The Aintree 200 — April 18th
This year’s Aintree 200 race differed from last year’s in being increased in distance from 200 kilometres to 200 miles, and the field was augmented by the inclusion of a section for Formula Two cars, as used to be the case in the days of the 2½-litre F.1 and 1½-litre F.2.
For a change Aintree was bathed in sunshine on race day and despite a brisk breeze a reputed 50,000 crowd filled the stands to watch some interesting and occasionally exciting racing. After two preliminary races in the morning and a further one after lunch, the F.1/F.2 cars came out onto the circuit for their 67-lap race. In pole position was Graham Hill in a brand-new B.R.M. based on the car he used at Goodwood. He had lapped in 1 min. 52.8 sec., which was 1 sec. slower than achieved by Jim Clark during the race last year, but the monocoque B.R.M. still looked to be in trouble with handling and the pole position seemed to be gained mainly because everyone else was in trouble. In the middle of the front row was Jack Brabham with his new car, which missed the first practice but put in a good 1 min. 53.0 sec. in the second practice on Friday afternoon. On the outside of the front row was Peter Arundell in the works Lotus 25B used by Jim Clark at Goodwood. This has been converted back to 15-in. wheels and is fitted with the latest ZF gearbox with revised shift linkage. In an unusual position on the second row was Jim Clark with a brand-new Lotus 33. This is based very much on the 25, with slight suspension changes, 13-in, wheels and new, larger, drive shafts, mated to the new ZF gearbox. Clark was not too happy with the handling of this car and is inclined to blame this on the 13-in. wheels. The gearbox was also giving trouble. Next to Clark was Bruce McLaren with the new Cooper, which is based on the F.2/F.3 car, having a tubular steel frame stiffened by sheet steel round the centre section. Suspension is by rocking type one-piece wishbones at the front and double wishbones at the rear, with a single upper radius arm as tried experimentally last season. The new 13-in. wheels are fitted, and despite being completed only a couple of days before practice began, McLaren took it round in a creditable 1 min. 54.8 sec. It seems likely that this will be Cooper’s 1964 car as the proposed monocoque will not now be built. On the outside of the third row was Innes Ireland in the latest Mk. II B.R.P. monocoque with Jo Bonnier in Rob Walker’s Cooper next to him and monocoque, Taylor in the 1963 B.R.P. monocoque on the inside. Phil Hill made the fourth row with the 1963 Cooper in 1 min. 57.0 sec., while next to him, with an astonishing 1 mm. 58.2 sec., was Denis Hulme in the works Brabham F.2 car. As none of the other F.2 cars broke 2 min., this time was regarded with some suspicion by journalists and the other drivers! The rest of the field consisted of John Taylor with Bob Gerard’s 1964 Cooper with Lotus-Ford twin-cam engine, Mike Hailwood’s Lotus 25-B.R.M., Giancarlo Baghetti with the Centro-Sud B.R.M., Brian Hart’s Lotus-Ford F.2 car, Richard Attwood’s Lola-Ford F.2, Tony Hegbourne’s Cooper-Ford F.2, Mike Spence in the Lotus 32 F.2 car, Alan Rees in the Winklemann F.2 Brabham-Ford, Tony Maggs in the M.R.P. F.2 Lola-Ford, Dan Gurney in a new Brabham which put in little practice, Ian Baby’s Brabham-B.R.M., John Fenning’s Lotus 27 F.2, David Hobbs’ works Merlyn-Ford F.2, Andre Pilette’s Scirocco-Climax and, on the back of the grid without any practice, Chris Amon’s Lotus 25-B.R.M. A notable absentee from the grid was Richie Ginther who crashed during practice. He was driving the monocoque B.R.M. used by Graham Hill at Goodwood and had already got down to a respectable 1 min. 55.0 sec. when he took the tricky Melling Crossing too close in on the entrance to the corner, with the result that he hit the grass verge on the exit and flipped upside down, skating for 100 yards on the grass. He was trapped in the cockpit but, being small, he was able to duck down and the roll bar saved him from serious injury, although with two fractured ribs he will be out of racing for a few weeks.
The race started late due to clearing up some mess from a crash in a previous race, but the dummy grid idea worked well this time and everyone got away without too much drama. Graham Hill got away to a comfortable lead on the first lap, with Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren fighting it out for a second place, followed by Peter Arundell, Jo Bonnier, Innes Ireland, Phil Hill, Trevor Taylor, Jim Clark, Baghetti, John Taylor, Mike Hailwood, Dan Gurney, and Richard Attwood, the first of the F.2. cars.
Graham Hill appeared to be moving away quite comfortably but Bruce McLaren was pushing Jack Brabham hard, while Jim Clark was rushing through the field from ninth on lap one, seventh on lap two, fifth on lap three, and on lap five he passed team-mate Arundell into fourth place. The Cooper team disappeared in the space of three laps, Phil Hill retiring on lap five with transmission trouble and Bruce McLaren stopping on lap seven with overheating. On the same lap Trevor Taylor retired with engine trouble in his B.R.P.
By now Jack Brabham had taken the lead from Graham Hill and appeared to be having little trouble in getting away from the B.R.M., which was beginning to make some odd noises when leaving corners. On lap eight Jim Clark passed the B.R.M. going into Waterways, and the World Champion set about catching Jack Brabham. Behind these three Peter Arundell was holding fourth place well ahead of Dan Gurney, who had fought his way through the field in the new Brabham. Behind him Jo Bonnier and Innes Ireland were scrapping fiercely, while a further group consisting of John Taylor, Baghetti and Mike Hailwood were disputing eighth place, and Brian Hart, Tony Maggs and Denis Hulme were fighting for the lead of the F.2 section. Jim Clark soon caught Jack Brabham but seemed to lack the steam and the cornering power to get past and he just sat on his tail for lap after lap. However, he got past on lap 26 but still could not get away from the Brabham.
Pete Arundell was now being caught rapidly by Dan Gurney and this went on for many laps, until just as the Brabham was about to take the Lotus it trickled into the pits with a broken rubber “doughnut” on a drive shaft. This elevated Bonnier to fifth place as he had moved clear of Ireland, who came clanking into the pits on lap 40 with the near-side rear suspension of the B.R.P. shattered. On lap 42 Brabham regained the lead from Jim Clark, a lead he was destined to hold to the end, for as Jim Clark came out of Melling Crossing on his 47th lap he shot off the road and crashed into the straw bales on the outside edge of the track. Jack Brabham had just lapped two slower cars and Clark began to follow him through as he had been waved on by the second of the two cars, but the first driver, Andre Pilette, suddenly slammed his brakes on, forcing the second car to swerve. Clark also swerved to avoid the other car and got onto the rough stuff at the edge of the track and then thudded into the bales. The car was badly damaged but Clark stepped out unhurt.
This left the order as Brabham, Hill, Arundell, Bonnier, Baghetti, Taylor, and first F.2 man Brian Hart. The first four held their positions to the end, although Arundell was being troubled with gear-selection bothers, but Baghetti lost fifth place when he stopped to refuel, Hart retired with a broken rubber “doughnut” on a drive shaft, and Maggs, who inherited the F.2 section lead from Hart, ran out off fuel on the last lap, losing the lead to Mike Spence but just coasting over the line in front of team-mate Attwood.
Jack Brabham’s win was greeted very enthusiastically by the crowd, who obviously appreciated the fact that the underdog had won at last.
In the supporting races Bruce McLaren driving the ex-Penske Zerez Special won the sport-car race, but the highlight was Jim Clark’s second place in the new Lotus 30 after having started from the back of the grid. The saloon-car race was won by Jack Sears’ Ford Galaxie, and the F.3 race went to Jackie Stewart’s Cooper.