Not that Indy racing technology could be dismissed as being backward. For left-turn-only racing on banked and semi-banked courses, it was good enough. Its adoption of really high-boost supercharging and turbocharging, fuel-injected engines, aviation-style disc brakes, driver-safety seat belts, roll-over hoops, nerf bars – all came way ahead of backward road racing Formula 1. But while USAC-run American
But while USAC-run American speedway racing seemed awash with commercial advertising-funded money it remained really the preserve of tiny, sometimes almost one-man, ultra-specialist mechanics working for generous and ambitious private owners and emerging effectively as constructors in their own confined right. An abortive Indy programme by the Ford Motor Company back in 1935 had proved such a disastrous and brand-demeaning flop that big industry remained warned-off speedway racing into the 1960s. Indy became a hugely publicised and promoted pond, inhabited by little fishes. The great factories with global aspirations – like Mercedes-Benz and Alfa Romeo – confined their real racing focus absolutely to major-league road racing with their Grand Prix and sports cars.
But while Jack Brabham and Cooper ran at Indy in 1961, and learned so much while finishing 9th, American road race driver Dan Gurney fancied a more advanced technology-bridging foray in 1962. He accepted the offer of Indy entrant John Zink to drive his ‘Trackburner’ special, which combined a Formula 1-derived Lotus 18/21-type chassis with a rear-mounted Boeing gas turbine engine. The unlikely combination didn’t work, but Dan recalled it as being more than competitively quick through the turns, then bog slow out of them as he had to endure the throttle lag of the gas turbine engine winding back up to ramming speed…while the big 4.2-litre Offies just rocketed away from him.