In 1962, Dan Gurney, an American competing in Formula 1, got Chapman to meet with the Ford Motor Company to discuss an assault on the Indianapolis 500. That October, Team Lotus travelled to Indianapolis following the U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen (won by Clark) for Clark to test the Lotus F1 car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Developing 175 horsepower from its 1.5-liter Coventry-Climax V-8, the Lotus had less than half the grunt of the contemporary, 415-horsepower Offenhauser-powered roadsters. But the superior handling of its lightweight, rear-engine chassis allowed Clark to lap the Brickyard at 143 mph, just 7 mph off Parnelli Jones’ 1962 Indianapolis pole speed.
The power gap was narrowed when the 1963 Lotus 29 appeared with its production-based Ford V-8 engine that produced 375 horsepower. Gurney and Clark drove the cars at Indianapolis, with Clark qualifying fifth and finishing second to Parnelli Jones. Gurney finished seventh.
There was a controversy during the race when it appeared Jones’ car was leaking oil. The black flag was never displayed, and Clark did not complain about Jones to his team or officials. “He did a damn fine job,” Clark said. Clark went on to drive the Lotus-Ford to the first Indy car race win for a rear-engine car later that summer at the Milwaukee Mile.