#106 1962 French Grand Prix

2021-09-04 01:00

Array() no author 82025

#1962, Fulvio Conti,

#106 1962 French Grand Prix

Saturday, 23 June 1962 at 4:00 pm will see the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the great automobile race that has endured undaunted since 1923, desp


Saturday, 23 June 1962 at 4:00 pm will see the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the great automobile race that has endured undaunted since 1923, despite the crisis that seemed on the point of making it disappear from the calendar after the terrifying disaster of 1955, in which more than a hundred people lost their lives in the most appalling accident in the history of the sport. The popularity of the French race has therefore managed to remain unchanged, both among manufacturers and drivers of sports cars and in the sympathy of the public, who flock to the almost fourteen kilometres of the famous circuit every year. It's hard to believe that it's only a question of fans of the sport of driving: it's closer to the truth when we say that people go to Le Mans as if they were going for a picnic, perhaps a little uncomfortable but where they can find all sorts of amusements to spend a night and a day without getting bored. In reality, an immense fair has sprung up around and inside the circuit in these days where you are spoilt for choice among the dozens of restaurants, bars, public dances and souvenir stalls. This is the 24 Hours of Le Mans, half fair and half serious. Very serious indeed, for the three or four hundred people most directly involved in the events of the race: the drivers, first and foremost, then the technicians of the manufacturers and the teams, the mechanics, the race stewards. The rules of the 24 Hours are very strict and are enforced without mercy. The same strictness applies to the conduct of the race: the slightest misconduct results in immediate exclusion from the course. Until last year, the 24 Hours of Le Mans was valid as a round of the World Championship for marques in the absolute sense; from this season, as we know, the championship is reserved only for grand touring cars, and is divided into three titles; respectively for cars up to 1000, 1600 and over 1600 cubic centimetres.


The race will therefore count for these three titles, but from this point of view it is of little interest, since the technical and competitive elements proposed by the 24 Hours are quite different, starting with the presence in the race of new large displacement sports cars, which will compete for overall victory. While in the Formula 1 sector, up to now, Italian cars have had to suffer the English superiority, the situation is very different in the sport category, where Ferrari has dominated in all the tests run so far. Even at Le Mans, the red cars from the Modenese company are the favourites, but they will find formidable opponents in the new four-litre cars (with 350 and more horsepower) from Aston Martin and above all Maserati. However, in the official practice sessions held on Thursday 21 June 1962, the Ferrari driven by Phil Hill-Gendebien (the couple who won last year's 24 Hours) beat by far the absolute lap record set in 1957 by the late Mike Hawthorn, also in a Ferrari. The time set on the 13.461 metre circuit was 3'55"1, followed by two other Ferraris: those of Parkes-Bandini in 4'00"9, and the brothers Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez in 4'03"2, and in fourth place in this ranking of relative importance, the Maserati of McLaren and Hansgen in 4'05"5. After stringent scrutineering, which led to the exclusion of the Lotus cars due to two construction details that did not comply with the race's strict regulations, testing of the fifty-five crews admitted will continue on Friday, with an extra time at night, both to get the drivers used to driving with headlights and for further testing of the cars' lighting systems. At the start, given at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, in front of no less than 230.000 spectators, the fifty-six cars launched into an indescribable tumult, and it was Graham Hill (Aston Martin) who took the lead of the long queue, though he was soon overtaken by the Ferrari initially driven by Gendebien.


The English car resisted in second position for about twenty laps. Rodrlguez, taking advantage of the first refuelling of Phil Hill and Gendeblen (whose car had to stop approximately every 20-22 laps) at the beginning of the third hour were in the lead. But the situation is restored at dusk when the highest general average of the race is recorded; with 194.651 km/h by the number 1 crew of the Ferrari. During the night, the threat of the Aston Martins and Maseratis disappeared for good; the average speed dropped slightly (190km/h) and it was Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez who shone in terms of combativeness, often taking the lead. At midnight, sixteen drivers had retired, and then twenty- two at four in the morning, after twelve hours of racing. Immediately afterwards, the Rodriguez team dropped out, and the Baghetti-Scarfiotti duo moved into second place. But the Italian crew will also be forced to retire. At this point, the Hill-Gendebien duo had no choice but to slow down, having a minimum advantage of five girls over everyone else. During the race there were only two accidents, fortunately more spectacular than serious in their consequences: after four hours, the Ferrari driven by the Belgian Darville went off the road: the driver suffered slight injuries to his chin. Then, around midnight, on the bend following the grandstands' straight, the Panhard of French driver Lelong overturns and catches fire, but he manages to leave the driver's seat before being caught in the flames. So Ferrari has once again won the Le Mans 24 Hours in a convincing manner. The overall winner is a pair of drivers who can truly be considered the queen of the 24 Hours: world champion Phil Hill and Belgian Olivier Gendebien. Together, they are on their third victory in this race (and Gendebien has won it four times).


The two, at the wheel of an experimental Ferrari with a 12- cylinder, 4,000 cubic centimetre engine, covered more than 451 kilometres at an average speed of 185.468 km/h between 4pm on Saturday and 4pm on Sunday. And Phil Hill improved the lap record that had stood for five years, covering 13.161 metres of the circuit at an average speed of 204.213 km/h. These figures are highly indicative, especially if we consider the implacable selection which, helped by a torrid heat, put out of action almost 68% of the cars started: such a carnage had never been seen at Le Mans. With three Ferraris triumphant, only the car driven by Phil Hill-Gendebien belongs to the official team of the Modenese company, which had three crews eliminated, two of which - the Rodriguez brothers (even leading for a few hours) and Baghetti-Scarfiotti - who always remained in the very top positions. As for Bandini-Parkes, their race was practically over on the first lap, when their twelve-cylinder car (at the wheel of which was the American) missed a curve and ended up in the middle of a sand shelter: after unheard-of efforts Parkes managed to get the car back on track, but the radiator was damaged, and after a few hours the car could no longer continue. From a technical point of view, however, it was perhaps the second place of the French Noblet- Guichet (third last year) that was the most interesting result, because it was obtained with the Ferrari three-litre gran turismo of normal production that owes such a brilliant placing to its well known endurance qualities, with which the Italian brand is definitively declared World Champion for the class over two thousand gran turismo. As for the Ferraris' rivals, the discussion is over very quickly, since only in the first quarter of the race did they show any ambition. The Aston Martin driven by Graham Hill-Ginther held the second position for less than two hours, then dropped to the point of retirement caused by a burnt head gasket; also the new Maserati four-thousanders had a promising start, but they complained of overall lack of preparation and quite inexplicable tyre problems (tread separation).


On Sunday 1 July 1962, Reims was dramatically affected by a serious accident during the opening race, which took place in the morning and was reserved for Junior category cars. On the fifth lap of the first elimination, the cars driven by the Canadian Peter Ryan and the Englishman Bill Moss (no relation to the ace of the same name, Stirling Moss, who is currently recovering from the terrible adventure of two months ago on the Silverstone track) collided and overturned, knocking the respective drivers from their seats. Immediately rescued and transported to the Reims hospital, while Bill Moss was only found to have superficial bruises and abrasions, Peter Ryan's condition was very serious. In addition to a fractured leg, he suffered internal injuries that were confirmed by the first X-rays. The unfortunate pilot immediately underwent surgery. In the afternoon it was learned that an initial emergency surgical exploration had revealed that the Canadian had been seriously injured in the pelvic region. The doctors' prognosis remains confidential. In the meantime, the final Junior race was won by Michael Spence in Lola at the average speed of 184.130 km/h, ahead of Attwood in Cooper and Rosinski in Cooper. In the afternoon, the Reims Grand Prix is held, which this year is not valid for the Drivers' World Championship, but only for the Constructors' Cup. Interest in the race, apart from that, is greatly diminished by the absence of the Ferraris, who apparently do not even have to take part in the French Grand Prix on Sunday 8 July 1962 at the Rouen-les-Essarts circuit. The very fast race, attended by over 40.000 spectators, repeatedly saw the lap record for cars with 1.500 cubic centimetres, set in 1961 by Stirling Moss in a Lotus at an average speed of 198.712 km/h, demolished.


The former World Champion Jack Brabham started the race with a time of 2'25"0 (206.112 km/h) in the first laps; then McLaren (on lap 44) went down to 2'24"8 (206.371 km/h) and finally Graham Hill on lap 48 took the limit to 2'24"0 net, corresponding to a speed of 207.543 km/h. At the start Jim Clark (Lotus) had taken the lead and immediately afterwards Surtees in Lola, who managed to gain about one second per lap over Clark, Brabham, McLaren and Graham Hill, engaged in a fight without quarter. The favourite Jim Clark, who was the fastest in practice, had to stop on the fifth lap due to mechanical problems. At the tenth lap, Surtees led with twelve seconds' lead over Brabham, thirteen over McLaren, fourteen over Graham Hill and sixteen over Ireland (Lotus). But the furious battle for the second place resulted in a shortening of the distance with Surtees, who, moreover, on lap 27 was forced to stop at the pits for ignition problems. Immediately afterwards, also the Italian Carlo Mario Abate in a four-cylinder Lotus, who is stationed in the middle positions, abandons. After Surtees' stop (who later, after an attempt to recover, retires definitively), McLaren takes the lead, replaced (on lap 32) by Graham Hill and then (on lap 34) by Brabham. At the thirty-eighth lap, however, the New Zealander is back in the lead, while the fight between the three continues tight and exciting. At two laps to the end, Brabham's Lotus suddenly gave up. The Reims Grand Prix, won by New Zealander Bruce McLaren in a Cooper-Climax, was the most exciting race among those contested this year by Formula 1 cars. And it's a pity that the race wasn't valid for the World Drivers' Championship because such a sensible balance of values - especially mechanical ones - has rarely been seen in the past. In addition to the now well-known qualities of the Lotus, Cooper and B.R.M. cars, there was the revelation of the Lola-Climax, which had not particularly shone until now.


In France this interesting English car, masterfully driven by John Surtees, was forced to retire a little over half way through the race, but up to that moment it had shown that it could easily hold off the rival cars of a much more illustrious lineage. As is well known, Ferrari did not take part in the test, and it seems that they will not be able to present their single-seaters in Rouen next Sunday either, due to the strikes that have slowed down the work of preparing the cars. This fact has taken away a lot of interest from the Grand Prix of the Automobile Club of Champagne, just as it will take away - if the renunciation is confirmed - from that of Sunday, thus jeopardising, perhaps irreparably, the chances of Phll Hill in defence of the world title. The second fairly important fact of the race is the big step forward in terms of the overall and lap records. The reference, however, is limited to current Formula 1 cars with 1500 cubic centimetre engines, since the old records for single-seaters with 2500 cubic centimetres have obviously remained unbeaten. It is a fact that between the average achieved last year by the winner Giancarlo Baghetti in a Ferrari, and that of McLaren, there is a difference of about eleven and a half kilometres; and of almost nine kilometres between the lap speed of 1961 (Moss in a Lotus) and the limit of this edition, in which the good Graham Hill in a B.R.M. These figures give a precise idea of the progress made by the Formula 1 cars, which, with less than 200 horsepower, reach average speeds clearly higher than the racing cars of ten years earlier, which had the same displacement but, thanks to the adoption of the supercharger - now prohibited - developed almost double the power. The lack of comparison with Ferrari cars at Reims has prevented us from seeing if the Italian cars have improved with respect to their last exhibition; but it is certain that the constructors on the other side of the Channel can count on formidable mechanical means, against which it will be difficult to assert themselves, unless the new engines being prepared at Mannello reveal exceptional qualities.


After a three-week break from the Belgian Grand Prix and a week after the Reims Grand Prix, the Formula 1 season resumed in France, at the Rouen-Essarts circuit, on 8 July 1962. Rouen has not taken part in the Formula 1 World Championship since 1957, as agreements with the Reims circuit allowed it to host a Grand Prix valid for the championship every five years. The track has not undergone any major changes, except for a short section where the bottom of the track has been covered with concrete slabs that could cause damage to the suspension. While the British teams worry about the possible breakage of the suspension, Ferrari has to deal with a much more complex issue: the strike of its metalworkers. As previously happened in 1952 and 1957, every five years the French Grand Prix leaves the Reims circuit to be held at Rouen-Les-Essarts. The Rouen circuit does not have Reims’ facilities or atmosphere, but the circuit is still considered one of the best in Europe both for the drivers and their public. Among those present in Rouen are all the British teams that competed in Reims the previous week and, in addition, the Porsche team, who turned up with its 8-cylinder cars. On the other hand, among the absents is Scuderia Ferrari, whose mechanics were prevented from preparing the cars due to the outbreak of an industrial strike in Italy. Porsche has undergone many modifications during their development work on the 8-cylinder cars at the Nurburgring: radius rods were moved from the front top wishbones back to the chassis frame and the gear-change mechanism has been completely redesigned. In addition, the team arranged the disposal of catch tanks for the engine breathers and, on Bonnier’s car, they filled the top rear wishbones in with fibreglass to provide more stiffness; both cars have also been redesigned from the point of view of the body structure around the cockpit, as well as the seating position, which has been lowered, in order to guarantee as much space as possible to quickly remove the steering wheel.


Moreover, anti-roll bars have been fitted internally to the rear suspensions. The 8-cylinder engines are currently using Weber carburetor, with a wire gauze that covers over the fibreglass cooling fan. B.R.M. has replaced the damaged Colotti gearbox on Ginther’s single-seater with one of their own 5-speed gearboxes, which has already been used by Graham Hill, but overall, the cars remain the same employed in Reims. Engineer Rudd came back to Bourne with a V8 engine on his Hillman Minx; Lotus team has also been busy, having introduced a brand new Type 25 monocoque in time for first practice, in order to have Taylor taking over the prototype monocoque, while the Type 24 is kept as a spare. All three cars mount Coventry-Climax V8 engines, while the Type 24 with B.R.M. V8 engine was handed over to the Swiss Joseph Siffert. More development has been conducted by Lotus with UDT-Laystall and their second transporter came out with a brand-new Type 24 with V8 Climax engine and 5-speed Colotti gearbox. The second UDT car, which mounts a B.R.M. V8 engine, was straightened out after its performance in Reims. The Bowmaker-sponsored Lola team hoped to get a new car ready for Surtees, but haing such a short amount of time, they decided to employ again the cars used in Reims. For McLaren, Coopers brought out their Monaco winning car, while Maggs received Reims’ winning car, both of them being unchanged, but using 13-in front wheels. Private owners are lucky to have one new car for a season, let alone any spares ones, so they aim is to go on racing and be careful. The track record, set by Luigi Musso in 1957 with a time of 2'22"4, was immediately broken as the new cars were able to cover the track in less than 2'20"0.


At 7:00 a.m., the circuit is still closed, in order to give to the Juniors 1.5 hours to practice. At 8:30 a.m. the Grand Prix cars take over. The Lotus pit is full of cars: there are the two Type 25 models, the Climax 24 and the B.R.M. 24; Clark starts immediately to sort them out. He first tries the old Type 24 and then changes to the brand new one, both running without tail fairings; when Lotus gets sure that the B.R.M.-engined car would not be used by Clark, they give it to Siffert. The young Swiss is naturally overjoyed, but after half a lap the hydraulic control between the pedal and the clutch packs up, stranding him out on the circuit. While the UDT mechanics are still finishing off the brand new Lotus, the Irish driver decides to go out with the old one, then going off in the new one, complaining shortly after that the car wouldn’t turn right. In fact, the steering rack had broken and locked solid. There is no real time for practice laps; being the last Grand Prix held on the circuit in 1957, five years ago, when Luigi Musso set a lap record of 2'22"0 on a V8 Lancia/Ferrari, times have changed since then, and 2’15"0 does not seem an unreasonable ultimate target. While most drivers begin running at 2'28"0, Surtees and Clark get soon under 2'20"0, respectively 2'16"0 for the old Lotus 25 and 2'16"3 for the Lola. In Lotus, Gurney is in fine form, immediately demonstrating that the car has improved by getting down to 2’17”0, while Bonnier is complaining not being able to improve on 2'21"0; he is soon left to stand, watching Gurney’s car being looked after. Clark gets out in the new Lotus 25 but, as soon as he enters a corner, he goes to put on opposite lock and the steering rack jams solid, forcing him to touch the grass, luckily with no damage, allowing him to get back to the pits to complain.


Meanwhile, the B.R.M. team is not shining as usual: Graham Hill is quite sure that the current engines they dispose of give less power in each circuit, or the hills got steeper. The attention that the Porsche team were giving to Gurney’s car allowed him to record a lap of 2'16"0, before Graham Hill’s 2'15"0. As practice finishes, the sun comes out and the atmosphere gets warmer; Gurney and Bonnier change cars, the Swede leading the way, and they run around 2'23"0, with Gurney agreeing that his car had better carburation when not in sharp corners. On Friday morning, the Juniors again join the circuit from the early hours. At 8:50 a.m., the Grand Prix practice begins. Lotus does not take part to the session, though Siffert gets out in the repaired B.R.M.-engined car; moreover, only McLaren’s Cooper-Climax V8 is running, after having suffered several troubles yesterday, which caused him to register such poor lap times. However, he now soon gets below 2'19"0. Meanwhile, Salvadori gets no distance at all, as his Lola blows up its Climax V8, and Gurney has a slight bumping incident as a front brake locks on. Bonnier’s car is currently running better than yesterday. At 9:15 a.m., Clark joins the track with its new monocoque Lotus model, back on 15in front wheels, having tried 13in the previous practice. Brabham runs very quickly in his bright green Lotus-Climax V8, recording a time of 2'16"0, but then he gets a bit off course and comes in with the radiator full of buttercups and daisies and a fair amount of dirt. On the other hand, B.R.M. drivers are still not happy: Graham Hill is encountering troubles with his gear-change mechanism, while Ginther’s car broke its throttle cable, which had to be dismantled in order to fit a new one.


McLaren goes down to 2'15"0, but shortly after Hill improves to 2'15"0, once his gear-change issue has been sorted out; however, Lotus is also in trouble with gear selection, and adjustments are still being made on Clark’s single seater. When fixed, he runs in 2'14"0, which puts him in front of the whole grid. Both the UDT cars are going well, while Maggs is unable to do any practice and Taylor only completes one lap in Clark’s car before the end of practice. The film company who has been following Grand Prix racing all this season, play-acting in front of the pits while teams were working, is now trying to take some fake shots with a camera on the back of Cooper’s 4-cylinder car, which in the end blows up half-way round the lap. As it all finishes at 10:15 a.m. on Friday and the race is due to start at 3:15 p.m. on Sunday, there is a lot of time for pre-race preparation, perhaps too much time. At the end of the practice session, the same film company that had already followed the drivers on the track several times appeared at the French circuit to record a fragment of a race, with a camera mounted on the back of a four-cylinder Cooper. However, the camera explodes halfway through the lap and the company leaves the circuit in a hurry, to the delight of the drivers and mechanics. At 10:15 a.m. all the drivers returned to the pits, giving the teams two days to make changes and improve their single-seaters, as the race would not take place until 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. On Sunday, we find a sunny and warm morning; there are two Formula Junior Heats and a bicycle race scheduled for the day, for which a very large crowd (almost 80.000 people) tries to get to the circuit, despite the inadequate road system compared with Reims or Le Mans. In spite of the hot weather and the track’s conditions not being perfect for such a vast crowd, everyone seems to be enthusiastic.


Towards 3:00 p.m., cars are allowed to join the track to run some reconnaissance laps, as a wise precaution in view of the Junior racing that has already taken place. The two B.R.M.s wait by the grid having completed their laps, quietly confident, while others went to the pits for a plug change or a fuel refill. The two B.R.M.s are not using anti-roll bars on the rear; Clark has the new monocoque model and Taylor the original one, Siffert runs the Lotus-B.R.M. bought from Team Lotus, Ireland the new UDT car, Salvadori the Lola team spare engine and McLaren and Maggs the two Cooper-Climax V8 cars, both on 13in front wheels. Clark finishes his reconnaissance laps in fine form: plugs have been changed and the engine refused to fire on all 8 cylinders. Everything has been checked, plugs removed, jets removed, fuel pipes looked at and, by the time muddled plug leads are discovered, everyone else is already settled on the grid. Well done to Jim Clark for having kept the panic away and staying calm during those difficult moments. When the command is given, all engines are started except Ginther’s: he immediately tries to press the starter button, but the engine seems dead. Helplessly in the middle of the field of roaring cars, the driver raises his arms to indicate to the drivers behind him to avoid his car, and by sign language Taylor, Maggs and others start planning their movements with each other to avoid Ginther’s B.R.M. Mechanics who were forced to leave the grid now realize that the Gendarmes were still standing on the grid and in front of the straw bales, risking getting run over by Trintignant and the others at the back of the grid.


Immediately they try to get them to climb over the bales, but when the race Director realizes what is happening, he starts waving them to the other side of the track; right after, a line of Gendarmes begins running between the cars that were waiting far too long with their engines running. Meanwhile, the whole front row can see little of this drama; Clark, Hill and McLaren are anxiously looking into their mirrors, so it is no surprise the three of them made poor starts when the flag finally falls. Lotus, B.R.M. and Cooper start running with wildly spinning rear wheels, covered in a haze of rubber smoke, and disappear down the Hill. The whole field is still quite bunched at this point; most of cars gets crossed-up and finishes on the grass. The field begins being sorted out round the hairpin, at the far end of the circuit, but as Ireland spins completely, Bonnier has to run over a kerb to avoid him, damaging his gear-change mechanism. Meanwhile, Graham Hill, Surtees, Clark, McLaren, Brabham, Gurney and Gregory all storm past the pits during the opening lap, and the rest follows, while Ireland is still stuck a long way back due to a puncture at his rear tire, discovered as soon as he got to the bottom of the hill. After the field has gone from the starting line, Ginther gets his B.R.M. to the pits, so as his mechanics are able to discover a broken electrical lead, which had come detached during the laps of reconnaissance, causing the car to stall on the grid at the start. With a mechanic holding it on the starter motor terminal, Ginther gets the engine running easily, and sets off finishing the opening lap behind Ireland. On lap two, Graham Hill sets a new record of 2'21"0, but Surtees gets right on his tail and on lap three the two cross the line side-by-side.


The starting order has not changed much overall; someone had been left behind, while Clark is not completely happy with the handling of his new Lotus. By lap four, the race seems to have sorted itself out. Graham Hill and Surtees are fighting for the lead, followed by Clark, McLaren, Brabham, Gurney, Gregory - who had dropped back quite a way. Then come Bonnier on his Porsche, leading Maggs and Trintignant, who is incrementing his gap from Lewis, Salvadori, de Beaufort and Siffert, all close to each other. Far behind, we find Taylor, tagging along behind, and Ginther, having already been lapped by the leading pair. On the next lap, Siffert is forced to retire though, due to a clutch issue. By no stretch of imagination could this 48th French Grand Prix be called an exciting race, but it was early yet, and anything could still happen. By lap 10, Graham Hill can enjoy a slender lead of 1sec over Surtees, who is patiently watching him from behind, while having a gap of 8.5sec on Clark; Gurney is in fourth place, and there is a long gap between him and Gregory. In the back of the grid, both Salvadori and Taylor have woken up, but not yet caught Trintignant, who is eighth behind Maggs. Ginther is still a long way back, while McLaren and Brabham come slowly into the pits, the Lotus forced to stay there while the Cooper goes back racing. McLaren’s car has been jumping out of gear for a while and, while the driver was trying to take care of the issue, he lost control of the car and spun on the uphill, running over a kerb. Having no clear damage, he kept on racing, but stopped again next lap as the car did not seem right. After that, it was clear to his mechanics that a rear wishbone was bent, but little did they know that the chassis was broken (they will find it out after the end of the race).


Despite all, McLaren wants to keep racing, so he comes back on track. On the other hand, Brabham has no choice, as the right rear spring had broken from its top mounting and the Lotus was dragging its bottom along the asphalt. On lap 12, most of the grid begins gesticulating in all directions. Surtees is waving distress at his pit wall, Clark points at the front of his car and Gurney gives Porsche an OK signal. Meanwhile, Hill runs a lap in 2'19"0, setting a new track record. Surtees draws into the pit next time round, the Lola-Climax V8 once more letting him down. Mechanics suspect a fuel starvation, but the driver goes immediately back on track in eighth place. In the meantime, Graham Hill registers another 2'19"0. He is now 17sec ahead of an unhappy Clark on his Lotus 25, and 35sec ahead of a hard-working Gurney with his Porsche 8-cyl, who is firmly keeping his third position. Gregory’s Lotus-B.R.M. suddenly dies on the far side of the circuit and the driver abandons it walking back to the pits. McLaren is now last, further behind Ginther. Apart from Salvadori stopping three times at the pits and finally retiring from the race due to low oil pressure, nothing much happens up to lap 20. In the 8-cylinder Porsche, Bonnier laps de Beaufort on his 4-cylinder Porsche. After the time lost at the start, Ginther is at last beginning to make an impression from the back of the grid, though he is still losing ground to his team-mate out in the lead. By lap 22, Surtees catches and overtakes Trintignant, Maggs and Bonnier, getting into fourth place. At this point, Bonnier stops at the pits to see if anything can be done about his gear-change, as his engine is showing signs of suffering from over-revving due to missed gear-changes. On the same lap, Clark sets a new record in 2'18"0. 


The next lap, Trintignant stops at the pit having encountered an issue in the gear selectors of his Colotti gearbox. Meanwhile, Taylor stops at the Mouveau Monde hairpin with a stuck throttle. He then manages to set off again and get to the pits to have a new throttle spring fitted. At lap 27, the order of the three leaders is still unchanged: Graham Hill is out on his own, Clark following in second position and Gurney third, with Surtees fourth almost a lap behind. Already a lap in arrears are Maggs and Lewis, and then come Ginther, de Beaufort, Bonnier (who is stuck at the pits again), McLaren, Trintignant and Taylor. Although the leader appears to be having a dull time, he is still lapping at around 2'18"0, not far off Clark’s record lap. On lap 30, Clark appears first, with Hill quite a way behind him; after lapping Lewis in his Cooper, Hill had braked for a corner only to be struck up the tail by the Cooper which suddenly lost all its brakes. The B.R.M. loses its right-hand tail pipe and spins, leaving the leading of the race to Clark; fortunately, the B.R.M. gets going again before Gurney comes, while Lewis has to walk back to the pits. On lap 31 Clark is 6sec ahead of Hill, but on lap 32 the B.R.M. goes round in 2'16"0 and sets a new lap record, catching the Lotus. Clark has not been enjoying the lead as his car is keeping steering badly; after having been caught so easily, he realizes there really is something wrong with the car and goes back to the pits. This leaves Hill’s B.R.M. 30sec ahead of Gurney’s Porsche, which is currently running as strongly as ever, while Surtees is stuck in third, a whole lap behind. In fourth place now comes Maggs, who is driving a very consistent race, and fifth is Ginther ahead of de Beaufort.


Behind the Dutchman come all those who encountered troubles throughout the race: Bonnier with a sick engine, McLaren with a broken chassis, Trintignant with his repaired gear-change, and Taylor who had stopped again to have the engine cover fitted from Clark’s car, which had been withdrawn due to a faulty steering ball joint on the left top wishbone. Once more, it all seems to be over, but on lap 42 Graham Hill stops at the bottom hairpin with his injection mixture control having gone over top dead centre and jammed due to a stop having broken off. Thanks to this opportunity, Gurney gets to the lead, both the driver and his car looking fit and healthy as well. At the end of lap 42, Surtees pulls into the pits due to a gearbox issue, and Maggs finds himself in second place, a lap behind the leader. The Lola mechanics jamms the Colotti gearbox into third gear and Surtees pulls away to try to finish the race, still holding fourth place behind Ginther, both of them two laps behind Gurney. The Porsche pit implores the American to try take it easy, which he does, and while he is on lap 47 Graham Hill arrives slowly at the pits without his engine cover and the V8 running on a fast tick-over. Nothing can be done to improve this condition, so the driver goes off again, trying to collect his engine cover and avoid exclusion for regulations forbid running without a bonnet. As Ginther leaves the far hairpin on his 49 laps, his throttle cable breaks down at the pedal so he pulls off the outer casing and winding the inner Bowden cable round his fist continues to drive on a hand throttle, passing the pits displaying a clenched right fist though nobody could imagine why. Surtees starts going slower and slower on his one-gear Lola and, as Gurney completes his 54 laps, McLaren overtakes the Lola and takes fourth place, though 3 laps behind the winner. A very happy Gurney in a very competitive Porsche wins the 48th French Grand Prix, followed by Maggs in the Cooper-Climax V8 and Ginther in third place.


McLaren crosses the finish line in fourth place and Surtees in fifth, followed by Trintignant and Taylor. But, as soon as the Lola tries to stop at its pit, it is prevented from doing so by a cordon of Gendarmes; Trintignant swerves to the left in order to avoid it but turns right into the path of Trevor Taylor who was coming over the finishing line at 120mph or more. Both cars are demolished from the impact, and by a miracle nobody is injured. Of all the people who involved in the incident, Trevor Taylor stands out as entirely blameless, as his calm, quick thinking averted an accident of much greater proportions. However, the XLVIII Grand Prix of the Automobile Club of France lacked something in spite of a great and unexpected success: the presence of the celebrated Ferrari cars. Competitively, the race, which is valid for the Drivers' World Championship, was interesting, but the absence of the great Italian manufacturer left a void that could not be filled. As for the fight for the title of World Champion, nothing was lost for Phil Hill and Ferrari, since the British driver retired on lap 44, and the top of the classification remained unchanged. However, Bruce McLaren came dangerously close to the top two with his fourth place, just four points behind Graham Hill. On the contrary, the race for constructors' title seems to be compromised for Ferrari, which is six points from the top, where B.R.M. leads the classification with 20 points, followed by the British Cooper and Lotus, with 17 and 15 points respectively. And now, with the arrival of Porsche, victorious in France and with twelve points in the classification, the run-up to a position of honour seems to become difficult. Above all, the metalworking strikes that are blocking the entire Italian nation.


©​ 2023 Osservatore Sportivo


Contact us


Create Website with | Free and Easy Website Builder