The Coming of Aero Kits Reminded Me of Something…

17 Feb
These gents were way ahead of their time: Gurney, Chapman and Clark

These gents were way ahead of their time: Gurney, Chapman and Clark

With the ensuing roll out by March 13th of new, manufacturer badged aero bits, the next generation of open wheel racing turns the page. Finally, onward to new tech. I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that the unleashing of, dare I say it, innovation, will also unleash an appreciable bump in speeds.

I like, no, I LOVE the word innovation. It brings to mind a by gone era, and it also points to a future path not yet taken. Such is the cross roads that wait until roughly the middle of March for another intersection of bygone and future when the aero kits are unveiled. This has always been the yin and the yang, the steady and forward assault on elusive speed. It is built on innovation.

I asked a kid the other day what he meant when he used the term ‘back in the day’. To him it sounded like, well you know old man, like 1985. That time period, he said, IS the dark ages.

Heh, typical youth….

I was thinking more along the lines of 1965. I was also thinking about the locale, the corner of Georgetown road and Sixteenth street. This is what I was referring to above when I mentioned the intersection of bygone and future. An era that saw the British invasion as more than just the Beatles hitting America, 1965 saw the last gasp of front engine technology. Aero and all of its affects wasn’t really understood, you just streamlined the contour and went with it. Consequently, the move to rear engine American open wheel cars was no longer a fad but a competitive requirement.

Parnelli in a Lotus

Parnelli in a Lotus

At this time, Colin Chapman had improved the rear suspension pieces that cost Jim Clark a victory in 1964. Chapman also listened to one of the brightest minds to ever get behind a steering wheel at the time, Dan Gurney. Dan had the bright idea to hook up a beastly Ford V8 to the back end of a Lotus and bring that combination to Indy. Colin Chapman was his man and even the maestro, Parnelli Jones decided that a beast engine in the rear was similar to the sexy F1 cars Gurney had experience with and signed on to drive one in 1965 also. The big difference was that Parnelli drove for the PT Barnum of race team ownership at that time, J.C. Agajanian.

The New Ole' Calhoun

The New Ole’ Calhoun

Even A.J. Foyt got onboard the rear engine bandwagon in 1965. Again, a Ford:

A.J. likes trhe rear engine too!

A.J. likes trhe rear engine too!

The casual open wheel race fan will most likely have heard of Jim Clark. That fan may also have heard of Parnelli Jones as well. I can almost guarantee that. Interestingly, they finished first and second in the 1965 race. Admittedly, I have an obligation to acknowledge two excellent resources that I utilized for this piece. They both are readily available on the web. So suggest that you get up off that couch, reach for your keyboard and visit a place simply called THE Henry Ford. Today, the 1965 winning Lotus Ford that Jim Clark drove to victory resides on their property. The Ford Foundation has opened up over 1400 black and white photos from that month of May at the Brickyard and other locations. I could and have spent hours poring over the shots from their Flickr stream.
The summary of how Jim Clark and Lotus changed Indy forever can be found here:

If you are REALLY a statistical geek, I would recommend checking out a site called Racing Reference. These folks have done all of the heavy lifting for you and their summary page for the 1965 race is loaded with gems and nuggets. Look for it here:


This reference will soon make you a winner at many trivia contests. Get yourself armed with knowledge such as:
Some of the names that did not make the 1965 Indianapolis 500 in their original cars include:
Roger Ward, Bobby Unser, Al Unser, Jim Hurtubise, Mel Kanyon, Art Malone and a cast of uh, many, many more! Some went on to qualify and run in a different vehicle. This was a golden age when you really DID run what ya brung! If it could not run fast enough, some other owner most likely (if you were a pretty good shoe) gave you a shot at making the show in a different car.

In fact, Bobby Unser could not make the 1965 race while driving for the famed STP outfit headed up by Andy Granatelli in his original number 6 car. He ended up starting eighth and finishing up 19th in a Novi! Andy became so disgusted with front engine technology that in 1967 he showed up at Indianapolis with a gas turbine vehicle he had been working on for over a year. It was totally innovative. Don’t get me started on this topic of innovation and legislation…… you can find a previous rant about innovation here:

It becomes apparent to me that the soon to be released aero kits by Chevrolet and Honda are going to have some type of impact on the racing product. While the engaged race fan has been clamoring for these since Randy Bernard unveiled the concept at the launch of the quest that became the DW 12, the differentiating aero bits should add to speed. One thing is for certain, in about 30 days we will finally have a look at the next BIG thing in Indy Car racing.

As always, thanks for hitting the blog and we will talk to you next time.


This week’s Hot Link:
The collections of The Henry Ford also include the race winning Lotus-Ford driven by Jim Clark. Over 1400 photos of the car are also available on their Flickr site here:


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