Silverstone, April 29th.
Altering the date of the Monaco Grand Prix this year brought it uncomfortably close to the B.R.D.C. “Daily Express” meeting at Silverstone, with the result that the entry list was somewhat sparse. Neither the works Cooper-Maserati nor Eagle teams were present, while B.R.M., Lotus and Ferrari were represented by a single car apiece.
The entry was further reduced when the team of three cars entered by the J. A. Pearce Racing Organisation was burnt out in a fire in the paddock on Wednesday evening, before first practice. The transporter was parked well away from the other teams, in the middle of the Club circuit at the time, and drivers Lanfranchi, Darlington and Jones were all denied their debut in Formula One racing.
Ferrari sent one V12-cylinder car for Parkes, his long-chassis 1966 car with 1967 engine. The Owen Organisation was represented by one B.R.M. for Stewart, as raced a fortnight previously at Oulton Park, with revised suspension, and Spence and Irwin were racing the earlier 2-litre B.R.M. V8s entered by the R. H. H. Parnell team. Team Lotus had a Type 33 powered by a 2-litre B.R.M. V8 engine for Graham Hill, the new V8 Cosworth-Ford unit not being ready.
Both Brabham and Hulme had the 1966 cars, last year’s chassis and engine blocks equipped with the old cylinder heads. McLaren was driving his McLaren-B.R.M. 2-litre, and the remainder of the field was made up by Siffert in the Walker/Durlacher Cooper-Maserati, Bonnier and Ligier in their privately-entered Cooper-Maseratis, and Anderson’s Brabham-Climax 2.7-litre.
Stewart set the pace in the first practice session, run in dry overcast conditions, making a best lap time of 1 min. 28.2 sec., 0.6 sec. faster than the outright record held by Hulme in the Lola-Chevrolet since last year. Parkes was next fastest with 1 min. 29.8 sec., Anderson and Irwin sharing 1 min. 31.4 sec. with McLaren, and Hill was playing in steadily with 1 min. 32.2 sec. The second practice session, held in similar weather conditions, saw Stewart improve his time to 1 min. 27.8 sec., with Parkes still next fastest with a 1 min. 28.0 sec. Siffert, who went so well at the Race of Champions, was the only other driver to crack 1 min. 30 sec., while 1.5 sec. covered the times of Anderson, Hill, McLaren, Bonnier and Irwin.
Not until the third practice session did the Brabham team arrive, running straight away into a serious problem with oil spraying out of the catch tanks. It was hard to think of a reason for this new malady, though Brabham believed that the oil could not be circulating properly, so after putting in a very few laps both cars were taken back to the works – in their quiet and deceptive manner, though, Hulme and Brabham both got in a very quick lap, Hulme in 1 min. 29.2 sec. and Brabham in 1 min. 29.8 sec. Stewart could not improve on his previous time but Parkes equalled it, swapping from 10-inch rear rims to 12-inch rims and back, shod with Firestone tyres. Stewart was happy with his new Dunlop tyres, but not about the shortage of spare covers. McLaren’s times were affected by a persistent misfiring trouble and few drivers bettered previous times because of the oil shed by the Brabhams, though Spence got in a most creditable 1 min. 29.2 sec. to get right in among the 3-litre machines.
Graham Hill had noticed a misfire in the B.R.M. power unit on the warming-up lap and was very slow getting away from the grid, while Parkes went straight into the lead from Stewart. Brabham, Siffert, Spence, and McLaren tagged on, quickly pulling away from Bonnier, Hill and Ligier. Hulme was way behind, already losing oil which may have contributed to his leaving the road at Club, later retiring at his pit. Anderson called in for a brake check second time round, then promptly ran out of road and hit an advertisement hoarding at Stowe, but after another pit stop he continued the race. Bonnier also spun, at Beckett’s, dropping from eighth to tenth place.
As early as the third lap it was becoming plain that the Ferrari and the B.R.M. H16 had the legs of everyone else, swapping positions continually, but soon Stewart lost contact with Parkes and slowed on the oily track, to be overtaken by Brabham who was making up for lost time. Hill made a pit-stop for an extremely rapid plug change, rejoining the race amid the leaders but a lap in arrears, proceeding to harry Stewart mercilessly by braking level with the B.R.M.’s rear wheels time after time. By the 14th lap Stewart was in real trouble, slowing to let Hill and Siffert go by, then the universal joint bolts sheared at Maggott’s and that was the end of his race.
Now Brabham, holding second place, could not even see the Ferrari ahead so settled down, not very typically, and was overtaken by Siffert. Hill also went ahead of Brabham on the road, driving quickly and tidily and enjoying his race although out of contention, while Parkes was picking off the tail-enders – as early as the 18th of 52 laps only Brabham, Siffert, McLaren and Spence were on the same lap as the leader, and when Siffert went through into second place at half-distance he was 26 sec. in arrears. Hill’s efforts had taken him past Irwin into sixth place, the car running perfectly, as was McLaren’s B.R.M. engine for the first time since it got to Silverstone. Bonnier retired from ninth place, his excursion off the road having split the fuel tank, and Ligier also retired, with low oil pressure.
The second half of the race was somewhat processional, Parkes leading by any margin he chose and no-one able to give chase. Hill’s progress rewarded him with fifth place at Spence’s cost, and then fourth place at McLaren’s expense, while a long way behind Irwin’s ill-handling B.R.M. and Anderson’s Brabham-Climax were very evenly matched though two laps apart. With only eight laps to go the atmosphere brightened up as Brabham suddenly assumed a ferocious expression, egged on by Hulme in the pits, and waved his fist at McLaren, then at Graham Hill, to get by in pursuit of Siffert. In Brabham’s wake, Hill set up the fastest lap of the race for no reason other than he felt like it, at 1 min. 30.0 sec. With three laps to go Brabham duly passed Siffert but forgot to spread his wings, for the Swiss driver promptly re-took second place and the champion driver had to make a quick scramble to be second man home during the final lap. The excitement was too much for Siffert, who spun at Beckett’s on the slowing-down tour. – M.L.C.