63 – 1970 Belgian GP


Spa had become divisive. Jackie Stewart despised its naked dangers – and said so. If it rained, he told Ken Tyrrell, he would not race. And his team boss couldn’t argue as he felt this throwback road circuit had two years of Formula 1 left in it. At most. 

Pedro Rodriguez loved its naked dangers – and said so. Even if it rained, he told his GPDA peers at a meeting on Saturday evening, he would not give it a second thought: he would race. Hard. The Mexican, who had recorded a startling 160mph fastest lap in a Porsche 917 during May’s 1000-kilometre sports car race here, was not a rival that Stewart entirely trusted on-track, although Stewart would concede that the faster the circuit, the better Pedro drove. Perhaps, thought Stewart, he needed the danger to perform, to concentrate.

In the same way, Stewart’s ‘enemies’ had to concede that the Scot was no chicken. JYS disliked his March almost as much as he did Spa and yet he put it on pole by more than two seconds. Rodriguez, expected to shine in the V12 BRM, could do no better than sixth after losing much running time during practice because of gearbox and then engine problems. Chris Amon, who missed the entire final session while the engine was changed in his works March, would start from the outside of the three-car front row.

Stewart’s problems occurred during the (bone dry) race. His Cosworth V8 broke an outer valve spring on the warm-up lap and, although he took the lead from Amon on the second lap, he sensed his impending doom as his engine ran progressively flatter before detonating as he passed the pits at mid-distance.

View this race on the Database

Rodriguez and Amon were long gone by this stage. The latter, his new engine running particularly strongly, had felt invincible – until Pedro blew by him on lap five. Chris ducked into the streamline, tucked his elbows in and clung on. A slide for Rodriguez exiting La Source on lap eight allowed the red March alongside – and to be credited with the lead of that lap – but nobody was braver than Pedro through Eau Rouge and he promptly resumed the lead. 

The pair of them were rarely more than two seconds apart but Amon could do nothing about the super-concentrated Rodriguez.  The New Zealander set the fastest lap on the last lap – just 152mph because of the insertion of a first-gear chicane at Malmédy – to close to within a second of the staunchly resonant BRM. And that was that. 

Rodriguez had the victory he so craved. BRM had ended its four-year drought. And Spa, the old Spa, had held its last Grand Prix. Stewart had been incontrovertibly right about the track. But at least Pedro had got his chance to be gloriously, magnificently wrong. PF

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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