A close thing
Silverstone, July 10th.
THIS year the R.A.C. sold the rights of the British Grand Prix to the British Racing Drivers’ Club and they enlisted the support of the Daily Express to organise the event at Silverstone. While the airfield circuit is not the best of places for a Grand Prix, it has a pleasant atmosphere and has been the scene of many British G.P. events in the past, as well as being the traditional home of British motor racing for many years now. The usual list of International cars and drivers was entered, together with some local private owners, and Thursday morning’s practice session of one and a half hours saw all but one of the entry out to test cars and drivers and chase good starting-grid positions, as well as the £100 prize for F.T.D. The missing entry was Hawkins with Stoop’s Lotus 33-Climax V8, due to it having been crashed while on test earlier in the week.
At long last Ferrari permitted Surtees to make use of the 12-cylinder Ferrari and Bandini had a V8, while the second V8 was spare for Suttees to use, if he wanted to. B.R.M. had the two cars used at Clermont-Ferrand and had built a third car to replace the one that crashed in France, this spare car being a 1964 car, actually the one Hill used at Monaco that year, fitted with the latest type of engine, gearbox, brakes and suspension. The only outward signs of recognition were the slots in the monocoque pontoons under the engine, where the old side exhaust pipes used to pass through. Neither Hill nor Stewart had much learning of the circuit to do, putting all their energies into recording fast laps. Clark and Spence had no spare Lotus available as the latest chassis was still awaiting its 32-valve Coventry-Climax engine, one of the camshafts having broken on that engine in practice for the French G.P.; they were using the two cars raced in France.
The Brabham team were also awaiting a 32-valve Climax engine, so that Gurney, Brabham and Hulme were all using 16-valve Climax engines in their cars, this team of three Brabhams being most impressive. Coopers also had three cars, but only two of them entered, for Mclaren and Rindt, the third one being experimental, having a Hewland gearbox fitted in place of Cooper’s own gearbox. Honda entered two cars but at the last moment withdrew the one for Bucknum, leaving Ginther with one car for the race and one as a spare. The Walker team had Bonnier and Siffert with their Brabhams as in previous races, and Tim Parnell entered his two Lotus-B.R.M.s with Attwood and Ireland as drivers, while Willment entered Gardner with their Brabham-B.R.M. V8 and Anderson had his Climax-engined Brabham. To complete the list, Gerard entered his Cooper-Climax for Rhodes and a Cooper with 1,500-c.c. Ford engine to which a F.2 Cosworth o.h.c. head had been fitted, which Rollinson was down to drive. Raby entered his own Brabham-B.R.M. V8 with himself and Amon as drivers, Gubby entered his Lotus 24-Climax V8, and Centro-Sud entered Gregory with an ex-works B.R.M., with another as spare.
Surtees drove the 12-cylinder and an 8-cylinder Ferrari, and was faster with the 12-cylinder, even though he had to work harder on the corners than with the V8 car. For a time he set the pace with fastest lap, but very soon Hill, Stewart and Clark began serious motoring and the Ferrari time became an also ran. Even so, Surtees improved on his lap record set last May, which was 1 min. 33 sc., but the incredible Clark got down to 1 min. 31.3 sec. in a Lotus 33 with 16-valve old-type Climax engine. Others who improved on the May lap record were Spence. Bandini and Hulme, while Ginther with the lone Honda equalled the record, and already the pace had become very hot, At the end of the afternoon there was a further hour of practice and though the track was dry the weather was very threatening, and there was a feeling that it would rain on the next day. In consequence everyone did their best to put in a fast lap and get the best position on the starting grid, the general feeling being that this last hour of Thursday would settle the starting grid. Graham Hill was really back on form after his French G.P. set-back and was setting the pace, but Clark was not giving in and they matched each other’s times, leaving everyone else a bit breathless, although Surtees was not far from them with the spare V8 Ferrari and Ginther was making a lot of people think, by getting the Honda round in 1 min. 31.6 sec. and leaving the Brabhams of Hulme and Jack Brabham was behind on one lap. With the top drivers scratching away so furiously the private owners were also getting a bit breathless, for the regulations called for them to lap within 5 sec. of the time of the third fast fastest competitor, and as this was Stewart with 1 min. 31.4 sec, they had to try really hard. Practice was nearly over, with Clark holding F.T.D., when Hill went out once more, with a mixture of Dunlop tyres on his B.R.M., having R6 on his front and R7 on the back. He had been cornering just about as the limit all day and had done an enormous number of laps, and just as practice finished he clocked 1 min. 31.0 sec., to beat Clark by one tenth of a second, win himself £100, and boost his morale by actually beating the unconquerable Jimmy Clark.
On Friday morning there were two and a half hours of practice and the threatened rain did not materialise, so everyone was able to continue the pace of the day before. Clark now had the latest Lotus 33 with 32-valve Climax engine, so that he and Spence now had a spare car. The pace was very fast and Ginther was going even faster with the Honda, the Japanese car running better than ever before and really singing on all 12 cylinders. Surtees made his fastest lap of all with the flat 12-cylinder Ferrari, while Bandini blew up the V8 he had been using and took over the spare car. Graham Hill could not repeat his remarkable time of the previous evening, but Clark and Stewart were still improving and the Lotus driver made full use of the 210 b.h.p. of the 32-valve Climax engine by being the only driver to break 1 min. 31 sec., with a rousing 1 min. 30.8 See. Ginther did 1 -min. 31.3 sec. with the Honda and this was equalled, but not beaten, by Stewart and Surtees. Other very fast times were put up by Spence. who was going very well, and Gurney, whose engine was not giving as much power as other Climax engines. Altogether eleven drivers got below the existing lap record of 1 min. 33.0 sec., these including both works Coopers, Rindt having done his by getting a “tow” in the slipstream of the 12-cylinder Ferrari for a number of laps. Clark and Hill are always expected in the front row of a starting grid and we are becoming used to Stewart joining them, but the appearance of Ginther and the Honda VI2 amongst them was very much a “cat among the pigeons.”
Saturday was race day and the weather was dull and overcast and everyone kept their fingers crossed that the rain would keep away. As is usual with B.R.D.C. meetings. the Grand Prix was fitted into a full day of miscellaneous racing and interesting demonstrations, and it was due to start at 2 p.m. After a morning of final preparation, during which time Gurney’s car was completed, having had a new 32-valve Climax engine installed, and a brief tryout on one of the runways convinced Gurney that he had a very competitive car and he looked forward to a good battle. Clark’s 32-valve Climax engine had adjustments made to the fuel injection and he also gave it a try-out on the runway. Twenty-one cars left the paddock for a warm-up lap and Surtees had elected to race the 12-cylinder Ferrari, while Bandini was using the second of the V8 cars. McLaren was using his 1965 Cooper with the Cooper gearbox, the spare car with the Hewland box being abandoned. Raby drove his own car instead of Amon, and Rhodes was allowed to start with Gerard’s Cooper-Climax V8 even though he was not within 5 sec. of Ginther’s time. When Gurney arrived at the end of his warm-up lap his new Climax engine had broken and immediately Jack Brabham gave him his car, electing to stand down from the race himself. There was no time to change numbers, so Gurney took his place on the grid with Brabham’s number 7 on the car, and the 32-valve-engined car was wheeled away.
The flag fell and it was a magnificent start, with the Lotus of Clark and Ginther’s Honda surging ahead of the others. As they went under the bridge at the end of the pits the Honda was about two lengths in front of the Lotus. They went into Copse corner side by side, with the Lotus being squeezed against the wall on the inside. The cheeky Ginther held his place and for once Clark did not get the lead on the first corner, and, in fact, it was not until Hangar straight that Clark got ahead of the Japanese car. Once in front he gave it all he had and finished the opening lap well in the lead, with his left-hand rear wheel on the grass out of Woodcote corner. He was trying all right and doing everything to pull out a lead, but there were a lot of determined drivers behind him. Hill and Surtees got by the Honda on the second lap and the B.R.M. driver was practically holding the leading Lotus, but Surtees could not keep up and Ginther began to worry him. Behind these four came Stewart, Spence, McLaren and Hulme having a close battle with Rindt, and Gurney following. Bonnier was leading the private owners and Bandini finished the second lap in a cloud of steam, having blown-up the V8 Ferrari engine. Attwood also stopped at the pits to have a misfire looked at and he took the ramp up onto the pits’ platform a bit too fast and cracked a water pipe, so that he lost a lot of time having repairs made. Graham Hill was doing his best to hold Clark, but yard by yard the Lotus was getting away, not building up a vast lead, but leading nevertheless. For once Hill did not have the support of his “Scottish apprentice,” for Stewart was finding his B.R.M. not handling perfectly, either due to tyres or circuit conditions, and he could only manage fifth position, but the pressure on Spence, McLaren and Hulme was causing all four of them to close up on Surtees and Ginther, these two having the sort of scrap that slows both cars, pushing and chopping each other into corners. Masten Gregory stopped for attention to the ignition system of the Centro Sud B.R.M. as it would not rev. over 10,000 r.p.m.
As laps went by the Honda started to lose power and slow down, so that Stewart and Spence passed it, and then Ginther stopped at the pits, his moment of glory over. For no very obvious reason the power was falling off, and though the plugs were changed and Ginther tried a few more laps, the Honda’s race was run, it having proved fast but not yet reliable as well. Gurney was having a bad time as Brabham’s car did not fit him, nor did it handle to his liking, and to keep the wind out of his mouth he had stuffed a handkerchief in it.
At 20 laps, which was quarter-distance, Clark and Hill had outdistanced everyone else, but the Lotus was firmly in the lead and all Hill could do was keep going and hope the Lotus might fail. Surtees was in third place with the 12-cylinder Ferrari, but was not too secure for behind him Stewart was being hard pushed by Spence, with the result that they were automatically gaining on the Ferrari. Hulme was holding a quiet and smooth sixth place ahead of McLaren, and Rindt came next, while poor Gurney was overtaken by Bonnier, and Siffert and Ireland were a rather having a rather untidy scrap. Gardner and Anderson were bringing up the rear, the rest having been lapped. On lap 24 Spence got by Stewart and at the same time Rindt spun at Beckett’s corner and dropped back behind Bonnier and Gurney, and Siffert disposed of Ireland. The leaders settled into routine lapping of the airfield circuit, Clark keeping up the pace and Hill beginning to ease off, but Spence and Stewart were worrying Surtees and threatening to take third place from him. Hulme suddenly retired when the belt drive to the alternator on his Climax engine broke and his battery gave out, and Anderson was dropping back behind the faster private-owners as his Hewland gearbox was playing up. Towards half-distance the race settled down into one of endurance, the only interest being that Spence was really worrying Suttees, and on lap 41 he got by into third place, Stewart dropping back-a bit from this pair. Hill had not given up, but he was still losing ground to Clark, who was driving as fast and as smoothly as ever, lapping the tail-enders and being not far off lapping Bonnier and Gurney.
Surtees only let Spence stay ahead for a lap before retrieving third place, but even so he could not get rid of the number two Lotus driver, who was performing very well. Stewart’s engine did not sound to be opening up as cleanly as it might and he could do nothing but hold a firm fifth place. McLaren was having gear-changing problems on his Cooper and after being passed by Bonnier and Gurney he stopped at the pits to see if anything could be done about it; there being nothing to do he rejoined the race having dropped to the back of the field of consistent runners. When Clark lapped Bonnier and Gurney on lap 50 the American took the opportunity of the disturbance to get in front of the Swedish driver, but neither of them could get a ” tow ” from the flying Scot. Hill was having trouble in lapping Rindt and when he finally got by, the Cooper driver made the most of the B.R.M.’s slipstream and hung on for a number of laps. Shortly after 50 laps Clark’s Climax engine began to develop a small misfire, which developed into a definite “ploppling” as if the fuel injection pump pressure was not the full 100 lb./sq. in. This did not affect his lap times unduly, but it encouraged the B.R.M. pit, who transmitted the information to Graham Hill. All eyes were on the slightly sick sounding Lotus and the very healthy sounding B.R.M,, but there was nearly half a lap distance between them. Slowly but surely the gap began to close and as the seconds diminished Graham Hill drove harder. Behind him Surtees had successfully got rid of Spence by doing some nipping in and out of slower cars while they were lapping the tail-enders, and on lap 63 Rindt’s engine broke and left him stranded out on the circuit. Clark had lapped all the cars he was going to lap, and the situation between the Lotus and the B.R.M. began to get tense, for in addition to the misfiring the Climax engine had been losing oil and the level in the tank was now so low that it was surging away from the feed pipe on corners. With a resultant loss of oil pressure, the crafty Clark was coasting round the corners and only using the power on the straights while he had pressure in the oil gauge. All the time Hill was driving harder and harder and the two of them were driving on pit signals giving them the gap in seconds as it diminished steadily. With ten laps still to go Clark was slowing visibly all round the circuit and the B.R.M. supporters were urging Hill on his way, while Lotus supporters were keeping their fingers crossed. In the last five laps Clark was looking anxiously in his rear-view mirrors and driving as hard as he dare, without risking blowing up the engine. As he started his last lap Hill had him in sight, and as the Lotus went into Copse corner Clark could see the B.R.M. in his mirrors, but he obviously had command of the situation for when he finished the 80th lap he was virtually still the same distance ahead of the B.R.M., which was officially 3.2 sec., or the length of the grandstand straight. It had been a very close thing and had Clark not driven with such determination in the first half of the race he may not have been able to nurse the Lotus to the finish ahead of Graham Hill, to record his fourth consecutive British Grand Prix victory, for the B.R.M. driver had got well and truly wound up in the race to the finish and had set a new lap record on the last lap.-D. S. J.
The day started with a 25-lap race for sports cars and clue to all the star drivers being in the Grand Prix, they could not take part with their Lolas, Lotus 30s and McLarens, so that the race was a runaway win for John Coundley in his McLaren-Elva-Oldsmobile. The race might have been more interesting had Bondurant got away at the start, in the Willment Lotus 30, but he could not get the engine to fire. It was push-started, which naturally resulted in exclusion, but Willments signalled to him press on and put some interest in the race, which he did by ‘finishing second, though he could not catch Coundley.
The saloon-car race produced nothing unusual and the Ford Mustangs led the works Cortinas, but it was a change to see Sir Gawaine Baillie have a win, while Sears and Whitmore organised a dead heat for third place. Inevitably a Mini provided the circus act by spinning at Stowe corner and making a hole in the wall on the inside of the bend.
To wind up the day there was a 20-lap Formula Three race which was won by Roy Pike, comfortably ahead of Gethin and Dean.