"Watch it, Jack," warned Rodger Ward, the 1959 Indianapolis "500" winner. "This track can fool you and those walls are awful hard."
Brabham listened respectfully. Then, after warming up, he did three consecutive laps at precisely 142.857 mph and a fastest lap of 143.403. The next day he turned eight straight 143-plus-mph laps and one at a slightly incredible 144.834, which would have won the "500" pole in 1957.
"That's the most astounding performance I've seen in all my years here," said the veteran Speedway timer, C. B. Smith.
"He's got me about half mad," said a clowning but profoundly impressed Ward. "I'm going to send him home."
Brabham's speeds would have qualified him for the 1960, or any other "500." He accomplished them with his standard Cooper, not one of the superspecialized Indy cars. His Coventry-Climax engine was a mere two-thirds the size of the big 4.2-liter Indy Offenhausers. He had no special Speedway tires. He ran on a "cold" track (higher May temperatures at "500" time produce better tire traction). Moreover, he had no helpful "groove" of rubber laid down by other cars.
The pity of it is that Brabham is not likely to race at Indianapolis unless a financial angel steps in to underwrite the cost. Cooper says he can't afford the gamble. He would have to build a special car and excuse his ace just as the European Grand Prix season, on which he depends for a sizable part of his income, is beginning.
Any angels who would like to take the plunge are advised not to procrastinate. Brabham says he plans to retire from racing in two years, what with a wife and son to think of and. another child on the way, as well as an automobile dealership to tend.
If at some point before retirement day he ever feels the urge to behave like a hero, the chances are he will take a cold shower and wash that romantic nonsense out of his hair.