• Indianapolis 500 1960

Rathmann finally takes the prize

Martin Williamson May 30, 1960
Jim Rathmann leads Rodger Ward during their epic battle © Associated Press

Jim Rathmann won what many rate as one of the greats Indianapolis 500s, finishing 12 seconds ahead of the previous year's winner Rodger Ward. For almost half the race Rathmann and Ward were never more than a few feet from each other, but a worn tyre forced Ward to slow with three laps left.

The record number of lead changes remains to this day - four drivers swapped 15 times in the first 100 laps and by the finish the total was 29. Rathmann deserved the accolades as he had previously been runner-up three times.

The pace lap was overshadowed by the collapse of a makeshift scaffold stand with left two spectators dead and another 40 injured.

It was the last time the Indianapolis 500 counted towards the FIA World Championship. The original intention ten years earlier had been to encourage US drivers to participate in European races and visa versa, but with a handful of exceptions it had been an unmitigated failure. Ironically, the crossover worked better once the Indy 500 stopped counting.

By the late 1950s the ten-year agreement with the US authorities was doomed, so much so that any hope of crossover died as the FIA started scheduling European grands prix on the same weekends as the Indy 500.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA

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Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA Martin Williamson, who grew up in the era of James Hunt, Niki Lauda and sideburns, became managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group in 2007 after spells with Sky Sports, Sportal and Cricinfo