15th Grand Prix of Siracusa

Ferrari has a try-out—and wins

Siracusa, Sicily, May 1st.

Unlike certain British racing circuits, the Ente Autonomo Circuit Siracusa was undeterred as putting on the first Grand Prix in Europe for the new Formula One and ran their traditional 56-lap (308 kilometres) race, inviting an entry of 14 cars.

Ferrari sent John Suttees with the new 3-litre V12-cylinder car and Lorenzo Bandini with the car built for the last Tasman series, but which did not go due to Surtees being in hospital. This was one of last year’s G.P. cars fitted with a 2.4-litre Dino V6 from the G.P. Formula of 1954-60, as used in the last of the front-engined cars. It was brought up to date with Lucas fuel injection, but was otherwise like the old Dino 246. The Rob Walker/Jack Durlacher team entered Joseph Siffert with their brand new Cooper-Maserati V12 and loaned the Brabham-B.R.M. V8 that Siffert drove last to Joakim Bonnier, but with a 2-litre version of the Bourne engine. Frenchman Guy Ligier had the second brand new -Cooper-Maserati V12 to be delivered to a private owner. Jack Brabharn entered himself with the Repco V8-engined car and Denis HuIme with a 2.7-litre Coventry-Climax 4-cylinder-engined car, while a similar engine was fitted in one of the Parnell Lotus cars of last year for Paul Hawkins to drive. Parnell’s other Lotus was fitted with a 2-litre B.R.M. V8 engine and should have been driven by Mike Spence, but his foot injury received in the Formula Two race in Barcelona kept him away, so David Hobbs took his place. Bob Anderson had the Tasman type Brabham chassis with 2.7-litre Coventry-Climax 4-cylinder engine that he built for the South African races last winter, and Vic Wilson was driving the newly acquired 1965 B.R.M. with 2-litre late-type engine, owned by Team Chamaco-Collect. Roberto Businello should have been there with the car built by Alf Francis, consisting of a 1965 works Cooper chassis, suitably altered, using a 3-litre A.T.S. sports V8 engine, but he did not turn up. To complete the list were Andre Wicky with an old Cooper chassis powered by an early 2-litre B.R.M. V8 engine, and Giancarlo Baghetti who had been loaned an ex-works Lotus 33-Climax V8, the one driven by Spence last season.

Brabham and Hulme were driving in the Tourist Trophy on the Saturday of Siracusa week-end, so they arranged to practise on Sunday morning, after flying to Sicily through the night. Wilson’s B.R.M. was late in arriving and he had a little bother with it in the paddock, so missed the final practice, and joined Brabham and Hulme on Sunday morning, their times not counting towards the starting grid. In the Friday practice Anderson had a piston break before he got going properly and, having no spares, he had no alternative but to pack up and go home. Baghetti was not much better off for he spun and hit a wall backwards, bending the monocoque chassis and wrecking the gearbox. This was an entry by Bonnier’s new Anglo-Swiss Racing Team and though they bodged the car together and it took its place on the grid, it was only to make up the numbers.

There being no serious opposition the Ferrari team used the occasion to do some experimenting with their V12-engined car, and Surtees had no trouble in knocking seconds off the old 1 1/2-litre lap record, his best time being 1 min, 42.3 sec., as against the 1 min. 46.0 sec. of the old record of Jim Clark. Had he been pressed he could have got down to 1 min. 40 sec., but as it was his lap average was 193.548 k.p.h. (approx. 120 m.p.h.), thus giving them some useful high-speed experience, for the Siracusa circuit has three slow corners in its lap length. Having moved the high-pressure fuel pump from on top of the engine to behind the gearbox, in order to mount the alternator on top of the engine, a little trouble was experienced with overheating when the car was standing at the pits after being run.

The new Cooper-Maserati cars showed good promise, though Siffert was thwarted from having a last-minute attempt to set some really fast laps when the last six gallons of fuel refused to be sucked out of the rubber tanks. Ligier hit a wall and bent his front right-hand suspension, but luckily the Walker team had a spare wishbone and helped him out. It was thought that the rear tube of the wishbone was flexing under heavy braking, so the Walker car had all the chrome stripped if and a bracing rib brazed along each side of the tube. At one point in the Saturday practice session the track was completely empty as everyone was either in trouble or making some alterations, but the lull was only temporary.

Sunday was not only May 1st, a national holiday, but also the day of the patron saint of Siracusa, and consequently a vast crowd turned out and overflowed from the enclosures into prohibited areas and over the circuit itself. It was blazing hot and the twelve starters had to be held on the dummy-grid for nearly three-quarters of an hour while police and officials tried in vain to clear the far side of the track. Unlike a British circuit where the commentator keeps up a continuous chatter, the Siracusa commentator said nothing at all, so that many people had no idea of the reason for the long delay. When the start was given neither Surtees nor Siffert had got their 12-cylinder engines running really cleanly, and it was Bandini who leapt into the lead and stayed there for three laps, until Surtees got the 3-litre Ferrari really working on all its cylinders and plugs, and he then stormed into the lead and was never challenged again. Siffert’s engine never did clear its plugs and he had to stop on the ninth lap to have some changed. He was in again on lap 14 and on lap 18 having plugs changed, by which time he was right out of the running. There was no real trouble, it was just that the engine got over-rich on the line and would not clear itself. When it did fire on all 24 plugs he did three laps and then a drive-shaft broke! Ligier’s Maserati engine went on to one bank of cylinders, and after changing all 12 plugs his mechanic found the main ignition pickup lead for that bank was not making contact. Curing this solved the trouble and the car then ran faultlessly to the end of the race. The Brabham team were in dire trouble, for after rushing from the back of the grid into third place on the opening lap, Jack Brabham’s Repco engine went all rough and died on him. He pushed it back to the pits and after a long investigation he found that the Lucas fuel injection Metering unit had “gone crook” and was leaking fuel out of everywhere. A nice little race started to develop between Bonnier, Hawkins, Hulme and Hobbs, but it did not last long for Hulme’s Climax engine had piston trouble, Bonnier stopped at his pit to complain the whole car was vibrating, but carried on anyway, and Hawkins got away from Hobbs.

At 10 laps there were only eight cars left running, for Baghetti had been wheeled off the starting line and Wicky’s car would not start, and of the eight only seven were running, for Ligier was still having his trouble sorted out. Wilson had stopped briefly to check his oil pressure and was going well, ahead of Bonnier and keeping Hobbs in sight. The two Ferraris had no bother keeping the first two places and reeled off the laps, not exactly in close company, but on the same lap. The Parnell cars ran fourth and fifth ahead of Wilson’s B.R.M., and Bonnier brought up the rear, Ligier being many laps behind. Hawkins’ engine began to lose its tune and when his gearbox stuck in 4th gear he pulled into the pits, to find an oil scavenge pipe from the engine had broken and he was pumping all his oil out into the atmosphere. so that was that.

A wildly enthusiastic crowd cheered the Ferrari victory and then poured all over the circuit. The tail-enders had a job getting back to the pits, but the sun had shone brilliantly, it had been a national holiday, and Ferrari had won the first European Grand Prix for the new Formula, so everyone was happy, or seemed so. While not being an exciting race it was interesting for it showed the true value of the Italian opposition, Surtees won for the second time, which no-one has done before, there were new race average and lap records, and the third and fourth drivers were having their first go at a Grand Prix race. An historic day.—D.S.J.

Results: XV Siracusa G.P.—Formula One-56 laps-308 kilometres—Very hot.
1st : J. Surtees (Ferrari V12) (Entrant : SEFAC Ferrari) … 1hr. 40 min. 08.3 sec. 184.535 k.p.h.
2nd : L. Bandini (Ferrari V6) (Entrant : SEFAC Ferrari) … 1 hr. 40 mm. 32.9 sec.
3rd : D. Hobbs (Lotus 25-B.R.M. V8) (Entrant : Parnell Racing) … 54 laps.
4th : Wilson (B.R.M. V8) (Entrant : Team Chamaco-Collect) … 53 laps.
5th : J, Bonnier (Brabham-B.R.M. V8) (Entrant : Team Walker) … 52 laps.
6th : G. Ligier (Cooper-Maserati) (Entrant : Driver) … 39 laps. (outside time limit)
Fastest lap : J. Surtees (Ferrari V12), on lap 37. 1 min. 43.4 sec. 191.489 k.p.h.
Retired: A. Wicky (Cooper-B.R.M. V8), lap 1, battery: G. Baghetti (Lotus 33 Climax V8), lap 1, gearbox; J. Brabham (Brabham-Repco V8), lap 2, injection unit; D. Hulme (Brahham-Climax 4-cyl.), lap 8, engine; J. Siffert (Cooper Maserati V12). lap 21, drive shaft: P. Hawkins (Lotus-Climax 41). lap 31, oil pipe and gearbox.
12 starters — 6 finishers.