We don’t often feature an Indycar on the cover of Motor Sport, but then the green and yellow number 82 on the front of this issue isn’t any old Indycar, is it? It’s Jimmy’s. The one in which he beat AJ, Parnelli and the rest in their own Brickyard. The one in which he scored arguably his most significant victory. The one that sealed the death of the front-engined roadsters and heralded the irrepressible rise of sleek, soon to be be-winged rear-engined missiles. As with ground-effect aerodynamics, Lotus didn’t do it first – but it did do it best.
My generation has got used to ‘foreign’ success at the Indianapolis 500. Today’s race is still a great sporting spectacle, but to us ‘over here’ it’s no longer exotic, alien territory. The cars are all identical Italian Dallaras, the engines carry the Japanese badge of Honda, the drivers (at least those who haven’t paid for their rides) are mostly familiar, groomed graduates of the European school rather than tough, bare-knuckle survivors of the short-oval dirt tracks. The great American motor race has become much less American.
After Clark and Graham Hill’s win in ’66, the home team grabbed back its hold on the race for the next three decades. But as I write ahead of this year’s 500, only two of the past 10 have been won by American drivers. These days Brazilians, Kiwis and Scots (again!) thrive ‘back home in Indiana’. No wonder it’s hard for us ‘young ’uns’ to comprehend just how much it meant when Jim Clark crossed the yard of bricks for the last time 45 years ago.
At the third time of trying, Colin Chapman, Clark and the boys at Team Lotus delivered the perfect performance at Indy. That they were willing to miss the Monaco Grand Prix to conquer Indy says much about what was at stake: this really was the biggest race in the world back then, in every way – including, significantly, the size of the purse…
As you can read in Gordon Cruickshank’s comprehensive story on page 40, Clark’s Lotus 38 has been a museum piece in the States since that day in May. Last year at Goodwood it returned ‘home’. Now, thanks to the hard work of Classic Team Lotus, it will run for the first time since Clark wheeled it into Victory Lane, driven up Lord March’s hill by Sir Jackie Stewart. It will also make a static appearance at the Lotus
Festival being held at Snetterton on June 20. Then after Goodwood it will return to The Henry Ford museum across the Atlantic – probably forever. In short, this is one return not to be missed.
When I paid a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s own museum, curator Donald Davidson proudly showed off its collection of Indy winners from the past 100 years. I noted the absence of recent cars and Donald couldn’t help but admit they fail to light his fire. Somehow it’s hard to imagine a 2010 Dallara on the cover of Motor Sport in 2055, isn’t it?
Mark Webber’s won in Monaco before, of course. Back in 2001 he was flawless in the Formula 3000 race on the streets of the principality. At the time, his confidence was sky-high, he was at one with his car and that combination took him to another level on the day. Sound familiar? There’s been surprise in some quarters that Webber has been capable of consummate back-to-back Grand Prix victories. Perceptions once formed are tough to break, but if you look close enough the truth is out there.
That truth in 2001 also told another story. Webber made far too many mistakes that season to win the F3000 title. In a season as close as this one, errors under pressure will probably decide who will be World Champion. The real test for Mark is yet to come.
Damien Smith, Editor