Not feeling the effects of jetlag from Tokyo to Indianapolis, reigning Indianapolis 500 and IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti on Sept. 21 had the opportunity to drive two special cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
He presented the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS Pace Car replica to a sweepstakes winner – giving Bruce Barhydt of North Carolina and his wife a high-speed ride around the track – and got behind the wheel of the Lotus that his racing hero, fellow Scotsman Jim Clark, drive to victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500. The car was restored last year in Indianapolis.
Franchitti with the Sweepstakes Winners
“I never thought I get to drive that car,” he said.Formula One, Indy 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IMS, Indianapolis 500, “I got to stand next to it one day and that was pretty intense. “It was a lifetime dream to drive that car, and to drive it here at the Speedway was incredible.”
Earlier this month, Franchitti attended the Formula One race weekend at Monza, Italy, and compared the electricity to the Indy 500.
“As a kid I went to Monza when I was about 6 years old,” he said. “My dad was doing some practice in a Formula 3 car. It’s kind of like going to the Speedway when it’s quiet. It’s kind of like being in an empty church.
“Then you go there for the Grand Prix and it’s like going to Indy for the 500. The place was mad and obviously the Ferrari fans were going nuts with (Fernando) Alonso winning. It’s a different atmosphere than IndyCar because the fans don’t get near the paddock. You have this madness and go through these barriers and then it’s quiet all of a sudden. That was quite interesting.”
The iconic Lotus yellow stripes atop the helmet worn by Takuma Sato in the Indianapolis 500 accentuated the side panel images of his No. 5 Lotus-KV Racing Technology car and the ’65 Indy-winning Lotus 38 driven by Jim Clark.
Jason Fowler of England devoted 45 hours to creating the one-off piece with the aid of a computer and steady hand with an air brush. Obviously, as the corresponding video details, there’s a lot more that goes into it.
“I was really pleased with how the helmet looked as it was a challenge fitting the detailed airbrush pictures into such a small area,” Fowler said in a phone interview from his London headquarters. “We were also working against the clock as the helmet was only commissioned a few weeks before the race so there were quite a few late nights worked to make sure it was finished in time.”
“The helmet seemed to work well from both angles; the airbrushed pictures gave it the ‘Wow!’ factor and the classic Lotus stripes were still visible from a distance.”
Fowler, who used to customize his helmets with stickers and paint while racing motorcross in the early ‘80s and paint helmets for friends, left his day job to start his own business customizing helmets. Dan Wheldon, E.J. Viso and Lewis Hamilton are among his longtime clients.
“I had wanted to go to the Indy 500 for many years and finally got to go this year,” he said. “It was the best motor racing experience I have ever had, and I was amazed at the scale of the event. More than anything, I was impressed with the atmosphere and the accessibility of the whole event and the way the fans were encouraged to be integral to the race.”
“I had three drivers wearing our helmets in the race (Wheldon, Viso and Sato) and it was a really proud feeling to be just a small part of such an iconic race. I’m definitely coming back next year.”