Jim Clark was a racing legend who racked up two Formula One World Championships, won some 25 Grand Prix races and even competed in NASCAR before his untimely death in 1968. In the United States, he’s perhaps best known for winning the 1965 Indianapolis 500 in a Lotus 38, the first mid-engined car to win at Indy. Clark qualified for the 1965 race on the front row, and utterly dominated the competition. He lead all but 10 laps in the Lotus, and took the checkered flag with only four additional cars on the lead lap.
Dario Franchitti, a fellow Scotsman, also knows a thing or two about driving a race car. He’s raced in international touring car competition, sports car competition, American open wheel series (racking up 2 Indy 500 victories and 3 series championships) and even gave NASCAR a go in 2008. His racing hero has long been Jim Clark, so Franchitti jumped at the chance the drive Jim Clark’s Lotus 38 (carefully) at Indianapolis.
The Lotus 38 was a beast of a car. It was noticeably larger than Formula One cars of the day, but quite a bit smaller than the front-engined roadsters that had dominated Indy since competition began. It had no aerodynamics, since downforce was an unknown concept in racing back in the early 1960s. The four-cam Ford V8 put out about 500 horsepower, which made driving on the skinny bias-ply tires a challenge. There was a very fine line between “enough throttle and steering” and “too much throttle and steering”, but Clark was a master of smooth driving. Franchitti, admittedly nervous about driving an irreplaceable race car, still looked like he was enjoying himself.
Autoblog tells us that Road & Track will be filming a series of tribute videos to Indy legends of the past, so look for future videos featuring Bobby Rahal in a 1912 National and Sam Posey in a 1962 Leader Card Special. If it builds interest in the Indianapolis 500 race, I’m all for it.