Jim Rathmann

Full Name:
Royal Richard "Jim" Rathmann
Born:
16th July 1928
Los Angeles, California
Died:
23rd November 2011 (Aged 83)
Melbourne, Florida
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

It was this young Californian’s eagerness to race before legally allowed to (21 years old) that prompted American racing’s enduring identity swap. That was in 1944 when he used his brother’s birth certificate to race in hot rods and the deception stuck. Royal Richard Rathmann became “Jim” Rathmann for the rest of his career.

Indianapolis 500 success

He made his Indianapolis 500 debut in 1949 and finished 11th with a Pioneer Auto Wetteroth-Offenhauser. His breakthrough came in 1952 when he qualified a Granatelli-run Kurtis KK3000-Offy on the inside of row four and finished second behind Troy Ruttman. Jumping from ride-to-ride that year, he was also fourth at Raleigh with Murrell Belanger’s Kurtis.

Particularly adept on paved ovals, Rathmann qualified second for the 1956 Indy 500 and led the opening three laps before eventually retiring. His Epperly-Offy climbed from 32nd on the grid a year later to again finish second.

Race winner in Indycars and at Monza

He finally won an Indycar race in the 1957 Milwaukee 200 in what was a long-overdue breakthrough. He joined A.J.Watson’s Zink Leader Card team during 1958 and qualified on pole position at Milwaukee. He also dominated the Race of Two Worlds at Monza when he beat a field of Indycars and European sports cars.

The 1959 season began with victory in the only Indycar race to be held on the Daytona International Speedway. He went close to victory in the Indianapolis 500 once more – qualifying third and finishing second for a third time. He was entered in the 1959 United States Grand Prix to drive the Tec-Mec but was replaced for the race by Fritz d’Orey.

Winner of the Indy 500

It was finally his day at the Brickyard in 1960. His Ken-Paul Watson-Offy started from the middle of the front row and he battled Rodger Ward throughout an epic race. Ward suffered excessive tyre wear during the closing stages and Rathmann eased to a popular victory.

Subsequent career

Jim Rathmann had been a businessman from his earliest paper round. He ran a tuning shop in his twenties and he established a successful car dealership near Cape Canaveral when he retired from racing in 1964. That was the era when space exploration was all the rage and Rathmann counted many of the star astronauts among his clients. Indeed when he turned car owner in 1965, Art Pollard’s car was co-owned with NASA’s Gordon Cooper and Gus Grissom.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1963 USAC National Championship
Lindsey Hopkins Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1962 USAC National Championship
Smokey Yunick
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
19th 200
1961 USAC National Championship
Ken-Paul
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1960 F1 World Championship
Ken-Paul
1 0 1 1
100% win rate
8th 8
1960 USAC National Championship
Ken-Paul
3 0 1 1
34% win rate
4th 1000
1959 F1 World Championship
Lindsey Hopkins Racing
1 0 1 0
0% win rate
11th 6
1959 USAC National Championship
Lindsey Hopkins Racing
4 0 2 1
25% win rate
4th 1154.8
1958 F1 World Championship
Lindsey Hopkins Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
21st 2
1958 USAC National Championship
Lindsey Hopkins Racing
John Zink
3 1 0 0
0% win rate
13th 560
1957 F1 World Championship
Lindsey Hopkins Racing
1 0 1 0
0% win rate
10th 7
1957 USAC National Championship
Lindsey Hopkins Racing
Ray Crawford
6 0 2 1
17% win rate
2nd 1470
1956 F1 World Championship
Lindsey Hopkins Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1956 USAC National Championship
Lindsey Hopkins Racing
7 0 1 0
0% win rate
23rd 300
1955 F1 World Championship
Southern California Muffler Corporation
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1955 AAA National Championship
Southern California Muffler Corporation
Ernest L Ruiz
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1954 F1 World Championship
Ed Walsh
Elgin Piston Pin
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1954 AAA National Championship
Ed Walsh
Ernest L Ruiz
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1953 F1 World Championship
Lou Moore
Ernest L Ruiz
Ray Crawford
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1953 AAA National Championship
Ernest L Ruiz
Ray Crawford
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
26th 169.5
1952 F1 World Championship
Grancor Automobile Specialists
1 0 1 0
0% win rate
10th 6
1952 AAA National Championship
Grancor Automobile Specialists
Murrell Belanger
5 0 1 0
0% win rate
6th 1070
1950 F1 World Championship
John Lorenz
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1950 AAA National Championship
John Lorenz
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1949 AAA National Championship
John Lorenz
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
38th 100