#TBT: Jim Clark’s triumph at Indy, 50 years ago

Published On February 5, 2015 » 3223 Views» By John Schwarb » #TBT, Blogs, IMS, IMS History, Indy 500

For more trips down Memory Lane, visit the #TBT archives here.

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?

Fifty years ago, the "500" was dominated by this car.

Fifty years ago, the “500” was dominated by this car.

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.

Jim Clark, the famed Lotus and his crew. Owner Colin Chapman is closest to Clark.

Jim Clark, the famed Lotus and his crew. Owner Colin Chapman is closest to Clark.

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.”

In 2010, fellow Scotsman Dario Franchitti got to drive his hero's car at IMS.

In 2010, fellow Scotsman Dario Franchitti got to drive his hero’s car at IMS.

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About The Author

John Schwarb

I joined the Indianapolis Motor Speedway communications team in July 2014 and love sharing stories from the World Capital of Racing, particularly its rich history. Most of my professional career has been in racing or golf, so if I'm not in the IMS media center, the office at 16th and Georgetown or milling around Gasoline Alley, maybe I'll be standing over a birdie putt at Brickyard Crossing. Follow us at @IMS or drop me a line at @JohnSchwarb and come back to the blog often for more stories.
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