Indianapolis preview

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Jack Brabham and the Cooper Car Company really started something when they went to Indianapolis with a Grand Prix style Cooper Climax 4-cylinder, for, apart from convincing Europeans that they could get somewhere in Indianapolis racing, he also brought to light, for those who had not looked at the 500-Mile Race before, the fact that there was a lot of money available for the successful. In the last three years there have been many changes in the American track racing scene, and Ford really got their foot in the door with their alloy four-camshaft racing engine. This year it looks as though the majority of the serious contenders will be driving rear-engined V8 cars, built on Grand Prix lines. Team Lotus have built three new cars, known as Type 38, and built from knowledge gained at the American circuit in the last two years. The British Racing Partnership have built two cars for American owner George Bryant, these being designed from knowledge gained with the B.R.P. monocoque Formula One cars. Lola Cars have built three cars for American owners, also of monocoque or Lotus-like construction, and all these cars will use 4.2-litre Ford V8 engines. Another English project is the 4-w-d Ferguson using a V8 supercharged Novi engine, this car being eliminated early in last year’s race in an unavoidable accident. It has been rebuilt and teamed with a similar car built in America under Ferguson 4-w-d patents.

The Indianapolis constructors have not been sitting back thinking that only Europeans can build rear-engined cars, and last year a car built by A. J. Watson, and driven by Roger Ward, finished second and could easily have won the race had it not had some unscheduled pit-stops for fuel. This year Watson rear-engined cars, as well as others such as Hallibrand, will be well in the running. Some teams and drivers will be having two or even three types of car to choose from, both American and European, and drivers such as A. J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones and Ward will be spending all the training time, which starts on May 1st, testing and deciding which car to use for the race, there being more than £30,000 at stake.

As Lotus have set the standard of car construction and design in Grand Prix racing, so they have at Indianapolis and, apart from the 4-w-d Novi-engined Ferguson cars, sponsored by Andy Granatelli of STP products, the trend is towards rear-engined monocoque cars, of which the Lotus 38 is the most likely pacesetter. Qualifying speeds for the fastest 33 cars will be very high this year and the front row should be in at well over 160-m.p.h. average for the 4-lap starting-grid trials, while anything as slow(!) as 155 m.p.h. is unlikely to qualify. After all-week practice, qualifying will be on the weekends of May 15/16th and May 22nd/23rd, the race taking place on May 31st.

The Lotus 38 has a monocoque chassis of riveted aluminium, with rubber fuel tanks in each side member and another behind the driver’s seat. These feed to a reservoir tank at the rear, alongside the 2-speed ZF gearbox, and is then pumped to the Hilborn fuel-injection system which feeds the 4.2-litre Ford V8 engine. The engine will run on alcohol fuel and is expected to develop 495 b.h.p., which should propel the 1,250 lb. Lotus along pretty quickly. Suspension follows on the lines of the Lotus 25 and 33 Grand Prix cars, except that the left-hand members are shorter than the right-hand ones, setting the chassis centre-line three inches to the left, in the interests of weight-transfer for the left-handed corners of the rectangular track. Testing will be done with Firestone and Goodyear tyres, a choice being made before the qualifying trials, for the rules insist that the same make and type of tyre must be used in the race as is used in qualifying.

Among the entries are Masten Gregory and Johnny Boyd driving the B.R.P.-built cars, Bobby Unser with the Novi-Ferguson, Bud Tinglestad with one of the Lola-Ford V8s, Jim Clark with a Lotus-Ford V8, while it is hoped that Dan Gurney will also drive a Lotus 38, and possibly Parnelli Jones, but, as explained, a lot of the top runners and entrants will make their final choice of car during practice.- – D. S. J.

* * * * * 

Lotus 38 Indianapolis car

Relevant details:

Wheelbase: 8 ft. 0 in.

Track (front and rear): 5 ft. o in.

Body Width: 2 ft. 6 in.

Ground clearance: 3-1/2 in.

Dry weight: 1,250 lb.

Lotus cast magnesium wheels: 15 in. dia.

Gearbox: 2-speed ZF

Engine: 4.2-litre aluminium Ford V8 dry sump

Brakes: 12-1/2 in. Girling discs

Tyres: Goodyear or Firestone