apparently Parnelli's morning was going okay despite his dispute with Eddie Sachs.   

Even though Parnelli Jones was the official "Indianapolis 500" winner, Jim Clark and the Lotus - Ford won a moral victory and I sensed the Scotsman was going to provide some wonderful "Indy" memories within the next couple years.

Clark, Colin Chapman and Team Lotus returned to Europe and on June 9, were at the Spa-  Francorchamps circuit in Belgium for the resumption of the 1963 World Championship season. Gearbox problems beset Clark's Lotus 25 in qualifying and Jimmy only qualified eighth. The track was wet when the race started, Clark made another of his super human start to grab the lead. Despite a rain storm, the Lotus 25 ran flawlessly to win, giving Clark his fourth career championship Grand Prix victory.

On June 23, 1963, at the Zandvoort circuit, it was the same story in the Grand Prix of Holland. Jim Clark qualified on pole and then won the race by one full lap over second place Dan Gurney's Brabham - Climax.

One week later at the Reims circuit, Clark started from pole again, took the lead at the start and won by more than a minute over Tony Maggs' Cooper - Climax.

On July 20, the Grand Prix of Britain returned to Silverstone after a two year absence while the British race was held at Aintree. Clark took yet another pole but surprisingly he dropped to fifth on the first lap behind the Brabhams of Jack Brabham and Dan Gurney, Bruce McLaren's Cooper and Graham Hill's BRM. But on lap four, the "Flying Scot" was flying and the Lotus 25 moved into first place.

Over the remaining 78 laps of the race, Clark pulled away from the field while his rivals contended with each other and mechanical problems. At the finish, Jimmy had more than twenty seconds on the second place Ferrari driven by John Surtees, for his fourth championship Grand Prix victory of the season in five races.

Clark's winning streak came to an end on August 4, in the Grand Prix of Germany at the legendary Nurburgring circuit. Jimmy put the Lotus 25 on pole but the Climax engine began misfiring on the first lap. Despite the loss of power, Clark raced with John Surtees' Ferrari for a while but then dropped back to finish second while the Englishman took his first career World Championship Grand Prix and the Scuderia got its first Grand Prix win in almost two years.

Team Lotus entered the two Lotus - Fords in the Indy car 200 mile event, the "Tony Bettenhausen 200," on August 18, for Jim Clark and Dan Gurney.

A.J. Foyt, who finished third behind Parnelli Jones and Jim Clark in the "Indy 500" and was on his way to a third Indy car championship in four seasons, invited Clark to try an old style pre roadster Indy car on dirt at the Illinois state fair one mile oval in Springfield, in a 100 mile race the day before the Milwaukee race. Jimmy, Colin Chapman and Gurney went to Springfield to see the race, but the Scotsman declined Foyt's invitation.

At Milwaukee, Clark qualified on pole with Gurney joining him on the front row of the starting grid. In the race, Jim took the lead at the start and led flag to flag, lapping all but second place finisher Foyt in the process. Gurney finished third.

I read about Clark's pole position in that morning's edition of The Indianapolis Star and was excited about it. I heard the news of Jimmy's victory on the radio of my dad's car while sampling the charms of a 16 year old high school girl in the front seat, parked at Geist Reservoir, while my buddy Danny Renick, who was on leave from the Army, was in the backseat with another girl. That was a great day.

I was preoccupied with the girl but was ecstatic to hear Clark and the Lotus - Ford had won. It was a big deal because it confirmed the suspicions people had after the "Indianapolis 500" that the rear engine Grand Prix style racing cars were going to be the future of Indy car racing. It also solidified Jim Clark's status as an American racing star and a probable future winner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

I found Jim Clark's win in the "Tony Bettenhausen 200" somewhat ironic because my new racing hero won a race named after my original hero. 

Scotland's Jim Clark, driving a Lotus-Ford, won handily at Milwaukee and confirmed an auto racing uprising that began at Indy 

While Jones analyzed, Clark, finished with his practice laps, looked at caged circus tigers sitting in the racetrack infield. "Does a lot of walking, this bloke," he said. "Hello, puttycat." "G-R-R-R," said one tiger, a large and restless animal who showed fine strong teeth from behind the bars of his cage. "Oh, oh, he's getting upset," said Clark, walking away.

And so were the Offenhauser men. Parnelli Jones's pre race prophecy proved to be 50% correct. In trials Clark won the pole with a lap time of 32.930 seconds, and Gurney won the spot next to him at the head of the starting lineup with 33.094. Only two Offenhausers—Foyt's and Jones's—broke 34 seconds. In the race, unfortunately, Parnelli never got going. He had faulty brakes from the start and finally sputtered into the pits at about the one-quarter mark.

Clark was not even remotely threatened and looked as cool as a man in church. But Gurney had to work. First Foyt struggled past him after an unnerving duel in which they once scraped wheels while racing side by side. And, toward the end, Ward charged hard at Gurney but failed to take third place from him. After Clark finished at a record average speed of 104.48 mph, Colin Chapman cast a thoughtful look at Foyt's coasting, fuelless car. "One more lap and we'd have had first and second," he said. "Oh well, we mustn't be greedy." 

In the next F1 event, the Grand Prix of Italy, at Monza on September 8, John Surtees put the Ferrari on pole while Clark only qualified third. The race started with Graham Hill and Clark fighting for the lead and the BRM led after the first lap while Jimmy fell to third behind the John Surtees Ferrari. On lap four, both Surtees and Clark overtook Hill. Surtees held on to the lead until lap 17 when the Ferrari suffered engine failure. This left Clark in first place with Hill's BRM and Gurney's Brabham challenging. It was a tight three way battle but by lap 63, both Hill and Gurney had fallen out, leaving Jimmy to beat Richie Ginther's BRM by 1 1/2 minutes.

With five wins in seven races, Jim Clark clinched the 1963 World Championship. With his Grand Prix dominance, strong debut in the "Indianapolis 500" and a flag to flag victory in the Indy car race at Milwaukee, the 27 year old Scot placed himself at the top of the world of motor sport.       

On September 22, Team Lotus returned to Indy car action at the one mile oval in Trenton, New Jersey for a 200 mile race. Clark qualified car 92 on pole and Gurney's number 93 joined Jimmy on the front row of the grid. This time things did not go as well as the previous month in Milwaukee. Both Lotuses suffered from broken oil lines. Jimmy was out after 49 laps and Dan retired after 147.

Two weeks later Team Lotus was in Watkins Glen, New York for the Grand Prix of the United States on October 6. The new World Champion Clark qualified second to Graham Hill's BRM. A battery problem plagued the Lotus 25 and the Scot was left at the rear of the field when the race started. Graham Hill, John Surtees' Ferrari and Dan Gurney's Brabham - Climax engaged in a fierce battle for the lead. Gurney and Surtees experienced failures which sidelined both drivers leaving the Watkins Glen victory to the 1962 World Champion Hill for third consecutive year. BRM teammate Richie Ginther finished second. Clark put on a remarkable drive from last at the start to take third place at the finish.

On October 27, the Grand Prix circus traveled to Mexico City for the ninth race of the 1963 World Championship season. Jim Clark took his sixth pole position of the 1963 season ahead of John Surtees' Ferrari and Graham Hill's BRM. It appeared to be an easy victory for the "Flying Scot" and his Lotus 25 - Climax finished a minute and a half ahead of second place Jack Brabham.
It was Clark's sixth World Championship Grand Prix win of the season. That tied him with Juan Manuel Fangio in 1954 and Alberto Ascari in 1952 as having recorded the most number of victories a single season.

On December 28, the 1963 World Championship came to a close at the East London circuit in South Africa. Jim Clark won his seventh pole of the season. The Brabham - Climax duo of Jack Brabham and Dan Gurney also made the front row of the grid. Brabham was first away at the start but Jimmy and John Surtees caught the 1959 - 1960 World Champion.

Clark's Lotus pulled away and after Surtees' Ferrari and Brabham retired Gurney took up the chase. The new champion was too fast and he beat his Indy car teammate by more than a minute for a record seventh World Championship win of the season.

In total, Jim Clark competed in thirty races in 1963, a mixed schedule of the "Indianapolis 500" and Indy car 200 milers at Milwaukee and Trenton, ten World Championship Grand Prix starts along with nine other non championship Formula One events of which Jimmy won five, sports car races driving Lotus sports cars built for racing, Formula Two events for Team Lotus, a couple saloon car races in a Lotus Cortina and even a win at Brands Hatch, driving an American Ford Galaxie in early May.

As 1963 came to an end Jim Clark's story began to come to the fore. Clark first became interested in racing by reading magazines while a student at a private school in Edinburgh. He left school at age seventeen to work on the prosperous Clark family farms in Scotland. In 1956, he began competing in local rallies and hill climbs. Jimmy joined a local group called Border Reivers and began racing on a regular basis in sports car events. Jimmy was encouraged by two friends Ian Scott Watson and Jock McBain who immediately recognized Clark's promise. Watson and McBain were instrumental in helping their young Scottish friend start his racing career and foresake a planned career running one of the successful Clark family farms.

Jim Clark met Colin Chapman in 1958 when both were racing Lotus Elites at Brands Hatch. Chapman won the race but was impressed by the competitive drive from the Scot. From there the relationship grew and soon after Clark began racing for Team Lotus. The Chapman Clark association ranks among the most successful and legendary in motor racing history. Roger Penske and Rick Mears. Michael Schumacher and Ferrari. Jackie Stewart and Ken Tyrrell. Rodger Ward and A.J. Watson. A.J. Foyt and George Bignotti. The Clark - Chapman partnership was magic!

Stirling Moss was the foremost British racing driver of his time. When Moss was terribly injured at the Goodwood circuit in England, in April 1962, in a non championship Formula One race, racing fans everywhere, but especially in Great Britain, were devastated. While Moss lay in a coma for six months, Jim Clark was thrust into the limelight, perhaps a substitute for the injured racer.

By the end of 1963 however, Clark had emerged as a superstar in his own right after turning the world of Grand Prix racing upside down and nearly doing the same thing in the United States with his performance in the "Indianapolis 500" and win at Milwaukee.

As I looked ahead to the 1964 racing season, I was excited and optimistic about Jim Clark's prospects for his return to the "Indianapolis 500" in May and his defense of the World Championship.

I had a new hero and he looked to me like the best race driver in the world. While I was pondering the coming season and the further exploits of the "Flying Scot" and his Lotus race cars, The Beatles exploded on to the scene in February 1964. Jim Clark and The Beatles were like two huge Christmas gifts from Great Britain and I was riding high awaiting the excitement.

Last Thursday March 4 was the seventy fourth anniversary of Jim Clark's birthday at Kilmany Farm in Fife, Scotland. His was such an extraordinary presence in the 1960s and I have enjoyed remembering the racing season where Clark first became the focus of my racing world.

I also want to thank those people who created the images I used to tell my story of Jim Clark in 1963. I did not start serious racing photography until eighteen years later. Therefore it was essential I borrow these images. I hope those responsible for the photography here believe I have presented their creations in a worthy manner. 

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Clarks Indy win

Author: ArchitectPage