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Jim Clark’s win at the 1965 Indianapolis 500 checked all the boxes for history: dominance, speed and pedigree.
Has it really been a half-century since this car and driver changed everything at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
The so-called “British Invasion” was a major storyline at Indy in the mid-1960s, with Lotus Cars owner Colin Chapman building light, sleek, rear-engined machines and drivers such as Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart traveling here to drive for Chapman and others.
The first winning combination was Chapman and Clark, in the iconic No. 82 Lotus powered by Ford – in a striking green color not seen in Victory Lane at the “500” since 1920.
Clark, a 29-year-old Scotsman, completely dominated the race in leading 190 of 200 laps with a race-record 150.686 mph average (thanks to three brief yellow flags and just one single-car crash). His rear-engine car became the first to win at Indianapolis, and of course no front-engine car has won since.
And not since Italian-born, England-raised Dario Resta won 49 years earlier, in 1916, had a foreign driver won at Indy. But Hill immediately followed with a win in 1966 (with Stewart winning Rookie of the Year), Italian-born Mario Andretti won in 1969 and 10 more foreign-born drivers have combined to win 17 races since – including three by another Scotsman, Dario Franchitti, who has always called Clark his hero.
“Jimmy was an absolute tiger in the car, and obviously his exploits in the car kind of fired my passion,” Franchitti said in an IMS.com piece on Clark. “But I think it was as much the guy he was outside the car that’s the reason he’s my hero. He was this quiet, simple, humble guy. I thought, ‘I have to find out more about this man.’ And the more I found out, the more I discovered that this was a man I admired tremendously.”