1963 French Grand Prix race report: Clark completes his hat-trick
Jim Clark dominates once again for Lotus despite nursing a sick engine for over half the race; Hill falls back to last at start but valiantly fights back to 3rd
This year the French Grand Prix returned to the Reims-Gueux circuit in the Champagne country, after a brief sojourn at Rouen. To say that the 49th French Grand Prix was a bit of a shambles would be putting it mildly. On some counts this was due to circumstances beyond the control of the Automobile Club du Champagne, on others it was directly their responsibility.
The whole meeting got away to a bad start by the FIA allowing it to be held on the weekend following the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, or, alternatively, the FIA made a mistake in allowing the Dutch to hold their Grande Epreuve one week before the French Grand Prix. Many years ago the FIA made a rule that there should be at least one clear weekend between Grande Epreuve events, and this was approved by everyone concerned.
Tradition at Reims has become that practice shall take place in the afternoons and evenings of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and that Saturday shall be a day clear of racing, during which the organisers and those not working shall indulge in gastronomic orgies. Normally this is a fine arrangement, but with the whole Grand Prix entry in Holland on the previous Sunday it would have been reasonable to cut out the gastronomic orgies and move practice back a day, to allow the teams to re-organise themselves after the Dutch race. One had the feeling that the Automobile Club du Champagne were not aware that there had been a Grande Epreuve held the previous Sunday.
The Grand Prix entry was a big one and almost everyone was due to attend, but at the last moment the ATS team withdrew their two cars. They had spent a day at Zandvoort, after the race, and improved the performance of their cars from the point of view of road-holding and handling, but were obviously lacking power compared to their rivals, and as the Reims circuit is one where power counts they wisely went back to Bologna to do some more work on the engines.
The BRM team had also spent some time at Zandvoort on the Monday after the race, testing the new car, doing experiments with the suspension and handling, and allowing Graham Hill to become fully accustomed to the different driving technique required for this new design. The results were encouraging enough for them to arrive at Reims with Hill entered on the new car, his old one being designated the T-car for Training.
Ginther had the same car he used in Holland, still with the new 6-speed gearbox, which had more than proved itself, and having three works cars, the early 1962 car was brought along for the Centro-Sud team and for Bandini to drive. The Brabham team were in fine form after their encouraging showing at Zandvoort, Brabham and Gurney using the two new cars unchanged, the leader’s having been repaired and both of them strengthened where necessary.
The Cooper team of McLaren and Maggs had their same two cars, with the nose apertures enlarged slightly, just in case this had been the cause of the overheating on Maggs’ car, although an internal water leak had been found on the engine. The two Ferraris of Surtees and Scarfiotti were as used in Holland, except that the engine hatch had been fitted with air scoops like ears that stuck out each side of the driver’s head. The inlet pipes had been surrounded by aluminium deflector plates so that all the air scooped in by the “ears” was forced down the intakes. The Ferrari technicians considered that the increase of power more than offset the aerodynamic drag of the scoops, but as that meant 14bhp more that is a matter of opinion.
Team Lotus arrived direct from Holland with their same three cars, apart from engine changes like everyone else, Clark having his same car, with ZF gearbox, Taylor having the car with Colotti gearbox, and the earlier car with carburetter engine being entered for Peter Arundell to drive. All three cars were Type 25 models with Coventry-Climax V8 engines, the first two being the latest fuel-injection short-stroke engines.
The Parnell family turned up in force, Reg with a Lotus-Climax V8 for Trintignant to drive, and the Lola-Climax V8 for Amon, and Tim Parnell brought his Lotus-BRM V8 with injection engine and Mark II Colotti 6-speed gearbox, for Masten Gregory to drive.
The BRP team were as in Holland, with Ireland in the stressed-skin BRP car and Hall in the Lotus-BRM V8, and the Swiss driver Siffert was ready once more with his Lotus-BRM V8. The Scirocco-Powell team entered two Scirocco-BRM V8 cars for Settember and Burgess, but only one was ready, this being for the former driver.
Team Walker had both their Coopers in full working order once again for Bonnier to choose from, and Mr Filipinetti had purchased a brand new Lotus 24 with injection BRM V8 engine and Mark II Colotti 6-speed gearbox which he entered for Phil Hill to drive. Originally this was intended for Scarfiotti, but Mr Ferrari snatched the Italian driver away to replace the injured Mairesse. Mr Filipinetti then arranged with Mr Billi of ATS to borrow Phil Hill, as the Bologna team had withdrawn, but meanwhile various people were arranging for Masten Gregory to drive this new car. When the muddle was sorted out it was Phil Hill who got the new car.
In addition to the Grand Prix there was also a race for Prototype GT cars, GT cars and Sports cars, and a race for Formula Junior cars, most of the entries for the latter race coming direct from the big Junior festival at Rouen the previous weekend, so that not only the Grand Prix competitors were pushed for time for maintenance and repairs. These two groups practised first in dull and overcast conditions, with occasional showers, and the conditions were so unlike the normal Reims weather that they did nothing towards assisting the atmosphere of the meeting.
The Scuderia Ferrari arrived with one of their Le Mans 250P rear-engined Prototype cars now fitted with a 4-litre V12 engine, so it was reasonable to refer to the car as the 330P, as distinct from the 330/LM which is the 4-litre coupé Ferrari. It was anticipated that this very fast 2-seater would be as fast as the Grand Prix cars, and may even approach the all-out circuit record which still stands to Jack Brabham with a 2 1/2-litre Cooper-Climax, set up in 1960 with a time of 2min 17.5sec, although in practice that year he had done 2min 16.8sec, which is the fastest lap ever achieved on the Reims circuit—a speed of 218.467mph (approx 135mph).
However, the first sign of the sort of shambles that was going to continue throughout the meeting was when the Ferrari was late in being prepared for practice, and when Mike Parkes finally took it out of the paddock to start practice, the period for Prototypes was over and the Juniors were about to begin their practice.
It was 6:30pm on Wednesday before the Grand Prix cars were due for practice and in spite of the shortage of time for preparation a surprising proportion of the entry was ready to go. The works teams of Cooper, Lotus, BRM and Ferrari were all set and began practice as soon as the circuit was free. Bonnier was also ready to go in Walker’s 1962 Cooper, his number being 44, and he set off as well. The time-keepers became confused for a moment when they recorded car number 44 with a lap time that gave a speed of over 400kph. It was then discovered that there was a Formula Junior competitor still circulating, left over from the last practice, and his number was also 44. The comedy continued. . . .
In the BRM pit there was no comedy, for Graham Hill had barely begun practice with the new car when the side electrode of one of the K.L.G. plugs fell out and got under a valve, ruining the seat and the head, which put paid to Hill’s practice.
“Team Lotus were in unusually good form and Clark was soon singing round the circuit”
Team Lotus were in unusually good form and Clark was soon singing round the circuit, setting the pace for practice, and it took him no time at all to get below the existing 1 1/2-litre lap record, which stood at 2min 24.0sec by Graham Hill with the BRM last year. Not content with this Clark even improved on his best practice time of last year, which was 2min 22.9sec, and settled for 2min 21.0sec, which was a good target for everyone to aim at.
McLaren had a recurrence of the gearbox selector-plate trouble that had put him out of the Zandvoort race, so that Maggs recorded the fastest Cooper time, and Siffert was making good progress and sitting alongside, just in front, or just behind, Bonnier with the ex-works Cooper for lap after lap, and the Swedish driver was going well, their times being in the 2min 26sec bracket.
Arundell had a brief try in the spare Team Lotus car, but the organisers were objecting to the entry as they had accepted him as the star of the Junior event, and FIA rules forbid a driver to take part in both races. The Ferrari team were playing about with “tuned” exhaust systems and ever increasing rpm, but even with Surtees doing his best the car was no danger to the Team Lotus cars, for their number two driver, Trevor Taylor, was going very well and had set second fastest time with 2min 23.7sec. Surtees tried both the Ferraris, and was actually quicker in Scarfiotti’s car!
Just before practice finished, the conditions being dry but not warm, the grand new Lotus-BRM V8 for Filipinetti arrived at the circuit and, just to see it it was all right before being officially handed over, Colin Chapman let his number one driver take it out. It was not right, and Clark did one slow lap and returned to the pits, the Team Lotus mechanics taking it away to have another go at finishing it.
Different people have different ideas on the Reims circuit, especially with a 1 1/2-litre Grand Prix car; there are those who say that driving does not enter into a fast lap, and that the car is all that counts. This would boil down to engine and engine tuning, for today all the top Grand Prix cars use Dunlop tyres, so all have the same cornering power available and they all reckon to be able to corner at the same speed, and as they all use proprietary disc brakes there should be no difference in braking. Engine power is all that counts, say these people.
But, in reply, there are those who ask why all Coventry-Climax V8-engined cars don’t record the same lap times, or why don’t all the BRM V8-engined cars dead-heat on lap times, and how can one explain Surtees and Scarfiotti recording very different times with the same car. The simple answer to all this, for those who believe that the young Scotsman is an outstanding driver, is Jim Clark.
Thursday was one of those days that even people living in Manchester would not want to know about. It rained, rained, and then rained again, and, just to make sure, it was still raining at 4pm when the Prototypes turned out for practice. Getting to the paddock, which is normally rock-hard grass-covered fields, involved some tricky downhill trials-driving on a sea of mud, and it was hard to believe that this was Reims where the heat is usually such that drivers lie prostrate for a long while after a race.
As practice the evening was a complete waste of time, except that the whole atmosphere of the French Grand Prix this year was such that anything could happen, even rain on race day, so that many of the entries decided they might as well learn about wet racing in case it was forced on them. This time the Ferrari team got the 330P ready in time and Parkes went round the circuit looking like a speed-boat, and returned the very creditable time of 2min 31.2sec, which would be good for some people in Grand Prix cars in the dry.
He was nearly 7sec faster than Jo Schlesser driving the works Aston Martin Prototype 4-litre, the 215 coupé that ran at Le Mans. Following the Prototype practice the Juniors splashed about in the rain, and once more at 6pm the Grand Prix cars turned out for practice, with the rain still drizzling down and the roads very wet. The Cooper team were there to watch, leaving their cars in the garage, and the Lotus works cars were not in evidence on the circuit, but then they hardly had reason to be after the previous day’s times.
The Brabham team had now arrived, as had the BRP team, and the Parnell family had all their cars present and out practising. Bonnier was still in the 1962 Cooper and Settember was out in the lone Scirocco-BRM, but Siffert did not practise and the new Filipinetti Lotus was not ready, nor was the BRM for Bandini.
Naturally enough, fast times were out of the question, with the rain still coming down, and it was Surtees who made the best practice lap in 2min 33.8sec, a mere 194.319kph average speed (approx 120mph). Slow by Reims standards, but imagine averaging that speed anywhere in the rain. Not long before practice was due to finish Scarfiotti was circulating quite quickly and regularly when he got into a slide on the fast curve on the top of the hill between Muizon and Thillois. The Ferrari left the road and wrote the front off and damaged Scarfiotti about the knees, as well as bruising him pretty badly.
On Friday there seemed a remote possibility that the real Reims weather might return and the evening practice session took place in dry conditions, but by no means warm weather. Parkes was able to demonstrate the potential of the 330P Ferrari and he set a fastest time in 2min 20.2sec, and practically everybody was able to have a serious go at setting fast times. Outstanding was Mike Beckwith with a Lotus 23 with twin-cam 1,600cc Lotus engine, who set a time of 2min 31.8sec, the little sports car doing over 150mph down the hill to Thillois.
The Formula Juniors had their last fling to record good times and gain a respectable place on the starting grid, and finally the Grand Prix cars turned out for their last practice, and everyone was present, except poor Scarfiotti, who was feeling a bit bent. Graham Hill had a new engine in the new BRM and was intent on making some good times with it, while Phil Hill was out trying to sort out the new Lotus-BRM V8.
Team Lotus were so satisfied with their first day’s practice, as well they might be, that they took time off to try and test one of their Juniors, but the organisers refused them permission to let Clark try the Junior in amongst the Grand Prix cars. Equally they were refused permission to allow Arundell to do any more practice in the spare Grand Prix car, although he did get in one lap before he was noticed, so just to confuse the issue completely Clark took the car out for a few laps and did a respectable 2min 24.0sec with it.
Masten Gregory had Mickey Thompson helping him to sort out the Parnell Lotus-BRM V8, and the Scirocco mechanics just failed to get their second car completed in time for this last practice, so Burgess was an enforced spectator. Brabham was busy trying to solve some fuel feed problems on his car, and Ireland just wanted lots more power in the back of the BRP car. Bonnier was out with the new Walker Cooper, with single-plane crank Climax engine, Gurney still using a similar power unit in his Brabham car.
Clark began to get in the groove again, with his own car, and in a few laps he improved on his previous 2min 21.0sec with 2min 20.8sec, following this with 2min 20.4sec, and finishing up with a rousing 2min 20.2sec. Exactly the same time as Parkes had set up with the Ferrari Prototype GT!
Graham Hill had the hydraulic cylinder of his clutch operation go wrong and the pedal stayed down as he came into Thillois, so he started the long push back to the pits in order to get the car repaired, and at the same time to go on practising with the spare car. Seeing this the BRM mechanics whipped Hill’s number 2 on the training car and took it down the pit area to meet him, while another mechanic went to help him with the stricken 1963 car.
Hill was soon back on the circuit with a healthy car, and meanwhile the clutch mechanism was repaired; later he came in again to change cars. The BRM team had other troubles for having brought the 1962 car along with two red stripes along it, for Bandini to drive, it refused to start, so there was some frantic work done on it behind the pits while Bandini tried to remain calm and collected, but he could see his chance of doing the regulation five laps disappearing.
Surtees with the long Ferrari was working away at getting it going faster, and Brabham and Gurney obviously meant business. Clark had been doing his fast laps with the “air draught” windscreen on his car, but before practice ended he tried the car with a normal windscreen fitted, the whole nose cowling being changed to effect this. He also tried 7.00-in. section tyres on the back in place of the 6.50″ ones, but the car just would not pull them and he had to revert to the smaller diameter tyres. Had they but known it this was significant of impending trouble that did not appear until during the race itself.
As practice neared its close there was no one near enough to Clark to worry him, he being one and a half seconds faster than Gurney, who was second. Determined to uphold his status of reigning World Champion driver, Graham Hill had not had his last word, and as the cool of the evening settled he got going faster and faster in the new BRM. Almost as practice finished he was down in the low 2min 21sec laps and ended up with a splendid 2min 20.9sec, so that only he and Clark were under 2min 21sec. It has been noticed before that these two drivers are out in a class of their own, as at Spa for example. While this last-minute excitement had been taking place Bandini’s car was got going and he did the bare minimum of practice, and qualified.
For those who had to prepare cars for the race the whole of Saturday was available, during which time the organising Club justified its title of Automobile Club of Champagne. Sunday was to be a full day, for the Prototype, GT and Sports Car race was due to take place in the morning, the Grand Prix immediately after lunch, and the Formula Junior race after that, so most people set out for the circuit bright and early, and for a change it was not raining, though the fields and paddock were still pretty soggy, even though the Club had spent a lot of money on laying sand and gravel everywhere and “grading” it into the mud.
On paper, the Prototype, GT and Sports Car race should have been interesting, with Parkes in the 330P Ferrari, Schlesser in the 4-litre Aston Martin Type 215, Simon in the 5-litre V8 Maserati with which he had led at Le Mans, Salvadori with Tommy Atkins’ very fast 2.7-litre Cooper-Monaco with Climax engine, Abate with Count Volpi’s 3-litre Testa Rossa front-engined Ferrari, numerous GTO Ferraris, including David Piper with a brand new one, and lots of little sports cars such as Lotus 23, Elva and Brabham.
As it turned out it was a bit of a farce, for the big Ferrari had its clutch go wrong as the flag fell and Simon spun off into the fields, taking Piper with him, though they both rejoined the race. Schlesser blew-up the works Aston Martin, Salvadori blew-up the Cooper, Simon blew-up the big Maserati, and one began to wonder if anyone was going to finish the 25 laps. Casner in his old Type 61 Maserati got into second place behind Abate with the old Testa Rossa Ferrari, and then the Maserati broke down, Gardner held second place for a while until the Brabham sports car broke down, and so it went on.
The 330 Ferrari had disappeared away from the start going very slowly with a slipping clutch, and Parkes managed to coax it round for most of a lap, but while the race was at its height he pushed the car up the straight from Thillois to the pits. This was in flagrant violation of F.I.A. rules, which forbid any cars to be pushed on the circuit, this rule being repeated in the Regulations for this race as well. In spite of this, Ferrari mechanics were allowed to repair the clutch and Parkes joined in the race, many laps in arrears and was still circulating at the end of the race and was credited with fastest lap. It was said that the Ferrari engine was running while he was out of the car, and that it was just dragging itself along in bottom gear with a slipping clutch, but nevertheless Parkes was using a great deal of energy and perspiring freely walking alongside it in a manner that looked as though he was supplying a lot of the motive power.
Meanwhile Abate drove a very quiet and cool race and romped home to win, with Protheroe, in his very neat Jaguar E-type with special coupé top, second, and Bianchi and Noblet battled for third place with their GTO Ferraris, the Belgian just beating the Frenchman.
While many people got headaches from sipping champagne, there being little else to drink, the Grand Prix field assembled in front of the pits and prepared for the big race of the day, the 49th Grand Prix of the Automobile Club de France. Graham Hill was giving the new stressed-skin BRM its first race outing, in spite of what the British Popular Press had said a week earlier; Ginther was on his 1962 car, with 1963 engine and gearbox; the two Brabhams were set and ready for battle, as were the works Coopers, McLaren’s selector trouble having been cured; the lone Ferrari was still wearing its “ears” to scoop air into the engine; Clark’s Lotus was fitted with the old type of windscreen, as there was the possibility of the Reims circuit breaking up on the hairpins and stones would have penetrated the air-barrier of the new type of screen; Taylor was still driving the car with the Colotti gearbox; and the third Lotus had been withdrawn.
Siffert’s mechanics were making a last-minute repair to the scuttle fuel tank of his Lotus and Bonnier’s mechanics were pouring Wondar Weld into the cooling system of the 1962 Cooper, which seemed a bit ominous. Everyone else was ready and before lining up on the grid some “familiarisation” laps were permitted.
The race was to be over 53 laps, a distance of 439.992 kilometres, so that fuel tanks were filled to the brim and some teams had spare cans of fuel ready in the pits in case their calculations proved wrong. Clark, Graham Hill and Gurney were on the front row, in Lotus, BRM and Brabham, respectively, using Coventry-Climax V8 Mark II with crossed-over exhaust system, BRM V8 engine and Coventry-Climax Mark IIA with flat-crank and separate exhaust systems to each bank, so perhaps it could be said that this was to be a race of engines.
Raymond Roche, the Director of the race, gave the signal for everyone but the drivers to clear the starting grid and for engines to be started, and then with less than a minute to go it was seen that Graham Hill, in the centre of the front row, had his arm raised. This indicated that his engine had not started, and by the rules he should have sat there while everyone dodged round him and then his mechanics could have pushed the car to the pits and made it go “on the starter,” and he could have rejoined the race.
However, Mr. Roche decided to make up his own rules on the spur of the moment and he instructed the BRM mechanics to push-start the new BRM, and then allowed them to wheel it back into its place in the centre of the front row. By now an air of confusion was mingling with the smoke and noise, so Roche dropped his flag and ran for the safety of the side of the track.
It so happened that all this time he had been holding a red flag, for reasons best known to himself, and it was with this that he started the 49th French Grand Prix, which meant that all but two of the field of 19 drivers broke one of the International flag-signals rules, for a red flag means to stop immediately and without question. The two who could not have been penalised were Masten Gregory and Phil Hill, for they had both stalled their engines. Having already modified the FIA rules considerably, Mr Roche allowed these two to be push-started and they chased off after the main bunch of runners, who were already being led by Jim Clark, although Gurney held him for a long way on acceleration.
“The view in Clark’s mirrors must have been most interesting, for there were eight cars in a solid bunch”
Clark only needed one lap to establish who was going to win the race, apart from unforeseen mechanical troubles, but the question of second place was another matter, for Gurney (Brabham), Hill (BRM), Brabham (Brabham), Ginther (BRM) and the rest passed so quickly that it was impossible to decide exactly in what order they went by, and even if one could the order had changed by the time it had been written down.
Almost unbelievably Jim Clark had pulled out a 4sec lead over the rest after only two laps, and he did his second lap in 2min 21.9sec, on new tyres and with full tanks of petrol. On the third lap the field broke up into groups, the group fighting for second place being particularly fierce, in the order Ginther, Gurney, Brabham, Surtees, McLaren, Taylor, Graham Hill and Maggs, and after that came Ireland leading the rest of the runners, with the two late starters bringing up the rear. The view in Clark’s mirrors must have been most interesting, for there were eight cars in a solid bunch, any one of which could be leading the group, and at times there were three of them abreast.
Unfortunately, this excitement for second position was not to last and Ginther was the first to drop out, with a stone through his radiator, and three laps later Gurney dropped out of the running and came into the pits with his gear-lever broken off, and Graham Hill and Maggs were showing signs of falling back, unable to maintain the pace. Gurney had a new gear-lever fitted to the Brabham and rejoined the race just as Clark went by on the next lap, so the American took up position again almost where he had left off, but one lap in arrears. Clark just went on and on, his lead after ten laps being 15sec, and Surtees had taken command of the second group, but not for long as his fuel pump packed up and he coasted into the pits, to rejoin the race later but right out of the running, only to expire completely out on the circuit.
Clark set another fastest lap, in 2min 21.6sec on lap 12, but soon after this his engine began to sound a bit off colour and he was aware that he was not getting the rpm that he should have had. Also Taylor’s Lotus was beginning to blow smoke out of the back, as if he had an oil leak onto an exhaust pipe, so that Brabham was firmly in second place and all serious dicing seemed to be over.
On the road Brabham and Gurney were now running together, but a lap apart, and they began to help each other along by slip streaming, but it was not working out well as their engines had different characteristics and what they gained on the straights they were losing on acceleration, so that they were in fact lapping fractionally slower than if they had been on their own. This was fortunate for Clark, whose engine would no longer pull peak revs, and his lead had dropped to 12sec.
It was also good for Taylor who was closing up on the two Brabhams, so much so that Jack had to leave Gurney and motor off on his own, before he was caught by the Lotus driver. A very worried Clark was anxiously watching his lead disappear, and trying all he knew to keep his lap speeds up. After a time of experimenting he found that his lap times improved if he changed gear at 8,000rpm instead of 9,200-9,500rpm, for at the lower figure the engine was still pulling well but was tailing off at the top end. Once he sorted out a routine for getting the best out of his sick engine he began to pull away from Brabham once more.
All this while the pits had been a busy scene, with Bonnier in and out with the Walker Cooper lap after lap, and Phil Hill being in with the new Lotus-BRM, also Jim Hall with the BRP Lotus-BRM, while the Scirocco-BRM had stopped out on the circuit with a rear-wheel bearing broken up.
At half-distance Clark was holding a 15sec lead, but was not at all happy about the sound or feel of his engine and was expecting it to blow up at any time. Taylor was supporting him well and was now alongside Brabham and about to take second place, while McLaren had settled for fourth position, followed some distance back by Graham Hill in the new BRM, who had Maggs sitting in his wake all the time.
“By the end of lap 30 a slight drizzling rain had begun to fall, and this was to Clark’s advantage”
In seventh place came Siffert, his Lotus-BRM going splendidly, and he had not yet been lapped by the flying Clark, and was comfortably leading all the rest of the runners, including Bandini (BRM), Amon (Lola-Climax V8) and Trintignant (Lotus-Climax V8), who were locked in a very close battle, with only a few feet separating them. A pit-stop with gearbox trouble had dropped Ireland right out of the running with the BRP car and he was circulating without the use of 1st and 2nd gears.
By the end of lap 30 a slight drizzling rain had begun to fall, and this was to Clark’s advantage, for everyone slowed down a bit, whereas he considered he was already slowed down, struggling along with his sick engine, so his lead began to increase rapidly. At the same time Taylor began to slow down more than was necessary, not due to the oil leak as it might appear, but due to the fact that his alternator was not charging and his battery was running down, and his ignition was failing. A new battery was fitted and he rejoined the race, but he was now well back among the tail-enders.
McLaren was also suffering from a loss of power and Graham Hill and Maggs caught him up. By lap 37 the rain was coming down steadily and no-one was very happy, though Clark was now 27sec ahead of Brabham, but unable to believe that his engine would last out to the finish, but while it still ran he kept working away and maintained his lead. Trintignant had dropped out of his trio to report that his foot was getting burnt by the heat in the cockpit, and Bandini stopped with an electrical fault that was affecting his battery, so another one was fitted and he rejoined the race.
At 40 laps Clark had 20sec lead over Brabham, who in turn was well ahead of Graham Hill and McLaren who were close together vying for third place, and Maggs was some way behind them. Everyone else had been lapped by the leader, and Gurney was leading Siffert, the Swiss still making a steady and regular non-stop run. While the race had been going on the Stewards had been discussing the shambles that had taken place at the start, and had decided that the three cars that were pushed started should all be penalised one minute.
This seemed a very lenient “let-off” for infringement of an FIA rule, and the three pits concerned were informed of the decision, the other teams only finding out by means of the “grape-vine.” This was of particular interest to Coopers, for it meant that there was no need for McLaren to race against Graham Hill any more, and providing Maggs kept the BRM in sight, the two Coopers were assured of third and fourth places.
While this was being discussed by everybody, Brabham suddenly came to rest with a dead engine at Muizon, and it took him some time to discover the electrical lead that had come adrift, so that when he restarted he was down in sixth place, a lap behind Clark, and his certain second place was gone. This left the new BRM in second position on the road but actually behind the two Coopers after the minute penalisation had been subtracted.
Two laps after this had happened, McLaren failed to appear on time and it was reported that he had stopped, but had got going again for a short distance, only to stop for good. His gradual loss of power had become total as the transistor box of his Lucas ignition had given up the ghost. As it cooled off it had given a few more sparks and then given up again, so McLaren was out on lap 43, with only ten laps to the finish.
Thankfully the rain stopped and a rather weak sun did its best to shine, but Clark was firmly in the lead and providing his engine kept going, no matter how sick it was, he could not fail to win. In the final laps he slowed down so that Brabham and Gurney “un-lapped” themselves. Graham Hill was behind him on the road, but in fact it was Maggs who was second in reality, with Hill third, except that Brabham was going as well as ever once more and had passed Gurney to take fourth place, and was gaining rapidly on Hill and Maggs.
“Clark was firmly in the lead and providing his engine kept going, no matter how sick it was, he could not fail to win”
With only five laps to go the new BRM began to suffer from clutch slip, which slowed it considerably, and it was clear that Maggs would catch it and take second place on the road as well as on the artificial handicap, but more important was that the gap between the lame BRM and the healthy Brabham-Climax V8 was closing all the more rapidly.
On lap 52 Maggs passed the slowing BRM, which put the handicap in order, and Mr Roche gave Clark the chequered flag long after he had crossed the finishing line, just to conclude a race of comedies, but for those who were still following the race closely the time between the arrival of Graham Hill and Brabham was all important. It was just 1min 1.3sec, so that the BRM won third place by 1.3sec after the 1min penalisation had been deducted.
It was it very thankful Jim Clark who completed his slowing-down lap, and a jubilant Team Lotus who greeted him, for this was his third big victory in a row. The Belgian Grand Prix, the Dutch Grand Prix, and now the French Grand Prix, and he had led all three races from the first corner to the finishing line. This one had appeared easy, but in fact it was one of his most arduous races, for he had had to work hard to get the most out of his ailing engine, without stressing it too much and breaking it completely.
- The first eight places in the Grand Prix were filled by a Scotsman, Southern Rhodesian, Englishman, Australian, American, Swiss, New Zealander and Frenchman. A truly International result; and the first four cars, Lotus, Cooper, BRM and Brabham.
- Of the nineteen starters only five ran the race non-stop. These were Clark, Maggs, Graham Hill, Siffert and Amon.
- After the race Colin Chapman and Jim Clark visited the Press stand to talk to the daily paper reporters, and ensure that Monday morning stories were right! A gesture much appreciated.
- The organisers refused de Beaufort an entry first because they said he was too slow, then because his car was a 4-cylinder, and finally because it was a German car! In spite of his offer to start for no starting-money.
- Joseph Siffert and his mechanics deserve a word of praise for completing two Grande Epreuves in succession without a single stop, finishing seventh at Zandvoort and sixth at Reims. A truly private-owner competitor, who actually owns his own racing car.
- Last year, before the 1962 Belgian GP, I said that whoever wins at Spa is a true Grand Prix driver. It was won by J Clark; seems I was right.
- Next year the French Grand Prix is to return to Rouen-les-Essarts, organised by the AC du Normandie. Can I hear faint cheering?
- Reims has always been known for its inability to spell, for years they wrote Stirling Moos. This year there were Yonny Settembert, Dan Garney, Nnes Ireland, Bruce MVLaren, Richar Attowgod, Richie Winter, and, best of all, Sciwao-BRM—no prizes offered.