51 – 1962 South African Grand Prix


A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).

During 1962 Jim Clark and Graham Hill had emerged as Britain’s premier racing talents and their teams – Lotus and BRM respectively – were without doubt the ones to beat. 

By the last round at East London each had won three Grands Prix apiece and Hill was ahead on points due to the BRM’s greater finishing record – but only just, due to the system of dropped scores. Whoever won the race would win the title.

Clark started from pole with Hill alongside him and it was the Scot who took the lead on the first lap. From there he built up an unassailable lead of the type F1 would become accustomed to over the next few years. Under the circumstances the unflappable Hill did well to build up a huge lead of his own over the chasing pack – the Coopers of McLaren and Maggs were fighting closely with Jack Brabham – but there was nothing he could do about Clark way up ahead.

The two circulated far apart for 61 laps until the Lotus started to leak oil. Clark stopped and the mechanics found that a locking washer had not been fitted, causing a two-inch bolt to fall out and allow oil to spray over the exhaust. Whatever the result now, Hill would be champion.

The BRM crew couldn’t relax just yet though, as there was still a race to be won and Richie Ginther’s sister car had suffered an engine problem. No such troubles plagued Hill though, and as he crossed the line the demons of BRM’s ’50s mediocrity were exorcised and one of history’s most popular champions was crowned. ACH

About 100 Greatest Grands Prix | From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…

This was a special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.

It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…

Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.

Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!

Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.

You can download 100 Greatest Grands Prix in PDF form in the Motor Sport app.

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