#108 1962 German Grand Prix

2021-09-02 00:00

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#108 1962 German Grand Prix

Il Gran Premio di Germania, che si disputa sul circuito del Nurburgring, coincide con un avvenimento tecnico di sicuro interesse, che riguarda diretta


The German Grand Prix, which will take place on the Nürburgring circuit, coincides with a technical event of great interest, which directly concerns the possibility of Ferrari's recovery against the unstoppable superiority so far shown by the English Formula One single-seaters, winners of all the Grand Prix held in the first half of the season, that is to say at Zandvoort (B.R.M.), Monaco (Cooper), Francorchamps and Aintree (Lotus), with the only parenthesis represented by Porsche at Rouen. But in Germany there should be at least one example of a new Ferrari, which has been considerably modified in its chassis, bodywork (thinner and more penetrating) and engine. The engine is still of the six-cylinder V type, but with four valves per cylinder and no fewer than twelve carburettors (or rather, six double-bodies), capable of reaching the fateful goal of 200 horsepower.


With this car, the Modenese company is perhaps playing its last card of the year (something new is in the pipeline for 1963) to try to regain the supremacy that has slipped from its grasp in the face of the English offensive. And the seriousness of Ferrari's intentions was confirmed by the presence at Nürburgring of its complete official team, Phil Hill, Baghetti, Bandini and Ricardo Rodriguez, except for the absence of Mairesse, still convalescing from the injuries he had suffered a month and a half earlier in the dreadful accident at the Belgian Grand Prix.


However, the task of beating the British single-seaters seems very difficult, considering the characteristics of the Nurburgring circuit, where agility and handling are determining factors for success. And these qualities are precisely the most striking characteristics of the Lotus, B.R.M, Cooper and Lotus. Finally, there is the unknown of the Porsches, who are racing in front of their public, and on a track that has greatly contributed to the development of the new 8-cylinder Stuttgart cars. With these premises, the German Grand Prix is of exceptional technical interest, an interest that seems to overtake the same events for the climb to the world drivers' title, which has in Jim Clark - the great revelation of this year - in Graham Hill, Phil Hill, Surtees and McLaren the men with the best chance of final success. This is, however, naturally linked to the efficiency of their respective mechanical means, and this is especially true for the title holder Phil Hill, to whom Ferrari should entrust its new single-seater. The race will take place on Sunday 5th August 1962 on fifteen laps of the circuit (of 22,810 metres), for a total of 342.150 kilometres.


The sixth race of the 1962 championship is held at the Nurburgring, considered by many drivers to be one of the most prestigious tracks. The track is difficult and full of corners and few people really know it, but to win at the Nurburgring is a big dream for the drivers. Another factor that makes the German race an uncertain one is the unpredictable weather, so much so that it often rains on only part of the track. This year, the attention and expectations for this Grand Prix are greater than in the past years, as three new cars will be lined up on the grid: Ferrari, back on the track after skipping two Grands Prix because of the Italian workers' strikes, will present a lower and lighter single-seater; Brabham will finally be able to run with Jan single-seater bearing his name and, finally, for the first time the Gibly-B.R.M., designed by Len Terry and produced by Gibly Engineering, will compete.


The Maranello team will line up four drivers on the track, Phil Hill at the wheel of the car used at Aintree, Baghetti on board of a single-seater with the 120 degree engine already used during the first races of the season, Rodriguez who will drive an even more dated car with the 65 degree V6 engine, and finally Bandini, who will be put at the wheel of the new car. Lotus entered two drivers, Clark and Taylor, the former in a Lotus 25 and the second in a Lotus 24, as at Aintree. Then there were the two Porsches driven by Gurney and Bonnier, with the American at the wheel of an updated car, while in the pits we could see a third spare single-seater. Finally, B.R.M. presented the same three cars used during the weekend at Aintree, and the drivers entered were Graham Hill and Ginther. The time available for testing is insufficient, given the difficulty of the track and the weather forecast, with Friday's first session lasting an hour and a half and the second, set too close to the first, lasting an hour and a quarter, while on Saturday only one practice session has been scheduled, also lasting only an hour and a quarter. The drivers and their respective teams are hoping that the cars will not have any problems and that no accidents will occur, otherwise there would be no time to repair the cars in time to take part in the next session.


On Friday, 3 August 1962, the practice session starts at 11:00 am, but the Brabham-Climax still has to be completed and the four cars entered by Ferrari have just arrived at the circuit, so none of the drivers aboard these single-seaters can take part in the start of qualifying. In order to get a valid time, one has to run a route that isn't easy to memorise: once the lap has started, one has to go from the pits around the Sudkehre, or South Curve, then go behind the pits, through a subway and then bring the car in front of the timekeepers, raising the arm, pass the pits again, go through the South Curve again and, after passing behind the pit lane one last time, go towards the Hatzenbach woods and the Flugplatz fields, to complete one lap. If the drivers are only on the track to warm up their tyres or test the car, they are free to drive on the starting circuit, which is located near the pit lane.


Taylor, one of the first to attempt to set a qualifying time, made it to the South Bend when a valve broke, causing the new engine fitted to the car a few hours earlier to fail. The driver was forced to return to the pits and replace his engine with one that Clark had used at Aintree. On average, it takes nine minutes to complete one lap of the circuit and the best time ever recorded (although not valid for the track record as it was achieved during the practice session) belongs to Phil Hill, who in 1961, driving a Ferrari, completed a lap in 8'55"2, while the track record was set by the same driver, in the same year, with a time of 8'57"8. On Friday morning Graham Hill was the fastest with a time of 9:01:8, but his single-seater had an oil leak and he was forced to stop in the pits. Not many drivers managed to set good times, having to face some problems with the suspensions, which, as every year, tend to break or not work on this circuit.


During the afternoon, with higher temperatures and warmer asphalt, many drivers started recording good times and the practice session was interesting. The most favoured team seemed to be Porsche, having often tested their cars on this track and knowing its difficulties, but also Surtees scored good results at the wheel of the Lola. Clark scored a time of 8'51"2, but Gurney, who was in tune with his car, completed a lap in 8'47"2, while Graham Hill ran a good lap in 8'50"2. The recorded times, much lower than last year's ones, weren't unexpected because the engines and chassis used during the current season had received important updates. While the atmosphere was getting more and more excited and expectations for the German Grand Prix were growing, it happened an incident that wasn't at all necessary: Porsche had agreed to mount a camera of a German TV channel on Beaufort's car to record some high speed clips; the same project had been started last year on Moss' single-seater.


While Beaufort was completing his lap around the track, the camera fell off the single-seater and was hit by Graham Hill, who was driving at top speed on the track; the contact between the camera and Hill's single-seater broke the oil radiator, causing a large quantity of oil to spill out under the wheels of the B.R.M. Hill's car spun around and spun in the undergrowth surrounding the track, until it crashed hard against a tree, but fortunately leaving the driver unhurt. McLaren, who wasn't far from Hill at the moment of the accident, succeeded in slowing down and pulled over to the edge of the track to ascertain his colleague's condition, and after receiving a sign of reassurance from Graham, got back into his car and went on running along the circuit. Maggs wasn't so lucky: not being able to see the oil wetting the asphalt, he crossed it at full speed, ending in a spin and hitting the safety barriers. Like Hill, he came out of the single-seater unharmed.


The following day, the session started fifteen minutes late due to heavy rain falling on the circuit. In such situations, the rules require the cars to line up outside the pits, ready for the start, and then drive the first lap as a group to dry out the main track and leave a little grip on the asphalt. As the drivers race around the starting circuit, Jim Clark heads out onto the actual track to set a qualifying time. However, the timekeepers don't keep track of the lap time, as the rest of the drivers haven't yet taken to the track; Chapman does, however, timing the entire lap from the pit lane. The Lotus team's idea was to record a time unattainable by their rivals, as there was no traffic to slow Clark down or debris that could damage the car, but during the lap the organisation postponed the start of practice by fifteen minutes and heavy rain began to fall. Despite this, Clark followed the plan devised with Chapman and finished the tricky lap in 9'13"0. The session started at 11:45 a.m., but it turned out to be a waste of time, as the rain prevented them from setting good times and few tried to improve their performance; therefore it was Gurney who started from the first position, followed by Graham Hill, Clark and Surtees. At the end of the practice, the rain stopped falling and the track dried quickly, just in time for Hermann Lang to drive a lap of the track in a Mercedes-Benz dated 1939, leaving all those present amazed.


Porsche's excellent performance brings 360.000 German spectators to the Nurburgring, hoping to see the Stuttgart team succeed on their home track. The departure of the Grand Prix is scheduled for 2:00 pm, but just as the cars are arranged on the starting grid, a heavy downpour starts and the race is postponed for an hour. At 3:15 pm the situation seems to have improved and the race can start. The drivers tried to keep themselves and their equipment dry for as long as possible and Clark was so busy trying to keep his glasses from fogging up that he forgot to turn on the carburettor and start the engine, and just as the start flag was being waved, he stood in his box, waiting for the carburettors to start working. In the meantime, Gurney ably defended first position over Graham Hill, with Surtees in third and Phil Hill in fourth. Clark wasn't the only one to experience a difficult moment, as Taylor, in fact, found himself in an unfortunate situation too, with his engine not running properly and often not on all eight cylinders, until halfway through the lap, when suddenly the engine returned to full power and caught the driver by surprise, so much so that he lost control of the single-seater, which slammed into a tree.


The general conditions of the track, after only one lap, are very bad, with the track only wet at times and heavy banks of fog disturbing some corners and making the race very dangerous. Due to the adverse weather situation the drivers are forced to pay maximum attention while driving around the circuit, and this makes the times much higher, so much so that the best time recorded during the first lap belongs to Gurney, in 10'42"9. During the second lap Graham Hill was very close to Gurney, but to try to overtake him would mean risking to slip on the wet asphalt, therefore the B.R.M. driver preferred to keep a solid second position, at least for the moment. The one who didn't hesitate before overtaking was Clark, who in just two laps had overtaken seventeen cars and was currently in ninth position.


At the cut of the third lap Graham Hill managed to take the first position, making the spectators in the stands suddenly silent, and trying to get as far as possible from Gurney. However, bad luck prevented Hill from gaining an important gap from his direct pursuer, and just after overtaking the Porsche, the fire extinguisher mounted on the B.R.M. broke loose from its support and started rolling on the car bottom, causing difficulties to the driver in braking points. So, Hill and Gurney are again fighting for the first position and the Lola of Surtees joins the duel, while McLaren, who is fourth, runs a lonely race. Graham Hill completed his third lap in 10'12"2, recording the fastest time of the race, but he didn't seem satisfied with the result, knowing that on a dry asphalt he would have taken one minute and twenty seconds less to complete a lap.


During lap five the battery of Gurney's car loosened and the driver was obliged to go down to repair it, allowing Surtees to overtake and gain the second position. At the end of lap six the situation seemed to be stabilized, with Graham Hill in the lead with three seconds' lead over Surtees, who in his turn had seven seconds' lead over Gurney, while McLaren was even at seventeen seconds from Porsche, followed at seven seconds by Clark who was making a fantastic comeback. However, the balance reached couldn't be preserved, because during the next lap the first three classified drivers were approaching each other, making us think that the fight for the victory of the Grand Prix would be on for several laps more, if not till the last turn.


After nine laps, Clark moved up to fourth position and began to approach the leading trio, who were fighting hard in the meantime. The battle between the first three drivers in the classification was increasingly heated, with the cars touching each other more than once and driving along most of the track side by side, but in the end, the finishing positions seemed already decided, as the track conditions didn't allow the drivers to overtake without exposing themselves to great danger. Graham Hill's driving proved once again to be brilliant and lucid even under pressure and the B.R.M. driver managed to keep the leadership without making any mistakes, which probably would have allowed Surtees to overtake him. After more than two hours and a half, Hill crossed the finishing line and won the German Grand Prix, followed by Surtees and Gurney, Clark and McLaren.


By winning the German Grand Prix at the wheel of a B.R.M., Graham Hill consolidated his position as leader of the classification valid for the world drivers' championship, while Surtees and Dan Gurney, at the wheel of a Lola and a Porsche respectively, crossing the finishing line almost at the same time as the winner, proved that the Nurburgring was a circuit suitable for small and manageable cars. The 25 competitors had to wait seventy minutes for the race director to give the go-ahead: a heavy downpour seemed to make the rough and difficult circuit impracticable, while vast banks of thick fog hung over the hills and depressions along which the track runs. This was Graham Hill's second success this year. After the sixth race the Scottish driver Jim Clark still holds the second place with a gap, as said, of seven points, despite having scored three victories.


In spite of the slippery asphalt, due to the bad weather conditions, Graham Hill's B.R.M. turned out to be the most manageable and the fastest on a track tormented by bends and demanding gradients. Basically, the German Grand Prix was the triumph of the English cars occupying the positions of honour, with the exception of the third place gained by Gurney at the wheel of the German Porsche. Ferrari went back to a period of crisis in which the world title was nothing but a pale mirage, with Phil Hill who hadn't been collecting points for three races by now and the English teams with a clear advantage: for Maranello team the best driver was Rodriguez, while Bandini went off the road and Phil Hill was obliged to retire because of mechanical troubles. A beautiful race was the one run by John Surtees who arrived second with the prestigious Lola. At the end of the race the rain didn't stop beating on the circuit until late in the evening, while the mechanics left the Nurburgring with the cars, to go to the hotels and then, the next day, start again in preparation for the Italian Grand Prix.


In the evening, in the presence of the British group, including Colin Chapman, Graham Hill and Bruce McLaren, engineer Mauro Forghieri boards an unpressurised DC3, piloted by a hero of the Battle of Britain, John Cobbs, heading for Great Britain. The aim of the trip is to land at Gatwick airport, after 2 am on Monday 6 August 1962, to meet up with Colonel Ronnie Hoare. Back in London, the two only have time to take a shower and have breakfast before driving to Brands Hatch, where Forghieri is supposed to see Mike Parkes - an engineer from Rootes Group - in action on behalf of Enzo Ferrari, in order to hire the test driver. Forghieri and Hoare set off, but often stopped to allow the Colonel - a relative of Queen Elizabeth, and Ferrari's trusted person in the British market - to have a gin tonic. The two arrive at the circuit later in the afternoon. Mike is there in a Ferrari GTO and a Sport 246 SP. From that first meeting a long-lasting friendship is born between engineer Mauro Forghieri and Mike Parkes, who will become a Ferrari test driver and driver, after the engineer from Modena positively reports to Enzo Ferrari.


Giulia Montemurro

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