40 may 2015
the british invasion
Of course, Clark was ticketed for the
Andy Granatelli/Chapman collaboration
on the turbine-powered, wedge chassis
Lotus 56 in 1968. He’d tested the car in
the spring and was enthused by its
potential, but lost his life in a Formula 2
race at Hockenheim, Germany, just a
month before Indy opened for practice.
Still, it surprised some that he’d kept
coming back to the Speedway.
“He kept coming back for money,” states
McCall. “I don’t think he necessarily liked
it, but he liked the money. And Chapman
never paid Jimmy proper money. I think
he got 7,000 quid [$19,000] for winning
the World Championship in 1965, so he
could make five or six times that amount
by winning Indianapolis.
“It wasn’t that Chapman was mean,”
he adds. “The money just wasn’t there.
We were always struggling financially.”
Stewart agrees, to a point.
“No question there was a lot more
money to be made at Indianapolis than in
F1 back then,” he says. “When I got my
offer to come drive for John Mecom,
Jimmy encouraged me. He said it was
quite a challenge, but that I would enjoy
it. I did and I think he did as well.”
When asked if he thought Clark enjoyed
racing at Indy, Gurney ponders a moment.
“That’s a hard question to answer,” he
says. “He was very proud of having won it
and it ended up being a priceless arrow in
his quiver. But there’s an element there –
and I don’t care if you were A.J., Parnelli or
Mario – the morning of the race and you’re
looking in the mirror saying to yourself,
‘I wonder if I’m going to be able to do this
forever.’ That element existed in those days.”
Looking back, the mechanics still have
awe in their voices when talking about Clark.
“Jim’s feel was incredible and he was so
sensitive to what was going with the
chassis,” says McCall. “You didn’t have to
give him a good car, just a car that would
repeat itself. I worked with 75 racecar
drivers and there was nobody like him.”
Sparshott simply states: “We had the
right man in the cockpit,” while Fullalove
adds: “There was nobody better, ever.”
Asked to rank Clark at Indy, Jones
reponds: “He’s right there at the top. With
Foyt, Sachs, Ward, Herk and Branson. He
was as natural a racer as I’ve ever been
around and had all the talent in the world.
Stewart still speaks of his old friend
with reverence, which is how Clark always
approached the Indianapolis 500.