12 May 2011

The Greatest 33: No. 18 - Jim Clark

With 17 days remaining until the 100th Anniversary running of the Indianapolis 500, Drive Hard, Turn Left & SB Nation Indiana is starting its countdown of the Greatest 33, the ultimate Indianapolis 500 field. Fans can build their own field by clicking here. Today, Drive Hard, Turn Left SB Nation Indiana looks at one of the world's top racers, Jim Clark.
Jim Clark ushered out the roadster at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Arriving in 1963 with the rear-engined Lotus, Clark was also in the midst of capturing the first of two Formula One world championships.  From the beginning, it was apparent that the green and yellow Lotus was bringing about a new era in motorsports at IMS, as he pushed Parnelli Jones and his Watson-Offy to the limit in Jones' lone 500 win.
Having led 28 laps, earning Rookie of the Year honors, expectations were once again high for Clark in 1964, especially after he qualified on the pole.  However, a suspension failure took him out of the race just 14 laps into the event.
Returning for a third crack at Indianapolis, Clark finally found the winning formula, dominating the '65 edition.  A.J. Foyt led ten laps, but other than that, Clark paced the field, leading the final 125 laps and 190 overall.  The No. 82 Lotus-Ford remains one of the iconic cars to have won at IMS.  In the Formula One ranks, Clark would claim his second world championship, becoming the only driver to have won the Indianapolis 500 and drivers championship in the same year.
Coming back in 1966, Clark looked to be one of the top cars again, as he started on the front row (second) for the third straight year.  Clark's three-year qualifying run was the top three-year run of qualifying at IMS in the 1960's.  The Lotus-Ford led 66 laps on the day, but it was Clark's fellow Formula One competitor, Graham Hill, who would take the checkered flag.  
The 66 laps led gave Scotsman 298 on his career, while he led in his fourth straight 500.
One more appearance at IMS would see Clark finish 31st with an engine failure, before his untimely death seven weeks before the 1968 Indy 500 following a wreck on the Hockenheim circuit.
In five runs at Indianapolis, Clark changed the trajectory of the sport with his Lotus.  No front engine car has won since his 1965 win, as the rear-engined era with increased downforces took over the sport. 
The Greatest 33:
Row 6
18. Jim Clark
Row 7
19. Jim Rathmann
20. Tommy Milton
21. Ralph DePalma
Row 8
22. Scott Dixon
23. Juan Pablo Montoya
24. Billy Arnold
Row 9
25. Bill Holland
26. Dan Wheldon
27. Ray Harroun
Row 10
28. Mark Donohue
29. Jacques Villeneuve
30. Danny Sullivan
Row 11
31. Tony Kanaan
32. Michael Andretti
33. Eddie Sachs

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