1960s: THE REAR-ENGINE REVOLUTION BEGINS

1960: (Winner: Jim Rathmann)

The 1960 race was the last to be included in the World Driver’s Championship. It resulted in one of the greatest two-man duels in the race’s history between Jim Rathmann and defending champion Rodger Ward.

They exchanged the lead 29 times (a record that stood until 2012). Rathmann took the lead for good on lap 197 after Ward was forced to slow with a worn tire. Rathmann’s 12.75-second win was the second-closest finish at the time.

Jim Rathmann wins one of the greats

1961: (Winner:AJ Foyt)

This is one of the most special years and special races in our family’s history. In my time researching the history of this great race, it is the year I was most looking forward to writing about. In 1961, my grandfather, Sir Jack Brabham, altered the course of future Indianapolis 500s, driving his mid-engined Cooper-Climax to ninth place in a field otherwise composed of Offy-powered roadsters. He always believed that he would have finished at least fifth if he had not had continual tire issues. It was significant as Indy legend A.J. Foyt won his first of four 500s, but what Sir Jack did would go down in history…

AJ Foyt won his first of four 500s

1962: (Winner: Rodger Ward)

One of the true IndyCar stars of his day, Parnelli Jones became the first driver to lap at more than 150 mph (240kph), taking the pole in a Watson-Offy roadster. Rodger Ward and Len Hutton finished 1-2 for Leader Cards Racing in the last full field of American-born drivers.

Rodger Ward picked up a Studebaker Avanti as part of his prize i 1962

1963: (Winner: Parnelli Jones)

Parnelli Jones claimed a controversial win in 1963 when officials failed to black flag him in the dying stages despite a major oil leak. Scotsman Jim Clark – a good friend  (and foe!) of my Grandfather was running second. Many claimed that Jones was not penalised because it would have handed the win to a non-American. Glad I hold an American passport – as well as an Australian one!

Parnelli Jones drinks in the milk in 1963

1964: (Winner: AJ Foyt)

My Grandfather, Black Jack made his return to the Speedway for his second start after his history making 1961 visit – but this time was with last year’s second placed man, Jimmy Clark – the pair of them taking to Indy after tearing up the Formula 1 tracks.

After finishing second in 1963, Jimmy Clark’s Lotus-Ford claimed the 1964 pole. Clark escaped a fiery seven-car, second-lap crash that prompted a switch from gasoline to methanol in ’65, but he was sidelined by suspension failure on lap 47. A.J. Foyt took the lead and notched another Indy win.

His Watson-Offy is the last front-engined car to win the 500. As for how Grandfather (or Sir Jack!) went? It ended with a leak in his fuel tank, caused from the heat of that lap-two incident.

An horrific crash and fire on lap 2 - methanol was introduced the next year

1965: (Winner: Jim Clark)

The invasion from Great Britain finally had its day in 1965 when Scotsman Jim Clark and the legendary Colin Chapman’s Team Lotus returned and won – with the first race average above 150 mph (240kph).

To show how much it meant to Clark to win the Indianapolis 500 – he elected to forego his place the other holy grail in open wheel motorsport – the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix – to compete at Indy!

Despite missing Monaco, Jimmy still managed to become the only driver to who have won both the Indy 500 and Formula 1 World Driver’s Championship in the same year. NASCAR’s famous Wood Brothers were asked by Ford to bring their pit-stop expertise to Indy to help Clark get the win. Another incredible story about this great race and one of the all time greats in Jim Clark.

The legendary Jim Clark and Colin Chapman started the British invasion

1966: (Winner: Graham Hill)

The English invasion continued in 1966 when Graham Hill became the first rookie to win the race since 1927. He managed to dodge his way through an accident which eliminated 11 cars on the opening lap and was one of only seven cars running at the finish.

First-time starter Jackie Stewart led by more than a lap late in the race when his Ford lost oil pressure. Jimmy Clark spun twice during the race and finished second, but many thought he had won the race, including his pit crew. Car owners Colin Chapman and Andy Granatelli did not file a protest.

The thought of all these legends being in one race – albeit the Indy 500 – really gets my heart racing!

Graham Hill became the first rookie winner since 1927

1967: (Winner: AJ Foyt)

The 1967 race is remembered for Andy Granatelli’s Pratt & Whitney turbine-powered four-wheel-drive car. Sixth in qualifying, Parnelli Jones took command of the race by Turn Two and dominated through lap 196, when the car – nicknamed “Silent Sam” – slowed to a stop with a $US6 transmission bearing failure.

A.J. Foyt weaved his way through a last-lap crash to clinch his third Indy 500 win. It was the first win for Goodyear Tires since 1919. After leaving the sport in 1922, Goodyear returned to the sport 1964, and in 1967, it also ended Firestone’s record of 43 consecutive Indy 500 wins. (This race was run over two days after being red flagged on lap 19 because of rain).

AJ Foyt did it again in 1967

1968:(Winner: Bobby Unser)

In 1968, Andy Granatelli had three Lotus turbines in the field, with  Joe Leonard, Graham Hill, and Art Pollard qualifying  first, second, and 11th, respectively. Hill crashed, but Leonard led solidly until a fuel-system failure on lap 191. Pollard suffered similar problems three laps earlier.

Bobby Unser inherited the lead and went on to win the first of three 500s. Ironically, it was the first win by a turbocharged car and the last time a front-engined car was entered. During the month of May, a film crew was on hand to shoot footage for the upcoming movie Winning, which starred Paul Newman – a man that would go on to create his own history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a team owner.

Bobby Unser won the first of three 500s in 1968

1969: (Winner: Mario Andretti)

In 1969, turbines are banned, but Granatelli finally gets his Indy win, the colorful STP sponsorship guru putting backing behind Mario Andretti and a Ford Cosworth-powered, Clint Brawner Hawk. It’s Mario’s only Indy victory in 29 starts.

The win in ’69 added to Mario’s 1967 Daytona 500 win and his legend was further extended with his 1978 Formula 1 World Driver’s Championship. One of the true greats of all time and Mario – and Michael Andretti – have been a big influence on my career.

Back to the race: the final 110 laps were run under green and Andretti ran the entire race without changing tires.

The original winning car is in the Smithsonian while a replica is in the Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.   The major injury for the month of May in 1969 came when Al Unser Sr. crashed his personal motorcycle in the infield and broke his leg. He had to be replaced by Bud Tingelstad in the Vel’s Parnelli Jones entry.

Mario Andretti won his one and only Indy 500 in 1969