POWER AND PRECISION
’ve been a lucky boy, because I’ve driven
some of the cars of my all-time hero,
Jimmy Clark, and the Lotus 38 is one
that I even got a chance to drive in its
natural environment, the Indianapolis
Motor Speedway. I mean, how can you
improve on that – driving Jimmy’s Indy
500-winning car at the Speedway?
The Lotus 38’s power or, rather, its
power-to-weight ratio is something special.
It has 500hp and weighs about 1,350lbs,
and there are no wings or drag to hold it
back. I probably only used 60 or 70 percent
throttle most of the time I drove it, but
at one point, at around 110 or 120mph,
I gave it a bootful and it just took off.
You lie down in the 38, like in most
single-seater Lotuses of that era, and you
have to use a very straight-arm driving
position, which is fine because there’s no
real weight to the steering. However, the
steering is also super precise: the 38 is
one of those cars that lives up to the
old cliché about “thinking it through a
corner.” But the offset of the body on
its axles is unbelievable, and from the
cockpit that looks and feels very weird.
I felt very exposed in that car. There’s
a fuel tank above you and the transfer
tubes run past your knees, and it also
gets very hot in there. But the noise from
that big Ford 4.2-liter V8 when you open
it up is just magic.
That car is beautiful, and it’s also nicely
original – the subject of conservation, not
full restoration. Apart from Jimmy, who
obviously won Indy in it, Jackie Stewart
has driven it and I’ve driven it. You can
imagine how honored that makes me feel.
In a Porsche 917, you lay so far back,
with your knees in the dash, helmet
hard against the roof. You look up and
see the rollcage and it’s like the rear
triangle on a bicycle – that’s the size
of the tubing. And the bars around
the windscreen and the back of your
head aren’t much bigger. You can also
reach out and put your hand on the
back of the wheelarch, and your feet
are way out in front of that axle line.
Pics of a 917 often show its nose
touching the ground under braking
or high in the air on full throttle, like a
powerboat. Its weight transfer is really
emphasized and, boy, it really goes!
The Le Mans film obviously made
the 917 familiar to every racing fan,
but that car would be iconic anyway.
It’s everything you hope it would be.
THE GULF RAW
After coming close to winning the Indy 500
with the Lotus 29 of 1963 and being let
down by tires on the Lotus 34 of ’ 64, Colin
Chapman’s 38 did the job in ’ 65. Jimmy
Clark qualified it on the front row and
led 190 of the 200 laps.
Moss’s ’ 55 win broke the Mille Miglia course record by 10mph – testament also to the greatness of the 300SLR.
BIG BOY’S TOY
When I was a little lad, when my grandma
would go to Italy, she’d bring me back
1: 18 models of racecars that had little
spanners so you could take the bodies or
wheels off. One of those models was a
Ferrari 312T4 and I just loved it.
And I still love the shape. The T3 was
great, T5 less so, but T4 was “The One”
for me. Gilles Villeneuve drove it, Jody
Scheckter was champion in it, and images
of them all crossed up – because that was
the fastest way in that car – embedded in
my psyche. The only way to make that car
even more perfect would be if it had run
on Goodyears so the rear tires were even
bigger! Michelin radials were a bit smaller.
I’d love to have a blast in one, but I was
pleased when Jacques Villeneuve did, and
embraced his Dad’s heritage. That was cool.