1963: 1st Austrian Grand Prix

A lucky win for Brabham

Zeltweg, Austria, September 1st.

Motoring sport in Austria receives little or no government support or enthusiasm, and the various sporting clubs have to fight hard to maintain any sort of racing programme. It is only the enthusiasm of the Austrian sports people that causes any progress to be made at all, and this year their sport took a big stride forward with the holding of an International Formula One race, which took the title of the 1st Austrian Grand Prix.

They have held International races for the past six years, so that the organisation of a Grand Prix caused them no worries, and the meeting went off very smoothly. With no permanent circuits in the country, and racing on the roads forbidden, their only outlet is to use aerodromes, and the Zeltweg one being operational means that they have to condense everything into the two days of Saturday and Sunday. Practice was provided on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, with the race starting in mid-afternoon on Sunday, and as the circuit, which is marked out by straw bales, is an easy one to learn, this was more than adequate.

Naturally, this small race attracted all the usual private owners, but in addition Team Lotus, the B.R.P. team, the Scirocco-Powell team and the Reg Parnell team also entered, and with the Italian Grand Prix due the following Sunday it made a convenient round trip for them. Jack Brabham was there, almost in the guise of a private-owner, with the older car with which he won at Solitude in August, and Bonnier was driving Rob Walker’s 1962 Cooper-Climax.

The Team Lotus had entered Clark and Taylor, but the latter was still suffering from his crash in Sicily at the Enna Grand Prix, so Peter Arundell turned up instead. Unfortunately they had overlooked the fact that Arundell was contracted to the Ron Harris team for Formula Junior races, and was entered for Zandvoort on the same day. After a lot of argument and discussion, and telephone calls and telegrams, during which time Arundell got on with practice, it was finally decided that he could not start in the Formula One race. Being the number one driver for the Harris team it was not surprising that Ron Harris refused to release him from his Junior contract, and by the time the argument was finished it was too late for Arundell to get to Holland, so he did no racing at all that weekend.

Clark had a brand new Lotus 25, fitted with a single-plane crankshaft Coventry-Climax V8 engine and attached to it was a 5-speed Hewland gearbox built around a Volkswagen casting, as used by the latest Brabhams. This new Lotus 25 was of the usual monocoque construction but had redesigned rear radius rods, with improved pick-up points on the chassis, a new layout of throttle control using an aircraft type of flexible control cable instead of the usual archaic Bowden cable, this new one giving much more delicate feel and response. The instrument panel had, in addition to the normal complement, an ammeter (more electrical complications—see September Motor Sport) and an extra pressure gauge for main fuel-pump reading. The second Team Lotus car was the old hack Lotus 25 with the carburetter Climax V8 engine and ZF gearbox. Tucked away in the transporter was Clark’s usual car, rebuilt and wrapped up in cotton-wool ready for the Italian Grand Prix.

The British Racing Partnership entered their two Lotus-B.R.M. V8 cars for Ireland and Hall, but had their B.R.P. monocoque car, repaired after its Nurburgring damage, ready for Monza and used the Austrian practice to test it. Godin de Beaufort drove his usual orange Porsche, and lent his second car to Bardi-Barry, a local Formula Junior driver, while another Austrian Junior driver, Jochem Rindt, was using his own Junior Cooper with a 1,500-c.c. Ford engine fitted. Reg Parnell entered two Lola-Climax V8 cars, for Amon and Campbell-Jones, but actually only ran the first one, but both Scirocco-B.R.M.s were there, with Settember and Burgess. The remaining runners were Siffert (Lotus-B.R.M. V8), Collomb (Lotus-Climax V8), Seifert (Lotus-B.R.M. V8), Parnell (Lotus-B.R.M. V8), Prinoth (Lotus-Climax 4-cyl.), and Pilette (Lotus-Climax 4-cyl.).

When the Saturday practice began Clark started off by touring round quietly and doing some running-in on the brand new car, Brabham found his works had assembled his Colotti gearbox incorrectly, so had to re-do it behind the pits, B.R.P. were still awaiting Innes Ireland, who was at that moment driving like a maniac across Austria in a hired VW, and Siffert’s mechanics had just finished installing his engine after one of them had driven non-stop from Bourne to Austria in a VW with the B.R.M. V8 engine on the back seat. (Strange how all the hire-firms use Volkswagens!)

The Scirocco cars were both practising, as were the rest of the private owners, and with no Formula One cars having run at Zeltweg before no-one had any standards at which to aim. At least, not until Clark had finished his running-in, for then he began to do some serious practice and, whereas 1 min. 13 sec. had seemed good, he soon knocked this down to well under 1 min. 11 sec. The time-keeping was by electronic timers, operated by a photo-electric beam, so that times were given to a one-hundredth of a second, and Clark’s best was 1 min. 10.20 sec., the next best being Brabham with 1 min. 11.44 sec., after he had got his gearbox assembled correctly. The time-keeping information was first class and in addition to giving lap times to a one-hundredth, also gave the number of laps each driver completed. Clark put in 48 laps altogether, the object of the exercise being to get in as much testing of the new Hewland gearbox as possible.

During this practice period the young Austrian driver Rindt had a TV camera bolted onto his Cooper, on an outrigger, but as soon as the organisers saw this they brought out the black-flag and gave him a rocket. They had wisely learnt from the experience of the Nurburgring incident, and full marks to them for their prompt action.

On Sunday morning there was not much need for great activity, the practice period being used by most people for a final check, though Clark tried out some different gear-ratios, but the B.R.P. team left their drivers to sleep-in and spent the time checking over the B.R.M. engines. Brabham did a few laps to see that all was in order, but Collomb had his radiator mountings break and had to enlist the help of the B.R.P. mechanics to weld some new ones on. Before practice finished Arundell went out and did some very quick laps, as he was still hoping to start, and he got down to 1 min. 11.80 sec., which was third fastest, and Clark was just beginning to put in some quick ones when an oil pipe split, but luckily he switched off as the oil pressure fell and avoided damage to the engine.

Bonnier was still trying to improve his position, and had a terrific spin on the long bend after the pits, but came to no harm, so practice finished at 10.30 a.m. with four hours in which to make final preparation for the race, which was due to be run over 80 laps of the 3.2 kilometre circuit. The only complaints drivers seemed to have was about the apparent roughness of the circuit, but this was probably due to being on “hard” concrete, as against the “soft” tarmac of permanent circuits.

With Arundell a non-starter, the two B.R.P.-entered cars joined Clark and Brabham on the front row, and by now a warm sun was shining and the surrounding mountains and green fields took away a lot of the usual drabness of aerodrome circuits. As the flag was raised Settember had the clutch operation of his Scirocco fail and as the clutch bit he switched off and raised his arm in distress, but by then the flag fell and everyone made a fairly quiet start, with very little smoke and wheelspin. Brabham led away, from Clark and the two pea-green Lotuses of Hall and Ireland, while Settember restarted and went off after the tail-enders with his clutch right home and no way of freeing it.

Brabham set the pace, with Clark and Ireland right with him, and behind him Bonnier, Siffert and Amon were wheel to wheel. Almost before the race had begun Burgess coasted into the pits with a hole in the side of his B.R.M. engine, following a rather expensive blow-up, and Bardi-Barry withdrew as he was unable to make his borrowed Porsche go as fast as de Beaufort’s own car, which did not say much for his driving, as previously Mitter had made it go a lot faster than the owners own car.

On lap four Clark took the lead, and next time round Ireland took second place, but Brabham was so close to them that nothing was settled as yet. It was not until lap eight that Clark began to show signs of a gap opening up between his Lotus and that of Ireland, but as he finished lap nine there was a great cloud of smoke from the engine and he switched off and came to rest at the end of the pit area. Meanwhile Brabham had got in front of Ireland, for the rugged Scot had got into the father-and-mother of spins on the long bend after the pits. He said afterwards that each time he went round he could see Brabham with the brakes hard on wondering which way the Lotus was going to go next. Eventually it stopped spinning, pointing in the direction of the race as it stopped, by which time Brabham had dodged by, chuckling to himself, and thanks to good prior perception Ireland had kept the engine going throughout the maneouvre, selected a lower gear and charged off after Brabham, losing only a few seconds of time.

With Clark out they were now first and second, and there followed a splendid wheel-to-wheel dice between the Brabham-Climax V8 driven by its designer-constructor, and the Lotus-B.R.M. V8 driven by an Innes Ireland who was in fine form. There was nobody else in a position to challenge them and they battled for lap after lap, swapping the lead continuously and each trying to make the other make a mistake. They were lapping at around 1 min. 12 sec. the whole time, and though Ireland led more frequently there was no knowing what Brabham was up to, for he had that “nut-brown Australian” look about him that gave him all those Cooper victories in the past.

As far as the rest of the field were concerned Amon had shown his superiority over Bonnier and Siffert and had left them fighting each other and gone off on his own into a firm third place, while young Rindt was going extremely well and leading all the others with his Cooper-Ford, being sixth overall. In spite of having no clutch Settember was going steadily in the Scirocco-B.R.M. V8 and had caught up the tail-enders and was dicing with de Beaufort and getting the better of the battle. After Rindt’s Ford engine had blown up Collomb took over sixth place, only to have his clutch-control fluid reservoir break from its mounting and fall under the brake pedal. This not only gave him a nasty moment, but necessitated a pit-stop to wire it back in place, the stop dropping him to the back of the field, so that Settember now moved up into sixth place. Siffert had been leading Bonnier all the time, but had a spin at the same place as Ireland and this let the Swede get by, but after six laps Siffert was back in front again, and then Bonnier came into his pit with an obscure misfire which could not be traced.

With only 30 laps gone there had been six retirements, and the order was Ireland, Brabham, Amon, Siffert, Settember, de Beaufort, and the rest, but then Siffert’s fuel pump mounting broke and he was forced into the pits. Although it was wired in place and he went out again, it was soon dangling from its wires once more and he finally had to retire. Just before half-distance Clark re-appeared, his mechanics having repaired the broken oil-pipe which had caused all the smoke as he lost the lead. It looked as though he was going to do another “Solitude” but after only three laps he came in again as the oil-pressure was falling on the corners due to a low level in the tank as a result of the loss when the pipe split. Regulations forbidding the taking on of any more oil he had no option but to retire before the engine suffered damage.

At 50 laps the situation between Ireland and Brabham was unchanged, and it was still the same at 56 laps, but the lap after that Brabham was three seconds late in arriving, and was no longer looking happy. Next time round he was five seconds behind and each lap the gap became greater, so that he was obviously in trouble. What was happening was that the cockpit had been getting progressively hotter throughout the race, due to the heat from the oil and water pipes, and the hot air from the radiators, and he had reached the point where he could no longer keep his foot on the brake pedal. This heat was also being added to by the ambient temperature, for the sun was still pouring down, and the fuel tanks were too hot to touch, so that the engine began to cut-out due to vapourisation.

By lap 63 Ireland looked all set for a win, with 15 seconds lead over Brabham, but next time round as he approached the timing line there was a puff of smoke from the engine, the oil-pressure needle fell and Ireland switched off and came to rest before any bits flew out of the side of the engine. This was a bitter blow after such a good drive, and he had to mop the sweat from his brow, for he had been really trying, and watch Brabham tour on to an easy win, for the next three cars were already a lap or more behind, the order being Amon, Settember, de Beaufort, Collomb, etc.

Brabham could now ease off, and cool off, and tour home to an easy win, but trouble still lurked behind him, for on lap 71 Amon stopped at the pits with no oil-pressure, so that Settember and de Beaufort moved up into second and third places, respectively. With the race now in its closing laps Amon set off very gently to complete one more lap, keeping the engine at tick-over and hoping that nothing would break. He waited by the finishing line until Brabham got the chequered flag and then completed the lap to gain fourth place.—D.S.J.

Austrian afterthoughts

At the prize-giving Ireland was presented with a hard-luck prize, given by the Austrian Motor Journalists. It was a gold-plated hexagon-headed bolt mounted in a case.


Everyone was agreed that the Austrians have little to learn about organisation of motor races, the atmosphere being most friendly, efficient and pleasant. All they need now is for the Government to help them with a road-circuit.


The aerodrome is in the middle of three villages, Knittelfeld, Zeltweg and Juddenberg, and all the pubs were filled with the racers and the circus. There was a pleasant absence of “professionalism” and “high-pressure trade.”


Pit marshals wore bright orange jerkins, which was an excellent idea, as you knew at a glance who was in charge. Although the pits were a long way from the paddock there were no difficulties, the organisation being intelligent and did not get fouled-up by being over-organised as in some countries.


Before the Grand Prix Hermann Lang did a number of laps in a 1939 Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix car and thoroughly enjoyed himself, it was going very fast down the straights.