Thursday, 23 June 1960, the Le Mans circuit is once again drenched in blood: 25-year-old driver Jonathan Sieff is taken to hospital in very serious condition after his Lotus literally breaks in two after going off the road and crashing into a concrete scaffolding during qualifying. Another British racer, J. Bentley, also goes off the road in a curve but, fortunately, the frightening accident only causes a laceration to his nose. And finally, Frederico D'Orey, the Portuguese racer who suffered a fractured skull base after a dramatic rollover of his Ferrari, is in hospital in almost desperate condition. This latest incident occurred during Wednesday's rehearsals. Three disasters in just twenty-four hours: there are enough reasons to alarm public opinion all around the world. After the accident that occurred to Jonathan Sieff, public meetings were called in various French sporting circles, during which there was talks of presenting to the Chamber of Deputies a series of interpellations requesting the banning of car racing. Engineer Alphonse Beuget of the Paris Automobil Club, states:
"In a civilized country competitions like this should be prohibited, which are enormously detached from the true and pure spirit of the sport, to attract the public with the deplorable lure of sensation. It is precisely the danger that thrills the public".
Engineer Beuget, supported by numerous supporters, including some deputies, vowed to launch a campaign against automobile racing: a campaign to which the press promised wide support. Of the three accidents, the one that befell Sieff undoubtedly struck the French public particularly hard: both because of the sensational circumstances in which it occurred (the two parts of the broken car flew through the air like pieces of crumpled paper, then crashed heavily on the hard asphalt), and because Sieff was very young (25 years old), had just married and had just fathered a child, and because, if luck did not assist him, he could have lost his life that, on other roads, would certainly have been full of satisfaction. Jonathan Sieff is the heir to a colossal fortune: his father is the president of the Spencer and Marks: a true empire of luxurious and popular stores. Jonathan's grandfather, Sir Simon Marks, is practically the owner of the vast chain. The incidents were also caused by the bad weather, by the downpours that made the track unsafe and that, however, did not deter the racers from attempting the tests before the great competition that would start on Saturday, June 25 1960. On the contrary Bentley, despite the misfortune that occurred to him, even if he knows that two of his companions of the race are dying, after having undergone a brief surgical intervention (three stitches to the nose) tells the journalists that he will also participate in the competition. The incident, which occurred just ten minutes before the close of practice, was later recounted by American driver Phil Hill, who happened to be near the site:
"I heard a terrible squeaking of brakes and in the darkness of the night, I saw a car zigzagging towards the side of the road: the car crashed into a concrete pillar and cut itself in two. I immediately left, accompanied by the sporting commissioner with whom I was with, in search of the driver that the violent collision had thrown very far away, at about fifteen meters from the car: it was his invocations, his moans, that helped us to find him; I suppose that, at the moment of the fatal skid, Sieff was driving at least 200 km/h".
The French press, commenting on the three accidents, makes critical remarks on the sporting malpractice that dominates in motor racing. Among other things, it is pointed out that managers and organizers should - while waiting for more decisive measures to be adopted by the Houses of Parliament and the government - at least concern themselves with establishing limits of prudence in racing. It should be noted that most of the accidents become fatal because the drivers, to ensure the highest speed, use machines as light as possible and with essential bodywork: such cars are more prone to skidding and going off the road and the clash against any obstacle easily reduces them to a miserable tangle of crumpled iron. Test officials at Le Mans, for their part, say that Jonathan Sieff was running at a speed of 280 km/h when he lost control of his car on the six-kilometer-long straight. The young British driver's condition, which had appeared desperate to doctors overnight, improved slightly the following day. If the 25-year-old racer will overcome the state of shock in which he still finds himself, there are some possibilities that he will be considered out of danger. The doctors also assure that Sieff did not suffer a skull fracture, as it had first appeared, but that the condition of the driver remains worrying especially because of the severe state of nervous collapse, the state of shock, which could compromise the mental faculties of the young man, and the high temperature which negatively affects the condition of the heart.
So it is the scene of the sports cars in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, this old French endurance race that five years before was the scene of the most frightening automobile disaster in history. Arriving at Le Mans, it is impossible not to think back to that distant June afternoon in 1955, when the Pierre Levegh Mercedes’ exploded into the crowd. Yet the 24 Hours was not suppressed, in the name of a tradition close to the French’s; that dreadful experience, however, served to change many things, and today the circuit of the Sarthe is considered one of the safest in existence. Of course, for the public and the drivers, when we are talking about speeds close to or higher than 200 km/h, talking about safety is at the very least risky, as the very recent accidents in Spa and on the Le Mans track itself teach us. With all this, the French 24 Hours is always considered the most complete and provative race that exists, the fifty-five starting places allowed are doggedly disputed by manufacturers and preparers of sports cars, which promise important indications on the technical level and wide propaganda in case of success. So we find represented, also this year, all or almost all the world brands that are dedicated to the construction of models of sport or Gran Turismo type. In the race, which is valid for the world championship, there are two absolute classifications: one for the distance covered in 24 hours and a second one, called the performance index, which through a mathematical formula introduces, next to the distance factor, the engine displacement, to provide a theoretical basis of equality between large and small cars. The confrontation will be as usual between Italian’s and English’s cars, with the addition of the small but fearful German Porsche.
Ferrari lines up a very fierce team, with pairs of drivers chosen from Phil Hill, Von Trips, Ginther, Gendebien, Mairesse Scarlatti and Cabianca, at the wheel of the tested 12-cylinder 2953 cubic centimeters, machines that, for their power and resistance to the distance, seem made for the 24 Hours. It must be added that the Modenese company has prepared for the race with particular commitment, with the dual purpose of finding the way back to victory and to snatch from Porsche the first place in the world championship standings. Other cars that can be safely relied upon are the Maserati 2890s (owned by the American Camoradi team, which has Piero Taruffi as its sporting director), which, after their victory in the 1000 Kilometers of Nurburgring, have demonstrated that they have achieved first-rate efficiency. One of the Maseratis will also be driven by Gino Munaron from Turin. The obstacles to overcome for an Italian success are called Jaguar, Aston Martin, Lotus and Porsche. It is, above all, the Jaguar to worry since in the last five years it has won the 24 Hours three times and that on this circuit every year makes a meticulous, long preparation. It’s still belongs to the powerful English 6-cylinder the record of the highest distance covered in the 24 Hours: over 4373 kilometers. Sunday, June 26 1960, finally there is a great victory of the Italian cars in what is perhaps the most challenging motorsport race in the world. The Ferrari triumphs in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, occupying the first two places in the absolute classification (with the crews Gendebien-Frère and Riccardo Rodriguez-Pilette) and placing the other four cars (Gran Turismo) at the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh place.
Olivier Gendebien, a rich landowner of Brussels, related to the royal family of Belgium, is a professional driver with excellent skills, a specialist in cross-country tests; Paul Frère, also Belgian, is a motoring journalist, who alternates this activity with that of driver, succeeding in both. The predictions of the experts on the eve of the race had almost unanimously given as favorite the Belgian couple, close-knit and composed of two cross-country skiers, as the 24 Hours requires. In the Ferrari box, at 4:00 pm the joyful confusion that seemed to be a memory for the men, drivers, technicians and mechanics of the Modenese team was repeated. As soon as the two red cars of Gendebien-Frère and Rodriguez-Pilette appear at the end of the straight, deliberately paired, and the applause crackles from the stands crowded to the unbelievable, the engineer Bizzarrini, the sporting director Romolo Tavoni, the cavalier Bazzi and the men of the pits release the tension of twenty-four hours in a general embrace that means many things, in addition to the joy for the great victory in the most classic and difficult of the motor races. It means the awareness that Ferrari is still well on its feet in this tremendous sport of driving; and it means the answer to the criticism, to the doubts, to the ironies that in recent times had been addressed to Ferrari and its technicians. Olivier Gendebien and his coequipier Paul Frère, as soon as the victorious Ferrari #11 stops in front of the pits, finally silent, give space to their joy: exuberantly and naively; composedly, according to his temperament, the journalist-driver.
"We worked hard, Paul and I because until the last kilometer this tremendous 24 Hours can play tricks on you; just like it happened to us last year. But what an amazing car, this Ferrari".
Happy with their second place are also the young Mexican racer Ricardo Rodriguez and André Pilette. Rodriguez is very young, and like his brother Pedro (less fortunate, not having been able to complete even one lap as Scarfiotti's co-driver) is a great promise of motor racing and demonstrates that he knows how to control his impetuous character very well. In reality, at Le Mans, the three-liter cars from Modena prove to be the absolute best sports cars of the moment, to have made - compared to their rivals - the greatest progress in terms of performance. The so-called sprinters at Le Mans do not have much luck, even though every year they animate the initial stages. This time it was the American Gregory (on a Maserati 2900) who took on this role, running for almost two hours at an average speed of over 195 km/h, and achieving the fastest lap of the race at an average speed of 198.605 km/h. Then, at the first refueling, Gregory's car doesn't start anymore because of a short circuit at the start, and from this moment on, the very regular Ferraris have the definitive upper hand, pursued in vain by the Aston Martins, Jaguars and Porsches, all of which turned out to be less fearsome than expected. The affirmation of Ferrari, completed by the placings of its touring cars (which allowed Ferrari to insert six of its cars among the first seven classified) could have been without a doubt – and if possible - even more massive, without the withdrawal of the cars driven by Von Trips-Phil Hill and Scarfiotti-Pedro Rodriguez, due to the exhaustion of petrol along the circuit (the consumptions were higher than expected).
However, the 24 Hours dispels any doubt about the superiority of the Modenese cars in the sport and Gran Turismo categories. The absolute record of the 24 Hours of Le Mans has not been improved, above all because of the long hours of rain that, between Saturday dusk and Sunday dawn, forced the drivers to a rather cautious race conduct. The selection, severe in the early stages of the race and then again until noon on Sunday, is less relentless than expected: out of fifty-five cars started only twenty-five finish the long race. The chronicle of these 24 hours can be quickly exhausted. The start is given at 4:00 pm on Saturday, June 25 1960, in front of over 200,000 spectators. After Gregory's very fast escape in a Maserati, which did not last long due to the American's forced stop at the pits (Gregory stopped for fifty minutes, resumed the race, lost many positions, and was then definitively blocked during the night by an engine failure), Gendebien-Frère took the lead, progressively increasing their advantage over their teammates and adversaries. Among these, only sometimes Salvadori-Clark (Aston-Martin) and Flockhart-Halford (on Jaguar) seem to be threatening. During the night, under the pouring rain, the English cars manage to climb up to the third and fourth position, then the Jaguar pays for the effort with the withdrawal and the Aston Martin just hope in the misfortunes of others. The general average, which from over 195 km/h at Gregory's was progressively dropping, thanks to the rain, with the appearance of the sun it started to grow again and at 6:00 a.m. it was already over 175 km/h, and at 8:00 a.m. 176.800 km/h. At midday it drops slightly (the leading car has more than three laps ahead of the second Ferrari, and six laps ahead of the Aston Martin) and at the end it is 175.730 km/h, corresponding to a distance of more than 4217 kilometers.
In the ranking of the world championship for brands, Ferrari takes the lead with 22 points, followed by Porsche with 22, Maserati with 11 and Aston Martin with 4. Fortunately, there are no serious accidents. A few collisions of cars against the side guards of the track (as it happened to the Chevrolet of Cunningham and the Ferrari of Beurlys) and a fire immediately tamed on the Chevrolet of Thompson, are the only episodes that keep the spectators anxious for a few moments, but everything is resolved with some damage to the cars and none to the drivers. In the Grand Prix of France, which will be held on Sunday, July 3 1960 on the fast circuit of Reims, Ferrari plays its last card in an attempt to get back to the competition for the Formula 1 World Championship, of which the classic French race is the fifth round of the season. So far, the cars of the Modenese company have not yet managed to win a single race in the 1960 Grand Prix, and the chances of its drivers for the title of World Champion appear rather compromised: only the victory of Phil Hill or Von Trips (who, together with the young Belgian driver Willy Mairesse, make up the Ferrari team for Reims) could put the Italian colors back in the running for the climb to the most important championship in motor racing. But what are Ferrari's chances for the French Grand Prix? The circuit of Reims is a track that can give great emotions, thanks to its triangular shape with very fast straights, one of which is downhill, being in an area where the wind blows many times in favor of the runners' march. The records of the race belong to Tony Brooks for the general average speed: 205.079 km/h, and to Stirling Moss for the fastest lap, completed at an average of 209.287 km/h.
But, the increasing speed of the cars on the track should lead to the breaking of these records, considering that the average lap speed is now close to 220 km/h. The Automobile Club de Champagne, which is in charge of the management of the circuit and the race, has been able to close very easily the roads that are part of the permanent circuit, thus giving more time to the various teams to devote to the preparation phases. In addition to the three Ferrari racers, twenty other drivers are registered. For the Cooper Car Company will race Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren, while other Copper Climax cars, but owned by Yeoman Credit, will be driven by Olivier Gendebien, Henry Taylor, Lucien Bianchi and Bruce Halford. For Lotus will run Innes Ireland, Ron Flockart, Jim Clark and David Piper. For British Racing Motors, Jo Bonnier, Graham Hill, Dan Gurney will race. Tony Brooks in the Vanwall. Gino Munaron will race in a Cooper-Castellotti, while Chuck Daigh and Richie Ginther will race in Scarabs. Finally, Maurice Tritignant, Masten Gregory and Ian Burgess will be on the Cooper Maserati. Jack Brabham is once again one of the favorites to win the Grand Prix, having already triumphed in the World Championship in 1959. The Australian racer won the last two Grands Prix in Holland and Belgium in his new Copper T53, after his teammate Bruce McLaren won the opening race in Argentina. The main rival for the title seemed to be Stirling Moss, but he suffered a serious accident in Belgium with his Lotus, which will keep him off the track for several weeks, if not the entire season.
In short, Jack Brabham seems to have in his hands the probability of securing the title of World Champion for the second consecutive time. Also considering the balance of power between the various brands, which see favored the Cooper Climax. The Cooper T53 is an evolution of the T51, already World Champion in 1959, from which it inherited the same Coventry Climax FPF engine with 4 cylinders, 243 horsepower and 6800 rpm, but with the addition of a 5-speed gearbox and an integrated axle. The weight of about 460 pounds also provides a fair amount of agility, which allows you to reach 290 km/h top speed while maintaining grip on the ground. Elements that ensure an advantage over the Ferrari Dino 246. Actually, the single-seaters of the Modenese company, although they are the most powerful of the various racing teams, with a top speed close to 300 km/h, weight about 600 kilograms, and therefore seem to have difficulty in cornering. Perhaps the Reims circuit can be of help to Ferrari, given the possibility to run at high speeds on the track, allowing their 290 horsepower V6 engine to express itself with all its power. Something already partially seen during the test sessions. The training sessions begin on Wednesday, June 29, 1960, in the afternoon. At 6:00 pm the Formula 1 cars enter the track. The two Coopers, Brabham and McLaren start together, to have a look at the circuit. B.R.M. has only one rear-engined car ready in the pits to do a few laps, Graham Hill’s. In the meantime, Bonnier and Gurney are waiting, hoping that their cars can reach the circuit; however, the wait will be in vain. The three Ferrari’s cars of Phil Hill, Von Trips and Willy Mairesse are also on the track. To the surprise of many, including the Scuderia Ferrari, Ginther comes out with one of the Scarabs, instead of Reventlow, while Daigh drives the second car.
On the track there is also a new car, the Vanwall driven by Brooks, developed from the provisional model that had run at Easter at Goodwood, the British circuit in West Sussex. This new car, still with front engine, has independent rear suspension and a new five-speed gearbox, and the overall height is greatly reduced, while the tail remains small and round, without headrests or scientifically aerodynamic shape. The front wheels are bolt-on, and knock-off hubs are used at the rear. The engine is still the well-made, fuel-injected four-cylinder that is estimated to have nearly 280 horsepower, but the large frontal area of this new Vanwall obviously needs every one of those horses if it is to keep up with the smaller Lotus and Cooper cars. On the circuit there is also a private owner, the British David Piper, with his front-engine Lotus. Later enough, Ireland and Clark also take to the track in two of the official Lotus cars, the first of which has a long trunk along the body of the car, feeding air from an intake on the side to Weber carburetors on the rear-mounted Climax engine. It is soon obvious that the best prepared team for the car race is Cooper, with McLaren leading for a few laps, and Brabham managing to set a time under 2'20"0. The time, however, will improve at every opportunity, until it drops to 2'17"0. Phil Hill laps in 2'19"0, Trips in 2'19"9, while McLaren works on his driving and eventually drops to 2'20"0. The lone B.R.M. has problems with the hydraulic drive between the pedal and the clutch, so that Graham Hill will not have much time to test the car. The Scarabs, on the other hand, improve: Ginther goes down to 2'36"1, but the four-cylinder engines begin to show signs of stress for having been kept at full throttle for so long. The remarkable thing about this first night is the apparent ease with which Brabham sets a lap time to astound everyone, and make the other racers wonder about their chances of victory.
On Thursday, June 30 1960, at 6:00 p.m., activity resumes. In addition to the teams that had practiced during the day on Wednesday, the full Yeoman Credit team is added, with Gendebien, Henry Taylor and Halford driving the cars. The Belgian driver's single-seater is fitted with a five-speed Colotti gearbox, obtained from the Walker team. A third official Lotus also arrived in Reims, driven by Flockhart, a car that had been considerably modified to mount the Climax engine at the rear, tilted to the right to place Weber carburettors under the hood. During the tests, the Lotus are persecuted inexplicably by a bad carburation, despite they use the same engine and the same carburetors of the Cooper, mounted more or less in the same position. The team B.R.M. is now complete, with two Cooper-Maserati for Trintignant and Gregory; the car of the first one is considerably modified in the chassis department, with a lowering of the suspensions. Another car to arrive at Reims is the Cooper-Ferrari of the Castellotti Scuderia, the same one that appeared in Monaco at the beginning of this season, with a Ferrari four-cylinder Super Squalo engine and Colotti-Walker gearbox mounted on a Cooper chassis. There should have been two of these cars, but only one has arrived and it is the one of Munaron. During the tests Brabham improves the time of the day before, going down to 2'16"8. Also, Trips is the protagonist of a slight improvement, and during the training he tries Mairesse's car, which the timekeepers overlook, crediting the Belgian driver with 2'19"3 recorded.
The time recorded by Graham Hill, 2'18"4, the second-fastest time overall, is interesting. But Phil Hill, shortly before the end of practice, records a time of 2'18"7. Ireland also drops to 2'19"5. While last year a time of 2'20"0 was needed to have any hope of winning the first row of the grid, this year this time represents the slowest time among the main contenders. The last free practice session takes place on Friday, July 1 1960. This time Brabham is unable to improve his times compared to those marked in the previous days, although no one comes very close to him. Brabham makes a series of fast laps, while McLaren at the end manages to join the elite with a time of 2'19"6. Even Phil Hill manages to improve his time, going down to 2'18"2, conquering the second place overall with a top speed on the straight of 292 km/h. Bonnier drops to 2'19"8, and Gendebien scores a worthy time of 2'20"0. Ireland keeps up the pace making a remarkable improvement, scoring a time of 2'18"5, while his teammate Clark does well with a time of 2'20"3. On Saturday he tests only a Scarab, as the engines still show reliability problems. Finally, there is one last addition to the list of runners, for this last practice, namely the presence of a third Cooper Maserati driven by Burgess, with a new four-cylinder Maserati engine, improved over the previous design. David Piper breaks his Lotus engine and therefore has to postpone his championship debut as he has no spare engine.
Sunday, July 3, 1960, the grid for the Grand Prix is lined up in the usual three-two-three rows. The departure registers the lack of three cars because, in addition to the already mentioned Piper's forfeit, the entries of the two Scarabs are also withdrawn, having exhausted all the spare parts to fix the failing engines. The starting grid is therefore composed of Brabham, Phil Hill and Graham Hill, followed in the second row by Ireland and Mairesse, in the third by Trips, Gurney and Flockhart, in the fourth by McLaren and Bonnier, in the fifth by Gendebien, Brooks and Bianchi, in the sixth by Halford and Gregory, and finally in the seventh by Trintignant, Munaron and Burgess, for a total of nineteen participating drivers. With Cooper, Ferrari and B.R.M. on the front row, Lotus and Ferrari on the second row, and Ferrari, B.R.M. and Lotus on the third row, there are the premises for an exceptional race that anyone can win. Before the start, the starter tells all the competitors that, contrary to the rules, they should have been on the track at the thirty-second signal, and he would be the one to give the starting signal, giving it the moment he felt all the competitors were ready to go. However, the starting signal was given about twenty-eight seconds earlier than it should have been, so Graham Hill was unable to get his B.R.M. into gear. The drivers immediately behind were able to dodge the stationary B.R.M., but Trintignant - arriving through the exhaust and tire smoke ahead of him - could not see the stationary car and rammed the B.R.M., pushing it to the side of the track.
In the meantime, Bianchi plunges to the right and hits the Vanwall, which in turn triggers Halford's spin. A few moments later Graham Hill sits inside his car, helpless, while Halford's and Bianchi's cars are restarted, allowing the two drivers to join the group of competitors, which is now flowing on the back of the circuit towards the Muizon hairpin. As the leaders descend the hill towards the Thillois turn there is still very little space between the Cooper and the Ferraris. The order sees Brabham in the lead, followed by Phil Hill, Trips, Gurney, Bonnier, Ireland, Mairesse, Gendebien and McLaren. During the third lap the group partially breaks up, because Brabham takes a slight advantage on the two Ferraris of Hill and Trips. They are followed by Ireland and Bonnier who are very close, Gendebien alone, then Mairesse, McLaren and Gurney. On the fourth lap Phil Hill overtakes Brabham, with Trips right behind, and despite this Brabham is awarded a new lap record of 2'18"8. Brooks on the Vanwall is at the end of the leading group, and at the end of the fourth lap he stops at the pits to complain about a noise or a vibration in the rear part; but nothing is found wrong, despite the slight collision at the start, and he restarts. During the fifth lap Brabham takes the lead again, but on the sixth lap it is still Phil Hill who overtakes him, in a very heated fight for the first position, with Trips always in third place, not far away.
The two Ferraris are really fighting with the Cooper, and lap after lap the three cars are running together. Shortly after, however, Phil Hill's Ferrari rams a rear wheel of the Cooper. On the sixth lap Brooks goes back to the pits complaining again about a possible problem, then he goes back on track and retires on the eighth lap. In the meantime, the battle for the first place goes on. Hill proceeds with a wide trajectory to Thillois, and Trips quickly rises to second place taking advantage of the overtaking of his teammate who created a problem for the Cooper. While the duels between Ireland and Bonnier and between Gendebien and McLaren develop. On lap 12 Bonnier is called to the pits to refill the oil tank, leaving Ireland alone in front of Gendebien and McLaren. Gurney and Mairesse meanwhile compete for eighth place. But on lap 15 Mairesse stops near Thillois and retires. On the eighteenth lap also Gurney returns to the pits to retire, due to the engine failure. Munaron takes advantage of this with his Cooper-Ferrari to climb one position. During the nineteenth lap Hill and Brabham are side by side on the finishing straight, with the Ferrari ahead of his rival by a few centimeters, and with Trips still in his wake. Just over half a minute later Gendebien and Ireland are in a similar position, with McLaren in their wake. After these two high-speed groups follow a significant gap on Henry Taylor, who is ahead of Clark and Flockhart. Of the remaining three cars, Yeoman Credit Cooper's B.R.M. of Bonnier, Halford and Burgess' Cooper-Maserati are lapped, and Bianchi stops along the circuit with the broken transmission of his Cooper-Climax.
During the third lap the group partially breaks up, because Brabham takes a slight advantage on the two Ferraris of Hill and Trips. They are followed by Ireland and Bonnier who are very close, Gendebien alone, then Mairesse, McLaren and Gurney. On the fourth lap Phil Hill overtakes Brabham, with Trips right behind, and despite this Brabham is awarded a new lap record of 2'18"8. Brooks on the Vanwall is at the end of the leading group, and at the end of the fourth lap he stops at the pits to complain about a noise or a vibration in the rear part; but nothing is found wrong, despite the slight collision at the start, and he restarts. During the fifth lap Brabham takes the lead again, but on the sixth lap it is still Phil Hill who overtakes him, in a very heated fight for the first position, with Trips always in third place, not far away. The two Ferraris are really fighting with the Cooper, and lap after lap the three cars are running together. Shortly after, however, Phil Hill's Ferrari rams a rear wheel of the Cooper. On the sixth lap Brooks goes back to the pits complaining again about a possible problem, then he goes back on track and retires on the eighth lap. In the meantime, the battle for the first place goes on. Hill proceeds with a wide trajectory to Thillois, and Trips quickly rises to second place taking advantage of the overtaking of his teammate who created a problem for the Cooper. While the duels between Ireland and Bonnier and between Gendebien and McLaren develop.
On lap 12 Bonnier is called to the pits to refill the oil tank, leaving Ireland alone in front of Gendebien and McLaren. Gurney and Mairesse meanwhile compete for eighth place. But on lap 15 Mairesse stops near Thillois and retires. On the eighteenth lap also Gurney returns to the pits to retire, due to the engine failure. Munaron takes advantage of this with his Cooper-Ferrari to climb one position. During the nineteenth lap Hill and Brabham are side by side on the finishing straight, with the Ferrari ahead of his rival by a few centimeters, and with Trips still in his wake. Just over half a minute later Gendebien and Ireland are in a similar position, with McLaren in their wake. After these two high-speed groups follow a significant gap on Henry Taylor, who is ahead of Clark and Flockhart. Of the remaining three cars, Yeoman Credit Cooper's B.R.M. of Bonnier, Halford and Burgess' Cooper-Maserati are lapped, and Bianchi stops along the circuit with the broken transmission of his Cooper-Climax. At half distance, equivalent to twenty-five laps, no one on the circuit can know who will win among the three in front. The trio increases the gap between their group and the one fighting for fourth place, bringing it to sixty-four seconds. Gendebien, Ireland and McLaren are the only ones who are not lapped by the leading trio. Brabham is now again just ahead of the Ferraris, managing to set a new lap record of 2'17"5, and an average speed of 217.354 km/h. During the twenty-eighth lap Brabham, still in the lead, begins to create a measurable gap between himself, Trips and Hill, who are still side by side.
By lap twenty-nine Brabham has a five second lead. While Phil Hill enters the pits, because the inlet cone between the engine and the gearbox has broken, he goes freewheeling at full speed. The American manages to stop before leaving the pit area, but it is the end of a valiant race. Behind are Gendebien and Ireland, still side by side. And on the next lap Ireland is ahead, now in third place. On the thirty-first lap Trips goes down by inertia to Thillois, as his transmission has failed in the same way as Mairesse and Hill, forcing him to retire as well, and bringing Ireland second in the fight with Gendebien. Brabham could now lap alone, having almost a minute and a half advantage over his nearest rival. On lap thirty-four Ireland pits with his left front wheel positioned at an odd angle, as part of his Lotus' suspension has broken. This leaves McLaren alone, battling with Gendebien. On lap 41 Ireland is blocked at the pits again and sent back on track to finish the race, finding himself just ahead of the two Cooper Maserati cars, back in the race after their respective pit stops. Flockhart increases his speed starting to reach Clark, now in fifth place behind Henry Taylor. On the penultimate lap of the planned fifty, McLaren desperately tries to keep ahead at the Thillois hairpin, but he overdoes his braking and is forced to take the escape route, leaving Gendebien safely in second place at the end of the race. Flockhart catches up to his teammate but is unable to overtake him, the two cars arrive side by side.
Jack Brabham wins the 48th Grand Prix of the Automobil Club of France on the Reims Circuit. The Ferraris driven by Phil Hill and Von Trips have sustained for 250 kilometers a dramatic duel with the Cooper champion; only unforeseeable and trivial mechanical incidents have eliminated them from the fiery fight that had begun as soon as the mover had given the go-ahead to the twenty cars. With the collapse of the Australian's opponents, the general average speed of the race dropped considerably, and during the exciting duel, it was brought to 214.664 km/h. Brabham finally crossed the finish line undisturbed and the 50,000 spectators had only one interesting reason: the struggle of the Belgian Olivier Gendebien (Cooper), recent winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, to impose himself on the New Zealander McLaren (Cooper). The only Italian in the race, the Turinese Gino Munaron, on Cooper-Castellottl, was forced to retire due to a mechanical failure on lap 21 when he was still in the sixth position and offered the impression of being able to conclude this beautiful race. The winner Brabham finally pulverized all the existing records by achieving the one on the lap at the average speed of 217.354 km/h (2'17"5) and bringing the general one of the race to 212.113 km/h. The previous records belonged to Stirling Moss (lap at 209.287 km/h average) and to Tony Brooks, winner of the race on a Ferrari in 1959 with 205.079 km/h general average.
The Australian ace of the wheel thus returns to the top of the ranking and prepares to repeat the success achieved last year. Now, examining the drivers' positions, taking into account that Stirling Moss will have to stay away from racing for several months, and objectively evaluating the technical situation at mid-season, it is hard to see who could threaten the position of the likable Australian driver of the Cooper. This extraordinary English car, built among the four axles of a workshop in Surbiton, on the outskirts of London, has demonstrated once again this year to be able to provide consistently positive results in any condition of use: on slow circuits as well as on very fast ones, despite the fact that it is said that the power of its engine (the Coventry-Climax) is not at all exceptional. This - evidently - is true up to a certain point. Jack Brabham, who is also Cooper's test driver, confirms himself every day more and more as the ideal driver of his car, and if last year he gave the sensation to run (with wise cunning) waiting for the opponents to wear out their mechanical means, now he has become authoritarian and aggressive like the champions of the race. Even at Reims, Brabham imposed his new style tactic, which is to attack without fear, well sure that the car always responds to him completely. On the Champagne circuit, only Phil Hill held out for many laps at the frenetic pace set by the Australian, even managing to put the nose of his Ferrari in front of him, but the consequence was that Hill retired, while the Cooper driver did not have a single setback, setting, among other things, the new absolute records for overall average and lap time. Brabham himself speaks thus of the duel with Phil Hill, and of his accident:
"It almost all went wrong. I had just passed Phil Hill on the straight leading into Thillois and was about to cut right when, in the rear-view mirror, I saw the Ferrari coming at me at an insane speed. Frankly, it must have been 100 km/h faster than my Cooper. I braked hard and stayed to the left a moment longer to let her pass. By the skin of my teeth I was able to fall back to the right, take the corner in despair as the Ferrari, with its wheels locked - but hurled like a rock - rushed into the slot. I think the brave Phil Hill had as his only objective to get back to the lead as quickly as possible".
The hopes placed in the Italian cars lasted little more than half the race. The Ferraris were on the ground favorable to their speed possibilities, and they proved it with the energetic answer of Phil Hill (and partly also of Von Trips) to the targeted attack of the World Champion. Unfortunately, an organ of the transmission could not withstand the strain, and one by one the Ferrari drivers were forced to abandon. For this year, there seems to be little to do for the single-seaters of Maranello, even if it is not said that at least one affirmation can come in the four Grands Prix that will still be played before the end of the season. Among the protagonists of the French Grand Prix, in addition to the already mentioned Gendebien and McLaren, the very young English racer Jim Clark did himself proud. At the end of the French Grand Prix, the updated standings saw Brabham and McLaren first in the standings with 24 points, followed by Moss with 11 points, Gendebien with 10 points and Rathmann fifth with 8 points. The world ranking for constructors sees Cooper-Climax in the lead with 38 points, followed by Lotus with 19 points, Ferrari with 15 points, B.R.M. with 6 points and Cooper-Maserati with 3 points.