1967 Italian Grand Prix race report: Surtees wins out as heroic Clark denied

John Surtees, Honda RA300.

John Surtees took his first victory for Honda

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As the Italian GP was to wind up the Championship races in Europe there was something of a do-or-die atmosphere about the paddock as the teams began to assemble at Monza prior to the first practice period on Friday afternoon.

Ferrari, Cooper-Maserati and AAR Eagle had already been going round in private test sessions, the Maranello team trying out a brand new car and the other two trying out new drivers. Invariably everyone does their best to get new cars ready for Monza, for it is such a fine opportunity to find out if the car will go without too many side issues coming in, for Monza calls for speed and stamina from the engine and not too much skill from the driver, though lapping at over 140mph is by no means easy, even if the car is fast; it is not like Nurburgring where a brilliant driver can make up for a slow car.

Enzo Ferrari entered only one car, which seemed unbelievable, in his own Grand Prix, but he firmly maintains that Italy has no more “professional” drivers since the death of Bandini, so Amon was the sole supporter of the Maranello fortunes. They made sure he had the best possible equipment for a brand new car was ready for him, with his Nurburgring car, 0005, as a spare.

“Scarfiotti, was no longer in a Ferrari as ‘Zio Enzo’ had decided that Scarfiotti was a good hill-climb driver, but not a ‘professional Grand Prix driver’”

The new car, 0007, was similar in chassis layout, being a mixture of monocoque and tubular structure, and suspension followed the usual pattern though it was lighter and neater. The important part was the brand new engine, still a 3-litre 12-cylinder, but with an entirely new cylinder-head layout, with four valves per cylinder, and this was coupled to the latest gearbox, of the type that appeared at Nurburgring.

Last year’s winning driver, Scarfiotti, was no longer in a Ferrari as “Zio Enzo” had decided that Scarfiotti was a good hill-climb driver, but not a “professional Grand Prix driver” and that it was a wasted effort to provide a car for someone who could not win!

Ludovico Scarfiotti, Eagle T1G Weslake, passes through the pit lane.

Scarfiotti drove the second entry for Gurney’s AAR team

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Scarfiotti was keen enough to drive in the Italian GP, so Dan Gurney took him into the Anglo-American Racers Eagle team as his number two. Gurney had the latest and lightest Eagle, number 104, and Scafiotti had number 103, both with V12 Weslake engines giving well over 400bhp. Gurney’s car had new rear hub carriers lubricated from sheet steel, which were as strong and as light as the normal cast-alloy ones, so the next step will be to fabricate titanium ones. Numerous other small parts on Gurney’s car had been improved, either in lightening or strengthening, such items as better rose joints on the wishbones for example.

The Cooper team had been in Modena where Maserati had been doing a lot of development work on the 36-valve V12-cylinder engine, altering the combustion chamber considerably, and the two 1967 works cars were both fitted with these latest engines.

The low and flat one, that Rindt was to drive, F1-2-67, had an extended nose cowling with an air spoiler on the front that practically scraped the ground, and F1-1-67, the lightest and latest of the old pattern Coopers was being driven by Ickx, as Pedro Rodriguez was still out of action following his Enna crash. Both cars were using Hewland gearboxes, and had the rear brakes inboard of the hub carriers.

Brabham came in a very experimental mood, having bodywork completely enclosing the rear of the car, not to make it look neat and tidy as I thought, but in an attempt to reduce air drag! He also had an experimental cockpit top similar to Frank Costin’s Protos design, where the Perspex windscreen practically covers the driver’s head and he has a slot to look through.

As usual Brabham had BT24-1 and Hulme had BT24-2, while there was a new chassis, BT24-3, as a spare, their Repco V8 engines carrying a justifiable reputation for remarkable reliability.

Team Lotus were out in full strength with three cars, 49/2 for Clark, 49/3 for Hill and 49/1 for Baghetti the last being a good “local-politics” move. All three Lotus 49 cars were using solid disc brakes, the heavily ventilated ones having proved too effective, as was discovered at Nurburgring, and they all had 400bhp Cosworth V8 engines labelled Ford.

The BRM team brought their four H16-cylinder cars, one of which came direct from a demonstration visit to Czechoslovakia, where it had been flying the Owen Organisation flag in conjunction with some good engineering trading between the BRM parent company and the Czechs.

Jack Brabham, Brabham BT24 Repco, experimenting with a new screen.

Brabham experiments with a new screen

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The latest and lightest car, number 1151, was for Stewart and the three earlier cars, 8301, 8302 and 8303, were being shared between Spence and Irwin, the latter running under the Parnell banner. Whichever of the three earlier cars was not in use was acting as a spare or Stewart.

The Surtees Honda team were proudly showing a brand new car, built in six weeks at the Team Surtees factory in Slough, which was using the latest V12 engine and a new gearbox in an entirely new chassis that showed a lot of Eric Broadley influence, especially around the suspension.

As it had only run a few laps at Goodwood before leaving for Monza not too much was expected of it, and Surtees had the earlier car which normally acts as a spare as a stand-by.

Bruce McLaren Racing had their new car, which had made such a successful debut in Canada, with its V12-cylinder BRM engine, but after the flat battery debacle they had replaced the alternator charging system. The entry list was completed by Ligier with his ex-works Brabham-Repco V8, Bonnier with his Cooper-Maserati, Siffert with the Walker-Durlacher Cooper-Maserati and de Adamich with Ligier’s old Cooper-Maserati.

Qualifying

There always seems to be ample time for practice at Monza, with three hours on Friday afternoon and another three hours on Saturday, and after a preliminary run round in the first hour by most drivers a lot of time was spent making alterations to this and that, and mid-afternoon was very quiet. It was also very hot, so there was a general air of waiting until the sun started to go down, as practice lasted until 6.30pm.

However, not everyone was waiting for Hulme had started out at a good pace, with laps below the old race record lap time of 1min 32.4sec, but not as fast as Parkes’ (Ferrari) best practice time of last year of 1min 31.3sec, and then came to a stop with a head-gasket broken, so his practice ended and the engine was taken to bits.

Clark had set off in Lotus 49/2 only to find the gearbox ratios not to his liking, so while it was changed for another one he went out in Baghetti’s car, but the driving position was all wrong and he could not see over the windscreen properly, so he did not put in any very fast laps, although he was well below any previous best time and was approaching 1min 30sec.

The new Ferrari was having glassfibre “collector boxes” fitted to the air intakes, so Amon went out in the earlier car and Surtees had done only a few laps in the new Honda when the front anti-roll bar mountings began to fail, so he transferred to the old car. Brabham tried his car with the tail fairing, but not the “bubble-top” cockpit, and found that the gearbox was overheating, so it was discarded.

Engineers push the car of Jochen Rindt, Cooper T86 Maserati, in the pits.

The Cooper team push Rindt out of the pits

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McLaren had been having trouble getting his BRM engine to start, and when he finally got going it was breathing crankcase fumes in a rather unhealthy fashion. Stewart was trying the latest BRM 16-cylinder and also one of the early ones, and Scarfiotti was doing an enormous number of laps in his Eagle until it came in with steam coming from the overflow and showed signs of a cylinder liner Cooper-sealing-ring having failed.

When the new Ferrari was complete Amon took it out and was soon showing the potential of this new engine, with laps under 1min 30sec, and set the pace with 1min 29.4sec. Clark’s car was now fitted with another gearbox and he quickly went out and did 1min 28.5sec, just to stop any complacency spreading in the Ferrari pits, but even at that had not extended the Lotus fully, especially on braking, so it was clear that when things started to get serious all the works cars would have to be below 1min 30sec if they were to be in the hunt, and pole position on the grid was going to be under 1min 28sec, and even as low as 1min 27.0sec.

“Brabham tried his ‘bubble top’ cockpit cover and found he was 4sec slower per lap because he could not see clearly enough under the trees”

These sort of lap times were representing an average speed of over 145mph, so that at those sort of speeds every tenth of a second was going to count for a great distance between two cars. Brabham tried his “bubble top” cockpit cover and found he was 4sec slower per lap because he could not see clearly enough under the trees around the Lesmo corners. Any extra speed it gave him on the straights was cancelled out by the slower cornering, so it was soon discarded. With the car in its normal form he did some crafty slip-streaming behind Amon in the new Ferrari and got himself a lap in 1min 29.3sec, a long way off Clark’s time, but second fastest none the less.

Gurney was out with them and going well, as was Graham Hill, and by the end of the afternoon five cars were below 1min 30sec, six below Parkes’ fastest practice lap of last year, and eleven were below the official lap record, which were encouraging results for a year of work and progress. Of these the engines of the Ferrari, Lotus, Cooper and McLaren were new since last year, and the Weslake engine was exactly 12 months from when it first appeared in public.

Practice finished with the Eagle team starting on a major engine-changing session, Hulme’s engine being repaired and Stewart’s BRM having a better engine installed. Amon had caused a flutter in the Ferrari pit as the new engine suddenly stopped as he was passing the pits, but it was nothing more serious than a shortage of petrol. Baghetti did not get a chance to drive the spare Lotus 49, Siffert’s Cooper-Maserati had not arrived as the engine had broken a camshaft while on the test-bed the day before, and de Adamich decided he did not want to drive Ligier’s Cooper-Maserati after all.

The signs were that there was going to be some fast motoring during the second practice afternoon, when everyone got really worked up and began using each other’s slip-stream. Although the three training cars were in use, no lap times were given for them.

Next day Gurney had a new engine in his Eagle and his old one had been put into Scarfiotti’s car, Hulme’s engine was complete again, and Stewart had a better engine in his BRM. The new Honda had been strengthened, Siffert’s Cooper-Maserati had arrived, and Baghetti was ready to have a drive in Lotus 49/1.

The weather did not look too promising so those who were ready at 3:30pm started lapping pretty quickly from the word go and Brabham did some more slip-streaming and got in a lap at an incredible 1min 28.8sec. Stewart’s new engine was going really well and got him into the under 1min 30sec group, and Hulme was there as well.

Qualifying time was 15% of the fastest time and Siffert soon managed this, which was very fortunate as it turned out later, and Baghetti found the powerful Lotus 49 quite a handful, but managed all right. McLaren joined the elite by reason of some slip-streaming and Clark was preparing to try some Goodyear tyres, as he did not like the way the Firestone tyres seemed reluctant to slide, although they were holding the road well.

Practice had only been going for a little over 30 minutes when the first spots of rain fell, and with the exception of Brabham and Scarfiotti everyone rushed for shelter. It was just as well for the storm clouds got thicker and then the sky opened and the rain was bouncing two inches off the ground and hailstones began to fall. Torrential rain fell for nearly an hour, and even when it had stopped and people ventured out again the track was too wet for any more record lap times and all the battling for grid positions was over.

Jackie Stewart, BRM P83.

Stewart was one of a number of drivers trying different engines

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The session was extended for 30 minutes, until 7pm but it was no use, and no-one could approach 1min 30sec, for under the trees at Lesmo it was still damp and slippery. Clark did some comparative tests with Goodyear and Firestone tyres, but they were not really conclusive as road conditions were changing all the time, but, at least it kept the tyre people on their toes.

As practice was ending Baghetti ran out of petrol in Lotus 40, which meant a long wait for him until he was collected, but this satisfied Team Lotus that the fuel system was working properly and picking up the last gallon from the tanks, so that they were able to do an accurate consumption check.

“The rain had made rather a nonsense of the starting grid”

Also, as practice ended the new Cooper-Maserati that Rindt was driving broke a drive-shaft universal and the wayward shall smashed a rear brake and hub carrier, which meant some late night work for the mechanics.

The rain had made rather a nonsense of the starting grid, for Gurney, Amon and Hill had a lot more to come, and Brabham and McLaren were on the front row with lap times they could not repeat without a slip-streaming “tow” from a faster car.

However it did mean that there were five different makes of car on the first two rows, having little in common except the 3-litres capacity of the engine. The Cosworth engine has eight cylinders, four valves per cylinder, centre inlets and side exhausts; the Repco has eight cylinders, two valves per cylinder, single ohc, vertical inlets and centre exhausts; the BRM has 12 cylinders, two valves per cylinder, vertical inlets and side exhausts; the Ferrari has 12 cylinders, four valves per cylinder, side inlets and centre exhausts; and the Weslake has 12 cylinders, four valves per cylinder, centre inlets and side exhausts: all of which shows a healthy competition among engine designers, and in the third row was an H16-cylinder BRM.

Race

Jack Brabham, Brabham BT24 Repco, leads Bruce McLaren, McLaren M5A BRM, Dan Gurney, Eagle T1G Weslake, and the rest of the field at the start of the race.

Jack Brabham takes the lead at the start

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Sunday was warm and dry, with a haze keeping the full power of the sun away, and there was little space to spare in any of the grandstands and everyone prepared for a fast and furious race, but no-one even contemplated that it would turn out the way it did.

The race length was 68 laps of the Monza road-circuit, and as the eighteen cars lined up on the “dummy grid” some hundred yards behind the starting line there was a tension in the air that said “this is going to be a fantastic start,” with Amon, Gurney, Hulme, Stewart, Hill and Surtees all feeling they should have been on the front row alongside Clark, while Brabham and McLaren were smiling quietly to themselves, at having out-smarted the others.

With three minutes to go there was a panic in the Cooper team when Rindt’s battery failed to start the engine and mechanics flashed about the place and installed a new one with 30 seconds to spare. The starter prepared to climb on to his rostrum with the Italian flag and back on the “dummy grid” the drivers were given a 30 seconds sign. The normal procedure is that with 10 or 15 seconds to go an official gives a signal to the driver on pole position to lead the field slowly forward to the proper grid, the cars in the front row keeping station and controlling things.

The whole field pauses on the grid proper, the flag is raised for five seconds and the start is given. Something went wrong somewhere. At 25 seconds no signal had been given, there had been no drivers’ briefing to say that anything out of the ordinary would happen, and many of the drivers began to wonder if the “dummy grid” start was being used.

As the 30 seconds were finished an official raised and lowered, very gently, a green flag, meaning “move forward for the start”, the starter unfurled the Italian flag and Clark began to let in his clutch, but he was conscious that all around him engine revs were up at peak, ready for a racing start.

As the green flag came down Brabham left the “dummy grid” with smoking rear tyres, hotly pursued by McLaren and Gurney and the rest, depending on their reflexes and where they had been looking.

“Brabham left the ‘dummy grid’ with smoking rear tyres, hotly pursued by McLaren and Gurney and the rest, depending on their reflexes and where they had been looking”

Clark was still watching the starter and was half-way to the starting line before he joined the uncontrollable rush, by which time Brabham was well beyond the starting line, still with spinning tyres and looking to right and left to see where everyone else was.

Gurney swerved round the outside of McLaren and Amon nearly hit the back of Clark’s Lotus, and in the confusion put the clutch out and the Ferrari engine revs went sky high and there must have been a bending of valves.

Dan Gurney, Eagle T1G Weslake, leads Jack Brabham, Brabham BT24 Repco, Graham Hill, Lotus 49 Ford, Bruce McLaren, McLaren M5A BRM, Jim Clark, Lotus 49 Ford, and the rest of the field on the opening lap.Dan Gurney, Eagle T1G Weslake, leads Jack Brabham, Brabham BT24 Repco, Graham Hill, Lotus 49 Ford, Bruce McLaren, McLaren M5A BRM, Jim Clark, Lotus 49 Ford, and the rest of the field on the opening lap.

By the end of the opening lap Gurney had made his way in front

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The starter clearly did not believe all this and feebly raised and lowered the Italian flag as the cars on the middle of the grid went by! Whether the organisers wanted it or not the race was on, and Brabham was off like a jack-rabbit. He was leading at Lesmo, but round the back of the circuit Gurney went by into the lead, and Hill and Clark were hard behind them, while poor Amon found his engine would not go above 9,400rpm, whereas it should have gone to 10,800rpm.

As the “naughty boys” screamed past at 150mph at the end of the opening lap, in the order Gurney (Eagle), Brabham (Brabham), Hill (Lotus), Clark (Lotus), McLaren (McLaren), Stewart (BRM), Hulme(Brabham) and Amon (Ferrari), the officials of the meeting still had their mouths open in startled surprise.

“As the “naughty boys” screamed past at 150mph at the end of the opening lap the officials of the meeting still had their mouths open in startled surprise”

On the next lap Clark went by Brabham and Hill, into second place, and Hill followed him through and took third place. On lap 3 Clark shot by Gurney, and as he came up the straight from the Curva Parabolica he swerved the Lotus from right to left to stop Gurney getting in his slip-stream.

However the Weslake engine seemed capable of holding the Cosworth engine, the gap being the same on lap 4, but Hulme was now right behind Brabham, in fifth place, and had dropped Stewart and the others behind.

At the end of lap 5 Clark’s Lotus appeared on its own, then came Hill, Hulme, Brabham, Stewart, McLaren, Amon, Surtees, Scarfiotti, Rindt, Baghetti and the others, Bonnier and Ligier bringing up the rear, but then Gurney’s Eagle was seen coasting into the pits leaving a trail of oil from under the engine. It had broken a connecting roil bolt and the car was wheeled away. While the oil was being mopped up the Eagle team suffered another blow for Scarfiotti came coasting in with a dead engine, the scavenge pump housing having broken and damaged the timing gear badly.

At six laps Clark had a full second lead over Hill, but Hulme was gaining on the Second Lotus, getting a little way away from Brabham in the process. Then came Stewart, but one lap later he drew into the pits, so that now there were two distinct groups: Clark, Hill, Hulme and Brabham out ahead, and then McLaren, Amon, Surtees and Rindt.

Although things looked straight forward enough all was not well, for Clark’s car was handling in an odd fashion and he was easing his pace very slightly to that of the other three, and in the second group Amon’s engine was still “off colour,” and was obviously going to stay that way; the new Honda was going well down the straights and could get away from the Ferrari, but in the corners the fuel-injection was getting in a muddle and the acceleration was being affected, and Rindt had crumpled the nose “spoiler” under braking and was now plagued by ” understeer ” at the wrong moments.

Chris Amon, Ferrari 312, leads Jo Siffert, Cooper T81 Maserati, and Jochen Rindt, Cooper T86 Maserati, into Parabolica.

Ferrari’s Amon leads the Coopers of Siffert and Rindt

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Stewart lost a whole lap at the pits, having stopped to see if he had damaged his left rear Goodyear after sliding the tail too far at Lesmo and hitting the guard-rail. It was marked but undamaged so he rushed back into the race.

With one thing and another the pace was not as fast as it might have been, but it was fast all the same, the race average being just over 140mph. Hulme had really got the bit between his teeth and passed Hill on lap 9, and the troubled Clark on lap 10, but on the next lap Clark was back in front again, but something was obviously wrong somewhere.

“On lap 12 Clark had a shrewd idea what it was, and was hanging out of the cockpit looking at his right rear tyre”

On lap 12 he had a shrewd idea what it was, and was hanging out of the cockpit looking at his right rear tyre, and sure enough it was going flat, so it was no surprise when Hulme, Brabham and Hill appeared on their own on lap 13, and Clark was seen going into the pits.

Some twelve seconds behind this group Surtees was keeping the Honda ahead of Amon’s new Ferrari, the McLaren BRM V12, and Rindt’s latest Cooper-Maserati, but he was not having an easy time, and frequently the Ferrari was alongside the Japanese machine, much to the delight of the crowd, and occasionally in front, which sent them into near pandemonium, even though the two cars were only battling for fourth place.

Clark was in the pits for a very short time, while the rear wheel and tyre were changed, and he accelerated up the pit road really hard, as the leading trio went by at full speed, now one whole lap and a few hundred yards ahead of him, the two Brabhams leading Hill’s Lotus. The battling foursome for fourth place were barely in sight as Clark rejoined the race, so for anyone who had not been paying attention the race pattern would have looked unchanged, but in actual fact Clark was now in 15th position; a lap and a bit behind the leaders, nearly a lap behind the second group, half a lap behind Baghetti, Siffert, Irwin and Spence, and almost in sight of Ickx, Bonnier and Ligier, the last two about to be lapped by the leaders.

As the leading trio went by the tail-enders on lap 16, Brabham nipped into the lead, but on the next lap Hulme was back in front again and the lap after that as Ickx was lapped Hill took the lead. With only 20 laps gone there had been five different leaders, and even now nothing was settled. Irwin retired the Parnell-entered BRM 8301, when the drive to a metering unit broke, and it was reported to the BRM pit that Stewart had thrown a piece of tread of a rear tyre, so he was flagged in. It turned out to be a false report and he was quickly away, still in last place due to his earlier stop.

The leaders were lapping at around 1min 30sec, but Clark was going much quicker and gaining on them rapidly, already being up to 11th place, after passing Bonnier, Ligier and lckx and having Irwin retire. At 21 laps he was right behind the leading trio, at 22 laps he was between Hulme and Brabham, and at 24 laps he was past Hulme and Hill, but unfortunately this let Hulme get into his slip-stream and the crafty New Zealander also went past Hill and back into the lead of the race.

Graham Hill, Lotus 49 Ford, leads Denny Hulme, Brabham BT24 Repco.

Hill battles with Hulme

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Brabham was having difficulty staying with them now, for his throttles had stuck wide open momentarily and the engine overrevved and lost its fine edge. On lap 26 Clark set a new lap record, having a clear track ahead of him going round in 1min 28.5sec, whereas up to this point Hulme had held the fastest lap with 1min 28.9sec, which he had done on lap 5, just as Gurney spread oil everywhere, which had slowed the pace.

Clark began to pull away rapidly from Hulme and Hill, and caught Spence and Siffert moving up two more places as he went past them. On lap 28 Hill retook the lead from Hulme, as something was going wrong with the Repco engine, and on lap 30 Hulme was slowing visibly and drew into the pits on the next lap with an overheated engine and most of the water gone, a head gasket having broken.

This left Hill on his own, almost in the tail of Clark’s slip-stream, and more than 10 seconds in front of Brabham, who was now noticing a drop in power due to the inadvertent over-revving. Clark was about to overtake Baghetti in the third Lotus and when he did, on lap 33, he was in seventh place, with Hulme retiring.

At half-distance, or 34 laps, the three Lotus 49s were in correct number order as they passed the pits, Clark 20, Hill 22, and Baghetti 24, the only thing wrong being that they were not 1-2-3 in the race. Hill was leading Brabham by 17 seconds, and nearly a minute behind came the foursome still in a tight bunch, with Surtees leading by inches. Clark was encouraging Hill to great things, and “towing” him along two seconds a lap faster than Brabham was going, while Baghetti was also being inspired and he kept the two Lotus champions in sight for quite a time. The battle for third place was as fierce as ever, with the Honda and the Ferrari side-by-side, and the McLaren and Cooper-Maserati side-by-side right behind them.

Clark drove on and on as hard as the Lotus would go, with Hill following and benefiting from the slip-stream of the team-leader’s Lotus, and the gap between them and Brabham continued to open out at two seconds per lap.

At the back of the field Stewart had not been making much progress, though he was lapping as fast as Brabham, and had caught and passed Ickx, in the older of the Cooper-Maseratis, but on his 46th lap Stewart’s car gave a great “poof” of oil and smoke on out of the back of the engine, and that was that.

As if in sympathy the next lap, McLarens V12 BRM engine broke two connecting rods and he stopped at the Lesmo end of the circuit, and on the following lap Amon drew into the Ferrari pit with a defective nearside rear suspension, but nothing could be seen wrong so he rejoined the race, having lost exactly a lap.

The battling foursome for third place had suddenly all fallen apart, and Surtees was left on his own, for though Rindt was keeping up with the Honda he could not challenge it. At 50 laps Clark was still “towing” Hill and the gap between them and Brabham was now 55 seconds, with Surtees in third place, some 15 seconds behind Brabham, and being no longer troubled by Amon’s Ferrari he set about closing the gap.

John Surtees, Honda RA300, battles with Chris Amon, Ferrari 312.

Amon duels with Surtees

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On the 51st lap Siffert was accelerating through the second bend of the Lesmo when the left rear tyre of his Cooper-Maserati suddenly went flat and this spun him into the guard-rail and broke the wheel and crumpled all the exhaust pipes. He had just lapped Ickx in the second works Cooper-Maserati and the two cars missed each other by inches.

Baghetti’s Cosworth V8 went “pop” and stopped, with a broken camshaft, and he coasted into the pits to retire at 51 laps, and this gave Team Lotus and Keith Duckworth their first fears as to whether the other two engines would keep going. Clark was showing no signs of easing up and on lap 53 he had Rindt’s Cooper-Maserati in his sights, going past it on lap 54 and into fourth place, with the Honda and the Brabham coming into view.

All that Graham Hill had to do was to follow in Clark’s wake, having nearly a lap lead over Brabham and Surtees, for after Clark had overtaken Rindt, Hill lapped the Cooper-Maserati. He had a comfortable and unassailable lead, though it was rather over-shadowed by the second, third and fourth cars, which were lust in front of him on the road. Slowly but surely the Honda was catching the Brabham, and very rapidly Clark’s Lotus was catching both of them. Amon had another stop to see if the left rear shock-absorber could be made to work, and this dropped him to the end of the depleted field behind Ickx.

On lap 59 everything seemed to happen, for Clark had his sights on the Honda, but behind him poor Graham Hill’s engine had gone bang in a big way, and it was Brabham who led, though he had to complete one more lap before he actually passed the stricken Lotus which had coasted into the pits. The Cosworth V8 was well and truly wrecked and it was hardly worth trying to see what had broken, but Clark kept the Team Lotus flag flying by going past the Honda into second place as if the Japanese car was stopping, but Surtees used the Lotus slipstream to pull him along even closer to Brabham, whom Clark was about to devour.

All this had been very confusing for the positions on the road were Brabham, Surtees, Clark, Hill at the time Lotus 49/3 blew up, with Hill leading the race by nearly a complete lap over the other three, so that they had to run the whole of their 59th lap before they took the lead, during which time Hill was in the pits, having not quite completed his 59th lap.

“To lose the lead then to fight back was the sort of thing that puts Clark into the Nuvolari, Fangio, Moss category of really great drivers”

Brabham was just leading at the end of lap 60, but Clark was closing on him rapidly, and as they disappeared towards the Curva Grande the Clark/Lotus fans (and there were a lot of us) stood up and cheered when the Lotus went by into the lead, having made up a whole lap on the Brabham.

To lose the lead through a puncture, stop and change the wheel, and then to fight back into the lead, admittedly with the help of the misfortune of his team-mate, was the sort of thing that puts Clark into the Nuvolari, Fangio, Moss category of really great drivers. But it was not yet over, and with two broken Cosworth V8 engines in the pits Team Lotus had their fingers crossed.

With Brabham in sight Surtees was doing all he knew with the Honda, and it was good to see him really working again and fighting every inch of the way; for so many races now he has had to drag along disconsolately with a bad chassis that did not do justice to his ability. After 60 laps the three leading cars were nose-to-tail for though the Lotus had rushed by into the lead, Brabham had put his car smartly into the slip-stream and been sucked along.

By lap 65 Clark had managed to shake off Brabham and this gave Surtees his chance and he forced his way by into second place, and as the three cars ended their 65th lap the electric scoreboard indicated that 3.2sec covered the distance between the first and third cars.

At the end of the next lap it was 3.3sec, and it looked as though stalemate had been reached, with the advantage to Clark, but as they started the last lap the overall gap was only 2.8sec and Clark’s Lotus was in obvious trouble.

John Surtees, Honda RA300, leads Jack Brabham, Brabham BT24 Repco.

Surtees engaged in a drag race with Brabham to the finishing line

Motorsport Images

The three cars went into the 165mph Curva Grande one behind the other and suddenly Clark’s engine cut out, which caused the car to twitch sideways. This made Surtees and Brabham do a quick dodge round the Lotus, demonstrating why Grand Prix stars are supermen, for most drivers would have had an accident at that speed, and the commentator at Lesmo nearly had an apoplectic fit as Surtees went by in the lead, with half a lap to go.

The Lotus fuel supply had dried up and poor Clark’s Lotus was hiccoughing along now in third place, while the two most rugged and unforgiving drivers in Grand Prix racing were one behind the other down the back straight at over 180mph, heading for the last corner of this momentous race.

Surtees was leading but knew that Brabham might be able to outbrake him into the right-hand corner and his first instinct was to keep to the right and hug the inside of the bend so that Brabham would have to go round the outside, and he would not have sufficient surplus of power to do that.

But even better was the fact that across the corner was a trail of cement dust put down to soak up the oil that Hill had dropped. Any line through the corner had to cross this dust, and if you crossed it with the brakes still on, or with too much speed you would be certain to slide out wide. Surtees kept well over to the left as he came down the straight, so that Brabham had only two choices, either to follow the Honda through the corner with little hope of out-accelerating it to the finish, or to go by on the right under braking and hope to take the lead and hold it as they went into the corner.

John Surtees, Honda RA300, takes victory by 0.2s from Jack Brabham, Brabham Repco BT24.

0.2sec separated Surtees (right) and Brabham on the line

Motorsport Images

Luck was on the side of Surtees, for Brabham took the second choice and went by on the right as they both stood on their brake pedals, and, sure enough, he hit the cement dust going a little too fast and the car slid to the outside of the bend, by which time Surtees had pulled the Honda across behind the Brabham, dived to the inside and was leading as they entered the final straight, but Brabham was right behind him and as they raced for the finish the Australian pulled out of the Honda slip-stream and got almost alongside as Surtees got the chequered flag of victory. Phew!

“As they raced for the finish the Brabham pulled out of the Honda slip-stream and got almost alongside as Surtees got the chequered flag of victory”

The crowd went wild and swarmed on to the track as Clark coasted over the line in third place, his fuel tanks appearing to be empty. Rindt was fourth, Spence fifth, Ickx sixth and Amon seventh. While one section of the milling throng overwhelmed Clark another section nearly tore Surtees to pieces in their enthusiasm, for he is still the idol of the Italian sporting world, even if he does drive a Japanese car.

When the tumult and the shouting died down, which was nearly two hours later, the Lotus mechanics filled the tanks on Clark’s car and found that there had still been 3 gallons left in them, so he had not run out of petrol due to a miscalculation, as was supposed, but the pumps had failed to pick up the last 3 gallons, even though they were working all right. On Baghetti’s car in practice the fuel system had worked down to the last pint of petrol, on Clark’s car with an identical fuel system the pumps had dried up with 3 gallons still in the tanks. The perversity of things mechanical.

Monza Mutters

  • The Firestone tyres on the winning Honda were the first of a batch being made in England, at the Brentford factory, as distinct from previous Firestone racing tyres which were made in America. The Honda was running on BP fuel and oil, which is ironical in view of BP withdrawing from racing.
  • What a lot of engines blew up. Monza is a wonderful flat-out thrash and engines need to be strong.
  • Brabham may be the reigning World Champion, but he is not supposed to start the races.

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