After the triumph of Graham Hill on the Monte-Carlo circuit, the Circus moves to Spa, to compete in the Belgian Grand Prix, which takes place on the historic Francorchamps circuit, between the wooded hills and the valleys of Malmedy and Stavelot. The Royal Automobile Club of Belgium secured two positions on the grid for each official team, regardless of the fact that for most of the second team guides it is the first experience on the Belgian circuit. This decision generates a climate of dissatisfaction among private teams, since only the official cars already occupy twelve of the sixteen positions on the grid entitled to the starting money, and further controversy arises with the disclosure of the decision ofR.A.C.B to invite ten unofficial teams, instead of the six previously announcing, with only four seats remaining. As a result of this, and by mutual agreement, the private teams decide not to take part in the Friday practice session, leaving free track to the twelve official drivers. B.R.M and Lotus present themselves at the Belgian appointment with three cars: in addition to the single-seaters of Graham Hill and Stewart, the British team has the reserve car equipped with uncoated fork and gearbox with different ratios. The Lotus team, together with Clark and Spence, has instead available the car with 32-valve V8 Coventry-Climax engine, the single-seater with the latest model of 16-valve V8 engine - both with low-level exhaust system - and finally the V8 Climax motorized car under development, with high-level crossover exhaust system. The mechanics of the team are working on the replacement of the central gallettoni, with a pattern of the wheels with removable spokes of 33 cm similar to those used with bolt fastening.
Cooper drivers have the car with the 1965 chassis, with the external side tank of gasoline for Bruce McLaren, and the 1964 car for Jochen Rindt; the Brabham team opts for the use of cars with 16-valve Climax engine, to replace failed engines with 32 valves. Ferrari uses the same three cars brought to Monaco, including the two V8 engines for Surtees and the 12-cylinder flat-engine single-seater for Bandini, with extra petrol tanks temporarily mounted above the engine. Finally, Honda, following the disastrous performance of Monaco, is presented with the three cars updated with new universal joints for the transmission shaft and a revised gear drive. Friday, June 11, 1965 the session of free practice in the afternoon takes place without hindrance for the twelve official drivers took to the track, to the detriment of the strike of private teams. The lap record of 3'49"2 belongs to Gurney, recorded during the previous year’s race. The surprise is represented by the young Jackie Stewart who, on his debut on the Belgian track, manages to record times under 4 minutes. Ginther and his Honda dictate the pace of the day, recording times of 3'57"0, and then improve further with thanks to a time of 3'55"0: the American driver is slower only than Graham Hill, the latter in an amazing state of form after the victory in Monaco. Surtees and Clark soon joined the fastest group, with Stewart bringing himself below the limit of 3'50"0 and Gurney, on the contrary, is in trouble because of the little development made in the last year on his car. Jim Clark’s practice session suffered a setback due to an oil leak leaking from the radiator pipe. The Scottish driver is forced to make a change of car, returning to the track with the reserve car with 16-valve engine.
Ginther confirms the excellent performance of the day, further improving his time, brought to 3'50"3, unlike his teammate Bucknum who finds it difficult to adapt to the fast curves of Spa-Francorchamps. Graham Hill’s incredible performance - 3'48"0. with an average speed of 222.631 km/h - are blurred by the young team-mate, Jackie Stewart, who manages to record a time of 3'49"5 in his first test with a real Grand Prix circuit. The mechanics of the Honda team, however, are called to make last minute changes to the set-up of the cars ahead of the second session of the day: during the first sessions, in fact, it is noted that the Goodyear tires undergo a drastic deterioration. The cause is not found in a tyre problem but in the excessive inclination in the setting of the front wheels of the cars concerned. A climate of discontent also shared by the Brabham team, as the engine of Jack Brabham’s car is broken, and by the mechanics of Scuderia Ferrari, whose single-seaters equipped with 12-cylinder engines disappoint, with probable cause to be attributed to changes made to improve fuel consumption. Following the climate of protests that characterizes the day on Friday, R.A.C.B decides to run six qualifiers. Among the private cars invited are excluded the Lotus of Stoop, still being repaired following the accident in the Bay of Monaco, and Mairesse, engaged at the Nurburgring with BMW. Driving the Lotus-B.R.M cars of Tim Parell we find Attwood and Ireland, the latter replacing Hailwood in the race in the Isle of Man TT. Among the remaining six participants are Bonnier and Siffert, respectively driving the Brabham V8 and the B.R.M V8, Anderson with Brabham-Climax V8, Gardner with Willment-Brabham-B.R.M V8, and to complete the group are Lucien Bianchi and Masten Gregory with the cars Center-South B.R.M V8.
From 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. the twelve official drivers train without being hindered by the slowest cars, and the young Stewart makes a sensation by knocking down the 4-minute lap threshold after only a few reconnaissance laps, despite being his first time on the circuit of Spa. The lap record of 3'49"2 was set by Gurney in last year’s race, but for any standard a lap under 4 minutes is a good result. The next surprise is represented by Richie Ginther, who runs with his Honda in 3'57"0 and starts to dictate the pace of the day, subsequently lowering the level to 3'55"0. A little later Graham Hill took to the track, taking the lead in the time standings. John Surtees tries to trouble the British driver with his Ferrari equipped with a V8 engine, and Clark joins him with his Lotus equipped with a 32-valve Climax engine, whose large exhaust manifolds emit an incredible sound. Both are fast approaching the existing lap record. At the same time it is difficult to say if Gurney can reach them, because his car is not much better than last year; the only real change is the Goodyear tyres. Without the latest Coventry-Climax engine, Dan can’t hope to keep up with Clark, Hill and Surtees. After a short rest, Jackie Stewart returns to the track and scores a time below the limit of 3'50"0. Jim Clark does not have time to improve, as a leak of oil in the radiator hose puts an end to his workouts. The Scottish driver must be content to continue the tests with a 16-valve engine with a flat crankshaft. Richie Ginther takes his Honda to the limit and scores a time of 3'50"3, while his teammate Bucknum tries to adapt his driving style to the high-speed corners of Francorchamps. Graham Hill works steadily and scores a time of 3'48"0, at an average speed of 222.631 km/h, but is almost overshadowed by his teammate, Jackie Stewart, who brings his personal limit to 3'49"5.
The Honda team has a problem with Goodyear tyres, as whole pieces of tread come off; however, the problem is not too serious, as this is caused by excessive camber of the rear wheels and not by a tyre failure. An issue that is corrected before performing the next test session. It goes worse to Jack Brabham, who during the tests breaks the Climax engine. They disappoint the cars of the Maranello team, because the engines had been trimmed in such a way as to obtain a better fuel consumption, but with Bandini who does not like the high-speed corners, his Ferrari snon goes beyond a time that is just below 4 minutes. Also for this reason John Surtees is happy that Enzo Ferrari has not decided to entrust him with the car equipped with 12-cylinder engine. The next day, Saturday 12 June 1965, the RACB accepts six qualified drivers. And since Stoop’s Lotus 33 hasn’t been repaired since the dive into the Port of Monaco, and Mairesse completed a single lap on one of the Scuderia Centro-Sud’s B.R.M. and decided to go racing in a BMW sedan at the Nürburgring, will be six private drivers out of eight members to receive money for the start, while the other two will not take part in the competition. Attwood and Ireland on the Lotus-B.R.M. of Tim Parnell’s team use the spare car that was built for Monaco, as Attwood’s wrecked car is still being rebuilt. Ireland replaces Hailwood, which is located on the Isle of Mann to take part in the TT races. Rob Walker has his Swedish and Swiss drivers, with their respective Brabhams, a Climax V8 for Bonnier and a B.R.M. V8 for Siffert. Anderson (Brabham-Climax V8) and Gardner (Willment-Brabham-B.R.M. V8) complete the list of regular drivers, to which are added two B.R.M. V8 of the Scuderia Centro-Sud, the old production cars with space chassis of 1962/3, driven by Lucien Bianchi and Masten Gregory. The weather looks good in anticipation of the training session, being dry and cool with a full cloud cover.
From 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. there is a fairly quick session. The B.R.M. pair of drivers fell below the lap-record, but Graham Hill’s progress was soon humiliated by a clutch slip. The British driver does not lose heart, and passes on the test car, resulting even faster. Hill completed a large number of laps, scoring a time of 3'45"4. The Lotus Team continues to suffer mechanical problems: on Jim Clark’s car hubs are replaced, which caused problems with the mounting of the wheels, and also the power of 210 horsepower of the 32-valve engine mounted on the Scottish driver’s car is not convincing. To make all the necessary interventions, Clark spends more time in the pits than on the track, and he never manages to make a series of fast laps. The Scottish driver made only one quick lap in 3'47"5, which earned him the second place, but with a delay of 2 seconds compared to the best time of Graham Hill. Meanwhile, Jackie Stewart continues to amaze everyone with a time of 3'48"8 with his B.R.M., without apparently trying. Richie Ginther joins the leading drivers by scoring a time of 3'49"0; Honda is now as competitive as everyone expected it to be last year, and Gurney equals his lap record. Rob Walker is very satisfied with his two drivers, because not only are they ahead of the other private riders, but also many official cars, and thanks to the exploitation of the Gurney’s wake, Bonnier manages to join the group of drivers who score times under 4 minutes. The drivers of Tim Parnell are the next qualified, and to close the ranking of the participants are Lucien Bianchi and Frank Gardner, while Anderson and Gregory remain excluded from the list of participants in the race.
Sunday 13 June 1965 the sky is cloudy above the circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, with the rain that washes the Belgian circuit just before the grid deployment. Because of this, most teams opted for wet tyres, with teams supplied by Dunlop using R6, except for Ireland and Spence using R7. Surtees opts for the latest version of the two Ferrari V8, while Graham Hill is driving the B.R.M reserve car, designed for development tests: for the British team, in fact, the most obsolete version of the gearbox is more advantageous than the new one. This modification was also adapted to Stewart’s car, which was replaced by the new gearbox. After the hard work done by Lotus mechanics over the weekend, their official cars were converted to central gallettoni, with Clark driving the Climax 32-valve powered single-seater and Spence with the 16-valve flat-shaft version. The Center-South team decided to race their drivers anyway, despite the exclusion from those entitled to starting money: Gregory accepts, unlike Anderson who decides not to take part in the race. The start of the race is scheduled for 3:00 p.m., but around 12:00 a.m. numerous clouds accumulate over the circuit, and when the cars are brought to the starting grid it starts to rain. Most of the team managers decide to mount rain tyres on the cars; the riders who have available Dunlop tyres mount R6, with the exception of Ireland and Spence who decide to stick to the R7 tires, those with the new scheme. Surtees uses the most recent of the two V8 Ferraris, while Graham Hill is aboard the reserve B.R.M. originally prepared for development work. Stewart’s car has a lighter gearbox. On all the cars of the Lotus Team the knock-off hubs have been replaced; Jim Clark drives the car equipped with a 32-valve Climax engine, while Spence will have the 16-valve engine with a flat crankshaft. The Scuderia Centro-Sud decided to start Gregory anyway, while Anderson returned home.
At 3:30 p.m. a large cloud of water rises from the cars, marking the start of the Belgian Grand Prix. Graham Hill took the lead, ahead of Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and John Surtees, with the rest of the group to follow. The reduced visibility caused by the water does not allow the drivers to align themselves with the cars that precede them and even less to be able to make overtaking maneuvers, with the exception of Clark who manages to bring his Lotus in front of Hill, conquering the lead of the group. The Lotus Team driver managed to create a good margin immediately on Graham Hill, followed by Stewart (B.R.M.), Surtees (Ferrari), Ginther (Honda), McLaren (Cooper), Bonnier (Brabham), Gurney (Brabham), Siffert (Brabham), Brabham (Brabham) and Attwood (Lotus); followed by the rest of the group, except for Frank Gardner who stops because of a problem with the distributor cap. With the open track and an incredible race pace, Jim Clark further breaks away from the group over the next few laps. With the advantage growing from lap to lap, also increases the discomfort of Graham Hill, who is chased by teammate Jackie Stewart. The British driver knows that it is a matter of time before the youngest driver of the English team can attempt the overtaking: Jackie Stewart succeeds in the following lap, condemning the Hill race to a slow slide towards the low-ranking positions.
The B.R.M. driven by the English driver, perfect in dry conditions, struggles to maintain grip in the wet, making it impossible to face the fast curves that characterize the Belgian circuit. The drivers on board their cars pass on the main straight well spaced from each other, to avoid being blinded by water clouds. Because of the bad weather, Jim Clark runs in 4'21"0, 30 seconds slower than the time recorded in qualifying, still managing to detach the group. On lap five, John Surtees was forced to retire due to the failure of the Ferrari V8 engine, with Ginther passing in fourth position aboard his Honda. The American driver, however, manages to keep the position for a short time, being overtaken on the next lap by Bruce McLaren: the New Zealand driver takes advantage - in addition to the misfortunes of others - from the track conditions, thanks to his Cooper, which is able to keep the pace of the other cars. After the problem found at the start of the race, Frank Gardner managed to restart but was forced to retire during the third lap due to an ignition failure, followed shortly after by the withdrawal of Jo Bonnier during the ninth lap, due to an engine ignition problem. Meanwhile Masten Gregory returns to the pits, during the twelfth lap due to the operation of the fuel pump, followed by Rindt; the Austrian driver is forced to replace the lap counter, detached from his dashboard.
Meanwhile, Jack Brabham gradually managed to get closer to Richie Ginther’s Honda. The other Honda car, driven by Ronnie Bucknum, lost more and more speed lap after lap, until it stopped permanently during the ninth lap due to a transmission problem. Richard Attwood is first among the private teams, in eighth position, ahead of Jo Siffert and Lorenzo Bandini, who is in trouble with his Ferrari equipped with 12-cylinder engine. Shortly after, Dan Gurney stopped at the pits to proceed to a brief interview with his mechanics, allowing Jim Clark to dub him. Halfway through the race, despite the storm that continues to hit the Belgian circuit, Jim Clark turns to an average of 190 km/h, bringing the advantage on his direct pursuer to 45 seconds. The group of pursuers is headed by the young Scotsman Jackie Stewart, who surprises at his first race at Spa; he follows Graham Hill in third, then McLaren, with Brabham trying to recover after having detached Ginther’s Honda. In seventh place follows Mike Spence, who pays the choice of R7 tires suitable more for wet tracks than the slippery conditions caused by rain. Finally follows Richard Attwood. On the seventeenth lap Clark double Spence and Attwood in one go, recording a time of 4'15"0. Meanwhile, Dan Gurney is back in the pits to confront his mechanics and Graham Hill surrenders to the attacks of Bruce McLaren: the B.R.M driver tries to keep the fourth position as long as possible, but is chased by the fastest Jack Brabham.
Richard Attwood overtakes Mike Spence and approaches Richie Ginther, while Jim Clark doubles Jack Brabham, marking a setback in his pursuit for fourth place. Shortly after Jim Clark also double Graham Hill and Bruce McLaren, bringing his lead over Jack eStewart to 1 minute, the only driver left on the same lap as the race leader. Ronnie Bucknum was stopped during the ninth lap due to the failure of the transmission on his Honda, remaining stuck on the circuit, but thanks to a pass given to him by Innes Ireland manages to return to the pits. A few laps from the end of the race Richard Attwood is the victim of a scary accident: the British driver loses control of the car on the straight Masta, hitting a telegraph pole that sends his Lotus on fire. Fortunately the driver manages to get out of the car in time, remedying only a few minor burns. With the restart of the race, Jim Clark feels a slip of the clutch: two laps follow in which the Scottish driver tries not to strain the clutch further, allowing Jackie Stewart to lower the gap and bring it to 31 seconds. Thanks to his management, the Scottish driver managed to finish the last two laps with the same fast pace shown previously, winning the deserved victory of the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of the 32 laps, and taking his lead over Jackie Stewart to 44.8 seconds. The B.R.M. driver finished in second place, followed by Bruce McLaren, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill and Richie Ginther.
Graham Hill, after Saturday’s record average during practice, was the favourite of the Belgian Grand Prix, the third round of the Formula 1 World Championship held in Francorchamps. Instead, it was Jim Clark who put (and for the fourth time in a row) his name in the gold book of the race. For the Scotsman, after the resounding success of the Indy 500, the victory at Spa turns into the conquest of the first place in the world classification and the umpteenth reconfirmation of his class. Clark, for having deserted the Monaco Grand Prix in favor of the Indy 500, had recently been accused of excessive attachment to money and last interest in that championship, although less rich in prizes of certain US races, remained the highlight of international motor racing. At Spa, however, Jim proved to be able to commit himself still to the maximum and on a slippery track and dangerous for the rain dominated every opponent.
"It was very difficult to go".
Clark says at the end of the race while in the small box of Lotus, surrounded by mechanics and admirers, he takes off the light suit to finally wear warm and dry clothes.
"The track itself is certainly not the hardest, but it has many curves, and, with all that water, I experienced two or three moments of anxiety. Thank God everything ended well".
With 19 points, the Scottish driver and the Lotus clan look to the future with confidence. Disappointment, of course, at B.R.M., where Graham Hill tries to explain the unhappy day.
"We expected good weather, not a flood. So the car was equipped in a way completely unsuitable for the situation: the tires should have been different, and different suspension adjustment. When cornering I seemed to skid, and so I slowed down the march; then, on the straights, the cars in front lifted such swirls of water to make the comebacks extremely dangerous".
Unlucky the test of John Surtees, the current World Champion in office, whose Ferrari 8 cylinders stopped after a few laps from a mechanical failure, while Bandini did not go beyond an honorable ninth place. Meanwhile, the reigning World Champion publishes a new, controversial article on the Scuderia Ferrari on the Sunday Mirror. It repeats what was said a week ago, namely that Ferrari sacrificed its chances of success in the Formula 1 World Championship to victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Surtees says he is forced, by this way of thinking, to compete in the World Championship with a car not well prepared:
"I can commit myself to the extreme, but if the machine does not respond to my commitment there is little to do".
The reigning World Champion concludes his article with a disquisition about Le Mans and the difficulties that this exceptional race presents to drivers, and states that Ferraris will probably win for the sixth consecutive year, although they face competition from the powerful Fords this year. In addition, the British confirms that between the Italian house and the English rider not everything goes as it should. Surtees, asked by journalists about this controversy, denies being on track with Enzo Ferrari, but after the Belgian Grand Prix the situation is likely to become even more tense. It is certain that this climate of distrust cannot benefit either Surtees or Ferrari. Surprising - but not too surprising - the third race of the young Scottish driver Jackie Stewart. The young driver of the B.R.M., third also in the world ranking with 11 points, which last year still raced in Formula 2 and 3, has raced a remarkable race. He is a guy who drives with personal style, always seasoned with a hint of boldness and impetuousness. Within a year or two it should compete with the most savvy conductors of all Formula 1 teams.