1962 British Grand Prix race report - The uncatchable Lotus and Clark

The Uncatchable Lotus and Clark

Aintree, Liverpool, July 21st.

In spite of a lot of protests the R.A.C. once again delegated the British Grand Prix to the B.A.R.C., the second time in succession, so that the Grand Prix circus had to journey to Liverpool to race at the Aintree Stadium. After the victories by Cooper at Reims and Porsche at Rouen, as well as Porsche at the smaller Solitude meeting, everyone went to Aintree in a very keen frame of mind, knowing that the whole situation was very open. The Italian strikes having eased a bit, the Scuderia Ferrari fielded a lone car for Phil Hill, this being the one tried out in practice at Monaco, with the gearbox ahead of the differential housing, but still using the 1961-type 120-degree V6 engine, their other two entries being withdrawn. The two flat 8-cylinder Porsches for Gurney and Bonnier were as raced at Solitude, except that they were now both using Koni shock-absorbers, whereas one had been on Koni and the other on gas-filled Bilstein shockers previously. Graham Hill and Ginther had their usual B.R.M. V8 cars and there was a brand new spare car identical to Ginther’s as regards the chassis frame at the rear, Hill’s still having the prototype chassis frame with different tube arrangements to support the gearbox. McLaren and Maggs had the two identical Cooper-Climax V8 cars and Clark and Taylor had the two Team Lotus cars that they used at Solitude, Clark on the “monocoque” Type 25 and Taylor on the Type 24. The Bowmaker team had their two usual Lola-Climax V8 cars for Surtees and Salvadori and a brand new car as spare. In basic layout it was the same as the other two cars, incorporating all the successful modifications made since the start of the season, plus a few more, notably the front suspension uprights and stub axles. Instead of being a modified proprietary component the uprights were now fabricated from steel sheet in taper-tube form, like the Ferguson P99, and the stub axles were of large diameter tubing like the Lotus 24 and 25. The wishbone ends and steering pivots were also improved and strengthened, but the top suspension link has reverted to channel section as used on the original car. A 6-speed Colotti gearbox was fitted, with a right-hand gearchange which necessitated a cross-over linkage behind the gearbox as the 6-speed Colotti has the selector mechanism on the left. Rob Walker had to withdraw his entry as the car was written-off at Rouen and Brabham ran his Lotus-Climax V8 as the F.1 Brabham-Climax V8 was not quite ready. Although it could have been made a runner in time for the race it would have meant that it was completely untried and Brabham wisely decided not to use it. After Rouen the U.D.T.- Laystall team were not happy with the B.R.M.- engined car so they entered their two Lotus-Climax V8 cars, Ireland having the newest of the two, and Gregory’s car having additional bracing struts across the engine bay. That completed the entry of works or semi-works teams and the rest of the field was made up of private entries. On Cooper-Climax 4-cylinders were Lewis and Burgess, on old Lotus-Climax 4-cylinders were Chamberlain and Shelly; Settember had a lone Emeryson-Climax 4-cylinder and de Beaufort had his 4-cylinder Porsche. Campbell-Jones was a non-starter as he was still suffering from his Solitude accident, and the car was badly wrecked, Greene hoped his new Gilby-B.R.M. V8 would be finished in time but it was not, and Siffert scrubbed his entry after hearing the measly starting-money offer made by the B.A.R.C. A last-minute arrival was Seidel with his brand new Lotus-B.R.M. V8.

Practice began on Thursday afternoon with one hour immediately after lunch and the Stadium was bathed in glorious sunshine, though a strong headwind on the railway straight was not conducive to fast lap times. In April Clark had set a new Aintree lap record in 1 min. 54.0 sec. in a Lotus 24 but the headwind put paid to much hope of improving on this. Porsche and B.R.M. were all set to go, Graham Hill having upswept megaphone exhausts and Ginther having downswept stub pipes with no venturi tail-pipes. McLaren’s Cooper was present but the other V8 was delayed, its transporter having broken down on the way, so that Tommy Atkins’ mechanics had to travel up from London, collect the car and bring it on, arriving too late for this first session. Eric Broadley was finishing off the brand new Lola, which was running with the letter T for recognition, and soon most competitors were circulating. Gurney was in fine form and charging along, braking very late for Melling Crossing, and Surtees tried the new Lola but was having trouble finding gears so left it at the pits to be adjusted and continued practising in his old one. Having spent a day at Goodwood sorting out the U.D.T. cars Ireland was driving very fast, while Graham Hill was not hanging about, that is until his engine blew up. Team Lotus were not in a very happy state and Clark was not leading the running, which was unusual. Unfortunately the timekeepers were still using “egg timers” with only one-fifth second divisions, so that official times gave lots of dead heats!

After a long pause, during which time the “family” saloon racers did their practice, the G.P. cars were out again, for another hour, and the pace quickened, even though conditions were the same. Clark now got into his stride and equalled his existing lap record, while Surtees abandoned his old Lola derelict on the grass and walked back to the pits to go out in the new one. Brabham, Burgess and Chamberlain now joined the practice, having missed the first session, and Maggs came out in the second Cooper-Climax V8. Ginther was trying now with venturi tail-pipes but Graham Hill was a spectator and Phil Hill was not happy with the Ferrari, its cornering being a bit unpredictable. Gregory was not happy with his U.D.T. car so Ireland took it out and did a time identical to that which he had done with his own car, which left everyone smiling except Gregory. Having driven a Lotus 24 at the circuit in April, Clark borrowed Taylor’s car, to compare it with the Lotus 25, and after spinning it on his opening lap he did one cautious flying lap, if a 1m. 57.8 sec. can be called cautious! Anyone with more than four cylinders obviously had to be well under 2 min. for a lap, while the private owners had 2 min. as a goal. The pace was pretty hot, as instanced by Settember doing a 2 min. 03.2 sec., which was quite respectable in the Emeryson, but he was in 20th position. The day ended with Clark fastest, but Gurney was in second place the Porsche going very well indeed, and then came Surtees in the Lola, which is showing continual progress.

Friday was another remarkable day, warm and dry, with not quite so much wind and everyone was out again for another hour of practice immediately after lunch, not that many people in the racing game have time for lunch. Clark was in trouble with fouling plugs and Graham Hill had a new engine but he had not gone far before it sprang an oil leak and plastered the circuit so that fast practice had to be abandoned until it dried up and meanwhile B.R.M. mechanics mopped up the mess on the car. In the hope that the new Gilby would be finished in time Greene borrowed Shelly’s Lotus to put in the regulation qualifying laps. Bonnier was in trouble with his gear selectors, but when the car was right he was beginning to go in his old form once more. It was Surtees who set the pace, his regular car having been repaired, and he did a 1m. 54.2 sec. but Ireland was still having a real go, with a best of a 1min. 54.4 sec., while McLaren unobtrusively did 1m. 54.6 sec. Among the private owners Lewis almost broke 2 min., and Burgess was going very well, showing considerable improvement these last three races since he has had a new engine. Near the end of practice Seidel turned out with his brand new Lotus 24 with B.R.M. V8 engine and 6-speed Colotti gearbox.

For the final hour of practice, after the saloons had been out again, Ireland did not practise, being well satisfied with his efforts, but Gregory insisted on flogging on. Some drivers like Clark, G. Hill, McLaren, Brabham, and P. Hill had not reached their limit and were going still faster, while others had obviously done all they could, or were merely out to bed in new brakes and scrub new tyres. Towards the end of the session, the wind dropped completely and the air became very cool, with rain in the offing and Clark took advantage of the conditions to do a terrific lap in 1min. 53.6 sec. It is uncanny the way he seems to say “I will now set a new fastest lap” and goes out and does just that, and the works Lotus is seldom 100% right in all respects. One day it will be spot-on to everyone’s satisfaction and then Jimmy Clark will do a really fast lap! There was no question of anyone having to qualify to start, Aintree being capable of taking the whole entry, so that the grid was drawn up on the best times of the four sessions, and in the final hour Jack Lewis had got well under 2 min., being the only 4-cylinder runner so to do, though Burgess got mighty close.

A study of all the lap times makes interesting reading for some drivers got progressively faster and others were erratic, while some made hardly any progress at all.

Saturday started very ominously with drizzling rain but as midday approached the sun shone and everything dried up nicely, and the meeting began with a 17- lap saloon car race, followed by a parade of veteran cars and a parade of the Grand Prix drivers. At 2.10 p.m. the Grand Prix cars set off on a warming-up lap and by 2.20 p.m. everyone was on the grid and ready to go, except that Ireland was in trouble. Having got himself on the front row of the start his mechanics worked all night to build him a new gearbox in order to give him the best possible chance of success, for in practice the old box had developed slight wear on some of the dogs. Anything that showed wear or was suspect was replaced by new parts and Ireland was all set to have a go. On the warm-up lap one of the brand-new selector forks had broken and it was too late to do anything except whip off the gearbox top and disentangle the broken part, leaving Ireland with no second or third gear. In first class order the grid was cleared, all the engines were started and then Ireland found he couldn’t get any gears at all and had to sit helplessly on the front of the grid stuck in neutral. For an endless five seconds the flag was raised and then down it came and twenty of the twenty-one starters roared away leaving the helpless Ireland on his own, everyone having skilfully dodged him. It was Clark who led away, with all the right people following him, except for Bonnier who muffed his start and was among the backmarkers. A staggering opening lap dice was expected but it did not happen, for Clark just ran away from everyone, the field following in a surprisingly orderly procession, in the order Surtees, on the old Lola, not the new one, Gurney, McLaren, Brabham, G. Hill with low-level stub pipes on his B.R.M. Gregory, Salvadori, P. Hill, Bonnier, Maggs, Ginther and Taylor. When everyone had gone from the start Ireland’s car was wheeled to the pits and the unhappy mechanics attacked the Colotti gearbox. Clark was comfortably ahead of Surtees, but McLaren was worrying at Gurney’s tail and Graham Hill was pressing Brabham, and after only four laps this lot had left the rest of the field. Bonnier had recovered from his bad start and was leading the next group in which Ginther’s B.R.M. was not running as well as it might, even though he had a brand-new engine and Taylor’s Lotus was ailing, while Phil Hill seemed to have given up all hope, lying in thirteenth position with Burgess almost keeping up with him. Surtees now began to close up on Clark, who had made fastest lap in 1 min. 57.4 sec. and by lap 8 he was right with him, equalling Clark’s lap time, but the Lotus driver now did a 1 min. 57.0 sec. and the gap opened up again. Surtees replied with a 1 min. 57.0 sec. and while he could hold this Lotus he could not catch it and settled down into a firm second place. McLaren was still pressing Gurney’s Porsche, while Graham Hill had got past Brabham the rest dropping back. On lap 7 Trevor Taylor had the remarkable experience of having a carburetter choke tube fall in his lap. He stopped at his pit and gave it to his mechanic, saying “where did this come from ?”. One of the ram pipes on the front carburetter had come off, the choke tube had popped out and by a miracle had flown through the opening behind the driver’s head and fallen in his lap. It was put back and another ram pipe screwed on and away Taylor went, his car sounding much healthier, but it had dropped him right back to eighteenth place, a lap behind the leader. While Clark was on lap 8 Ireland got going, having only 1st, 4th and 5th gears usable, but remembering the French Grand Prix he pressed on. Shelly had retired with engine trouble and not long afterwards Seidel went out with brake trouble and an overheating engine, but meanwhile things up at the front had very clearly settled down, with Clark 4 sec. ahead of Surtees and gaining slowly but surely all the time, while McLaren got by Gurney on lap 13 and there was nothing the Porsche driver could do about it. In the second group Maggs was going well and had passed Bonnier, to take seventh place, and Burgess was still leading the 4-cylinder runners, but only just as Lewis had passed on one occasion and then fallen back again, but was still challenging. At 20 laps the first six cars had settled down in the order, Lotus, Lola, Cooper, B.R.M., Porsche, and Lotus, as mixed a bag as anyone could wish for, but they were all steadily spreading out. Bonnier had got back in front of Maggs, and Phil Hill was getting all worked up to pass Ginther and take 11th place, while Burgess was driving a very good race and fending off Lewis most of the time. They were followed by Settember in the Emeryson and Taylor was beginning to work his way back through the field. As a race the whole thing was now over, having developed into a procession with Clark drawing away all the time, nobody being capable of challenging him and the Lotus sounded very healthy. The gap between him and Surtees was opening out from 6 sec. to 7, to 8, to 9 sec. and so on, as the young Scots driver went on his immaculate way. Behind them and holding formation amongst themselves came McLaren, G. Hill, Gurney and Brabham, and on lap 26 Bonnier came in for a consultation as something was going wrong in the gearbox/final-drive unit. On the next lap the mythical Porsche reliability received another blow for Gurney’s clutch began to slip and Brabham passed him. Bonnier rejoined the race for one more lap and then retired with suspected trouble in the crown-wheel and pinion department, and on lap 28 Salvadori went by sounding odd, stopping at his pit next time round with a flat battery affecting the ignition and the fuel pumps. Gurney’s clutch slip was getting worse and he was nursing the car along, so that by lap 33 he had dropped right out of the running, but was still sixth though it was only a matter of time before Maggs would catch him. Salvadori had a new battery fitted and went out again, but there was a serious short somewhere for that too went flat and the Lola was withdrawn. Phil Hill had got in front of Ginther for a few laps and then dropped back again, and on lap 34 Clark lapped the Ferrari and on lap 35 he lapped the B.R.M.

At lap 37, which was as near as makes no odds half-distance, the race being over 75 laps, the order was Clark (Lotus), 14 sec. ahead of Surtees (Lola), then nearly half a minute behind came McLaren (Cooper), all three using Coventry-Climax V8 engines, then Graham Hill (B.R.M.) and Brabham (Lotus-Climax V8). The struggling Gurney was still sixth, followed by Maggs and Gregory, the rest having been lapped. Taylor was up to 11th place and Burgess was still leading the 4-cylinder cars and going as well as ever. Maggs eventually caught Gurney, as was inevitable, and so did Gregory, and on lap 44 Ginther’s B.R.M. died on him on the Railway Straight. His fuel pumps had stopped working and he poked around and found a broken wire which he was able to repair, and off he went again, but he had dropped from ninth to 14th place in the meantime. Clark had set up a new fastest lap 1min. 55.0 sec., but it was still a whole second off his April record, so he was obviously not extending himself, but even so he was still drawing away from the Lola and was steadily lapping everyone. By lap 46 only Surtees, McLaren, G. Hill and Brabham were on the same lap as the flying Scot, and on the next lap Phil Hill retired the Ferrari when the engine went rough due to faulty ignition on one distributor. All was now calm and peaceful and the race became one of endurance and reliability, with Clark lapping Taylor and towing him along to possible higher positions. Surtees had settled for a certain second place and eased off after lapping Maggs, so that the young Cooper V8 driver re-passed the Lola. Taylor overtook the unhappy Gurney, who nevertheless was keeping going, and Burgess threw away his commanding lead of the 4-cylinder runners when he had to stop for petrol, this letting Lewis into the lead. Settember was going well in the Emeryson, having a remarkable non-stop and trouble-free run, and he too passed Burgess while the Cooper Special was at the pits. Ireland was still limping round at the end of the field but retirements were few so his efforts were in vain. On lap 67 Clark lapped Brabham and steadily the race ran itself out, with Clark about to lap Graham Hill in the closing laps. However, Clark decided to be a gentleman and he eased up and let Hill remain on the same lap, but Taylor, who was all the time following Clark, thought differently and raced on, passing them both and thus being only one lap behind his team-mate instead of two.

So the British Grand Prix finished, a splendid victory for jimmy Clark and the Lotus 25, unchallenged from start to finish, but not at all what had been expected. Surtees finished a firm second in the Lola, which proved itself very raceworthy and a future winner given the right circumstances, and in third place was McLaren in the Cooper V8, having driven a typical sound and sure race, while Graham Hill came home fourth, the last to complete the full race distance. – D. S. J.

Aintree Airings

The start was given impeccably for the simple reason that it was given by a calm and confident time-keeper and not an excitable dignitary or notability.

If the drivers could have heard the running commentary going on over the loudspeaker system they would have died laughing; they all knew what was happening while the commentators were making some pretty wild guesses.

Full marks to Settember in the Emeryson for running the race non-stop; in the past they have been noted for early pit stops. Burgess and the Anglo-American Cooper Special have also been showing vastly improved reliability, which is good to see.

Funny how the commentators and all the pits were timing gaps to a tenth of a second and the official time-keepers were only timing to a fifth of a second. Something wrong somewhere.

Now that all the English teams are getting into their stride B.R.M. seem to have lost the initial advantage they had at the beginning of the season.

A note to note: The Italian G.P. has been put back to September 16th and the Oulton Park Gold Cup has been brought forward to September 1st, by mutual agreement among the organisers and the F.I.A.

The British Grand Prix in 1964 will be at Brands Hatch. At least we have been warned.

The saloon car race? Cor lumme? Jaguars or Tigers? Rapiers or Daggers? Exciting in a sordid kind of way.