After Graham Hill triumphed on the Monte-Carlo circuit, Formula One moves to Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix, which takes place on the historic Francorchamps circuit, amongst the wooded hills and the valleys of Malmedy and Stavelot. The Royal Automobile Club of Belgium (R.A.C.B.) secured two positions on the grid for each official team, regardless of the fact that for most of the second drivers it is the first experience on the Belgian circuit. This decision fosters a climate of dissatisfaction among private teams, since the official cars alone already take twelve of the sixteen positions on the grid that entitle to receive the starting money. Further controversy arises as R.A.C.B. makes it known that ten unofficial teams will be participating, instead of six, as had been previously announced, so that there are only four places available. 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 take part to the Belgian Grand Prix with three cars. There are two single-seaters for Graham Hill and Stewart, plus the British team has the back-up car equipped with uncoated fork and gearbox with different gears. The Lotus team, with Clark and Spence as its drivers, has one car equipped with a 32-valve V8 Coventry-Climax engine, another single-seater with the latest 16-valve V8 engine - both with low-level exhaust system - and finally a V8 Climax-engine car which is just being developed, with high-level crossover exhaust system. The team's mechanics are working on replacing the central wing nuts with a 33 cm removable spoke wheel design, similar to those used with bolt-on fasteners. Cooper drivers have their cars equipped with the 1965 chassis, with the external side petrol tank for Bruce McLaren, and the 1964 car for Jochen Rindt. The Brabham team equips its cars with 16-valve Climax engines, to replace the ones with 32 valves, which had proven not to work properly. Ferrari uses the same three cars as in Monaco, the two V8-engine cars for Surtees and the 12-cylinder flat-engine single-seater for Bandini, with extra petrol tanks temporarily fitted above the engine. Finally, Honda has its three cars updated with new universal joints for the transmission shaft and a revised gear drive, following the terrible performance in Monaco. On Friday, June 11, 1965, the free practice session in the afternoon takes place without hindrance for the twelve official drivers on the track, to the detriment of the strike of private teams.
The lap time record is currently 3'49"2, set by Gurney during last year’s race. The young driver Jackie Stewart is having a surprisingly good session: on his debut on the Belgian track, he manages to set times under 4 minutes. Ginther (Honda) sets the pace of the day, lapping in 3'57"0, which then he improves further with a time of 3'55"0. The only driver faster than the American is Graham Hill, who is in his best moment after his victory in Monaco. Surtees and Clark soon join the fastest group, and Stewart manages to lap under 3'50"0. Gurney, on the contrary, is in trouble, because of the little development made on his car in the last year. Jim Clark’s practice session suffered a setback due to an oil leak from the radiator hose. The Scottish driver is forced to change car, returning to the track with the spare car, equipped with a 16-valve engine. Ginther confirms the excellent performance of the day, further improving his time, lowering it to 3'50"3. On the other hand, his teammate Bucknum is having some difficulties to adapt to the fast turns of Spa-Francorchamps. Graham Hill’s incredible performance - a time of 3'48"0 and an average speed of 222.631 km/h - is obscured by his young teammate, Jackie Stewart, who manages to record a time of 3'49"5 in his first test in a real Grand Prix circuit. The Honda team mechanics, however, are called to make last minute changes to the set-up of the cars ahead of the second practice session of the day: during the first sessions, indeed, it is noticed that the Goodyear tires tend to deteriorate a lot. The cause is not a tyre problem, but the setup of the front wheels of the involved cars which is too inclined. Other teams are also running into difficulties, such as Brabham, as the engine of Jack Brabham’s car is broken, and Scuderia Ferrari, whose single-seaters equipped with 12-cylinder engines did not perform as well as expected. Likely this is because of the changes made to improve fuel consumption. Following the protests that characterize the day on Friday, R.A.C.B. decides to run six qualifiers. As far as the private cars are concerned, both Stoop and Mairesse will not be racing for Lotus Team, the former because his car is still being repaired following the accident in the Monaco Bay, the latter because he is currently engaged in the Nürburgring with BMW.
The Lotus-B.R.M cars of Tim Parell will be driven by Richard Attwood and Innes Ireland: the latter is replacing Hailwood, who is taking part in the Isle of Man TT race. Among the remaining six participants are Bonnier and Siffert, driving respectively a Brabham V8 and a B.R.M. V8, Anderson (Brabham-Climax V8), Gardner (Willment-Brabham B.R.M. V8), and Lucien Bianchi and Masten Gregory (both driving Centro Sud B.R.M. V8) to complete the group. From 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. the twelve official drivers train without being hindered by the slowest cars. The young driver Stewart makes a sensation by breaking the 4-minute lap mark after only a few warmup laps, despite being his first time on the Spa circuit. The lap record of 3'49"2 had been set by Gurney in last year’s race, but for any standard a lap under 4 minutes is a good result. Richie Ginther (Honda) is the author of another surprising performance: he laps in 3'57"0 and soon starts to set the pace of the day, then lowering his time to 3'55"0. Shortly afterwards Graham Hill comes onto the track and takes the lead. John Surtees tries to bother the British driver with his V8-engine Ferrari, and Clark does the same in his Lotus equipped with a 32-valve Climax engine, whose large exhaust manifolds make an incredible noise. Both are rapidly getting closer to the current lap record. At the same time, it is difficult to foresee whether Gurney can catch up with them, because his car is not much better than last year, the only real change being that now it is equipped with Goodyear tyres. Without the latest Coventry-Climax engine, Dan can’t hope to keep up with Clark, Hill and Surtees. After a short stop, Jackie Stewart is back on track and sets a time under 3'50"0. Jim Clark does not have enough time to improve, since an oil leak in his radiator hose puts an end to his practice. The Scottish driver must accept continuing the tests with a 16-valve engine with a flat crankshaft. Richie Ginther (Honda) pushes the envelope and sets a time of 3'50"3, while his teammate Bucknum tries to adapt his driving style to the high-speed turns of Francorchamps. Graham Hill works consistently and achieves a time of 3'48"0, at an average speed of 222.631 km/h, but is almost obscured by his teammate, Jackie Stewart, who improves his personal lap record (3'49"5). The Honda team has a problem with Goodyear tyres, as whole pieces of tread are coming off; however, the problem does not seem to be too serious, as this is caused by the excessive camber of the rear wheels and not by a tyre failure.
This is quickly fixed before the following practice session starts. Jack Brabham has a worse problem: indeed, during the tests his Climax engine breaks. The performance from the Maranello team cars is rather disappointing. Their engines had been trimmed to achieve a better fuel consumption, but Bandini does not particularly like the high-speed corners, his Ferrari laps beyond a time that is just below 4 minutes. This is also the reason why John Surtees is happy that Enzo Ferrari did not entrust him with the 12-cylinder engine car. The next day, on Saturday, June 12, 1965, R.A.C.B. regulation state that six drivers can qualify. Six private drivers out of eight participants are to receive money for the start, and the remaining two will not take part in the competition. This is because Stoop’s #33 Lotus hasn’t been repaired yet, since it ended up into the Monaco harbour, and Mairesse completed just one lap in one B.R.M. Scuderia Centro-Sud but then decided to go racing in a BMW saloon car at Nürburgring. As Attwood’s wrecked car is still being rebuilt, Attwood and Ireland are driving the spare Lotus-B.R.M. of Tim Parnell’s team, that had been built for the Monaco Grand Prix. Ireland will replace Hailwood, who is on the Isle of Mann to take part in the TT races. Rob Walker has two Brabham cars for his two drivers, a Climax V8 for Swedish driver Bonnier and a B.R.M. V8 for Swiss driver Siffert. Anderson (Brabham-Climax V8) and Gardner (Willment-Brabham-B.R.M. V8) complete the list of regular drivers, to which we have to add two B.R.M. V8 of Scuderia Centro-Sud, the old production cars with space-frame chassis from the 1962/3 season, driven by Lucien Bianchi and Masten Gregory. The weather looks good prior to the practice session, being dry, cool, with complete cloud cover.From 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. a fairly fast practice session takes place. The B.R.M. drivers lap below the current record, but Graham Hill’s progress is soon thwarted by a clutch slip. The British driver does not lose heart, passes on the test car, and gets even faster. Hill completes a lot of laps, recording a time of 3'45"4. The Lotus Team continues to face mechanical problems: the hubs are replaced on Jim Clark’s car, because they caused problems when fitting the wheels, and also the power of 210 hp 32-valve engine fitted on the Scottish driver’s car is not convincing. In order to carry out all the necessary work, Clark spends more time in the box than on the track, and he never manages to make a series of fast laps.
The Scotsman completes just one fast lap in 3'47"5, which earns him second place, but still 2 seconds behind Graham Hill's best time. Meanwhile, Jackie Stewart (B.R.M.) continues to amaze everyone setting a time of 3'48"8, apparently without even pushing a lot. Richie Ginther joins the leading group, setting a time of 3'49"0; Honda is now as competitive as everyone expected it to be last year, and Gurney equals his personal lap record. Rob Walker is very pleased with his two drivers, because they are not only ahead of the other private drivers, but also many factory cars. By taking advantage of Gurney's slipstream, Bonnier manages to enter the group of drivers who set times under 4 minutes. Tim Parnell’s drivers are the next qualified, and Lucien Bianchi and Frank Gardner complete the list of the participants in the race, while Anderson and Gregory are left out the Grand Prix. On Sunday, June 13, 1965, the sky is cloudy over the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, and rain is starting to fall on the Belgian circuit just before the start of the race. Therefore, most teams opt for rain tyres, with the Dunlop-supplied teams using R6s, with the exception of Ireland and Spence who are using R7s. Surtees is driving the latest version of the two V8-Ferrari, while Graham Hill is driving the spare B.R.M., which was originally destined for development testing: for the British team, the older version of the gearbox seems to work better than the new one. This was also fitted to Stewart's car, replacing the new gearbox. After the Lotus mechanics' hard work over the weekend, central wing nuts were fitted in their official cars. Clark is driving the 32-valve Climax single-seater, while Spence is driving the 16-valve flat-shaft version. Scuderia Centro Sud decides to let their drivers race anyway, in spite of not being entitled to receive the starting money: Gregory accepts, whereas Anderson decides not to take part in the race. The start of the race is scheduled for 3:00 p.m., but around midday ominous clouds start gathering over the circuit, and by the time 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 drivers equipped with Dunlop tyres mount the R6s, with the exception of Ireland and Spence, who decide to stick to the R7 tyres, the ones with the new pattern. Surtees is using the newer of the two Ferrari V8, while Graham Hill is driving the spare B.R.M. which was originally meant for development work.
Stewart’s car has a lighter gearbox. Exhaust hubs were replaced on all Lotus Team cars; Jim Clark will drive the car equipped with a 32-valve Climax engine, while Spence’s car will be equipped with a 16-valve engine with a flat crankshaft. The Scuderia Centro-Sud still decides to start Gregory, while Anderson returns home. At 3:30 p.m. a huge spray of water arises from the cars, marking the start of the Belgian Grand Prix. Graham Hill takes the lead, ahead of Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and John Surtees, with the rest of the group following. Reduced visibility caused by the rain makes it impossible for the drivers to line up with the cars in front of them and even less to overtake, with the exception of Clark who manages to overtake Hill, thus taking the lead of the race. The Team Lotus driver immediately manages to take a good lead over 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); the rest of the group follows, with the exception of Frank Gardner who stops due to a distributor cap problem. Jim Clark manages to outdistance everyone else in the group over the following laps, thanks to the clear track ahead of him and an incredible pace. As the lead grows lap by lap, so does the difficulty for Graham Hill, who is being chased by team-mate 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 Hill to a slow slide towards the low-ranking positions. The B.R.M. driven by the British driver performs perfectly well in dry conditions, but struggles to maintain grip in wet conditions, making it impossible to tackle the fast turns that characterise the Belgian circuit. The drivers in their cars pass well apart on the main straight, so as to avoid losing visibility because of the water sprays. Due to the bad weather, Jim Clark laps in 4'21"0, which is 30 seconds slower than the time recorded in qualifying, but he still manages to let everyone else behind him. On lap 5, John Surtees is forced to withdraw due to the V8 engine failure in his Ferrari, with Ginther moving up to 4th in his Honda. On the following lap Bruce McLaren overtakes him: the New Zealand driver takes advantage of the track conditions as well as the misfortunes of others, with his Cooper managing to keep pace with the other cars. After having a problem at the start of the race, Frank Gardner manages to rejoin the race but is forced to withdraw during lap 3 due to an ignition failure. Shortly afterwards, during lap 9, Jo Bonnier also withdraws due to an ignition problem.
Meanwhile, Masten Gregory returns to the box on lap 12 due to a malfunctioning fuel pump, and Rindt follows; the Austrian driver is forced to replace the rev counter, since it was disengaged from his dashboard. In the meantime, Jack Brabham gradually manages to get closer to Richie Ginther's Honda. Ronnie Bucknum, who is driving the other Honda, starts losing speed, going slower each lap until he finally stops during lap 9, due to transmission failure. Richard Attwood is currently P8 and first among the private team drivers, ahead of Jo Siffert and Lorenzo Bandini, who is struggling with his 12-cylinder-engined Ferrari. Shortly afterwards, Dan Gurney stops at his box to have a brief talk with his mechanics, allowing Jim Clark to lap him. Halfway through the race, despite the thunderstorm that is braking over the Belgian circuit, Jim Clark is driving at an average speed of 190 km/h, being nearly 45 seconds ahead of his closest rival. This would be the young Scotsman Jackie Stewart, who is leading the chasing group. His performance is surprisingly good given that he is racing for the first time at Spa. Graham Hill follows in P3, then comes McLaren (Brabham) who is trying to catch up after outdistancing Ginther (Honda). Mike Spence follows in P7: he is paying the price for choosing R7 tyres, which work fine on a completely wet track, but not much when this is only slippery. Finally comes Richard Attwood. On lap 17, Clark laps both Spence and Attwood in one go, recording a time of 4'15"0. In the meantime, Dan Gurney returns to the box to talk to his mechanics and Bruce McLaren overtakes Graham Hill: the B.R.M. driver tries to keep P4 as long as possible, but behind him Jack Brabham is much faster than him. Richard Attwood overtakes Mike Spence and moves closer to Richie Ginther, while Jim Clark overtakes Jack Brabham, thus his pursuit of 4th place suffers a setback.
Shortly afterwards Jim Clark also laps Graham Hill and Bruce McLaren: now he is over one minute ahead of Jackie Stewart, which was the only driver left on the same lap as the race leader. The transmission in Ronnie Bucknum's Honda failed on lap 9, leaving him stranded on the circuit, but thanks to a ride provided by Innes Ireland he was able to return to his box. A few laps before the end of the race Richard Attwood suffers a frightening accident: the British driver loses control of his car on the Masta straight, hitting a telegraph pole, and his Lotus bursts into flames. Fortunately, the driver manages to get out of the car in time, suffering only minor burns. When the race resumes, Jim Clark suffers a clutch slip: the Scottish driver tries not to stress the clutch any further, allowing Jackie Stewart to reduce the gap to 31 seconds. Thanks to his handling, the Scottish driver manages to keep the same pace he had shown earlier also in the last two laps, taking a well-deserved victory in the Belgian Grand Prix after 32 laps and increasing 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 was the tipped to win the Belgian Grand Prix, the third round of the Formula 1 World Championship held at Francorchamps, after he had set a record average speed in practice on Saturday. Instead, it was Jim Clark who entered the hall of fame of the race (for the fourth consecutive time). After his sensational success in the Indy 500, thanks to this victory in Spa, the Scot takes first place in the world championship standings, another demonstration of his class. Clark had even received some criticism for deserting the Monaco Grand Prix to compete in the Indy 500, he had been accused of thinking only about money. The championship, although less rich in prizes than some American races, remained the real jewel of international motor racing. Nevertheless, in Spa, Jim showed that he still knows how to give his best and beat every opponent on a slippery and dangerous rain-soaked track.
"The race start was very difficult".
Clark says that at the end of the race, as he stays in the small Lotus box, surrounded by mechanics and admirers, he takes off his light tracksuit to finally put on warm, dry clothes.
"The track itself is certainly not the most challenging of the Word Championship, but it has many turns, and, with all that water, I suffered two or three stressful moments. Thank God everything went well".
With 19 points, the Scottish driver and Lotus team look forward to the future with optimism. There is disappointment, of course, in B.R.M. team, and Graham Hill tries to provide an explanation for the unfortunate day.
"The weather was supposed to be good, instead it was pouring. So, the fine-tuning of the car was totally inadequate for the situation: the tyres should have been different, as should the suspension setting. In the turns, I felt like I was skidding, so I had to slow down; then, on the straights, the cars ahead were raising sprays of water, so that it was extremely dangerous to try to come back".
John Surtees, the reigning World Champion, had an unfortunate race. His 8-cylinder Ferrari broke down after a few laps due to a mechanical problem, while Bandini did not get further than an honourable P9. Meanwhile, the reigning World Champion publishes a new, controversial article about Scuderia Ferrari in the Sunday Mirror. He repeats what he said a week ago, that Ferrari sacrificed its chances for victory in the Formula One World Championship to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Surtees claims that he was forced to compete in the World Championship with a badly prepared car:
"I can give my all, but if the car does not perform according to my effort, there is very little I can do".
The reigning World Champion closes his article discussing the Le Mans competition and the difficulties for the drivers in this exceptional race, and says that the Ferraris will probably win for the sixth year in a row, although this year they will have to face competition from the powerful Ford team. Furthermore, the Briton confirms that not everything is going as it should between him and the Italian manufacturer. Asked by journalists about this controversy, Surtees denies any problem 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 neither Surtees nor Ferrari. Young Scottish driver Jackie Stewart had a surprising - but not too surprising - race, considering that it was just his third one. The young B.R.M. driver is now also third in the world championship standings with 11 points. He was still racing in Formula 2 and 3 last year and had a remarkable race. He is a young man who drives in his own way, with a touch of courage and rashness. Within a year or two he should be competing with the most experienced drivers in all of Formula 1.