A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).
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From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…
Welcome to this 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.
Then there were those races of prominence, attached to a certain time or place that made them hugely significant. I’m thinking specifically of Belgrade, 1939. Only five entries took the start of a race that didn’t sound particularly scintillating. But as it happened to take place on the very day WWII broke out, we felt it worthy of inclusion. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel’s remarkable maiden GP win at Monza in 2008, for lowly Scuderia Toro Rosso, was left on the cutting room floor. Is that fair? You decide. We also opted to include a few races that weren’t Grands Prix, leastways in name, although the strength of entry was such that they might as well have been…
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.
So turn the page, delve in – and whatever you do, don’t take it too seriously.
1967 Belgian GP
June 18, Spa-Francorchamps
It was the summer of love – but also innovation. Colin Chapman had just moved the F1 goalposts, hardly a first, and in early June the Cosworth DFV-powered Lotus 49 made a winning debut in the Dutch GP at Zandvoort.
It was no surprise, then, that the architect of that success, Jim Clark, should take pole a fortnight later in Belgium.
Clark led away, but his fellow front-row qualifiers were less fortunate. Dan Gurney was swamped after failing to select first, while Graham Hill suffered a flat battery and started from the pits. Jochen Rindt thus led the pursuit, from Jackie Stewart and Mike Parkes, but the latter crashed heavily at Blanchimont before the lap was out, sustaining serious injuries that heralded the end of his fleeting world championship career.
Stewart soon passed Rindt for second, while Gurney clawed his way through to third. The American pitted on lap 12, however, losing a few seconds while reporting possible loss of fuel pressure. Clark peeled in shortly beforehand for a plug change, so Stewart now headed Gurney by about 15sec.
The Scot continued to lead until gear selection problems obliged him to steer with one hand while using the other to hold his gearlever in place. With seven of the 28 laps to go, Gurney overtook the hobbled BRM and steadily increased his advantage to the chequered flag, with Stewart taking second from Chris Amon and Clark restricted to sixth.
It would be Eagle’s only F1 championship victory and concluded a particularly sweet week for Gurney. Seven days beforehand he and AJ Foyt had shared the winning Ford MkIV in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Also a summer to love, all in all. SA