INDIANAPOLIS/-Some Reflections on the Great American Classic Scheduled for May 30th
IXDIANAPOLIS ! There is allure in the muse. even if British race-goers bracket the American speedway along with Hollywood, Chicago gangsters and Danny Kaye. Certitinly litelianapolis is exciting, stinut
ng-di Iferent ! The 2-1.-mile brick oval is the scene of one race a year only. the great 500-miler. So there is some excuse if. for this one day, they go a little .4 at the ” City of Speed.”
True, last year the first arrival for the race, a mechanic front California, appeared as early as May 11 (IL, and it is 011 record that in the ‘thirties three New England girls establishe.d camp at Indianapolis six weeks before the race. But it is on May 30th each year that the crowds..175,000 strong—and cars swarm in, traffic splendidly controlled, gates so skiltully policed that not a single ” sprucer ” gets by, even with the most. carefully-faked pass-.
As starting-time approaches, the runners line up, the weather forecasts roll from the tape mathines, vast. bands parade along the speedway, the drivers arrive at the starting area and have an official groupphotograph taken, the band renders taps for departed driver’s, James Melton sings ” Back Home in Indiana,” Seth Klein orders ” Gentlemen, start your motors,” time bombs burst, a tent collapses to release -hundreds of coloured hydrogen balloons, the pace-car packed with celebrities moves out, the racing cars follow . . . and the Indianapolis ” 500 ” is on I It certainly differs front anything we know ! Where else are Mordsome prizes given for the race leader at frequent distance-intervals, where else is the winner kissed by a famous film star (Barbara Stanwyck last year, Linda Darnell in 1949, Carole Landis before that I) after he has driven to her along Victory Lane ? Where else is he able to take home 57,000 dollars; and the pace-car, as well as that kiss ? Not at Goodwood, Silverstone, Castle Cocaine.
Somewhat over-stage-managed perhaps, he Indianapolis 500-mile race is nevertheless a very interesting event. While Brooklands had a reverse-carve and famous ” burnp ” to I-rattles. lap speeds below a tnar’S all-out maximum., each of ” Indy’s ” fonr turns, rutty slightly banked, with a brick surfam very easily rendered slippery by oil-droppings or rain, eall for skill wind i is neither that. of cornering on a road-eircuit or driving round a banking, hut a highly-specialised version of the. two. Indeed, the furious pace here and round the none-too-wide straights is somethiag foreign to European drivers, very few of whom stay ” in the groove ” at the speeds required to win—-none at all since 11/16. The lap record stands at 136.013 m.p.h., compared to John Cobb’s Brooklands’ lap-record of 143.44 m.p.h. But whereas Cobb’s car was of 24 litres, the Indianapolis record-holding Grant Piste’s’ “ling Special was of under 41 litres. The
equivalent Brookland.s class lap-record stands at 1:38.15 m.p.h., remarkably belonging to an American car, Straight’s Duesenberg.
The ears permitted to run at Indianapolis are up to 3 litres blown, up to 4,” litres unblown, and blown four-stroke diesels up to 0,600 cc., two-stroke diesels up to 41litres. The race counts as a Grande Eprenve. The battle between the unblown 41-litre and blown :I-litre ears is akin to that of the 11.111)10Wn -1-litre and blown 11-litre cars in FOr111.11.111 I GA’. racing and is likely to be intensified this year. High-pressure supercharging is less developed in America than in Europe, whiclt evens up the battle in spite of the greater permissible simn of the blown ears, although it [MS to be admitted that the unt)lown jobs are usually fottr-eylinders and not the V12s that would be used by European designers. It will be especially interesting to see how the 41-litre. Ferraris fare, should they compete this month. One very fascinating aspect. of Indianapolis is the method of pickling the field of :33 by a process of qualifying runs. Poi. the 1050 rare 69 entries were received, comprising 49 unblown ears up to 41 litres. 18 blown ears up to 3 litres and one diesel job. To reduce ‘these to the legitimate field of 33 each car was required to qualify. ‘rids means thatfour eonsecutive hips are tinted and the average speed for them decides the issue, the 33 cars setting the :13 fastest four-lap runs get in and the others are out. It is not dillieult to appreciate the excitement this ensures for spectators who care to
turn up on the six qualifying daysSaturdays and Sundays of three consecutive week-ends. It is also tut excellent means of ensuring that only the fastest cars run and of stint dating interest and speculation in how fast the race itself will be won. The system is, of coarse, quite different front the compalsory qualifying laps before the old 13.R.D.C. 500-Mile Race, which merely served to eliminate ears unable to exceed 100 m.p.h., or the tinted practice laps in G.P. raein.; that simply pre-arrange starting-grid positions. Today, in Europe, the problem is to obtain sufficiently large ” fields,” so any such weeding-out process would be quite out of court !
The fact remains that the Indianapolis system is both effective and intensely intriguing. Cars may try more than once over the tinned four laps. Fastest qnalitying time last year was 134.343 m.p.h., put up by Walt. Faulkner in J. C. Agajanian’s Grant Pi-s-ton Ring Special, a rear-strive car with unblown 4k-litre Offenhauser four-cylimier engine and front suspension by transverse spring above a tubular rigid axle. Faulkner’s’ run nicely demonstrated the drama Of the Indianapolis qualifying gystem, for it was atalle three seconds before the official qualifying period closed and ended in a lApieal rainstorm. In the course of it. Faulkner raised 04 late Ralph Hepburn’s 1946 lull-record by 1.514 m.p.h. to tie aforementioned 130.013 m.p.h. On time last qualifying day last year 20 ears tried and only one qualified, to oust one unfortunate -who had got in the list. previously.