Jim Clark was a runner up in his debut year behind Parnelli Jones in 1963. Engineers and competitors remarked at the time that no matter what the equipment Clark had, he looked, and drove perfectly. Clark took pole position in 1964 with a then record speed of 158.828 mph, before retiring with broken suspension placing 24th.
But 1965 was his year, starting in second, Clark would put in one of the most dominating performances seen in history at the Speedway with his Lotus leading 190 of 200 laps, and a winners purse of over $166,000. The story of the race is told below.
At Indianapolis this May, I had the chance to talk with Dario Franchitti about Jim Clark and what made him so special.
Wheldon moved teams to Panther which returned with a pair of eighteenth place qualifying efforts and a pair of runner up results missing out to Castroneves in 2009 and Franchitti in 2010, in a run of four runner up finishes in a row for the team, Panther.
Out of a drive in 2011 Wheldon announced that he would be entering the Indy 500 as a one off entry with former team mate Bryan Herta (Autosport) who were at the time an established Indy Lights team with aspirations to move into Indycar full time. Starting the race in sixth, people were respectful of his efforts, but not expectant. The race was dominated for the most part by Dixon and Franchitti but a late yellow and a change to the fuel strategy left teams trying to eek out every last drop of fuel, various drivers led but had to give up the lead, Bertrand Baguette led, but pitted, the rest they say is history...
Starting his motorsport career in Europe, karting, Formula Vauxhall, then Lotus before F3, but that was to be the end of the single-seaters, for a couple years at least, a move to the German Touring Car series with Mercedes followed for the 1996/7 seasons.
During this time Franchitti had the chance to test for Hogan Racing in CART, an option he took up full time in 1998. A switch to Team Green followed in 1999 winning his first race at Road America. Nine further victories followed including his first on an oval came at Rockingham in 2002 before joining the movement that saw a number of the teams and drivers moving to the IRL. This gave Dario his chance to compete at Indy in 2002 as part of an effort with Team Green, it was a tough debut, qualifying 28th, finishing three laps down in 19th. Sitting out 2003 due to injuries sustained in a motorbike accident. He returned in 2004 with Andretti-Green starting on the front row, finishing in 14th. Two top ten finishes would be scored in the next two years before he finally took home a victory, under tricky conditions.
Dario took the lead for the first time on lap 74, giving up the lead on 89 when pitting. The race was red flagged due to rain on lap 113, the restart came just after 6pm. On lap 151, Marty Roth crashed, some pitted, some stayed out, including Franchitti. Two further incidents caused yellow flags, during the final caution, before all the cars could be cleared, a deluge from the sky fell and on lap 166 the chequered flag fell and Franchitti notched up number one. To date, this was the last Indy 500 to not reach the full 200 lap race distance.
Victory number two came in 2010. Qualifying again on the front row, for the fourth time in third, taking the lead by the time the yellow flag came out for Davey Hamilton who crashed out on the back straight. Franchitti would be a dominant force throughout the race, with only pit stops and the odd over take allowing another driver to lead the race (he would lead 155 laps). After a spell in the mid pack after a late race caution and subsequent pit stop, Dario would take the lead back on lap 192 and lead all the way despite some serious fuel saving to the chequered flag ahead of a hard charging Dan Wheldon. The race ended under yellow due to a crash involving Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay on their penultimate lap.
2011 saw Franchitti in a prime position to claim a front row start, but he ran out of fuel on the final lap of his qualifying run and had to settle for ninth. The race itself would see Franchitti take the lead though various segments in the middle of the race, leading 51 laps in total. Dario was in contention for a win until late on when fuel conservation saw him drop back from the leaders and eventually pitting for fuel leaving him in twelfth place.
A new car for 2012 and a new number, 50, to celebrate the fiftieth year of main sponsor Target opening for business in the US. Qualifying in 16th place, Dario would work his way through the field, eventually taking the lead for the first time on lap 153, trading places with team mate Scott Dixon before Tony Kanaan entered the fray in the closing laps, as did a Japanese driver...
Back in May I spoke with Dario about his time at Indianapolis, his victories, life after and what Indy means to him.
Part One - Hughes, Hill & Taylor
Part Two - Eldridge, Crawford & Jakes
Part Three - Duff, Wilson & Conway
Part Four - Moss, Ward & Legge
Part Five - Jenkins, Mansell & Lloyd
Bump Day Special - Ten Drivers who Tried to Qualify
Part Six - Resta, Stewart & Hawksworth
Part Seven - van Raalte, Banks & Plowman
Part Eight - Zborowski, Robson, Manning & Mann
Part Nine - W Douglas Hawks, David Hobbs & Jay Howard