1963 British Grand Prix race report - Clark (Lotus-Climax) uncatchable

Clark (Lotus-Climax) uncatchable

Silverstone, July 20th

Amidst a veritable feast of racing and circus stunts, that went on for a long and full day, the B.R.D.C. were able to organise the British Grand Prix that ranked as a Grande Epreuve, and they offered some 115,000 spectators more than their money’s worth. With two and a half weeks since the last Formula One race the Grand Prix teams not only had plenty of time to prepare their cars, but also time to put in some serious track testing, with the result that nearly the whole entry was ready to start practice when the first session opened on Thursday at midday.

The B.R.M. team-drivers Hill and Ginther were both using the old-type cars, with 1962 chassis, 1963 engine and 1963 gearboxes with 6 speeds, the new stressed-skin car not being sufficiently developed to be competitive on the Silverstone airfield. Both cars had orange bands around the radiator air intakes, for recognition purposes, and the colour also matched the overalls worn by the team mechanics this season. A third B.R.M. was being run by the factory for the Centro-Sud team and driven by Bandini, this being the 1962 car he drove at Reims, now painted completely red once more, as it had been at Silverstone in May. Although the car was ready it missed the first practice as Bandini had not arrived.

Team Lotus had Clark and Taylor in Lotus 25 cars, both with Coventry-Climax V8 engines, Clark using fuel-injection and Taylor an early engine on carburetters, while they both had ZF gearboxes. The Cooper team were as usual, with McLaren and Maggs, and the Brabham team were as raced at Reims, with Brabham in one car and Gurney in the second car, Scuderia Ferrari had only one entry with John Surtees as driver, but they brought along two cars, both to the regular prescription of V6 engine with Bosch high-pressure fuel-injection, 6-speed gearbox between engine and final drive, and inboard rear brakes. The “ears” used at Reims to scoop air into the engine intakes had been done away with and replaced by a new arrangement of wire-mesh cage over the trumpets, the aluminium shield between the cylinder heads and the trumpets being retained.

There was talk of one of the cars being a special “sprint car” for Surtees to use in order to get a good grid position, the other car being kept for the race, but nobody could offer any sound explanations of how the car had been made so “special.” As Grand Prix races today are “sprint” events anyway I really don’t see what could have been done to the engine to produce anything extra special, and practice times for Surtees subsequently showed that there was not much to choose between the cars. What was very obvious was that there was a perfectly good and race-worthy Ferrari going begging, and no-one to drive it, and while the Ferrari team-manager did not say as much he made it very obvious that he would have liked Phil Hill to drive it, for once again the A.T.S. team did not arrive and the American was standing around the paddock with nothing to drive. The A.T.S. cars had been all set to fly to England when a mechanical disaster took place in final testing and they had to be withdrawn at the last moment.

The B.R.P. team had done a lot of work on their stressed-skin car, altering the geometry of the rear suspension, with new radius arm mountings, fitting a new type of front spring, modifying the fuel tanks, and making a body top and cockpit screen much narrower and smoother. Ireland was to drive this car and Hall had his usual Lotus-B.R.M. V8. Bonnier was entered on Rob Walker’s 1963 Cooper-Climax, with single-plane crank Climax engine and 6-speed Colotti gearbox, and they had the old 1962 car as a spare. In the paddock but not out for the first practice period were two Scirocco-B.R.M. V8 cars, the blue-and-white English-built cars of American Hugh Powell, the original car, with fuel-injection B.R.M. engine being driven by Settember, and the brand-new car with carburetter B.R.M. engine being driven by Burgess. This latter car was similar in design to the original one, but the chassis frame had been made narrower, and newly designed solid-disc elektron wheels were used.

The Parnell family of Reg and Tim were out in force with four entries, a Lola with new flat-crank Climax V8 on injection for Chris Amon, a Lotus 24 with Climax V8 on carburetters for motorcyclist Mike Hailwood, a Lotus-B.R.M. V8 with injection for Masten Gregory and a Lola with early Climax V8 engine for Campbell-Jones, all four having Colotti gearboxes. For the first practice only Amon and Hailwood were out, the motorcycle rider having had an initial try-out earlier in the week on a Lola, on which he had been entered, but now being switched to a Lotus. Another Lola-Climax V8 was in the hands of Bob Anderson, who had completely rebuilt the car since his victory at Rome earlier in the season and had done a lot of careful preparation for this race with the aim of being first private-owner at the finish.

The Dutchman de Beaufort was running his old 4-cylinder Porsche, having to stick to it as nobody sells cars big enough for him to get into. The Swiss driver Siffert was making a welcome appearance at Silverstone with his nicely prepared and very personal Lotus-B.R.M. V8, and Ian Raby was due to arrive with the Gilby-B.R.M. V8. To complete the entry list there was that well-known non-starter the 8-cylinder de Tomaso, although the designer-builder was in the paddock waiting for the car to arrive, which it failed to do.

The all-out lap record for the Silverstone circuit stands to Ireland with a 2 1/2-litre Lotus-Climax in 1 min. 34.2 sec., and he also holds the fastest lap by a 1 1/2-litre Grand Prix car with 1 min. 35.4 sec., so that by standards of other circuits a figure of 1 min. 34.0 sec. should have been the aim, but 1 min. 35.0 sec. seemed as if it was going to have to do for the current Grand Prix cars. Both Graham Hill and Brabham were in fine form and dominated the first practice period, ending with an equal time of 1 min. 36.0 sec., while Clark spent a lot of time in the pits after a water pipe gave trouble and let all the water out in a cloud of spray. By the time a repair had been made and the water mopped up, the engine then got over-rich and refused to start and then practice was over.

Both Jim Hall and Bonnier seemed to have found a new lease of life and were pressing on to good effect, making equal second best time overall in 1 min. 38.0 sec., although Surtees had improved on this with the spare Ferrari in 1 min. 37.4 sec., but as it was a training car it did not count. Ireland was not at all happy with the B.R.P. car, the chassis tuning seemingly having “improved it worse,” and it was steering like a camel. For the rest of the runners the pace was not very exciting and the first session ended on rather a quiet note.

At the end of the afternoon, after there had been practice for saloon cars, sports cars, G.T. cars and Juniors, the Grand Prix cars appeared for a further hour of practice and this time Gregory and Bandini joined in, as well as the two Sciroccos, which made some quiet laps to feel their way round. Clark really got into his stride this time, using the same car with its “air-stream” windscreen, and having a wide yellow stripe down the centre of its green body, and set the pace with a lap in 1 min. 34.4 sec. which was a sign of progress. Graham Hill, as usual, was not far behind and his best was 1 min. 35.4 sec. and the two Cooper boys went round together, with McLaren leading the way and did 1 min. 35.6 sec. and 1 min. 38.0 sec., respectively. Some indication of what was to come was shown by Gurney who got into the swing of things with a lap in 1 min. 35.8 sec. in his Brabham, a time equalled by Surtees with his Ferrari. Hall and Bonnier were still cracking along, going surprisingly well, until the B.R.M. engine in Hall’s Lotus broke a tappet-pot.

While Clark had gone outstandingly fast, being a whole second faster than his nearest rival, the general tempo of practice had not speeded up as much as one would have expected, and everyone went away to work on the cars ready for the last practice period, this taking place on Friday morning for 1 1/2 hours. Being the last opportunity to make a good qualifying lap for grid positions, most people got into their true stride and the pace quickened up to something approaching Grande Epreuve standards.

Taylor had a new Team Lotus car for this period, it being the Type 25 with the 6-speed Colotti gearbox, and had been fitted with the “air-stream” windscreen, but the Lotus gearbox specialists had slipped up on the assembly of the gearbox and Taylor spent a lot of time standing around while the internals of the box were removed and put together properly. It was assembly trouble which plagued Clark earlier this season with the ZF gearboxes, but this trouble seems now to be a thing of the past and the Scotsman was busy putting in some very regular fast laps, as neat and tidy as ever and the fastest for a long time, though two-tenths of a second slower than his previous best. Ireland was still having a bad time with the B.R.P. car, for though the handling had been improved the B.R.M. engine blew-up before he could get into the groove.

It was not long before it became very obvious who was going to do the serious motor racing in the British Grand Prix, and a lap time battle commenced that was quite like old times. Surtees got second place with a lap in 1 min. 35.2 sec., but Hill soon fixed this with one in 1 min. 34.8 sec., and then the Brabhams began to stir things up with Gurney doing 1 min. 34.6 sec. to equal Clark’s time of this last period, and Brabham did 1 min. 35.0 sec. dead. This little lap dice went on between Gurney, Brabham, Hill and Surtees, with McLaren not far away with a lap in 1 min. 35.4 sec. It was a pity that Ireland could not join in this dice with the B.R.P. car, for he would undoubtedly have stirred things up, but having broken the engine he reverted to his old Lotus-B.R.M. V8 but it was not on form and he was not in the running with it.

The Parnell family were shuffling about with their Lolas, Lotus, and drivers, and Amon was going quite well in his own Lola, although he tried the other cars as well. With the Formula Junior lap record at Silverstone standing at 1 min. 40.2 sec. to David Hobbs with a Lola-Ford, it was reasonable to expect any self-respecting Grand Prix driver with a 1 1/2-litre V8 engine to get well under 1 min. 40.0 sec., and the accompanying list of best practice times will show clearly who I consider are not self-respecting. The battle among the top drivers settled itself by the end of practice with Clark (Lotus-Climax), Hill (B.R.M.) and Brabham and Gurney with the two Brabham-Climax cars on the front row, these four and Surtees having improved on the fastest lap set by Ireland last May, while McLaren equalled it. An impressively good time was the 1 min. 36.0 sec. set up by Bandini with the red B.R.M., this equalling the best that Ginther could do with the works car, though it seemed that perhaps the works driver had a poor engine, for it broke a tappet before practice was half-way through.

From 10.30 a.m. on Saturday July 20th the Silverstone airfield was packed to capacity and the impeccable B.R.D.C. organisation laid on a programme of events, of which any one alone would have taxed the resources of a lot of organisations. Just before 2 p.m. the Grand Prix cars set off for a lap of reconnaissance before assembling on the starting grid and 23 cars were ready to go, but when the time came to clear the grid of mechanics, officials, photographers and layabouts only 22 cars were ready to go, for Maggs could not get the engine of his works Cooper to start and he raised his hand in despair and hoped everyone would dodge him when the flag fell.

It was a fine start and after the oil and rubber smoke had cleared, the Cooper mechanics pushed the stricken Cooper to the pits and set to work on it in accordance with F.I.A. regulations. The first lap was a stirring sight for the anti-Lotus and B.R.M. clan, for Brabham and Gurney were in the first two places, with McLaren third, and Hill and Clark fourth and fifth. However, on the second lap Clark moved smartly through into third place, then into second place on the third lap and by the end of lap four he was not only in the lead, but very comfortably in the lead, so that one began to wonder what everyone was up to. On the third lap Maggs had screamed away from the pits, his Cooper-Climax in good order once again after a change of plugs, and on lap four the first pitstop had been made by the inevitable Campbell-Jones.

By this time the overall race had split itself up into three factions, the first being Clark drawing away from a tight bunch of cars racing for second place, these being the two Brabhams, McLaren (Cooper), Hill (B.R.M.) and Surtees (Ferrari). The second group comprised Taylor (Lotus), Bonnier (Cooper), Ireland (B.R.P.), Ginther (B.R.M.), Hall (Lotus), Bandini (B.R.M.) and Amon (Lola) and this lot looked all set for a really interesting battle. The third group was obviously the private-owners and assortments and was being led very ably by Anderson with his privately-owned Lola.

Already the incredible Clark was pulling out half a second a lap over the bunch racing for second place, and on lap seven McLaren disappeared from amongst them when his engine broke down near Chapel curve. Ireland had got away from the second group and was showing signs of catching up with the leaders, and then Taylor went into the pits with his electric fuel-pump not working. By 10 laps Clark had an impressive 6 sec. lead over Brabham, who had Gurney, Hill and Surtees right on his tail, these being very evenly matched, and further back Bonnier, Ginther and Bandini were showing signs of getting a bit rough with one another so that a very good race was developing between them. Amon was sitting just behind them watching it all and no doubt learning a great deal, and Hall had dropped back a bit, even though he had a 1963 works B.R.M. engine in his Lotus. The three motorcyclists, Siffert, Anderson and Hailwood were mixing it in together in a nice neat and tidy fashion, and right at the back Maggs was driving fast to make up for his lost laps at the start.

Clearly no-one was going to catch the flying Clark, and everything was going to depend on the reliability of the Lotus, but behind him Gurney had moved up into second place, and for two laps Surtees got his Ferrari in front of Graham Hill’s B.R.M. but Ireland failed to catch up with them as his B.R.P. developed ignition trouble and he had to call at the pits, where Gregory (Lotus-B.R.M.), Settember (Scirocco) and Raby (Gilby-B.R.M.) had already been in and out for various troubles. Clark was now lapping the tail end of the field and the two Brabhams were getting away from the Hill/Surtees pair who were remaining very close together. Siffert and Hailwood were in close company, and were leaving Anderson, and the young M.V. works rider was going nicely in his first Formula One race, driving steadily and sensibly. The Bandini/Ginther/Bonnier trio were still hard at it, the young Italian putting up a good fight against two much more experienced Grand Prix drivers, and for a long time he was leading them. Maggs was making up ground on the tail enders, though still two laps down and he caught and passed Hall, whereupon the Texan tucked in behind the works Cooper and stayed with it, even though it was two laps behind him, for it meant that his lap times were improved.

Taylor had rejoined the race when Clark was on his 19th lap, having had his fuel pump changed, and Ireland joined in again later, but his engine still sounded very rough. One Coventry-Climax-engined car had gone out when McLaren retired his works Cooper, and on lap 29 Gurney came round on his own, Brabham’s Climax-engine having blown-up, so that at 30 laps the order was Clark (Lotus), 14 sec. ahead of Gurney (Brabham), and Hill (B.R.M.) and Surtees (Ferrari) now some way back but still vying for third place. After quite a long pause came Bandini and Ginther with Bonnier between them, the Cooper being the meat in a B.R.M. sandwich, but the situation was still changing amongst these three.

Amon had dropped back from them and was on his own in eighth place, well ahead of Hall in ninth place. The rest had been lapped by Clark and the race as such was virtually over, for the Lotus driver was beginning to ease off already, though he was having to concentrate all the time due to running on smaller section rear tyres than the Lotus normally uses. This had been done just before the start in order to drop the gear ratio slightly, and improve acceleration out of the corners, but the track was very oily and slippery having had so much racing on it before the Grand Prix began, that Clark was suffering from the slightly reduced cornering power of the rear end. Nevertheless, he was having no trouble in increasing his lead over the second man, and by lap 35, which was not yet half way, he had a lead of 15 sec. Gurney was 12 sec. ahead of the B.R.M./Ferrari duel which was still going on, and 60 sec. later came Ginther, a bare length ahead of Bandini and Bonnier, while Amon had dropped quite a long way back and was about to be lapped by Clark. The second Team Lotus car was having a bad time, Taylor being back in the pits for attention to his gear-change, and Ireland was also back in the pits, while the two Sciroccos were spending more time at their pits than on the circuit. Shortly after this Ireland rejoined the race but was immediately disqualified as the B.R.P. mechanics push-started the car, and not long afterwards Taylor was excluded for his mechanics making the same mistake.

Bandini’s excellent drive had an interruption on lap 42 when his gear-change mounting broke as he was changing-down for Stowe and, getting neutral instead of a gear, he executed an all-mighty spin which he caught and then motored on, but this let Ginther and Bonnier get well away. It also caused him to lose sufficient time for Clark to lap him, but he carried on, handicapped by having to be very careful how he changed gear. At 41 laps, which was half-distance, the race being over 82 laps to ensure a total running time of more than the regulation two hours, Clark had 16 1/2 sec. lead, and in spite of easing off he was increasing his lead all the time. When Gurney, Hill and Surtees began lapping the tail-enders, and the traffic was quite thick and crowded for a lap or two, it was noticeable how Maggs took the opportunity to shake off the less-experienced Hall, and Siffert shook off new-boy Hailwood.

From this point onwards the whole race tailed off and there was not a great deal of interest, but still Clark went on his way, as calm and smooth as ever, never putting a wheel wrong, even though he was sliding about on the slippery track quite badly. He had lapped everyone except Gurney, Hill and Surtees, and the B.R.M. and Ferrari were still changing places now and then, vying for third place, but in a rather mediocre fashion compared to the leading Lotus. At 55 laps Clark was a comfortable 17 sec. ahead of Gurney, the Brabham in turn bring 28 sec. in front of the B.R.M. and Ferrari, but five laps later Gurney’s Coventry-Climax engine virtually burst asunder at Stowe and he spread a lot of oil across the track as he pulled off the circuit, but the situation was swiftly dealt with by the white-coated marshals. This left Clark 50 sec. ahead of the second man, that looked as though it was going to be Hill, as he was holding a 1-sec. lead over Surtees pretty consistently by now. Bandini was doing his best to make up for the time lost in his spin, and Anderson went into the pits on lap 62 with bad cramp in his right foot. He had raised the position of the driving seat during his rebuilding, which had in turn altered the position of his legs, and he had not realised that this was causing his right calf to bang up and down on the floor-mounted battery, this continual knocking eventually giving him cramp in his foot so that he could no longer press effectively on the brake pedal. After dousing his foot in cold water, and massaging, he was able to rejoin the race, but the stop had dropped him from 11th place to 13th.

Just as it seemed as if nothing more was going to happen, three things occurred: Bonnier noticed all his oil pressure disappear from the gauge and he pulled off the circuit before a rod came out of the side of the Climax engine in his Cooper; Amon made a quick stop at his pit to take on a couple of gallons of fuel, and Siffert went by trying to find a gear. A ball-race had broken up in the box and the bits had dropped amongst the gears, causing havoc, and the Swiss driver coasted to a stop, losing his well-earned eighth place. Maggs was now well amongst the tail-enders, having made up three laps on them after a very fast and consistent drive, and he passed Hailwood to take over eighth place.

With the end in sight, and being very comfortably ahead of Graham Hill, the leader began to prepare for the final stages of the race. Knowing that it was a long race, and having had a nonsense before the start when one of the rubber fuel tanks got a kink in it when being filled, and called for much fiddling to get enough petrol in, Clark concentrated on conserving as much fuel as possible. He did this by circulating in top gear as the race drew to a close, and running on the sort of throttle opening that would have done credit to the Mobilgas Economy Run. In spite of this his lead did not dwindle very much and at 75 laps he was still a comfortable 35 sec. ahead of Hill, which meant that he was approaching Stowe corner as Hill was rounding Woodcote corner by the pits. His lap times were down to Formula Junior standards, and he reeled off the final laps at a comparatively leisurely pace, although leisurely for Clark is a racing speed for some drivers.

As the green Lotus, with its wide yellow stripe, came down to Woodcote to receive the chequered flag there was excitement on the other side of the circuit for Hill’s B.R.M. suddenly coughed and died and Surtees gained on him rapidly. The B.R.M. was running out of fuel, and the unhappy Hill was coaxing it along as best he could, but the Ferrari went by into second place, and Hill coasted over the line with a dead engine, into third place. When Clark finished his slowing-down lap he disappeared towards the paddock, to the consternation of the officials and photographers waiting at the finishing line, but it was all part of a well-prepared plan, for a few seconds later a farm tractor appeared towing a 4-wheeled trailer on top of which sat the victorious Lotus and a happy smiling Jimmy Clark. Meanwhile a Scottish soldier was playing “Scotland the Brave” on the bagpipes, and he mounted the trailer along with a jubilant Colin Chapman, and instead of everyone standing to the sound of “God Save the Queen” the victor was welcomed with a fine display of Scottish Nationalism, which just showed that old-established racial problems still exist in the British Isles. With four Grande Epreuve victories in a row, following that never-to-be-forgotten second place at Indianapolis, Jimmy Clark had every right to enjoy the sight of a huge throng paying homage to a magnificent Scot as the tractor and trailer made a lap of honour of the circuit, bearing its precious load.—D. S. J.

Silverstone slides

In the whole 82 laps of the Grand Prix there was only one wild spin, and nobody crashed. In the three other races there was a veritable massacre, which must prove something or other.


When Surtees passed the B.R.M. with its empty fuel tanks he must have felt it had been worthwhile staying up half the night before the race welding up a reserve 3-gallon fuel tank, which he got the Ferrari mechanics to fit just in case.


A meeting such as that organised by the B.R.D.C. makes one realise what a lot of people race cars, but how few racing drivers there are.


It was nice to see Bandini with a car worthy of his ability, and he had Ginther worried for a long time.


115,000 paying customers at how much per head? No wonder organisers can’t make any money out of motor racing, those nasty Grand Prix drivers take it all!