Silverstone, May 12th.
With the Dutch Grand Prix only a week away the British teams came to Silverstone for the final round of the British “season” in a much more advanced state than at Snetterton, Goodwood or Aintree, although one cynical observer remarked that most of the British cars are worn out before the real racing starts.
Lotus still had only one V8 engine, the Climax unit which had already given Jim Clark victories at Snetterton and Aintree, but Trevor Taylor had to be content with a 4-cylinder Climax, although a V8 Climax engine was due for delivery in time for Zandvoort. BRM had two of their V8 cars for Hill and Ginther, backed by Jack Lewis and Tony Marsh in their own cars, while Lola still had only one V8 for Surtees and a “four” for Salvadori. The Cooper factory were saving their new V8 car for Zandvoort and McLaren again drove the Tommy Atkins prepared 4-cylinder which he drove so well at Aintree, Tony Maggs still being without a car. UDT-Laystall were represented by Ireland in a V6 120° Ferrari loaned by the works for the occasion and Masten Gregory in a new V8 Climax-engined Lotus 24. Jack Brabham’s mechanics were hurriedly assembling his V8-engined Lotus and he practised in a 4-cylinder car as the new car did not arrive until the morning of race day. Bonnier and Vaccarella represented SSS Venezia in Porsche and Lotus, respectively, while John Campbell-Jones and Tony Settember had their Emerysons. The rest of the 24-car field was made up of five Lotus-Climax (Trintignant, Piper, Shelly, Parnell and Chamberlain), two Coopers (Burgess and FJ driver John Rhodes with a 1,475-cc Ford engine), and Keith Greene with his Gilby.
Silverstone always seems to save its worst weather for race days, and the preliminary races were run either during a rainstorm or on a wet track, but by the time the F1 cars arrived on the grid the rain had relented long enough for the track to dry out in many places. At the start Jim Clark out-accelerated everyone and went into the lead at Copse followed by Ginther, Ireland and Campbell-Jones, who had shot from the third row past Surtees. First time round Clark had already increased his lead and the Ferrari with the pale green stripe was in second place but already being challenged by Graham Hill. Campbell-Jones had been pushed down to sixth by Ginther and McLaren, while Surtees, Marsh and Brabham were beginning to move up the lap chart. On the second lap Hill passed Ireland for second place while Surtees passed Campbell-Jones and McLaren for fifth place. Maurice Trintignant, well back in the field on this fast circuit, spun at Abbey, and in avoiding him Salvadori and Shelly took to the fields and collided, putting them both out, while Trintignant sorted himself out and rejoined the race. Surtees was now making up for a poor start and on lap three passed Ginther and on lap four he took the Ferrari for third place behind Clark and Hill. Ginther left the track at Club on the next lap and damaged the BRM too badly to continue.
The race order seemed to have settled down by lap ten with Clark screaming round in the Lotus, well clear of Hill’s BRM which was beginning to shed its right-hand bank of exhaust pipes one by one, while Surtees was gradually gaining on the BRM and leaving Ireland’s poor-handling Ferrari well behind. McLaren held the 4-cylinder Cooper in a good fifth place and the main interest of the race lay in a battle which was developing for sixth place between Brabham, Marsh, Gregory and Trevor Taylor. Both Brabham and Gregory were new to their V8 Lotuses but had gradually worked their way through the field. Gregory led the bunch on lap 10, closely harried by Brabham, but Trevor Taylor got his “four” past Brabham on lap 14 and led the chase after Gregory.
The rain which had been threatening ever since the race started began to fall once more after 17 of the 52 laps had been covered, and Surtees almost immediately closed up on Graham Hill and went into second place on lap 19. However, Hill held on grimly and re-passed after only four more laps. Tony Marsh,who had been gradually dropping away from the Brabham-Gregory-Taylor duel before the rains came, began to whittle down the distance between them on the wet circuit and dropped Jack Lewis who had stayed with him briefly on the dry track. Farther down the field Campbell-Jones was holding 11th place quite easily from Jo Bonnier’s Porsche and John Rhodes was a good 13th in the Cooper-Ford. By lap 30 Clark had a good lead and Hill, Surtees and Ireland were well spaced out, so that spectator interest was still centred on the duel for sixth place. Tony Marsh got past Taylor, and Brabham, seeing the danger from Marsh, spurted past Gregory to take over the elusive sixth place. Marsh was going great guns on the damp circuit and Gregory succumbed to him on lap 35, the BRM immediately fastening on to Brabham’s tail. At 40 laps, with only 12 to go, Jimmy Clark’s thoughts began to turn to Zandvoort the next weekend and, with a 19-sec lead, he dropped his lap times slightly. Graham Hill’s pit were keeping him informed of the gap and as he saw it coming down quickly he did some mental arithmetic and began to push the BRM round even faster. Naturally the Lotus pit were keeping Clark informed of the danger and the gap was decreasing at such a rapid rate that few people noticed when Clark lapped the Ferrari after 45 laps, something which would have been thought impossible last season.
Clark seemed determined to win by the smallest possible margin and as he went on to his last lap his pit showed him the board giving his lead as 6 sec. This was, of course, for the previous lap and the real gap was only around 3 sec, and Hill had the Lotus in sight on Hangar Straight and threw everything into this last lap. Normally, of course, even Hill would have been unable to make up three seconds in one lap but Clark caught up with Masten Gregory for the second time at Club, and Gregory, quite unaware of the drama being enacted behind him made no attempt to get out of the way, so that Hill was right behind Clark as they swept through Abbey Curve. Without lifting off, Hill threw the BRM round the outside of the Lotus into Woodcote and, with both cars sliding wildly under heavy acceleration, the BRM just pipped the Lotus by a nose. A dramatic finish to a race which had been dull and miserable for drivers and the alleged 85,000 spectators alike. So the British “season” ends with a two-all result for BRM (Goodwood and Silverstone) and Lotus (Snetterton and Aintree).
1st: G Hill (BRM)
2nd: J Clark (Lotus)
3rd: J Surtees (Lola)
4th: I Ireland (Ferrari)
5th: B McLaren (Cooper)
6th: J Brabham (Lotus)
7th: AE Marsh (BRM)
8th: M Gregory (Lotus)
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In addition to the big race, the BRDC put on a strong supporting programme. The so-called International 12-lap GT Race for the “Scalextric” Trophy was ably won by Parkes, whose Ferrari 250GT was never closely challenged on the wet track. It won at 99.39 mph from Masten Gregory’s Ferrari 250GT and Graham Hill’s Jaguar. Parkes set a new GT lap record of 102.10 mph. The class winners were Trevor Taylor’s Lotus Elite, which was appreciably quicker than the Elites of Whitmore and Leston, and Miniprio’s Marcos, which left a couple of Turners behind, the trio of Sebring Sprites being a lap to the bad.
The FJ race, over 25 laps, became a high-speed procession, headed by Arundell’s Lotus-Ford, which won at 89.09 mph from Maggs’ Cooper-Austin, Bradley’s Cooper-Ford, Rhodes’ Ausper-Ford. and Procter’s Gemini-Ford, with Gardner’s Brabham-Ford in third place until it ran out of brakes. The other Brabham retired witlt diminished oil pressure. Arundell lapped at 91.95 mph.
Reg Parnell then bravely demonstrated a 1939 3-litre V12 438-bhp Mercedes-Benz from the Daimler-Benz Museum but on the water-logged course only the sight and sound was nostalgic – not the speed.
The 12-lap Production Touring Car Race promised interest, because teams of Ford Zodiac Ills and Vauxhall VX 4/90s were running for the first time. The Ford couldn’t fail to win their class because they were the only entries, but they looked unstable, Uren spinning at Beckett’s, Trintignant denting his and Ireland having a monumental spin at Copse. The Vauxhalls were far more stable, but disappointingly slow, in spite of special long exhaust pipes. Graham Hill, who has become as adept at saloon-car as at GP racing, won in Coombs’ Jaguar at 85.87 mph from the Equipe Endeavour Jaguars of Parkes and Sears. Hobbs’ “automatic” Jaguar was next home, followed by Kelsey’s throaty lhd 5.3-litre Chevrolet. Ireland led home Trintignant, Haynes and Uren in the Fords, the Sunbeam Rapiers of Harper, Pilsworth, Jopp and Cuff-Miller dominated the 1,000-2,000-cc class, a Riley beating the first VX 4/90 home, both a lap behind the Sunbeams, and the baby class was a Mini-Cooper benefit, Love winning from Whitmore and Clare. Christobel Carlisle burst hers, so Elizabeth Jones was fourth, Borrowman fifth, and Aley (DKW) and Anita Taylor (Ford Anglia) just went for a gentle motor ride. Jaguar won the Team Prize, in spite of Salvadori’s succumbipg to clutch failure. Love’s Cooper-Mini set a new touring-car class lap-record of 78.87 mph.
This revealing race was followed by a Mini Minor demonstration, “repeated as a result of requests,” but as these astonishing BMC cars had already displayed their ability to out-corner the much-publicised new Ford Zodiacs, there was little more even the GP drivers could wring out of them. At least BMC could bank on having some nicely run-in Minis as these were re-loaded on their transporters!
The day’s sport concluded with a 12-lap Sports Car Race which Ireland won confidently in the UDT-Laystall 2.7-litre Lotus Monte Carlo, as he had at Goodwood, his speed 86.44 mph. But Blumer’s 2-litre Cooper was allowed to close up well, in second place, with Sutcliffe’s Jaguar third and Coundley’s Lister-Jaguar, its boot-lid flapping open, fourth. Copse provided thrills when Hagbourne’s Lola spun on lap 2, but miraculously wasn’t shunted, and then Waters’ Lola hit the bank and fell to bits, the driver luckily unhurt. A pity it was so wet and cold !