Leonard Wood - Ford interview

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This Week in Ford Racing June 28, 2010 One of the most memorable moments in Ford Racing history occurred in 1965 when the manufacturer asked the Wood Brothers to take their innovative approach toward pit stops from NASCAR to open wheel racing...

This Week in Ford Racing
June 28, 2010

One of the most memorable moments in Ford Racing history occurred in 1965 when the manufacturer asked the Wood Brothers to take their innovative approach toward pit stops from NASCAR to open wheel racing for the Indianapolis 500. The Wood Brothers didn't disappoint as their lightning-quick stops helped propel Scottish driver Jimmy Clark to victory.

That was not only Ford Motor Company's first Indianapolis 500 victory, but also the first for a rear-engine car at Indy. The Lotus-Ford changed IndyCar racing forvever.

That accomplishment will be remembered this weekend at the Goodwood Festival of Speed (July 2-4), taking place just outside of London, England, when Clark's car will be started and driven for the first time since that dominating win. Another famous Scot, Sir Jackie Stewart, will be behind the wheel and one of the interested onlookers will be Leonard Wood, who recently spoke with Ford Racing about the event.

LEONARD WOOD - Wood Brothers Racing

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS TRIP? "How exciting to go 45 years later and watch it run again. It's gonna be a huge thrill for me because it brings back so many memories of when we went up to the Brickyard a week early and prepared the car for the stop. We got to know all the guys on the crew and it was a great experience. We got the most publicity in the shortest amount of time we ever got in our life."

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS? "I enjoy looking at old race cars and that sort of thing, and I'm also looking forward to meeting Stirling Moss. When I was in Germany during my time in the Army in 1958 I went to Monza, Italy and watched the Americans come over and challenge the Europeans at that big track. I took some eight millimeter film of the race with Jim Rathmann winning, and I also saw Sterling Moss run his Maserati, so it's gonna be interesting and I'm looking forward to meeting him."

DOES THE 1965 INDIANAPOLIS 500 SEEM LIKE YESTERDAY TO YOU? "I think about it a lot and get asked about it a lot, and I've explained about it a lot. It does seem like it's been a while, but, by the same token, it seems like yesterday that Ford Motor Company called Glen and wanted to know if the Wood Brothers would come up and pit Jim Clark.

"We went up a week early and we didn't know if these guys were gonna accept us or not because they were a foreign crew. If they accepted us and welcomed us to be there, it was gonna work. If they didn't, then it wouldn't work as good. But they rolled out the red carpet and acted like they were really glad we were there. They worked with us any way they could, so we just started preparing the car for the race.

"We were going through inspection and Ford Motor Company made this fuel tank for us and they put this big, giant venturi inside of it, so the inspector wanted to know how come the outlet was so far up off the floor of the tank. You can imagine a 14-16 inch venturi inside the tank, well the outlet is gonna have to be up off the tank by half of that to make a full circle. The inspector wanted to know what it was doing up so high and we told them that it was just up there. He said, 'I'll bet you $1,000 you can't pour 20 gallons a minute out of that thing.' We didn't want to tick the inspector off by taking his money, we just wanted to get through inspection and go on so we didn't bet with him.

"When we got through we turned the nozzles on and it put 58 gallons in the tank in 15 seconds. The year before they put it in under pressure, so they thought it was gonna be about a minute for a pit stop, so we knew right away we were gonna be under 20 seconds.

"I think that first pit stop was right around 17 seconds, so it kind of caught everybody off guard. One of the commentators during the race was Sam Hanks, a prior winner there, and he said, 'You can bet they didn't get it full with a green crew. You can bet they'll be back in.' Well, we didn't come back in."

"It kind of blew their mind that we made only two planned stops and, I remember, when we finished the last stop, Chapman jumped over the wall and in the middle of pit road yelled, "Marvelous!" They were thrilled.

"I remember telling Clark before the race that it was important that he stopped exactly on the mark because the hoses wouldn't reach if he didn't get to it. If he overshot it, the hoses would buckle. He said, 'You just tell me where you want it to stop,' and, I mean, he put it right on the mark. I was on the far side and when I disconnected my hose and leaped back in front of the car to get back to the pit wall, as I was leaping back he was moving out.

THIS CAR IS GOING TO BE PART OF THE RACING IN AMERICA EXHIBIT AT THE HENRY FORD MUSEUM. HAVING JUST BEEN THERE A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THAT? "Personally, I think it will be the number one exhibit because of the history behind it - with an English driver and a rear-engine car. I just think it's gonna be one of the top attractions. The history behind it is awesome with the way he won the race. He didn't luck into it, he just really went out there and blew them away."

DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHERE THIS CAR HAS BEEN SINCE THE '65 INDY 500? "I can't remember the exact year, but the World's Fair took place not too long after it race and was on display. I was there and remember looking at it on sort of an angled platform. You couldn't really get to it, but I remember marking where the dial pins were on the hubs with yellow marker and those marks were still on there when I saw it on display, so that was the real car. I doubt if those marks are still gonna be there. They probably polished them off, but I'll be looking for them."

WHAT'S YOUR ANTICIPATION LIKE AS FAR AS SEEING IT RUN AGAIN? "It was in great shape when it finished, but I didn't mention the fact that this double overhead cam Ford engine was awesome the whole month of May. The weeks that we were there it was just awesome to hear those things warm up and practice. It had the greatest sound there ever was, and I can still remember the sound. I'm looking forward to listening to it again."

-source: ford racing

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Series HISTORY , INDYCAR , NASCAR , VINTAGE

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