This year it was the turn of the Monaco Grand Prix to be called the Grand Prix of Europe, but more important it was the first Grande Epreuve of the 1963 season. This was unfortunate in some ways because it did not encourage anyone with a new design to try it out, the accident hazard on the street circuit being rather formidable. However, some new designs were entered but none of them arrived, so the field was composed of cars already seen in racing.
By reason of a length of only 3.145 kilometres, the Monaco circuit is only permitted 16 starters and the usual thing is to invite the major factory entries and make up the remainder from those that are fastest during practice. There was some grumbling this year as no factory entries were guaranteed places on the starting grid, but five drivers were invited, irrespective of the cars they drove. These five were made up from the current World Champion and any ex-World Champion, and any past winner of the Monaco Grand Prix, which meant Graham Hill, Phil Hill, Brabham, McLaren and Trintignant, driving, respectively, BRM, ATS, Brabham-Climax, Cooper-Climax, and Lola-Climax as Reg Parnell had arranged to lend the Frenchman a car for this race. This arrangement of invitation meant that five makes of car had a guaranteed start but Lotus-Climax and Ferrari had to compete for a place on the grid, during practice, along with the second car from each team.
Altogether twenty-four entries were allowed for practice but at the first session on Thursday afternoon this number was drastically reduced by the withdrawal of Phil Hill and Baghetti with the ATS cars as they were still not ready, Settember and Burgess with the Sirocco-BRM V8 cars for similar reasons, Campbell-Jones with Parnell’s Lotus-BRM V8 as it had broken its gearbox at the Rome GP the week before, the 8-cylinder de Tomaso which had also suffered at Rome, the Centro-Sud entry of Bandini with an ex-works BRM as the Bourne team needed the car themselves as a spare, and de Beaufort who withdrew his Porsche as he had been persuaded that he would be unable to qualify amongst such a strong entry.
The Frenchman Collomb was allowed to take over de Beaufort’s entry with his Lotus-Climax V8, so there were only seventeen cars out for practice, of which obviously Collomb was going to be the one left out. In consequence there was no need for fast lap times in order to start in the race, but all the efforts were directed to positions on the starting grid, which was a more normal state of affairs.
The Brabham Racing Organisation entered Jack with the car he used at Silverstone and Gurney with a brand new one, virtually the same mechanically but with more cockpit room, for the lanky American, and the fuel tanks alongside the cockpit forming the body sides, as on the works Coopers. On this new car the gear-change rods run along the top of the chassis with a long rod diagonally over the VW gearbox casing, from a right-hand lever in the cockpit, whereas the original car has a left-hand lever with the rods running under the side of the Coventry-Climax V8 engine. Both cars were using the latest short-stroke, fuel-injection engines, with Australian-manufactured exhaust tailpipes and megaphones. Finished in dark green with a gold stripe, the cars looked very smooth and were nicely turned out.
The BRM drivers Hill and Ginther were still using the 1962 cars with new engines, as raced at Silverstone and elsewhere, both having the lighter bolted-on front wheels, and they had an earlier car as a spare, this being the car Bandini drove at Silverstone, it not being available again to Centro-Sud until BRM have built their new cars.
McLaren and Maggs were with the works Coopers, with Ken Tyrell in charge as John Cooper was still convalescing from his crash in the “Twinny-Minny.” These were the 1963 cars that ran at Silverstone, and had protecting bars fitted round the back of the gearboxes as the rather vulnerable oil pump and pipes project out the rear.
Team Lotus produced a brand new Lotus 25 for Jim Clark to the pattern of last year’s cars, so that Trevor Taylor took over the car Clark had used at Silverstone and elsewhere, both these having 1963 injection Coventry-Climax V8 engines, and the 1962 engined Type 25 car with Weber carburetters became a spare. Clark’s car had the latest version of Coventry-Climax short-stroke engine with an improved power curve that gave a slightly wider rev-range.
Bonnier was driving the Team Walker 1962 Cooper works car, which they have now bought from the factory, fitted with a 1963 Climax V8, while the Ken Gregory/Pa Moss British Racing Partnership team had their two Lotus 24 cars, both with BRM V8 engines, Ireland’s car having a 5-speed Colotti gearbox and Jim Hall’s a 6-speed Colotti box. Both cars had bumper bars mounted in front of the radiators, under the nose cowlings, which were cut back very short and blunt. Obviously the BRP cars were expected to be behind in any multiple melee and to run into things, whereas the works Coopers were anticipating being out in front and being struck from behind.
Reg Parnell Racing had two Lolas, both with 1962 Coventry-Climax engine and Weber carburetters, Chris Amon having the last one that was built, with fabricated front suspension uprights, and Trintignant having one of the earlier cars, with a similar engine. Both cars were using Colotti gearboxes, the first with six speeds and the second with five speeds.
Ferrari had but two cars, identical to those seen at Silverstone, and both had alternative nose cowlings that were short and blunt in comparison to the normal long noses; they also had available long and short megaphone tail-pipes the long ones seeming to give better results. Drivers were naturally Surtees and Mairesse, and a full complement of engineers and technicians were in attendance for this first important outing. To complete the field were the two private owners, Siffert with his Lotus-BRM V8 and Collomb with his Lotus-Climax V8.
First practice took place on Thursday afternoon in warm sunshine, and most people spent the time adjusting their cars and drivers to the circuit, so that lap times were not very outstanding, except for Clark, who got one in at 1min 35.3sec, which improved on his best lap in 1962 practice, of 1min 35.4sec, and on his last record set up in last year’s race of 1min 35.5sec. Not content with this he went out in the spare Lotus, with last year’s engine, and recorded 1min 36.7sec, which proved to be second fastest lap of the afternoon. The best anyone else could do was 1min 37.0sec, which was recorded by Graham Hill and Ginther.
Considering this was the first big race of the season there was rather a lot of mechanical trouble amongst the cars, Brabham’s Climax engine breaking a valve, which made a mess of of the inside, McLaren’s Climax engine having trouble with its Lucas fuel-injection installation, Surtees being stopped very short in practice by a water leak that could not be got at easily, and Ginther’s BRM V8 seemed to show symptoms of valve or tappet trouble, but proved to be all right and was merely showing temperament over an unsuitable combination of temperature and sparking plugs.
“Considering this was the first big race of the season there was rather a lot of mechanical trouble amongst the cars”
This first practice session was not unduly exciting but it did indicate that times of under 1min 40sec were going to be minimum standard and under 1min 36.0sec to be seriously in the running. It is worth noting that since last year the timekeeping arrangements were altered, for in order to avoid any repetition of the multiple crash at the hairpin after the start, the grid was moved to the inland side of the pits island, a little way down from the Royal Box, and the timing line was situated behind the starting grid, not far from the Gasworks hairpin exit. Previously the timekeepers’ line has been just near the braking point for the hairpin, so that in practice a crafty driver could get an extra fast lap time by leaving his braking absurdly late for the hairpin and taking to the escape area. With the new arrangement cars were timed as they accelerated away from the hairpin, so that lap times were more consistent, and genuine.
After the Formula One practice two Heats of Formula Junior cars took to the circuit in practice for the Monaco-Junior race on the Saturday afternoon, and on Friday morning, at a very early hour, they were out again, so that mechanics did not have much time for preparation or modification. Just before 7:30am, while the sun was getting up but the air was still cool, the Grand Prix cars came out again, all that is except Brabham, who was preparing to fly his wrecked engine back to England to repair it.
Both Ferraris and both BRMs seemed to be in good form and were going very swiftly, and Mairesse got down to 1min 36.0sec, but meanwhile Clark was biding his time. While Graham Hill was rolling smoothly round the Station hairpin and the engine was picking up instantly, the Ferraris were running wide as weight transfer caused violent understeer to set in, which delayed them in snapping open the throttle; however, the Italian cars were handling well on the faster corners and after a while Surtees began to get in his stride, and for a time Gurney hung on to his tail but three really quick laps in 1min 36.3sec, 1min 35.6sec and 1min 35.2sec, not only shook Gurney off but brought Clark into action.
The Lotus 25 was suffering from weight transfer as was the Ferrari, on the downhill hairpins, but in addition it was locking the right front wheel under heavy braking, though it did not seem to worry Clark. Although the Lotus driver tried hard there was too much traffic about for a clear run, essential to an FTD lap, so he stopped without improving on the time Surtees had made. The Ferrari driver then went out again with some different wheels and tyres on the rear, but by mistake a buckled wheel was fitted and he soon stopped to have another one put on.
With only a few minutes of practice left there was a sudden rush of star drivers, and Clark, Surtees, Graham Hill, Ginther, Ireland, Gurney and McLaren were all out together and really trying, so that although the circuit was not empty the tempo was very conducive to high-speed lappery. Ireland was really charging about the place and did 1min 35.5sec, Ginther was trying visibly and did 1min 35.8sec, and Graham Hill did 1min 35.7sec without appearing to be working very hard. Amongst all this lot was Clark and as the practice session came to a close he did 1 min. 35.2 sec., equalling fastest time to date by Surtees, and followed this with a shattering 1min 34.3sec, which stopped any further argument about FTD.
Not everyone was so happy, for Bonnier had the teeth come off 4th gear in his Cooper gearbox and Trintignant suffered the Brabham trouble of a broken valve which wrecked the Climax engine in the Lola. It is interesting that while all the cars had 5 or 6 speed gearboxes most of them were geared to use only four; in Bonnier’s case, for example, he used the lower four gears only. To use all six gears on the slow and twisty Monte Carlo circuit would have meant spending too much time on gear-changing and every fraction of a second spent changing gear is a fraction of a second when the car is not being accelerated.
“Phil Hill was sitting about in the pits with nothing to do, which was a pity when Lotus and BRM both had a spare car”
The final practice session took place on Saturday afternoon at 2pm, for an hour and a quarter, and the whole question of who was going to start was more than settled, for Trintignant’s engine was irreparable and as he was getting a high starting-money price Reg Parnell had little choice but to give him Amon’s car and ask the New Zealander to stand down. In addition it was unlikely that Collomb would be allowed to start unless he was able to break the 1min 40sec mark, so it looked as though the maximum of 16 starters would not be reached.
Meanwhile Phil Hill was sitting about in the pits with nothing to do, which was a pity when Lotus and BRM both had a spare car. In consequence of the depleted field there was not an undue amount of over-dicing during this final period, Clark being content to try his car with full petrol tanks, doing 1min 35.5sec, but Gurney began to get the feel of the Brabham and did an excellent 1min 35.8sec, only to suffer “Climax trouble,” a valve head breaking off and smashing a piston.
Surtees was not convinced about the Ferrari brakes, and on one lap arrived too fast at the chicane and bounced off the barriers, which bent the lower right-hand front wishbone and cracked the chassis frame, and put a stop to his practice. McLaren had had another engine installed in his Cooper and was beginning to get it sorted out, and Hill and Ginther were still trying to improve their positions on the starting grid, experimenting with different suspension springs. That they were successful was evidenced by Hill recording 1min 35.0sec and Ginther 1min 35.2sec, but they both looked as if it had been hard work. Just for fun Clark went out in the practice Lotus 25, with the carburetter engine, and did 1min 35.2sec!
The Swiss driver Siffert did 1min 39.4sec in his Lotus-BRM, but neither Jim Hall, Trintignant nor Collomb could break 1min 40sec. The unhappy Brabham team went away to break the sad news of another blown-up Climax engine to Jack Brabham when he returned with his repaired engine, Ferraris went away to mend Surtees’ car, and Team Lotus to wonder what would go wrong in the race, as practice had been so trouble-free.
There followed two Junior Heats over 16 laps each and a Final of 24 laps for the eleven fastest from each Heat. In the first Heat Arundell won with a Team Lotus 27 “monocoque” Ford-engined car, and in the second Heat Frank Gardner won with an Ian Walker Brabham-Ford and at a higher average speed than Arundell. Having won the Junior race twice before, Arundell was out for a third victory, but his rear axle broke-up on the opening lap of the final, and it looked like a win for Gardner, but Attwood in the Midland Racing Partnership Lola-Ford was in terrific form, having finished second to Arundell in Heat 1, and he fought and beat Gardner fairly and squarely, while Schlesser in another Brabham harried them both. So hot was the pace that all three of them broke the old Junior lap record of 1min 42.7sec, and Gardner finally staggered everyone with a lap in 1min 39.5sec, the first one under 1min 40sec, and quite a number of Grand Prix drivers went home wondering what they had been doing with 4ohc V8 engines and 180bhp.
Sunday was another glorious day and by 1pm the cars began to arrive at the pits and prepare for the start which was due at 2:45pm, the race being over 100 laps of the town circuit. When Brabham had arrived back with his repaired engine and heard about Gurney’s disaster it was decided that he should start in the race and Brabham would stand down, but then, after a certain amount of “arranging”, Chapman was persuaded to lend Brabham the spare works Lotus 25. Gradually the field of 15 starters assembled at the pits, and towards 2.30pm the cars were lined up on the grid in offset pairs, with Clark and Hill on the front row and poor old Brabham on his own in the back row.
Prince Rainier of Monaco opened the circuit officially in a drop-head Super 90 Porsche and the drivers were given final instructions by Louis Chiron, who was acting the part of Race Director in his usual excited fashion, and then all was set for the start of what was undoubtedly going to be an exciting race.
“The first nine cars were literally nose-to-tail”
With one minute to go the engines were running and when the flag fell all fifteen cars got away to a perfect start amid a surprising amount of rubber smoke, and the two BRMs led up the hill to the Casino, and were still in command at the end of the opening lap, the order being Hill (BRM), Ginther (BRM), Clark (Lotus), Surtees (Ferrari), McLaren (Cooper), Ireland (Lotus), Gurney (Brabham), Maggs (Cooper), Mairesse (Ferrari), Taylor (Lotus), and the rest, with Jim Hall bringing up the rear.
The first nine cars were literally nose-to-tail, and Clark was trying to get past Ginther, but the BRM kept out-accelerating the Lotus from the corners, and it was not until lap five that he managed it. In spite of new tyres and full tanks the pace was very fast, Ginther being credited with 1min 38.9sec on lap four, but clearly this was everyone’s lap time for the first nine cars were still in line and almost touching one another on the slow corners.
Clark was now trying desperately to get past Hill, driving first one side and then the other, but there was no way through. On lap seven the Lotus passed the BRM on the inside of the Gasworks hairpin, but Hill had a better line and won the acceleration match away up past the pits. Then Clark got by and led Hill down to the Station hairpin, only to arrive too fast and run wide, letting both BRMs nip by on the inside.
In spite of this furious battle for the lead the majority of the field were keeping up, Ginther, Surtees, McLaren, Ireland, Gurney, Maggs and Mairesse all being one behind the other as if tied together. Clark soon got back into second place and on lap 10 was once more alongside Hill going into the Gasworks hairpin, but the BRM driver was back in the lead as they left the hairpin.
Hill was taking a wide sweep to the left before locking over for the right-hand hairpin so that he could come out of it in the centre of the road, accelerating hard from the apex, but this meant that there was room for Clark to get alongside at the entry, cut-in tight across the apex and come out on the outside or left-hand side of the road, but down the camber, and consequently he could not apply full power as early as the BRM. Hill had the better and faster line round the corner but it needed a lot of will power to keep over to the left while Clark went by on the inside, for had the third man followed the Lotus through on the inside Hill would have found his way blocked when he came to accelerate. Luckily his team-mate Ginther was third so this situation did not arise.
Already trouble had struck at the end of the field for Siffert had a connecting rod come out of the side of his BRM engine, and spewed a lot of oil around the Gasworks hairpin. Behind the first nine cars Taylor (Lotus), Bonnier (Cooper), Trintignant (Lola), Brabham (Lotus) and Hill (Lotus) were all spreading out and running their separate races, but not so at the front of the field, for Clark was still trying to get by Hill, leading yet again round the Gasworks turn but being passed on acceleration.
Brabham was now having trouble with changing gear on his borrowed Lotus 25, and Bonnier came into the pits on lap 14 to explain that it felt as if the gears were jumping out of engagement, and the revs were going sky-high in consequence. As the engine had already been over 11,000 rpm without bursting his mechanic sent him off back into the race. On lap 17 Hall stopped briefly to report a noise in the transmission and went on again, but not for long as on lap 20 a gear in the drive to the axle sheared its teeth and that was that.
On lap 17 Clark was once more out-accelerated from the Gasworks turn, but this time he was alongside as they raced by the pits, and up through the town he got in front, to lead for the rest of the lap, but Hill was not giving up that easily and the two cars were side-by-side all the way along the harbour front, with the Lotus holding a precarious lead as they finished that lap. The whole pack of leading cars were now lapping Brabham, who kept well out of the way, and then they lapped Bonnier, and on lap 21 Clark began to draw away, recording a lap in 1min 37.0sec.
While the battle between the first two cars had been going on Mairesse had moved up two places, having overtaken Maggs and Gurney, and at long last there were signs of the pressure easing off a bit and the first nine cars began to spread out a little, with Clark getting away on his own, but he was by no means confident and kept an anxious eye in the mirror to see where the BRM was.
Surtees now began to attack Ginther and McLaren was right behind them, but Gurney coasted into the pits to retire with a broken crown-wheel and pinion. On lap 28 Surtees got past Ginther and set about catching Hill, and at lap 30 Clark was leading by 5sec, and slowly but surely was widening the gap between his Lotus and Hill’s BRM, but it was not easy.
* * *
McLaren was content to sit close behind Ginther in fifth place, and Ireland was not far behind with Mairesse right on his tail, and Maggs was beginning to drop back. Trintignant had been lapped and on lap 34 the Lola burst its Climax engine and he retired, so that there were only eleven cars left running.
Surtees was now right behind Hill but was having a bad time as the BRM was throwing out oil which was covering the Ferrari driver’s face and goggles, but he hung on grimly. Bonnier’s trouble was getting worse so he stopped once more, and it was discovered that he had pressed so hard on the clutch pedal that the stop for the operating lever at the clutch itself had been bent and the clutch was not going home properly, which was causing the revs to shoot up and give the impression of gears not engaging. A temporary repair was made and he set off again, but a long way behind everyone else.
“There was no letting up among the first five cars and as the fuel loads decreased the lap times came down”
After 37 laps Mairesse coasted into the pits to retire with a broken pinion gear in his final drive, and at the same time Taylor overtook Maggs and moved into seventh place. Ireland was running on his own by now, in sixth place, but was having gearbox troubles, and while braking downhill for the right-hand turn on to the sea front in bottom gear, with 11,000rpm on the over-run on his engine, the Colotti box suddenly jumped out of gear, and losing the braking effect of the engine caused the car to stop decelerating at the wrong moment and he hit the sea wall and bent the chassis pretty violently.
There was no letting up among the first five cars and as the fuel loads decreased the lap times came down, McLaren doing 1min 36.2sec on lap 40, which Clark equalled on lap 41, and then Surtees did the same and was getting so fed up with sitting in the oil spray from the BRM that he was making big efforts to get past. Clark had increased his precarious lead to 7sec, and while Surtees was trying to pass Hill’s BRM, McLaren was trying to pass Ginther’s BRM, but both Bourne cars were proving superior on low-speed acceleration and had excellent pick-up and just the right gear ratios for getting away from the hairpins.
On lap 48 Clark set a new fastest with 1min 35.8sec and at half race-distance, which was 50 laps, he had 8.5sec lead over Hill’s BRM, while Surtees was still trying to get by. Ten seconds later came Ginther and McLaren and then, a minute behind the leader, came Trevor Taylor and Maggs. Now three laps behind came Bonnier, and Brabham was at his pit having the Lotus mechanics sort out his gearbox, which was having selector trouble.
For a few laps it looked as if things were settling down, for Surtees seemed unable to get by the BRM and McLaren was content to sit behind Ginther. On lap 57 Clark turned 1min 35.5sec, equalling his 1962 lap record, and at the same time Surtees and Hill were side-by-side past the pits, with the Ferrari on the left and better placed for the right-hand bend at St Devote, so that he got in front up the hill to the Casino.
The crowd seemed to be particularly pleased at seeing the Italian car get by, but having got in front Surtees found that he could not see where he was going due to the oil all over his goggles. He realised that following the blurred shape of the BRM was bad enough but being in front with just an opaque view through his goggles and no shape to follow was impossible, so after five laps he let the BRM go in front again and dropped back a bit to remove his oil-covered goggles and put on his spare pair. Meanwhile Taylor had stopped at the pits as he thought he was feeling the beginnings of gearbox troubles, but he was patted gently and sent back in the race.
On lap 69 Clark set a new lap record in 1min 34.9sec, and at 70 laps the order was Clark, Hill, Surtees, Ginther, McLaren, the remaining runners having been lapped. With clean goggles and the BRM now some way in front of him, Surtees was in more trouble for his oil pressure had dropped from 6kg/sq cm to 2 kg/sq cm, due to the oil running hot, so he eased up and Ginther and McLaren closed on him.
At three-quarters race-distance Clark was 17sec in front of Hill, who in turn was 10sec ahead of the third man, who at this point became Ginther for the Race Director had practically stood in the road and demanded that Surtees let the BRM go by, much to the disgust of the crowd who whistled and booed. Fearing that his oil pressure was going to disappear completely and wreck the engine, Surtees then let McLaren go by on lap 79.
On that same lap, as Clark came along the harbour front from the chicane and prepared to change down for the Tobacconist corner, the Lotus gearbox jammed in gear and he coasted round the bend struggling desperately to sort out the gears. All the way down to the Gasworks hairpin he tried to get the gear-lever to coincide with the selectors in the gearbox, but the damage was done and as he tried again at the hairpin 2nd gear as well as 4th engaged, and the Lotus came up all-standing with its wheels locked solid, and Clark’s race was run.
“The Lotus gearbox jammed in gear and Clark coasted round the bend struggling desperately to sort out the gears”
Being so far in front Clark had begun to ease his pace and instead of flicking the gear-lever from one notch to another he had begun to ease it gently and this was his undoing, for the selector and spring-loaded plunger movements in the ZF gearbox are very small and rely on a certain amount of their own inertia in order to engage properly. By flicking the gear-lever briskly this is achieved, but easing it gently from one notch to the next did not impart the necessary inertia to ensure full engagement and on the fateful gear-change on the harbour front the selector had sprung back the wrong way.
The race was now handed to Graham Hill on a plate but it was well justified for in typical Hill fashion he had not given up the fight, even though Clark had been drawing away from him, and on lap 85 he set up a new lap record in 1min 34.7sec. Ginther was in second position, with the other BRM with McLaren just behind him, and Surtees in fourth place, still casting an anxious eye at his oil pressure. Still running, but a long way behind, were Maggs, Taylor, Bonnier and Brabham.
In the final 10 laps McLaren decided to settle for third place and dropped back a bit from Ginther, and at the same time Surtees decided to have a final go as his oil pressure seemed to be going to stay at its low figure, so that the last few laps became very exciting as Surtees set up a new lap record in 1min 34.6sec on the 97th lap, and then did his 100th lap in yet another record time of 1min 34.5sec, but he did not catch the wily McLaren, who knew he was safe for third place.
The two BRMs romped home first and second in as good a display of fast and reliable running as anyone could wish to see, and Graham Hill’s average speed for the race was a new record, which indicated that he had not sat back and given up when Clark got the lead but had kept the pressure on all the time.
- One assumes the day will come when Lotus will invest in some new gearboxes, their ZF ones are getting a bit old and tired.
- A self-styled Technical Editor suggested that Surtees was able to make a new lap record on his 100th lap because Grand Prix cars now have “catch-tanks” for the various breather pipes, thus ensuring an oil free circuit. Has he forgotten an old man named Fangio who made a “fastest-lap” on his 100th lap in 1956?
- At last someone has realised what a nuisance and a danger the TV helicopter was hovering over the start, and this year it was made to sit out over the harbour. However, it is still a nuisance for on two occasions Graham Hill was worried by a strange shriek which he thought came from his BRM. On the second occasion he realised it was the helicopter’s jet-engine as it followed him along the harbour front.
- A nice gesture by the French commentator, who voluntarily “shut up” while the drivers were getting their pre-start briefing from Louis Chiron, so that his words were not drowned by loudspeaker babblings.
- How times change. There was not a single Weber carburetter among the eight cars that finished the race; they were all on fuel-injection.
- The BRMs were using only the lower four gears in their 5-speed boxes, as fifth is a “round-the-corner” movement.
- Monte Carlo always seems to bring old Grand Prix drivers out of hiding: Lang, Chiron, Villoresi, Taruffi, Manzon, de Graffenried, Etancelin and Giraud-Cabantous were to be seen in the pits, among many other retired drivers.