On Thursday 23rd June 1960, the Le Mans circuit is once again drenched in blood: 25-year-old driver Jonathan Sieff is taken to the hospital in very serious condition after his Lotus literally breaks in half after going off track and crashing into a concrete scaffolding during qualifying. Another British driver, J. Bentley, goes off track in a turn but, luckily, the frightening accident only causes a wound on his nose. And finally, Frederico D'Orey, the Brazilian driver who had fractured his skull base after the dramatic overturning of his Ferrari, is at the hospital in almost desperate condition. This latest incident occurred during Wednesday's practice. Three disasters in just twenty-four hours: there are enough reasons to alarm the public opinion all over the world. After the accident that occurred to Jonathan Sieff, public meetings were called in various French sporting circles, during which they thought of presenting a series of interpellations to the Chamber of Deputies requesting to ban car racing. The Engineer Alphonse Beuget of the Paris Automobil Club, states:
"In a civilized country competitions like these shouldn’t be allowed, they are enormously detached from the true and pure spirit of the sport, just to attract the audience. It’s exactly the possibility of danger that thrills the audience".
Engineer Beuget, encouraged by many supporters, including some deputies, vowed to launch a campaign against car racing: a campaign to which the press promised wide support. Out of the three accidents, the one that involved Sieff undoubtedly struck the French audience because of the sensational circumstances under which it occurred (the two parts of the broken car flew away like pieces of crumpled paper, then crashed heavily on the hard tarmac), and because Sieff was very young (25 years old), had just got married, had just become a father and if luck hadn’t assisted him he could have lost his life. Jonathan Sieff is the heir of a huge fortune: his father is the president of Marks and Spencer: a true empire of luxurious and popular stores. Jonathan's grandfather, Sir Simon Marks, is practically the owner of the vast chain. The incidents were also caused by the bad weather, by the rain that made the track unsafe and that, however, didn’t discourage the drivers from attempting to do the tests before the great competition that would start on Saturday 25th June 1960. On the other hand, Bentley despite the misfortune that occurred to him and even if he knows that two of his colleagues are dying, after having undergone a short surgery (three stitches on the nose) tells the journalists that he will participate in the competition. The incident, which occurred just ten minutes before the closing the practice session, was later told by the American driver Phil Hill, who happened to be near it:
"I heard the brakes squeaking terribly and in the darkness of the night, I saw a car zigzagging towards the side of the road: the car crashed into a concrete pillar and broke in half. I left immediately, accompanied by the sporting commissioner with whom I was, looking for the driver that the violent collision had thrown very far away, at about fifteen meters from the car: it was his pleas, his moans, that helped us find him; I suppose that, at the moment of the slide, Sieff was driving at a speed of at least 200 km/h".
The French press, commenting on the three accidents, makes negative remarks on the sporting malpractice that dominates in motor racing. Among other things, they point out that managers and organizers - while waiting for more determining measures to be adopted by the Houses of Parliament and the Government – should at least be concerned about establishing limits in motor racing. It should be noted that most of the accidents become fatal because the drivers, to ensure the highest speed, use cars which are as light as possible and with essential bodywork: such cars are more prone to sliding, going off track and the crash against any obstacle which easily reduces them to a miserable tangle of crumpled iron. Test officials at Le Mans, for their part, say that Jonathan Sieff was driving at a speed of 280 km/h when he lost control of his car on the six-kilometer-long straight. The young British driver's condition, which overnight had appeared desperate to doctors, improved slightly the following day. If the 25-year-old driver overcomes the shock in which he still is, there are some possibilities that he will be considered out of danger. The doctors also assure that Sieff didn't suffer a skull fracture, as it first appeared, but that the condition of the driver remains worrying especially because of the severe state of the nervous collapse, the state of shock, which could compromise the mental faculties of the young man and the high temperature which negatively affects the condition of the heart.
This is the scene of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, this old French endurance race that five years before was the scene of the most frightening disaster in the history of this sport. Arriving at Le Mans, it’s impossible not to think back to that distant afternoon of June 1955, when Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes exploded among the crowd. Yet the 24 Hours wasn’t suspended, in the name of a tradition close to the French people; however, that dreadful experience changed many things and today the Circuit de la Sarthe is considered as one of the safest. Of course, for the audience and the drivers, when we are talking about speeds close to or higher than 200 km/h, talking about safety is at the very least risky, as the very recent accidents in Spa and on the Le Mans track itself teach us. With all this, the French 24 Hours is always considered the most complete race to exist, the fifty-five starting places allowed are firmly disputed by drivers and manufacturers, who promise important technical directions and large propaganda in case of success. So we can find, this year too, all or almost all the world brands that build sport or Gran Turismo cars. In the race, which is valid for the world championship, there are two absolute rankings: one for the distance covered in 24 hours and a second one called the performance index which, through a mathematical formula, takes in consideration the engine displacement in addition to distance, to provide a theoretical basis of equality between small and large cars. The comparison will be between Italian and English cars, with the addition of the small but fearful German Porsche. Ferrari lines up a very fierce team, with duos chosen in between Phil Hill, Von Trips, Ginther, Gendebien, Mairesse, Scarlatti and Cabianca, driving the previously tested 12-cylinder 2953 cubic centimeters cars that, thanks to their power and endurance, seem made exactly for the 24 Hours. We must add that the company from Modena prepared for the race with particular commitment, with the double purpose of winning again and snatching the first place in the world championship standings away from Porsche. Other reliable cars are the Maserati 2890s (owned by the American team Camoradi, which have Piero Taruffi as their sporting director) which, after their victory in the 1000 Kilometers of Nurburgring, have shown that they achieved an excellent efficiency. One of the Maserati will be driven by Gino Munaron from Turin.
The obstacles to overcome for an Italian success are called Jaguar, Aston Martin, Lotus and Porsche. Above all, they have to worry about Jaguar since they won the 24 Hours three times, in the last five years, and that every year they meticulously prepare for a long time in order to race on this track. The record of the greatest distance covered in the 24 Hours still belongs to the powerful British 6-cylinder: over 4373 kilometers. On Sunday 26th June 1960, finally the Italian cars win the most challenging race in the world of motorsport. Ferrari triumph in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, occupying the first two places in the absolute ranking (with the duos Gendebien-Frère and Riccardo Rodriguez-Pilette) and placing the other four cars (Gran Turismo) in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh place. Olivier Gendebien, a rich landowner from Brussels related to the Belgian royal family, is a professional driver with excellent skills and a specialist in cross-country tests; Paul Frère, who’s Belgian as well, is a motoring journalist, who alternates the two activities and succeeding in both. The predictions of the experts on the eve of the race had almost given unanimously the Belgian duo as favorite, close-knit and composed of two teams, as the 24 Hours required. In the Ferrari box, at 4:00 pm the joyful confusion, which almost was a memory for the drivers, technicians and mechanics of the team from Modena, was repeated once again. As soon as the two red cars of Gendebien-Frère and Rodriguez-Pilette appear at the end of the straight, deliberately paired, the audience starts to applaud from the stands which are unbelievably crowded and the engineer Bizzarrini, the sporting director Romolo Tavoni, Mister Bazzi and the men in the pits release the tension of twenty-four hours in a general hug that means a lot of things, in addition to the joy for the great victory in the most classic and difficult motor race. It shows that Ferrari are still well on their feet in this great sport; and it’s the answer to criticism, doubts and ironies that, in recent times, were made against Ferrari and their technicians. Olivier Gendebien and his co-driver Paul Frère, as soon as the victorious Ferrari #11 stops in front of the pits, free their joy: exuberantly, naively and composedly at the same time.
"Paul and I worked hard because until the last kilometer this tremendous 24 Hours can play some tricks on you; just like it happened to us last year. But what an amazing car, this Ferrari".
Happy with their second place are also the young Mexican racer Ricardo Rodriguez and André Pilette. Rodriguez is very young and, like his brother Pedro (less fortunate, not having been able to complete a single lap as Scarfiotti's co-driver), is a great promise of motor racing and shows that he knows how to control his impetuous personality very well. Actually, at Le Mans, the three-liter cars from Modena prove to be the absolute best sports cars, making - compared to their rivals - the greatest progress in terms of performance. The so-called sprinters at Le Mans don’t have much luck, even though every year they enliven the initial stages of the race. This time it was the American Gregory (on a Maserati 2900) who took on this role, running for almost two hours at an average speed of over 195 km/h and obtaining the fastest lap of the race at an average speed of 198.605 km/h. Then, at the first refueling, Gregory's car doesn't start anymore because of a short circuit at the start, and from this moment on, the regular Ferrari have the final advantage, vainly pursued by the Aston Martins, Jaguars and Porsches, all of which turned out to be less fearsome than expected. The affirmation of Ferrari, completed by the placings of their touring cars (which allowed Ferrari to put six of their cars among the first seven classified), could have been without a doubt even more massive, without the withdrawal of the cars driven by von Trips-Phil Hill and Scarfiotti-Pedro Rodriguez, since they ran out of petrol during the race (the consumptions were higher than expected). However, the 24 Hours dispels any doubt about the superiority of the cars from Modena in the sporting and Gran Turismo categories. The absolute record of the 24 Hours of Le Mans hasn’t been improved, mostly because of the long rain that, between Saturday dusk and Sunday dawn, forced the drivers to a rather cautious race conduct. The selection, severe in the early stages of the race and then again until noon on Sunday, is less relentless than expected: out of fifty-five cars that start only twenty-five finish the long race. The race can be summarized briefly. The start is given at 4:00 pm on Saturday 25th June 1960, in front of over 200,000 spectators. After Gregory's very fast escape in a Maserati, which didn’t last long due to the American's forced pitstop (Gregory stopped for fifty minutes, resumed the race, lost many positions and then was blocked permanently during the night by an engine failure), Gendebien-Frère took the lead, progressively increasing their advantage over their teammates and rivals.
Among these, only Salvadori-Clark (Aston-Martin) and Flockhart-Halford (on Jaguar) seem to be threatening at times. During the night under the pouring rain, the British cars manage to climb up to the third and fourth position, then the Jaguar pay for it with the withdrawal and the Aston Martin just hope in the misfortunes of other teams. The average speed, which from over 195 km/h was progressively dropping due to the rain, with the sun came out it started to grow again, at 6:00 a.m. it was already over 175 km/h, and at 8:00 a.m. 176.800 km/h. At midday it drops slightly (the leading car is more than three laps ahead of the second Ferrari and six laps ahead of the Aston Martin) and at the end it’s 175.730 km/h, equaling to a distance of more than 4217 kilometers. In the ranking of the world constructors’ championship, Ferrari takes the lead with 22 points, followed by Porsche with 22, Maserati with 11 and Aston Martin with 4. Luckily, there are no serious accidents. A few collisions against the lateral protections of the track (as it happened to Cunningham’s Chevrolet and Beurlys’ Ferrari) and a fire which broke out on Thompson’s Chevrolet and was immediately tamed, are the only episodes that keep the spectators anxious for a few moments, but everything is solved with some damage to the cars and all the drivers uninjured. In the French Grand Prix, which will be held on Sunday 3rd July 1960 on the fast track of Reims, Ferrari play their last card in an attempt to get back to the competition for the Formula 1 World Championship, of which the classic French race is the fifth round of the season. So far, the cars of the company from Modena haven’t managed to win a single race in the 1960 Grands Prix yet, and the chances for their drivers to win the title seem rather compromised: only Phil Hill’s or Von Trips’ victory (who, together with the young Belgian driver Willy Mairesse, is part of Ferrari in Reims) could put the Italian cars back in the running for the most important championship in motor racing. But what are Ferrari's chances for the French Grand Prix? The circuit of Reims is a track that can give great emotions thanks to its triangular shape with very fast straights, one of which is downhill, being in an area where the wind blows in favor of the drivers.
The records of the race belong to Tony Brooks for the general average speed: 205.079 km/h, and to Stirling Moss for the fastest lap, completed at an average speed of 209.287 km/h. But the increasing speed of the cars on the track should lead to breaking these records, considering that the average lap speed is now close to 220 km/h. The Automobile Club de Champagne, which is in charge of the management of both the track and the race, has been able to close the roads that are part of the permanent circuit very easily, allowing more time to the different teams to prepare. In addition to the three Ferrari racers, twenty other drivers are registered. Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren will race for Cooper Car Company, while the other Cooper Climax cars, owned by Yeoman Credit, will be driven by Olivier Gendebien, Henry Taylor, Lucien Bianchi and Bruce Halford. Innes Ireland, Ron Flockart, Jim Clark and David Piper will drive for Lotus. Jo Bonnier, Graham Hill, Dan Gurney will race for British Racing Motors. Tony Brooks drives the Vanwall. Gino Munaron will race in a Cooper-Castellotti, while Chuck Daigh and Richie Ginther will race with Scarabs. Finally, Maurice Tritignant, Masten Gregory and Ian Burgess will be on Cooper Maserati. Jack Brabham is once again one of the favorites to win the Grand Prix, having already won in the 1959 World Championship. The Australian driver won the last two Grands Prix in Holland and Belgium in his new Copper T53, after his teammate Bruce McLaren won the opening race in Argentina. The main rival for the title seemed to be Stirling Moss but he suffered a serious accident in Belgium with his Lotus, which will keep him away from the track for several weeks, if not the entire season. In short, Jack Brabham seems to have in his hands the chance of securing the title for the second consecutive time. Also considering the balance of power between the different brands, which see the Cooper Climax as favored. The Cooper T53 is an evolution of the T51, already World Champion in 1959, from which it inherited the same Coventry Climax FPF engine with 4 cylinders, 243 horsepower and 6800 rpm but with the addition of a 5-speed gearbox and an integrated axle. The weight of about 460 kilos also provides a fair amount of agility, which allows to reach 290 km/h top speed while maintaining grip. Elements that ensure an advantage over the Ferrari Dino 246.
Actually, the cars of the company from Modena, although they are the most powerful of the different racing teams, with a top speed close to 300 km/h, weight about 600 kilograms, and therefore seem to struggle in cornering. Perhaps the circuit in Reims can help Ferrari, given the possibility to run at high speed, allowing their 290 horsepower V6 engine to express itself with all its power. Something already partially seen during the tests. The training sessions begin on Wednesday 29th June 1960, in the afternoon. At 6:00 pm the Formula 1 cars enter the track. The two Coopers, Brabham and McLaren start together, to have a look at the circuit. B.R.M. has only one rear-engined car ready in the pits to do a few laps which is Graham Hill’s. In the meantime, Bonnier and Gurney are waiting, hoping that their cars can reach the circuit; however, the wait will be vain. The three Ferrari of Phil Hill, Von Trips and Willy Mairesse are also on track. To the surprise of many, including Scuderia Ferrari, Ginther goes on track with one of the Scarabs, instead of Reventlow, while Daigh drives the second car. On track there is also a new car, the Vanwall driven by Brooks, developed from the provisional model that run in Easter at Goodwood, the British circuit in West Sussex. This new car, still with front engine, has independent rear suspension, a new five-speed gearbox and the overall height is greatly reduced, while the tail remains small and round, without headrests or scientifically aerodynamic shape. The front wheels are bolt-on and knock-off hubs are used in the rear. The engine is still the well-made, fuel-injected four-cylinder which is estimated to have nearly 280 horsepower, but the large frontal area of this new Vanwall obviously needs each and every one of those horses if it has to keep up with the smaller Lotus and Cooper cars. On track there’s also a private owner, the British David Piper, with his front-engine Lotus. Later, Ireland and Clark go on track in two of the official Lotus cars, the first of which has a long trunk along the body of the car, getting air from an intake on the side to Weber carburetors on the rear-mounted Climax engine. It becomes soon obvious that the best prepared team is Cooper, with McLaren leading for a few laps, and Brabham managing to set a time under 2'20"0.
The time, however, will improve at every given chance, until it drops to 2'17"0. Phil Hill laps in 2'19"0, Trips in 2'19"9, while McLaren works on his driving and eventually lowers to 2'20"0. The lone B.R.M. has problems with the hydraulic drive between the pedal and the clutch, therefore Graham Hill doesn’t have much time to test the car. The Scarabs, on the other hand, improve: Ginther goes down to 2'36"1, but the four-cylinder engines begin to show signs of stress for going full throttle for so long. The remarkable aspect about this first night is the apparent ease with which Brabham sets a lap time to astound everyone, and make the other drivers wonder about their chances of victory. On Thursday 30th June 1960 at 6:00 p.m., activity resumes. In addition to the teams that practiced during the day on Wednesday, the full Yeoman Credit team is added with Gendebien, Henry Taylor and Halford driving their cars. The Belgian driver's car is fitted with a five-speed Colotti gearbox, received from Walker. A third official Lotus arrived in Reims, driven by Flockhart; a car that had been considerably modified to fit the Climax engine, tilted to the right to place Weber carburetors under the hood. During the tests, the Lotus are hit inexplicably by a bad carburation, despite they use the same engine and the same carburetors of Cooper, fitted more or less in the same position. The team B.R.M. is now complete, with two Cooper-Maserati for Trintignant and Gregory; the car of the first driver is considerably modified in the chassis area, with lower suspensions. Another car to arrive at Reims is the Cooper-Ferrari of Scuderia Castellotti, the same one that raced in Monaco at the beginning of this season, with a Ferrari four-cylinder Super Squalo engine and Colotti-Walker gearbox assembled on a Cooper chassis. There should have been two of these cars, but only one arrived and it’s Munaron’s. During the tests Brabham improves the time of the day before, going down to 2'16"8. Trips improves slightly and during training he tries Mairesse's car, which the timekeepers overlook, crediting the Belgian driver with a time of 2’19"3. The time set by Graham Hill (2'18"4), the second-fastest time overall, is interesting. But Phil Hill, shortly before the end of practice, sets a time of 2'18"7; Ireland also drops to 2'19"5. While last year a time of 2'20"0 was necessary to have a chance and start from the first row, this year this time represents the slowest time among the main contenders.
The last free practice session takes place on Friday 1st July 1960. This time Brabham is unable to improve, compared to the times set in the previous days, although no one gets very close to him. Brabham makes a series of fast laps, while McLaren manages to join the elite at the end with a time of 2'19"6. Phil Hill manages to improve his time as well, going down to 2'18"2, conquering the second place with a speed of 292 km/h on the straight. Bonnier drops to 2'19"8 and Gendebien sets a worthy 2'20"0. Ireland keeps up the pace making a remarkable improvement, setting a time of 2'18"5, while his teammate Clark does well with a time of 2'20"3. On Saturday he tests only a Scarab, as the engines still show reliability problems. Finally, there is one last addition to the list of racers, for this last practice, that is the presence of a third Cooper Maserati driven by Burgess, with a new four-cylinder Maserati engine, improved over the previous design. David Piper breaks his Lotus engine and therefore has to postpone his championship debut as he doesn’t have spares. On Sunday 3rd July 1960 the grid is lined up in the usual three-two-three rows. Three cars are missing from the starting grid because, in addition to Piper’s, which was already mentioned before, the entries of the two Scarabs are also withdrawn, having used up all the spare parts to fix the engines. The starting grid is therefore made by Brabham, Phil Hill and Graham Hill, followed in the second row by Ireland and Mairesse, in the third by Trips, Gurney and Flockhart, in the fourth by McLaren and Bonnier, in the fifth by Gendebien, Brooks and Bianchi, in the sixth by Halford and Gregory, and finally in the seventh by Trintignant, Munaron and Burgess, for a total of nineteen starting drivers. With Cooper, Ferrari and B.R.M. in the front row, Lotus and Ferrari in the second row, and Ferrari, B.R.M. and Lotus in the third row, there are the preconditions for an amazing race, which can be won by any driver. Before the start, the starter tells all competitors that, contrary to the rules, they should have been on track when he gave the thirty-second signal and he would be the one to give the starting signal, giving it when he felt all drivers were ready to go. However, the starting signal was given about twenty-eight seconds earlier than it should have been, so Graham Hill was unable to get his B.R.M. into gear. The drivers immediately behind were able to dodge the stationary B.R.M., but Trintignant - arriving through the exhaust gas and tire smoke of the cars ahead of him - could not see it and rammed the B.R.M., pushing it to the side of the track. In the meantime, Bianchi swerves to the right and hits the Vanwall, which triggers Halford's spin.
A few moments later Graham Hill sits inside his car, helpless, while Halford's and Bianchi's cars are restarted, allowing the two drivers to join the group, which is now flowing on the back of the circuit towards the Muizon turn. As the leaders descend the hill towards the Thillois there is still very little space between the Cooper and the Ferraris. Brabham leads the race, followed by Phil Hill, Trips, Gurney, Bonnier, Ireland, Mairesse, Gendebien and McLaren. During the third lap the group divides partially because Brabham takes a slight advantage on the two Ferraris of Hill and Trips. They are followed by Ireland and Bonnier who are very close, Gendebien alone, then Mairesse, McLaren and Gurney. On the fourth lap Phil Hill overtakes Brabham, with Trips right behind, and despite this Brabham is awarded a new lap record of 2'18"8. Brooks on the Vanwall is at the end of the leading group and towards the end of the fourth lap he stops at the pits to complain about a noise or a vibration in the rear; but nothing is found, despite the slight collision at the start so he goes back on track. During the fifth lap Brabham takes the lead again, but on the sixth lap it is Phil Hill who overtakes him, in a very heated fight for the first position, with Trips always in third place, not far away. The two Ferraris are really fighting with the Cooper and, lap after lap, the three cars are running together. Shortly after, however, Phil Hill's Ferrari hits a rear wheel of the Cooper. On the sixth lap Brooks goes back to the pits complaining again about a possible issue, then goes back on track and retires on the eighth lap. In the meantime, the battle for the first place goes on. Hill proceeds with a wide trajectory to Thillois and Trips quickly obtains the second place taking advantage of the overtaking of his teammate, which created a problem for the Cooper. Meanwhile the duels between Ireland and Bonnier and between Gendebien and McLaren develop. On lap 12 Bonnier is called to the pits to refuel, leaving Ireland alone in front of Gendebien and McLaren. Gurney and Mairesse meanwhile compete for the eighth place. But on lap 15 Mairesse stops near Thillois and retires.
On the eighteenth lap Gurney goes back to the pits to retire as well, due to engine failure. Munaron takes advantage of this with his Cooper-Ferrari to gain one position. During the nineteenth lap Hill and Brabham are side by side on the last straight, with the Ferrari ahead of his rival by a few centimeters and with Trips still in his wake. Just over half a minute later Gendebien and Ireland are in a similar position, with McLaren in their wake. After these two high-speed groups follows Henry Taylor, who is ahead of Clark and Flockhart, with a significant gap. Of the remaining three cars, Yeoman Credit Cooper's B.R.M. driven by Bonnier, Halford and Burgess' Cooper-Maserati are lapped, and Bianchi stops along the circuit with a broken transmission on his Cooper-Climax. During the third lap the group partially divides, because Brabham takes a slight advantage on the two Ferraris of Hill and Trips. They are followed by Ireland and Bonnier who are very close, Gendebien alone, then Mairesse, McLaren and Gurney. On the fourth lap Phil Hill overtakes Brabham with Trips right behind, and, despite this, Brabham is awarded a new lap record of 2'18"8. Brooks on the Vanwall is at the end of the leading group, and at the end of the fourth lap he stops at the pits to complain about a noise or a vibration in the rear part; but nothing is found, despite the slight collision at the start, and he restarts. During the fifth lap Brabham takes the lead again, but on the sixth lap Phil Hill overtakes him again, in a very heated fight for the first position, with Trips always in third place, not far away. The two Ferraris are really fighting with the Cooper, and lap after lap the three cars are running together. Shortly after, however, Phil Hill's Ferrari hits one of the Cooper’s rear wheels. On the sixth lap Brooks goes back to the pits complaining again about a possible issue, then he goes back on track and retires on the eighth lap. In the meantime, the battle for the first place goes on. Hill proceeds with a wide trajectory to Thillois, and Trips quickly rises to second place taking advantage of the overtaking of his teammate who created a problem for the Cooper. Meanwhile the duels between Ireland and Bonnier and between Gendebien and McLaren develop. On lap 12 Bonnier is called to the pits to refuel, leaving Ireland alone ahead of Gendebien and McLaren.
Meanwhile, Gurney and Mairesse compete for eighth place. On lap 15 Mairesse stops near Thillois and retires. On the eighteenth lap Gurney returns to the pits to retire as well, due to engine failure. Munaron takes advantage of this with his Cooper-Ferrari to gain one position. During the nineteenth lap, Hill and Brabham are side by side on the finishing straight, with the Ferrari ahead of his rival by a few centimeters, and with Trips still in his wake. Just over half a minute later Gendebien and Ireland are in a similar position, with McLaren in their wake. After these two high-speed groups follows Henry Taylor, who is ahead of Clark and Flockhart, with a significant gap. Out of the three remaining cars, Yeoman Credit Cooper's B.R.M. driven by Bonnier, Halford and Burgess' Cooper-Maserati are lapped, and Bianchi stops along the circuit with a broken transmission on his Cooper-Climax. Halfway through the race, which equals to twenty-five laps, no one knows who will win among the first three drivers. The trio increases the gap between their group and the one fighting for fourth place, bringing it to sixty-four seconds. Gendebien, Ireland and McLaren are the only ones who are not lapped by the leading trio. Brabham is now ahead of the Ferraris again, managing to set a new lap record of 2'17"5 and an average speed of 217.354 km/h. During the twenty-eighth lap Brabham, still in the lead, begins to create a gap between himself, Trips and Hill, who are still side by side. By lap twenty-nine Brabham has a five second lead. While Phil Hill enters the pits because the inlet cone between the engine and the gearbox broke, he goes flat out at full speed. The American manages to stop before leaving the pit area, but it’s the end of a valiant race. Behind are Gendebien and Ireland, still side by side. On the next lap Ireland is ahead, now in third place. On the thirty-first lap Trips goes with inertia towards Thillois, as his transmission has failed in the same way as Mairesse’s and Hill’s, forcing him to retire, and letting Ireland gain the second place in the fight with Gendebien. Brabham could now lap alone, having almost a minute and a half advantage over his closest rival.
On lap thirty-four Ireland pits with his left front wheel positioned at an odd angle, as part of his Lotus' suspension broke. This leaves McLaren alone, battling with Gendebien. On lap 41 Ireland is stuck at the pits again and gets sent back on track to finish the race, finding himself just ahead of the two Cooper Maserati, which are back in the race after their respective pit stops. Flockhart increases his speed starting to reach Clark, now in fifth place behind Henry Taylor. On the penultimate lap of the fifty laps planned, McLaren desperately tries to stay ahead at the Thillois, but he overdoes his braking and is forced to take the escape route, leaving Gendebien safely in second place at the end of the race. Flockhart catches up his teammate but is unable to overtake him, the two cars arrive side by side. Jack Brabham wins the 48th Grand Prix of the French Automobile Club in Reims. The Ferraris driven by Phil Hill and Von Trips dueled dramatically for 250 kilometers with the champion’s Cooper; only unpredictable and trivial mechanical issues took them away from the fiery fight that had begun as soon as the starter gave the starting signal. With the fall of the Australian's opponents, the general average speed of the race dropped considerably and during the exciting duel it reached 214.664 km/h. Brabham finally crossed the finish line undisturbed and the 50,000 spectators only had one interesting aspect to look to: the struggle of the Belgian driver Olivier Gendebien (Cooper), recent winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, to force himself on the New Zealander McLaren (Cooper). The only Italian in the race, Gino Munaron from Turin on Cooper-Castellottl, was forced to retire due to a mechanical failure on lap 21 when he was still in the sixth position and gave the impression of being able to finish this beautiful race. The winner Brabham finally crushed all the existing records by reaching an average speed of 217.354 km/h (2'17"5) and bringing the general average speed to 212.113 km/h. The previous records belonged to Stirling Moss (lap at 209.287 km/h average) and to Tony Brooks, winner of the race on a Ferrari in 1959 with a general average speed of 205.079 km/h.
The Australian ace returns to the top of the ranking and prepares to repeat the success achieved last year. Now, examining the drivers' positions, taking into account that Stirling Moss will have to stay away from racing for several months and, objectively evaluating the technical situation at mid-season, it’s hard to see who could threaten the position of the Australian, who drives a Cooper. This extraordinary British car, built among the four axles of a workshop in Surbiton on the outskirts of London, has shown once again this year to be able to obtain positive results consistently in any condition: on slow tracks as well as on very fast ones, despite the fact that it’s said that the power of the engine (Coventry-Climax) isn’t extraordinary at all. This - clearly - is true up to a point. Jack Brabham, who is also Cooper's test driver, every single day proves to be the ideal driver for his car and, if last year he gave the impression of waiting for the opponents to wear out their cars, now he has become authoritative and aggressive like the champions. Even in Reims, Brabham imposed his new style tactic, which is to attack without fear, certain that the car always responds to him effectively. On the circuit located in the Champagne region, only Phil Hill was able to keep the frenetic pace set by the Australian for many laps even managing to put the nose of his Ferrari in front of him, but the consequence was that Hill retired, while Cooper’s driver didn’t have a single setback and set, among other things, the new absolute records for overall average speed and lap time. Brabham himself speaks about the duel with Phil Hill and about his accident:
"Almost everything went wrong. I had just passed Phil Hill on the straight leading into Thillois and was about to cut right when, in the rear-view mirror, I saw the Ferrari coming at me at an insane speed. Frankly, it must have been 100 km/h faster than my Cooper. I braked hard and stayed to the left a moment longer to let it pass. I was able to fall back to the right by the skin of my teeth, tackle the turn desperately as the Ferrari did, with its tires locked up, and squeezed into that space. I think the brave Phil Hill’s only goal was to get back to the lead as quickly as possible".
The hopes placed in the Italian cars lasted a little longer than half the race. The Ferrari were on a track which favored their speed, and they proved it with a firm answer from Phil Hill (and partly from Von Trips as well) to attack the World Champion. Unfortunately, a part of the transmission couldn’t withstand the strain and one by one the Ferrari drivers were forced to quit the race. For this year, there’s little to do for the cars from Maranello, even if at least one success can arrive in the four Grands Prix that still need to be held before the end of the season. Among the protagonists of the French Grand Prix, in addition to Gendebien and McLaren, the very young British driver Jim Clark made himself proud. At the end of the French Grand Prix, the updated standings saw Brabham and McLaren first in the standings with 24 points, followed by Moss with 11 points, Gendebien with 10 points and Rathmann fifth with 8 points. The world constructors’ standings sees Cooper-Climax in the lead with 38 points, followed by Lotus with 19 points, Ferrari with 15 points, B.R.M. with 6 points and Cooper-Maserati with 3 points.