Jim Clark forever altered the American racing landscape on Aug. 18, 1963, when the Scotsman drove a rear-engined, Ford-powered Lotus to victory in the Milwaukee 200 USAC National Championship race on the one-mile oval at Wisconsin State Fair Park.
A record crowd of 35,096 witnessed the milestone moment as Clark became the first driver in the storied of history of National Championship racing to win an event in a car with the engine located behind the driver.
Starting from the pole after posting a record-qualifying lap of 32.390 seconds (109.303 mph), Clark dominated the 200-lap race. His green and yellow No. 92 was so fast that he set nine track records for various distances en route to the $12,413 first-place prize.
With only two caution flags for minor incidents slowing his pace, Clark had lapped all but the second-place car of A.J. Foyt by the 161-mile mark. Clark drew to within two seconds of putting Foyt a lap down, but backed off and cruised the final 25 miles.
Foyt, driving the No. 2 Sheraton-Thompson Special roadster, was 32 seconds behind Clark when the checkered flag waved.
Dan Gurney, driving the No. 93 Lotus-Ford, started alongside his teammate on the front row, but an engine misfire relegated him to third in the final results. Defending National Champion Rodger Ward was fourth in the Leader Card roadster with Chuck Hulse rounding out the top five in the Dean Van Lines entry.
This was the second race for the Lotus-Ford combination, which debuted in May at Indianapolis where Clark finished second and Gurney was seventh.
The Lotus, known as the type 29 chassis, was based on the company’s 1962 Formula One car. It had a longer wheelbase in order to accommodate the larger engine, greater fuel capacity and Gurney’s long legs. The chassis was also offset to the left.
The Ford V-8 engine in Clark’s Lotus was based on the company’s 256-cubic-inch production model and the Milwaukee victory ended Offenhauser’s total domination of American open-wheel racing. It was also the first National Championship win for Ford.
In his 1965 autobiography, “Jim Clark at the Wheel,” Clark wrote about the significance of the 1963 victory at Milwaukee: “By winning Milwaukee I had been instrumental in breaking a monopoly in a purely American class of racing. This was almost like an Indy Car coming over here and winning a Grand Prix, and though it was not fully realized as such in Britain it certainly was in America.”