#135 1965 French Grand Prix

2022-05-12 15:35

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#1965, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Livia Alegi,

#135 1965 French Grand Prix

Saturday, June 19, 1965, the spotlight is on the new edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which counts towards the Prototype and Grand Touring Champion

Saturday, June 19, 1965, the spotlight is on the new edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which counts towards the Prototype and Grand Touring Championship. 53 cars and 106 drivers will take part in the race, taking turns behind the wheel. The XXXIII edition sums up all the technical, human and spectacular aspects that motor racing can offer. It is both a psychological and physical endurance test for drivers and an equally difficult test for the mechanics, who are subjected to a day and night’s breathless torment at a pace of nearly 200 km/h. The rules of the 24 Hours are very thorough and tend to ensure not only the most complete regularity of results, but also that the winning car (and those ranked first in the various classes) are truly on top in terms of technical values. The popularity of the race is due to the Ferrari-Ford rivalry, but also the fact that this is an entertaining occasion for hundreds of thousands of spectators, all of whom are (more or less) interested in the events of the race. This weekend is half sport and half entertainment, with the sporting part sees the battle between drivers racing at over 200 km/h and competing in a seemingly endless race. The race is supposed to indicate the most efficient and complete sports car of the year, and the result has almost never been debatable. The sport definition has been replaced by Prototype Grand Touring but is substantially the same. The regulations of the 24 Hours are thorough and ensure both the most complete regularity of results as well as that the winning cars in the various classes are the best in terms of technical values.


Behind the event is a grandiose organization, which ultimately results in excellent business: approximately 150.000 to 200.000 people flock to the alluring Le Mans each year, and the circuit's enclosure becomes a noisy fairground crammed with bars, restaurants, stores, and orchestras. One wonders how many of the attendees actually watch the race and how many take advantage of it instead as a classic - and invigorating - field trip. The popular festival aspect, which brings flocks of spectators to Le Mans, remains unchanged. It is hard to believe that all these people are exclusively motor sport fans; perhaps it is more accurate to say that people come to Le Mans as a traditional yet uncomfortable outing. The lucky ones manage to sleep a few hours in roulettes or in a tent, but most Le Mans spectators are limited to the lawns or, at most, an uncomfortable outdoor coffee shop chair. But there are also all sorts of amusements to spend night and day without getting bored. Every year, in mid-June, an immense ephemeral fair arises around and inside the circuit. Here, one is spoiled for choice among the dozens of restaurants, drink outlets, stores, whose deafening calls manage to overpower the noise of the engines of the racing cars. Ferrari have won the Le Mans 24 Hours eight times, and the last five have been consecutive; they also hold the record over the total distance. They are the favorites for this edition: the twelve-cylinder rear-engine model - which triumphed earlier in the year at the Targa Florio, in the 1000 kilometers of Monza and at the Nurburgring - possesses such power and resilience in prolonged efforts that Ferrari have full confidence.

American car manufacturer Ford bring two cars with 7000cc engines and 475 horsepower and present themselves as quite fearsome, at least when it comes to sheer speed and efficient mechanical balance. On the other hand, two factors could pave the way for the Maranello-made cars: Ford lacks the technical and organizational experience that Ferrari boasts and there is uncertainty regarding how the Fords handle distance. A very close fight is still to be expected. At the very least in the first part of the race during which, judging by the times achieved in practice, the incredible average of 200 km/h could be reached in the 24 Hour race (if rain does not disturb the event). The Americans are banking on the enormous power of the new Ford engines to put the Ferraris on the ropes, though power isn’t everything at Le Mans: here, the vehicle’s overall capability counts just as much. It is a show that sometimes features dramatic episodes. Ten years later, no one has forgotten the tragedy that saw more than 100 people die mowed down by Levegh's Mercedes. In addition to the absolute and cylinder capacity rankings in the Prototypes and Grand Touring categories, which are based on the mileage completed by each crew, there are two others. The first is called the performance index and takes into account mileage in relation to engine displacement; the second is the energy index, where fuel consumption also comes into play. The latter rankings are intended to create a kind of theoretical balance between mechanical vehicles of differing engine displacement measurements, but clearly the real interest is on the overall ranking.


General interest is focused on the challenge between Ferrari and Ford, between the skill and experience of a small manufacturer and the power of the American giant’s vehicles. The Italian cars, equipped with 12-cylinder engines, have always prevailed so far, except at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Ford are pursuing their own program of gradually enhancing their racing activities and bring two cars powered by the new 7-liter engines with a power output of 475 horsepower, about 70 more than Ferrari. A difficult task lies ahead for the drivers of the Modenese company. The American manufacturer's lack of technical and organizational experience, however, benefits the Italian Scuderia. Ferrari, ahead in the Prototypes championship, takes to the track with six cars, two of which are entered by American team NART and English team Maranello LTD. The new Maserati, with a 430-horsepower V8 engine driven by Maglioli and Neerpasch, and the turbine-powered Rover-B.R.M., driven by Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart, which can also count on better fuel economy after the latest upgrades, should not be underestimated. The British car has already taken part in the 24 Hours in 1963 with promising results and has been further improved, especially with regards to fuel economy, thanks to a special type of heat exchanger. The Ferrari four-liter cars are driven by Surtees-Scarfiotti and Parkes-Guichet; Rodriguez-Vaccarella will drive the 4400, while Bandini-Biscaldi will drive the 3300. Ford will field the Miles-McLaren and Phil Hill-Ginther pairs in the seven-liter; Muller-Bucknum and Bondurant-Amon will drive the 5300.

During official practice, Phil Hill sets the best time (3'33"0) in a Ford, at an average speed of about 283 mph. He is followed by Surtees' Ferrari with a 3'38"1; Bondurant in a Ford 5300, who sets a 3'38"7; then Bucknum in a Ford 5800 with a 3'39"2; Parkes, in a Ferrari, sets a 3'41"7. The 24 Hours will start at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 19, 1965. 51 cars are lined up on the main straight’s right side, in order of descending engine capacity. At the race start, the Ford 7000s driven by McLaren, Amon and Bondurant are the fastest, sprinting from the starting blocks and pulling away second by second. The long line thins out towards the first corner and is closed by the Colin Davis’ Porsche. In the first few laps, the powerful American cars set a very fast pace and gain 4-5 seconds per lap over the Ferraris of Surtees, Guichet and Bandini. After just two laps, the Ferrari Dino driven by Baghetti retires due to the failure of a mechanical valve, and Siffert's Maserati five-liter car hits the hay bales on one of the turns, damaging the radiator. Just half an hour from the beginning of the race Surtees' gap is already over a minute. In the meantime, British driver Bolton is involved in an accident, with his Triumph catching fire; the driver fortunately manages to stop the car and get out unharmed. An hour into the race McLaren is in the lead, followed by Amon and Surtees. Shortly after, McLaren and Amon have a big delay and the British Ferrari driver finds himself in the lead. The Fords, who started off well, are now experiencing some engine issues. They surprisingly manage to return to normality after a couple of laps and try to make up the disadvantage as they race in front of the 300.000 spectators who came to Le Mans to watch this spectacular show. Amon's car pits and stays there for more than half an hour; just before the second hour of the race, McLaren manages to return to the lead of the race, ahead of Surtees-Scarfiotti, Bonnier-Piper, Parkes-Guichet and Bandini-Biscaldi. Ford is also leading in the Grand Touring category, with Grant and Gurney's Cobra leading an excellent race. 


Among the smaller displacement cars, it is Porsche, Alfa Romeo SZ, the British Austin-Healey and Alpine who are performing well. The turbine-powered Rover-B.R.M. of Graham Hill-Stewart, however, is disappointing. Zeccoli's Alfa Romeo goes off track at the Mulsanne corner; the driver is luckily unharmed but is forced to abandon the race. Bondurant's Ford and that of McLaren-Miles, who make a long stop in the pits, are also forced to retire. After about eight hours of racing, around midnight, the pit stops become longer and fatigue begins to set in; hourly averages drop too. The Bandini-Biscardi pair takes the lead, followed by Parkes-Guichet, one lap behind. It’s now 1:00 a.m. and only 32 cars are still in the race, less than a third of those that started the race. At this stage of the race the Ford Cobras begin their gradual recovery and close in on the Ferraris, taking advantage of their rivals' pit stops to adjust their brakes. After the Fords' collapse, Dumay-Gosselin’s Ferrari is firmly in the lead of the race from the tenth hour; they are waiting for the comeback of the official Ferrari, which is suffering continuous mechanical mishaps. The Ferraris occupied the first four positions and it seemed to herald a great triumph for the Maranello team. Instead, during a stop, the mechanics, led by engineer Mauro Forghieri, realize that on Surtees and Scarfiotti's car the brake pads have broken and the newly designed discs are cracked. But Mauro Forghieri ordered the drivers to continue, using the gearbox and engine brake to slow the car down: in the meantime, he would make something up. With no further spare parts available, Forghieri remembers that the full discs of the 275 GTB road berlinetta are more or less compatible with those of the prototype, and speculates that among the cars parked inside the circuit might be models from some Ferrari customer. Thus, a team of mechanics departs from the Ferrari pit looking for the 275 GTBs. After finding them, the mechanics lift them off the ground and disassemble their discs, leaving a note under the windshield wiper that reads:


"You will receive them back at the end of the race. Scuderia Ferrari".


The borrowed discs are taken to the pits and mounted on the 330 P2s when they are refueled. The drivers can thus continue the race, but with reduced braking, so they will still have to resort to using the gearbox and engine brake: later, the resulting mechanical stress will force the official Ferraris to retire. Bandini-Biscaldi’s Ferrari retires at 7:00 a.m., an hour after Surtees-Scarfiotti’s 4000, and Parkes-Guichet’s Ferrari is also forced to retire with just an hour to go due to a gearbox failure. Rodriguez-Vaccarella, in the Scuderia NART Ferrari, are delayed by continuous clutch problems.

Though the Ford-Cobras look like they might catch up to the leading Ferraris during the night, three out of four cars give out. With three hours to go, Dumay-Gosselin surrender the lead to Gregory-Rindt, who will hold the top spot until the end of the race. The last hours of the race are uninteresting, with the cars proceeding slowly, weakened by the wear and tear of a race which has rewarded the regular cars rather than the racing cars. Triumphing for the sixth consecutive time is Ferrari. Gregory-Rindt have won after covering 4667 kilometers at an average speed of 194 km/h, followed by Dumay-Gosselin and Mairesse-Beurlys. The podium exclusively features Ferrari prototypes, further accentuating the American manufacturer’s failure: only one out of their eleven cars crossed the finish line. Gosselin and Dumay could have won if they had not accused the left rear tire of dechapping, causing damage to the bodywork. The repair was done by making a kind of seam using an awl and steel wire. The marshals, however, forced the driver to stop again to check the repair. The resulting loss of time allowed the N.A.R.T. team's Ferrari to take the lead. The latter, which had started 11th, had experienced a series of problems during the first few hours: the electrical system had forced it to make a couple of stops, then the clutch was showing signs of failure and Chinetti had been forced to rein in his drivers' impetuosity. When the Austrian driver, in 18th position, made yet another pit stop, Chinetti, convinced that retirement was imminent, ordered Jochen Rindt to push the car over the limit even at the cost of breaking it. Ironically, the #21 Ferrari would not report any more problems and was fast enough to make up positions, eventually reaching first place. The Ferrari of the North America Racing Team, however, during the course of the night was the protagonist of a fact that, as mentioned, will remain secret for many years. Shortly before dawn, the fog lifted at Le Mans. Masten Gregory comes out of the pits to take his driving turn, but realizes that he has great difficulty driving in the fog. The U.S. driver wears thick goggles, and these remedy his ability to see properly. The rain and oxen fuel the U.S. driver's fears. Therefore he returns to the pits to surrender the car again to Jochen Rindt. However, as the Austrian driver is no longer present in the pits.


"Where is Jochen?"


Luigi Chinetti wonders, but the Austrian is not there, he is out and about, perhaps eating, perhaps sleeping, perhaps merely taking a ride to relieve tension. It is an emergency, but in the pits is the backup driver, there is Edward James Hugus. Luigi Chinetti gives the go-ahead. Huges secretly slips on his helmet, gloves and enters the track, shrouded in darkness. Hugus does his duty, then gets out, hands over the wheel to Jochen Rindt and runs away. The action would be against the rules of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which allow only two drivers and a possible third reserve driver in case of emergency. But the third driver would become a starter himself, effectively ousting one of the two drivers. So Chinetti, in order not to penalize Rindt and Gregory made Ed Huges race at night without actually notifying the stewards who were meanwhile toasting in the back pits. Had the affair been discovered the Ferrari 275 NART would have been disqualified and the roll of honor changed. The action turns out to be so well-executed that even Danilo Baldi, a mechanic loaned by Enzo Ferrari to Luigi Chinetti's team, will admit that he did not notice anything, and that he only learned of the exchange after the race was over, perhaps because he was distracted by the operations to be carried out at the time of the pit stop. The American driver will pass away on June 29, 2006, at the age of 82. After his passing, one of his fans will make public the letter, sent to him by Ed Hugus in 2005.


"Dear Hubert, Thank you for your kind letter of May 19. It was very kind of you to remember me. Some journalists have said about me, that I have driven more times at Le Mans than any other American. I don't know. Response on 1965: As you know I have participated in the 24 hours for many years. This year I was to drive a Ferrari owned by Luigi Chinetti in the race. Apparently, the factory did not finish the car in time, so Luigi put me as a reserve driver in the 250 LM. During the night - around four o'clock? - Masten came out (from the pits) in the LM. Much of the famous Le Mans was bathed in thick fog, and Masten with his bad eyesight and very thick lenses could not see well.  Rindt was not there, no one knew where he was, so Luigi ordered me to take my helmet and go so, I completed the last hour or more in Masten's place. Later, Luigi told me that he had informed the race officials about this. Apparently, as Luigi said, it may have been that they were too busy with a bottle of wine behind the pits to figure it out. He was as disappointed as I was. C'est la vie! Once again, thank you. I hope this helps. Ed Hugus".


The only American car to cross the finish line ended up in eighth place and the sole satisfaction brought back to American soil is Phil Hill's lap record. The Americans came to France with a large crew of drivers, mechanics and technicians, producing an impressive effort but also facing a great defeat. The 12-cylinder Prototypes, on the other hand, showed good performance in the long distance, triumphing in a race that saw only 14 cars of the 53 participating make it to the finish line. In addition to the aforementioned Fords, the four Alfa Romeo SZs and the Alpines also succumbed, while the Rover-B.R.M. reports the sole satisfaction of having had low fuel consumption (only 22 liters per hundred kilometers, compared to the 34 of the winning Ferrari). It seems, however, that the turbo engine experienced an inexplicable drop in power after the start, thus compromising the whole race. Ferrari has been defeated by its customer teams, this partly due to the first part of the race requiring a lot of effort from the cars and mechanics, as shown by the hourly average up to the ninth hour of the race. The initial effort led Ferrari to suffer brake, clutch and gearbox problems. The winning cars, on the other hand, featuring a traditional architecture (all 3300 cc), held up well over the distance because they were under less stress. Porsche achieved a fourth place but won in the performance index ranking (ratio of kilometers driven to engine displacement). After Italy's triumph at Le Mans, Ferrari gears up for the French Grand Prix at the Circuit de Charade, near Clermont Ferrand. It’s the first time back at this circuit after the Reims and Rouen tracks hosted the Transalpine Grand Prix for several years. The Charade circuit was built by the Auvergne Automobile Club close to the village of the same name, nestled in the French hills. Those who have never seen an Italian mountain circuit might think that Charade is mountainous, but in fact it is located only at the mountains’ base. It is almost devoid of straights, and favors driving and road holding, as well as acceleration up to 160 km/h. As is always the case in mid-season, the Grand Prix circus has stabilized as far as cars and drivers are concerned; the situation is similar to Spa, with the exception of Jack Brabham's team. Dan Gurney has a new Coventry-Climax V8 32-valve engine on his car, while teammate Denny Hulme uses the Brabham car, with the Climax engine already used in previous Grands Prix.


The reason why the New Zealander will be taking Brabham’s place is that the former has previously raced F2 cars there and knows the circuit, while Brabham would have to learn a new circuit. On Jim Clark's 32-valve Coventry-Climax V8, Lotus opt for a solution similar to the one adopted by Gurney, and choose to mount a 16-valve Climax V8 engine on Mike Spence's Lotus 33. Clark’s 1963 car is being used as a backup, though upgraded to the 33's suspension and steering specifications and fitted with a Climax V8 with a crossover exhaust system. All three cars are still equipped with pin position wheels and tear-off hubcaps. Ferrari does not change its line up; John Surtees can choose between two Ferrari V8s and Lorenzo Bandini is given the 12-cylinder engine equipped car. B.R.M. also has the same team as in Spa; Graham Hill can use either the development car or his usual car while Jackie Stewart has his regular car, with a tartan-padded seat. Jochen Rindt, winner of the 24 Hour race, and Bruce McLaren have two Cooper-Climax V8s at their disposal, while Richie Ginther and Ronnie Bucknum are driving the Japanese Honda cars. Ginther has his car and a spare available. All three Hondas feature new driveshafts on the rear wheels: the shafts are solid steel with forged universal joint yokes on each end, the universal joints being of the mechanical roller type. The different shaft lengths, due to suspension movement, have been replaced by a slotted, spherical sliding shaft inside the hub bracket. Rounding out the field of participants are the Walker and Parnell teams.


Innes Ireland and Chris Amon will be driving Lotus 25-B.R.M. V8s for Parnell, given the absence of Hailwood and Attwood, with the former being engaged in a motorcycle race and the latter not having recovered from the Spa accident yet. Walker, on the other hand, participates with Bonnier and Siffert, who will respectively race with Climax V8 and B.R.M. V8 engines, both still using Colotti gearboxes. Bob Anderson in his Brabham-Climax V8 will also be joining the grid, replacing Frank Gardner's team Willment entry. The hope of seeing Jo Schlesser race in a Willment fades, since the only option was to run with a four-cylinder Lotus-Ford engine. On Friday, June 25, 1965, the first practice session begins. During the two-hour session the drivers will learn a track which is completely new to them, since this is the first time Formula 1 races in Clermont Ferrand. It is very hot and the times set last year by F2 cars are not valuable references. Therefore, it becomes a question of who knows the circuit and its countless curves best. Given the absence of internal escape routes, drivers who have problems and retire have to go through the whole track to return to the pits. Thus, hitchhiking cases are not uncommon: after Jim Clark’s rear suspension breaks, the driver is brought back to the pits by John Surtees' Ferrari. It is far worse for Graham Hill: his spare B.R.M.’s throttle does not close properly and he enters a corner too fast and spins out, slamming violently into a rock wall.


The car is severely damaged and Hill suffers a severe blow to his neck which keeps him out for the rest of the session. It is telling that of the six fastest laps recorded in the first practice session, five of the drivers have previously raced on the Charade circuit, with the exception of Jim Clark (fifth fastest). Jack Brabham's decision to run Denny Hulme in his place turns out to be the right one: the New Zealander sets the best time of the day with a 3'22"0, beating Jackie Stewart and John Surtees by 0.1 seconds. Innes Ireland breaks the gearbox of his Parnell Lotus-B.R.M. just before the end of practice and is driven back to the pits by Jo Bonnier. Their trip does not last long as the Swede's Walker Brabham runs out of fuel and stops after a few meters. This occurs even though the driver had returned to the pits to replace the tank mounting belt just a while earlier. The two jump on Richie Ginther's Honda and are driven back to the pits. The order of Friday's time classification is thus not what one would expect: John Surtees is third, Jim Clark fifth and Graham Hill is fifteenth. On Saturday, June 26, 1965, the situation changes: there is no sunshine but rain-filled clouds hovering over the Charade hills, which give no sign of going away. As a consequence, there’s the possibility of starting the race with the order established the previous day, which would lead to a very interesting race. However, the risk is averted: after lunch, the necessary visibility and dry conditions return to the circuit, making it possible for the second practice session to start. While trying to bring Jackie Stewart's B.R.M. back to the pits the previous day, the nose had been damaged, making it shorter and with a larger opening.


This peculiarity, however, allows better engine temperature management, causing B.R.M. to modify Graham Hill's car for race day as well. The British driver, however, is unable to take part in the session, still sore from the blow he suffered the day before. Meanwhile, Stewart sets the pace with his B.R.M., though Dan Gurney is becoming more competitive. It seems clear that a 3'20''0 lap is the minimum goal for a good qualifying, a time that drops further as the track dries. Lorenzo Bandini, in his Ferrari, manages to set this time. John Surtees is able to match the Italian driver's time, but still cannot get any lower. Some start to wonder what time he might be able to set if he used the car with the 12-cylinder engine instead of his preferred V8 engine-equipped car. Jim Clark’s 32-valve Coventry-Climax engine breaks down as he is approaching the group in the lead. The Scottish driver returns to the pits, bothered by the car that has let him down two laps in a row. Clark rejoins the track with the backup car and, in no time, sets the best time of the day, a 3'18"3, beating Stewart's best time of 3'18"8. Lotus’ problems do not end: Mike Spence goes too fast on the new tires and loses the car, touching the wall and bending the suspension. Jack Brabham is not satisfied with his own 32-valve Climax engine, which is not performing as well as the previous engine in Denny Hulme's car. Dan Gurney still gets a better position than his New Zealand teammate, thanks to a fantastic drive.


On Sunday, June 26, 1965, the scenario seems to repeat itself: dark clouds cover the track and heavy rain is falling, but the start is set for 3 PM and everyone hopes the conditions will improve. And indeed they do: while it isn’t hot, the weather is good as the cars set off for their formation lap before lining up on the grid. The starting grid sees Jim Clark in pole position in his spare Lotus with an old V8 engine, followed by Spence in his Lotus 33; Gurney's mechanics, however, have replaced the 32-valve engine with a 16-valve Climax V8. John Surtees has chosen the first of the two Ferrari V8s, the 12-cylinder featuring an abbreviated aluminum nose similar to the one from Monaco, instead of a fiberglass one. The nose fairing of Graham Hill's B.R.M. has been shortened and the bore enlarged, like on Jackie Stewart's car. Ginther's Honda, instead, uses air intakes of different lengths, taller in the center and shorter at the ends of the V12 layout; Ronnie Bucknum's engine relies on the usual air intakes of the same length. Theoretically, the different intake trumpets length on the Climber engine should extend the engine's torque range. The starting grid sees Jackie Stewart and Lorenzo Bandini on the front row alongside Jim Clark, while Graham Hill has to settle for the fifth row. The British driver has clutch problems after the warm-up lap, a hassle that is not fully resolved. As the two Parnells line up on the grid, they are pushed to clear some debris and manage to get into position just in time for the race start.


The seventeen cars start, rushing to turn one to begin the forty-lap race. Jim Clark gains the lead in turn one and tries to get away from his pursuers. Lorenzo Bandini takes advantage of the front-row start and gets behind the leader during the first lap, while the drivers behind him battle. Jackie Stewart manages to clear the pack on the second lap, Dan Gurney and John Surtees do so during the third. In the meantime, however, Clark has built up a six-second lead, though the old engine he is using drops below 6.000 rpm on some corners. Ginther maintains sixth position, followed by Spence, McLaren and Hulme; the second Honda pits due to an erratic engine, reporting electrical problems and ignition problems. Jochen Rindt's Cooper is forced to retire on lap three, as the Austrian driver hits the rear of Chris Amon's car and goes off track, while Bruce McLaren's car behaves strangely and loses ground to the leading group. After six laps, the situation is clear: there are two real forces leading the Grand Prix, followed by the others who are fighting hard to keep up with them, such as Surtees and Gurney. Jackie Stewart is struggling to keep up with Jim Clark but manages to pull away from the pack, while Dan Gurney's car seems unable to make full use of all eight cylinders. Graham Hill, at the back of the pack, is forced to drive with practically no clutch. Richie Ginther's Honda does not complete many laps: a small fire starts behind the instrument panel and he has to trundle back to the pits, then retires on lap nine after running two more test laps. John Surtees takes advantage of Gurney's issues, passing him and taking third position. Several drivers get closer Lorenzo Bandini, who is passed by both Mike Spence and Denny Hulme.


A quarter of the way through the race, Clark quietly leads the pack while Stewart is second, ahead of Surtees, followed by Gurney, Spence, Hulme and Bandini. Jo Bonnier leads the private driver group while McLaren, Hill and Amon are a lap behind due to a pit stop. On the 13th of the scheduled 40 laps, Dan Gurney comes into the pits to have an exhaust plug changed and set his engine back to eight cylinders, while on the next lap John Surtees drives past the pits with his Ferrari V8 engine rumbling at maximum revs. Mike Spence spins into a corner due to a blockage of his injection pump, as a result of a sudden power cut, fortunately without damage, and re-enters the race in eighth place. But the problem occurs regularly for the rest of the race. Meanwhile, Dan Gurney re-enters the race a lap behind the leaders, and tries to shorten the gap by also setting a new lap record, but then his engine explodes on lap 16, ending his race. Behind the front-runners, Denny Hulme quietly holds fourth place, although he is far from John Surtees. On lap 16, the Ferrari’s British driver makes a quick pit stop because the alternator is supplying alternating current instead of direct current and the behavior of the engine is consequently unstable. Despite this, thanks to his aggressive driving the Ferrari driver manages to overtake the Brabham-Climax of Denny Hulme. Halfway through the race Jim Clark shows no signs of letting up and increases the lead over Jackie Stewart to fifteen seconds, while John Surtees maintains third position followed by the group consisting of Hulme, Bandini, Graham Hill, Siffert, Spence and McLaren. The last driver left besides them is Bob Anderson, who has been lapped by the leader. Jo Bonnier retires on lap 21 due to the toothed belt drive of the alternator breaking down, leading to battery discharge. Innes Ireland had also stopped, a few laps earlier, due to a gearbox stuck on a gear on lap 18), and Chris Amon retires on lap 20 due to fuel supply problems.


Bruce McLaren has also retired: his Cooper has poor handling and, after being lapped, the driver gives up at the end of lap 23 and returns to the pits. After thirty laps, the favorite for victory seems to be Denny Hulme, who has a more reliable car than the three ahead of him, especially compared to John Surtees' single-seater. The latter is kept alive only by its driver’s skill in handling an engine that begins to make a terrible sound. Looking back at some of the French Grand Prix races witnessed in the past at Reims, this fifty-first edition is characterized by the mediocrity of the cars' mechanical structures rather than by great battles. During the lap 34, Jim Clark overtakes Graham Hill and sets the circuit's new fastest time. With three laps to go, Lorenzo Bandini’s car skids; it then hits a patch of dirt, and before the lap is over his rear wheel breaks and fills the track with debris. The Italian driver is then forced to retire on lap 36. At the end of the scheduled forty laps, Jim Clark wins what Colin Chapman refers to as a typical Clark race, holding the lead from the first lap to the last. Jackie Stewart, second, is about thirty seconds behind, while John Surtees brings his Ferrari problem-riddled to third. A lucky Denny Hulme finishes fourth after having problems with oil pressure on the very last lap. Graham Hill and Jo Siffert round out the top six, taking the last points up for grabs. Jim Clark, the Flying Scotsman, triumphs for the third time in a row and sets the lap record with a 3'19''6, at an average of 145 mph. Jackie Stewart is in second place and continues to impress with his prowess, made up of technical skill and the uncommon ability of not sacrificing the car while fighting. As was the case in the Belgian Grand Prix, the British driver manages to finish the race ahead of his teammate Graham Hill.


John Surtees, in his Ferrari, finishes in P3. The Maranello car seemed to be better than its Lotus and B.R.M. rivals, but Surtees seems to be going through a period of no-confidence, which he must recover from if he does not want to be out of the fight for the 1965 World Championship victory. Ferrari's other driver, Lorenzo Bandini, stays in fifth position almost until the end of the Grand Prix, but then is involved in an accident that fortunately resolves itself without consequences. Bandini finishes in eighth place by virtue of the laps completed. The race was tough; out of seventeen drivers who started, in fact, only nine finished it. Thanks to yet another win, Jim Clark consolidates his position in the World Championship standings by reaching 27 points, bringing to ten the points gap from Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart, who both follow with 17 points, and seems to get closer to the World Title, previously won in 1963. One has to go back several years in motor racing history to find another driver who with such authority and consistency of results dominated his opponents. In this postwar period, only men like Fangio, Ascari and Moss were able, in their best days, to offer on the circuit a spectacle of self-assuredness, almost of ease, that the Scottish racer gave today. Some may say that, in the past, there were many aces at the wheel, while now it is hard to argue that there are more than three or four drivers of genuine class, and thus the task of a champion such as Jim Clark is easier. All this is true, but direct comparisons cannot be made and one has to rely on impressions and memories: it would be equally reckless to claim that Clark’s success is simply because his opponents are not up to his standards. If anything, this very consideration places the Flying Scotsman on the level of the great drivers of the past.


On the troubled Auvergne circuit where the fifty-first Automobile Club of France Grand Prix was held, Jim Clark has achieved his third consecutive victory in a world championship race. The Lotus driver had given up the Monaco race in order to participate (and win) at Indianapolis, but despite conceding an advantage to his rivals, he scored 27 points in the World Championship standings, and it will be a tough task to remove him from the lead and the world title. There is still a long way to go before someone is crowned World Champion for the 1965 season, although there is no hiding the fact that in the face of the close-knit Clark-Lotus pairing, the feat of turning the tide now appears to be a very long shot. The talk about Ferrari brings us back to the French race, where neither Surtees nor Lorenzo Bandini were assisted by luck: the former, after a promising start, was forced to make a quick pit stop for ignition problems; Bandini even lost a wheel within sight of the finish line, when he was in sixth position (fortunately without serious consequences). One would need a dramatic change in the technical field’s situation to catch up to Clark again. In other words, B.R.M., and especially Ferrari, would need to achieve a great improvement in performance to surpass Lotus, calling everything into question. Today, the general feeling is of a balance between the mechanical means, broken solely by Clark's great class. Despite everything, there must be confidence in Ferrari: last year, too, the Maranello cars had a below-par beginning of the season. Little by little, the balance was reversed, and John Surtees managed to win in Monza and later conquered the World Championship at the last Grand Prix, held in Mexico.


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