On his third attempt Jim Clark won the annual American classic race on the rectangular Indianapolis track. In 1963 he finished a close second in a rear-engined Lotus with aluminium push-rod Ford V8 engine, in 1964 tyre trouble put him out after challenging for the lead in a Lotus with aluminium 4-camshaft Ford V8 racing engine, and this year in a Lotus 38 with the latest 4-camshaft Ford V8 engine and running on Firestone tyres everything went according to plan and he won the race at record speed, having led for 190 of the 200 laps. Qualifying trials had been held at record speeds with A. J. Foyt taking pole position at 161.233 m.p.h. for the four laps with a Lotus-Ford V8, Clark second at 160.729 m.p.h., and Dan Gurney third at 158.898 m.p.h, in a similar car. Another Lotus-Ford V8 was in the middle of the second row of the start, driven by Parnelli-Jones, so it was not surprising that Lotus cars dominated the race.
Although the end of the classic front-engined 4-cylinder Offenhauser Roadster Indianapolis car was in sight in 1963, this type of car managed a win last year, but this year saw it virtually dead and buried, the highest placed to qualify being in the fifth row of the three-by-three starting grid, this same car, driven by Gordon Johncock, finishing fifth out of the eleven finishers. Slowest of the 33 starters was a rear-engined 4-cylinder Offenhauser car with a speed of 153.774 m.p.h., and among the starters were two Novi V8-engined cars and the two B.R.P.-built cars with Ford V8 engines. In three brief years Indianapolis has witnessed a complete change about in design, and Clark’s win this year with the Lotus 38-Ford V8 has established the pattern just as Cooper-Climax did in Grand Prix racing in 1959.
In the race Foyt retired with transmission trouble shortly after half-distance, Gurney went out with engine trouble at 115 miles, Masten Gregory retired one B.R.P.-Ford V8 with loss of oil pressure and Johnny Boyd retired the other one with rear-end trouble. The 4-w-d. Ferguson-Novi V8 went out with an oil leak and the Hydro-elastic B.M.C.-suspended car with rear-mounted Offenhauser engine driven by Walt Hansgen retired through overheating.
Jim Clark is the first European driver to win the Indianapolis 500-mile race since 1916 but star of this year’s race was possibly young Mario Andretti, an Italian living in America who was making his first Indianapolis attempt. Driving an American-built car with rear-mounted Ford V8 engine, he made fourth fastest qualifying speed at 158.849 m.p.h. and finished third in the race, earning all the prizes for the best newcomer to the race. Colin Chapman and Jim Clark as Entrant and Driver collected well over £50,000 in prize money between them, as well as a great deal more in bonuses and goods, which may explain why they turned their backs on the Grand Prix of Monte Carlo with its £700 prize money.
49th Indianapolis—500 Miles—33 laps—May 31st
1st: J. Clark (Lotus Ford V8) 242.504 k.p.h. (150.666 m.p.h.)
2nd: R. Parnelli-Jones (Lotus Ford V8)
3rd: M. Andretti McLaren (Brawner Ford V8)
4th: A. Miller (Lotus Ford V8)
5th: G. Johncock (Offenhauser Roadster)
6th: M. Rupp (Rear-engined Offenhauser Sp.)
7th: D. Branson (Rear-engined Ford V8)
8th: R. Johns (Lotus Ford V8)
9th: A. Unser (Lola Ford V8)
10th: E. Johnson (Offenhauser Roadster)
11th: L. Sutton (Rear-engined Ford V8)
Fastest lap: A. J. Foyt (Lotus Ford V8), on lap 91, at 253.705 k.p.h. (157.646 m.p.h.