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#144 1966 French Grand Prix

2021-12-20 11:18

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#144 1966 French Grand Prix

Henry Ford II, that on Monday 13th of June 1966 was in France and he will go to Le Mans to encourage the pilot of his racing team, is received, with t

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Henry Ford II, that on Monday 13th of June 1966 was in France and he will go to Le Mans to encourage the pilot of his racing team, is received, with the son Edsel, from the first minister Georges Pompidou, that invited him to come visit. The meeting last almost one hour and the conversation was about the global economic situation, the European global market, and about American investments in Europe. France, as know, want to limit those done in France and would like the partners od Mec to do the same, for the fear that American economy will end up taking possession of certain economic levers of command in Europe. When Henry Ford comes out from Palazzo Matignon, the journalist asks him if he has the intention of installing a car factory in France the industrial responds that the eventuality is not to be excluded but could only be realized in four or five years, because now Ford is committed in a big industrial effort in Germany. Interviewed about next 24 Hours of Le Mans, Henry Ford declares that, obviously, he hopes to win them. And when they asked what he think about Ferrari, he just replies:

 

"It’s a good car".

 

Only four days passed, before that Thursday 16th of June 1966 a twist shocks the world of Motorsport: surprisingly, on 24 Hours of Le Mans eve, seven and last proof of the international tournament prototype, John Surtees, the English ace that runs for Ferrari, declares that he doesn’t want to participate at the competition, scheduled for next Saturday and Sunday. Motivation: inclusion of a third driver - the Italian Ludovico Scarfiotti - in the crew destinated to take turns to drive on the prototype composed by Surtees and another British, Mike Parkes. Surtees declares that the director of the race-team of Ferrari, Eugenio Dragoni, would answer like this on his objections:

 

"If you don’t like it, don’t go on the track".

 

The British driver adds also that Dragoni, to motivate the decision, would take his health status as an excuse.

 

"I’m feeling well; even if the 24 Hours of is long and arduous, changes with Parkes would be enough for me to rest. Actually, Dragoni doesn’t like me anymore and he would rather have an Italian driver to win".

 

The relationship between Surtees and the Maranello team had been strained for some time, because the driver was charged of breaking the car driving them without saving, beyond the limits of resistance, and after he declares that they were not okay. The controversy does not help Ferrari, surely its American adversaries will take advantage of it. Meanwhile, at Le Mans it is decided to entrust the two 330-P3 prototypes to the couples Parkes-Scarfiotti and Bandini-Guichet. Meanwhile, after the substitution of John Surtees with Ludovico Scarfiotti, decided by the sporting director Dragoni on the eve of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Friday, June 17, 1966, Enzo Ferrari declares:

 

"I was not able to keep in touch with Le Mans, so in addition to the telegram of yesterday, I haven’t received news. The only possibility is to wait the return of Dragoni and the drivers, that will be the next wednesday. Then we will decide what to do".

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On saturday 18th and sunday 19th of June 1966 Henry Ford II will attend at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the stunning French race of speed and resistance as know as the supreme testing ground for the world’s most powerful car. Does this mean that the heir of the great Ford believes in winning cars that bear his name? It is logical to think so, but experience teach (or should teach) to be more careful in prediction the outcome of this singular race, which is owes its popularity to concrete technical reason. The main reason of 24 Hours of this year is all enclosed in the comparison Ferrari-Ford, a comparison that continue from, when in the 1964, the American factory complain the deal with other brands of Detroit, decided to engage - only for advertisement reason - the difficult road of speed competitions. The participation in the races of one of the giants of the world's automotive industry (even if through organizations supported and sustained by it) has ignited the world of sport, and it was inevitable that, on both sides of the Atlantic, excessive controversy would arise, as if the fate and glories of a country or a continent depended on motor racing. It is true that a small Italian factory, famous all over the world for its racing, sports, and touring cars, born for motorsports and for many years well-deserving in this arduous and expensive activity, has been challenged in one of the competitive fields where every other competitor had ended up by lowering its flag, by a name supported by almost unlimited resources. But the fact that these resources are not everything, at least in motor sports, is demonstrated by the fact that so far Ford has been able to take away very little satisfaction in the face of Ferrari's refined technique and prodigies.

 

So, let's take the 24 Hours of Le Mans for what it is worth and what it means: a simple episode, even if it is the most grandiose and important one of the year. As is customary, about sixty cars will take part in the race, with one hundred and twenty drivers who will take turns at the wheel. There are cars of all displacements: from the 1000 cc of the French Alpine to the almost 7000 of the Ford Mk II; obviously the big displacements are competing for the absolute victory, the others are competing for the class victory, or the performance index victory (ratio between the distance actually covered in 24 hours and the minimum distance imposed by the regulation according to the engines displacements), or the Ford MK II performance index in 24 hours (obtained from a formula that takes into account the average speed, the vehicle weight and the gasoline consumption in liters every hundred kilometers). To the Ferrari’s and Ford’s, official or unofficial, driven by crews not yet established, we must add the outsider Chaparral, the original American car equipped with automatic transmission, which with Phil Hill and Jo Bonnier imposed itself in the 1000 Kilometers of Nurburgring. Of no less interest is the race in the 2-liter class, with the Ferrari Dino, Porsche and the new French Matra. Last year the private Ferrari of the couple Gregory-Rindt won, but the record of the race still belongs to Vaccarella-Guichet (always on Ferrari) that in 1964 covered in 24 hours more than 4695 kilometers, at the average of 195.638 km/h; the record on the lap belongs instead to Phil Hill on Ford 7 liters at 222.303 km/h. The start will be given on Saturday, June 18, 1966, at 4:00 p.m.; then an interminable run-up, two complete turns of the clock, on the edge of 200 km/h.

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On Saturday 18th 1966 the first part of 24 hours of Le Mans is in progress, in a quite regular way and according to the forecasts: domination of the seven-litre Fords, which were able to exploit their power on the long Honandières straights and the grandstands; but the Ferraris are defending themselves well. The much-feared American efficiency was not very noticeable, and therefore the Fords sometimes lost time during refuelling, so that the Ferraris managed to keep up with the pace of the leaders, especially with the Rodriguez-Ginther and Bandini-Guichet crews. During the first part of the race there are some accidents, in the most dramatic of which Ludovico Scarfiotti is also involved. After midnight, due to rain which started to fall again, making the track very slippery, at the curbe called Tertre Rouge, the Ferrari #20, driven by Scarfiotti, the Matra of Schlesser and CD driven by Ligier collide. Three cars collide against protection barriers smashing: thankfully the respective drivers Were uninjured. Scarfiotti visibly shaken, he can reach the Ferrari box by foot, reassuring about his condition. Earlier the Asa of the Frenchman Pasquier and the CD of Ogier collide at the Mulsanne bend; the CD goes off the road and catches fire and its driver suffer some fractures to his arms. Afterwards, he is immediately taken to the hospital in Le Mans, but his condition does not cause any concern. Later, the Porsche driven by the Frenchman Buchet ends up off the track with a small wound on his face. Fortunately, also in this case, nothing serious. Meanwhile, as previous said, the Ferrari defend themselves well, but only in large displacements. Unfortunately, the Dino cars - including that of the Vaccarella-Casoni crew - are put out of action by a series of breakdowns (water and oil leaks).

 

At an average speed of 195 km/h the fast 2 liters Porsches run with the new bodywork with which, it is said, they gained about twenty kilometers per hour of maximum speed. So, the Porsches prove to be clearly superior to the French-English Matras. At the end of twenty-four hour of race, Ford can succeed in winning the hard race of Le Mans: to reach it took three years and spent, unknown, but certainly huge amount of money. With perfect timing, Henry Ford II himself is present to savor, together with his Italian wife, the joy of victory. The race, which is hard fought in the first eight hours, begins to lose interest during the night with the subsequent withdrawals of the Ferrari. For a third of the race it seemed, in fact, that the overwhelming power of the Ford squadron, with eight brand new MK II prototypes and seven other GT 40 type cars, could be controlled by the Maranello cars: Pedro Rodriguez and Richie Ginther had long fought in the first positions at the wheel of the 330 P3 of Luigi Chinetti's Scuderia, followed by the equal cars of the official team, those of Scarfiotti-Parkes and Bandini-Guichet; then in a short time Rodriguez's car stopped due to a gearbox failure, Scarfiotti's car had an accident, luckily without consequences for the driver, and finally Bandini-Guichet's car, again a 330 P3, had a series of mechanical problems with the brakes and the engine that led to its withdrawal. The other P2 Ferraris also had mechanical problems, especially with their transmissions. But perhaps the deepest disappointment in the Ferrari and Italian field in general is still the one had by the Dino: the three cars in the race were not able to hold up for more than a few hours, without being able to really bring out their well-known speed and road holding qualities.

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It is not possible to think of a sudden worsening of the cars, rather of a hasty preparation due to the lack of means and personnel: Ferrari, in fact, had said at the beginning of the year that it did not want to present more than one car per type in each race; but here at Le Mans there were three Dino and three P3, which constituted a not indifferent effort. Fords competed with three teams and a total of eight 7-litre cars; the best placed team was that of Carrol Shelby, who at the end brought two cars to the first two places, thus compensating the Texan for the many disappointments of past years. For the American cars, however, there was a surprise ending: the three cars appeared on the finish line all together, with Miles-Hulme's car ahead by a few meters. Everyone was convinced that the victory was theirs; but the next verdict of the timekeepers assigns the first place to McLaren-Amon, because of the type of start adopted at Le Mans: the cars are lined up in a herringbone pattern, and therefore some of them are ahead of the others; this difference is counted in the final calculation of the distance covered, and so the mathematical artifice favors the car that arrived three or four meters after the first one, that at the arrival of the race had the advantage of about twenty meters. At the French marathon, the #1 Ford GT40 Mk II of the Ken Miles-Denny Hulme crew had repeatedly improved the track record and was leading nearly four laps ahead of the second and third cars, the #2 Ford GT40 Mk II of Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon and the #5 of Ronnie Bucknum and Dick Hutcherson, when Leo Beebe, the executive in charge of Ford's racing team, orders Miles to slow down to make a parade finish and take a historic photo of their three cars crossing the finish line together, to be used for publicity purposes. Miles slows down and, thanks to some unplanned pit stops, is joined by cars #2 and #5, but the photo that Ford executives have been waiting for is ruined by the #2 Ford GT40, which accelerates and crosses the finish line first.

 

According to Ford executives, all three crews and cars should have been winners, but the final victory - as mentioned - is awarded to the McLaren and Amon pair thanks to an underwhelming performance in qualifying. Miles is therefore deprived of the record of being the only driver in history to have won at Sebring, Daytona and Le Mans in the same year. At the finish line only fifteen cars out of the fifty-five started, one of the lowest percentages of arrivals for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Gone since Saturday evening the Dino, the French CDs, the Matra-B.R.M., the Chaparral, the Bizzarrini, the Serenissima, the Austin-Healey, the race is reduced just after the dawn to the only Ford, left without rivals in the top class of prototypes, to the Porsche in the prototypes and sports cars up to two liters, to the French Alpine and to the very regular Marcos in the small displacements. Of the eight Ford 7-litre cars, five were left on the road due to suspension (two) and engine (three) failures: much heavier cars than the Ferraris, they counted above all on their number and on the enormous power of their engine; Dan Gurney's record-breaking lap at an average speed of 230.103 km/h far exceeded Phil Hill's in 1965 (222.803 km/h), even though it cost a car. But Ford's goal was to win and improve the race records: it succeeded perfectly. The McLaren-Amon average (201.796 km/h) improves by more than six kilometers the previous one (Guichet-Vaccarella on Ferrari, in 1964). The interesting American Chaparal car, with automatic transmission, driven by Phil Hill and Bonnier, did not shine very well, and its race was interrupted by a battery failure that prevented it from starting after a refueling. The cold and unstable weather naturally affected the results: a few drops of rain from time to time made the track slippery and contributed to causing some accidents, fortunately not serious, but which eliminated several cars. If the temperature had been warmer, it would probably have affected the grip of the American engines.

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In the meantime, the diatribe between John Surtees and Ferrari continues: the British announces Sunday 19 June 1966 on the Sunday Minor, a weekly magazine to which it collaborates regularly, that its permanence to the Ferrari will depend on a meeting in program this week with the owner of the House of Mannello. Surtees writes:

 

"After the accident with Eugenio Dragoni at Le Mans, I have to discuss with Enzo Ferrari whether or not I am suitable for the team. My reputation as a driver and my principles are at stake".

 

Surtees affirms that he would have preferred to keep hidden the tension that disturbs the internal relations of the Scuderia Ferrari, but after the antagonism between him and the manager Eugenio Dragoni he has no other alternative. Surtees' article was published before the news of Ferrari's defeat at Le Mans reached London. It is however of burning actuality. Surtees writes that, contrary to popular belief, it was Dragoni who prohibited him from racing at Le Mans, after he had protested against the inclusion of Scarfiotti's name in the list of drivers:

 

"It wasn't me who refused to compete".

 

Surtees affirms, we do not know with what foundation, that Dragoni has no great sympathy for him because he is English and that he is indeed looking for an Italian driver to prepare for the World Championship. Surtees, World Champion in 1964, would have good chances to win again this year the second title with Ferrari. The meeting between Surtees and Ferrari takes place in the following days. However, on Wednesday, June 22, 1966, Enzo Ferrari calls a press conference in Maranello, during which he issues the following statement:

 

"John Surtees and Enzo Ferrari met today in Maranello. Noting the situation of discomfort that has arisen in the ongoing technical and sporting collaboration, it was agreed to renounce the continuation of any further relationship".

 

Ferrari, who does not wish to make any further comments, also announces that due to the current situation created by the national agitation of the metalworkers, Ferrari's participation in the French Grand Prix, the third round of the World Drivers' Championship, to be held on 3 July 1966 in Reims, is in doubt. If however the company situation should improve, one of the cars will be driven by Lorenzo Bandini, while it is excluded that the second car (the one destined to Surtees) can be entrusted to Scarfiotti, because of the well-known accident suffered by the driver at Le Mans. The decision to break off relations with John Surtees was in the air. As is well known, during the tests for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the leader of the Ferrari team had clashed with the sporting director Eugenio Dragoni, who had decided to put Ludovico Scarfiotti alongside the Surtees-Parkes crew (theoretically as a reserve). The sporting director was in fact worried that the champion was suffering from the extreme hardness of the race in relation to his physical condition. Surtees had started racing again less than two months ago, after the serious accident at Mosport last autumn, and although perfectly recovered, it was feared that he would not be able to keep up the pace of the 24 Hours for long. Surtees had lively protested to Dragoni's decision. The dispute was then referred to the decisions of Enzo Ferrari. In environments close to the Modenese company, however, it is said that Surtees' departure would not be unrelated to the Le Mans quarrel, which has nothing to do with the private interests of the driver. In the meantime, it is underlined that it is not at all improbable that Surtees would have to pass to a British manufacturer (which could be Cooper, where a driver of great class is missing), the former World Champion would bring to the brand the dowry of the 9 points in the World Championship classification conquered in the Belgian Grand Prix. A few days pass before John Surtees decides to compete in the French Grand Prix on a Cooper-Maserati, after testing it at Silverstone, expressing his satisfaction:

 

"He has a good chance, I'm happy about it".

 

The British driver specifies that for contractual matters he will not be able to be part of the official Cooper team, and that he will therefore use the car from Grand Prix to Grand Prix, stipulating a special agreement from time to time. The contractual issues consist in this: Surtees, when he raced for Ferrari, was committed by a major oil company to use only his gasoline. The break with the Maranello manufacturer produced no changes in this latest contract. Cooper, however, is tied to another fuel brand competing with the first one. Hence the prohibition for Surtees to go on track with an official Cooper single-seater. John will therefore race privately, using the fuel of the company with which he is under contract.

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We will discover only with time, what really happened in the days before and after John Surtees' dismissal. One day in early June 1966, after the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix, Enzo Ferrari called Mauro Forghieri on the phone and asked me to come to his office. Ferrari has a dry and cold tone of voice, which immediately makes it clear to his technical director that there is something wrong. When Forghieri enters his office, Ferrari tells him to approach his desk, where there is an open newspaper. It's the weekly Autoitaliana, from Editoriale Domus in Milan, the publisher of Quattroruote, Italy's leading motoring monthly. Ferrari shows Forghieri a three-page article, entitled Surtees' hobby - Anatomy of the Lola 70, written by English journalist David Phipps:

 

"Read it and tell me what you think".

 

Phipps' article says that Surtees, in addition to being the reigning Formula 1 World Champion and one of the top drivers in Grand Prix and endurance racing, is also a huge fan of racing cars. According to Phipps, Surtees' passion is so great that the English driver felt the need to set up a personal team, to organize his own sport activity with Sport cars, a category in which Ferrari does not run. The article also describes the technical characteristics of the car, including a photograph of the Lola 70 in the race, with John at the wheel, and a technical cutaway, drawn by James H. Allington. An interesting car that adopts technical solutions from both the Lola GT Prototype and the Ford GT Prototype. When Forghieri finishes reading the article, he tells Ferrari that the Lola seems to him a good car, designed by Broadley to put on the ground in an easy and fast way the great powers of the American engines. In addition, he confesses that it reminds him of a new generation American single seater, but with the bodywork of a sports car. Ferrari retorts, asking the engineer to look carefully at the front of the Lola, and asking him to tell him if it looked a little too much like the nose of the 330 P2. Forghieri replies that in fact there are similarities and points in common, especially in the nose and in the front part of the bodywork. Later, the engineer explains to Ferrari that it is difficult, with the technical regulations imposed by the FIA, to create a racing car that is completely different from the others. But Ferrari replies dryly:

 

"The Americans did. The Ford GT doesn't look like our cars or any of the other cars running in the Prototype or Sport categories. I can't understand why the Lola 70 looks so much like this year's 330 P2 and the 1964 330 P. I think it would be a case of having Surtees explain it. I also wonder why Surtees does not consider it sufficient to race in Formula 1 and in the Prototypes with Ferrari. Evidently, he has plans that he has not told us about".

 

At this point, however, Forghieri reminded Ferrari that it was he who had given Surtees a permit that Ferrari had never given to another driver, namely that of running with other competition cars in races that did not conflict with Ferrari's technical and sporting interests. Ferrari replied that this was true, and that he had not forgotten it at all. But he also adds that when he had given permission, he did not think that Surtees would end up collaborating on the design and construction of a racing car, as he had most likely done with Broadley's Sport.

 

"Do you think the Lola 70 could become an opponent of the Prototypes we will race with in 1966?"

 

Ferrari asks Forghieri. The engineer replies that if Broadley had built fifty examples of his car, as provided for in Annex J approved by the International Sports Commission, the Lola could certainly have been one more competitor for Ferrari, and that, in its first races, Surtees' Lola had always been two or three seconds faster than Bruce McLaren's McLaren-Oldsmobile, which was considered the best Sport car of the moment. Ferrari looks at Forghieri, closes the paper and thanks him with a few words:

 

"Forghieri, thank you. I understand".

 

After that, Wednesday 15 June 1966, at Le Mans, Surtees completes some test laps at the wheel of the 330 P3 with which he thinks to run the 24 Hours, but after having returned to the pits, he clashes with the sporting director of Ferrari, Eugenio Dragoni. The quarrel is once again violent and public, and almost certainly sought by the Ferrari sporting director. At the end of the fight, Dragoni announces the dismissal of the English driver as if the decision was a consequence of the altercation, something for which the press, including the Italian one, will attack him hard in the following days. But this, in reality, had all been arranged; proof of this is the document that Dragoni carries in his pocket since he left the factory. A sheet of squared paper with words written in red pencil and others in blue, containing a confidential communication from Enzo Ferrari, listing the crews that would take part in the 34th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A list written personally by Enzo Ferrari, on which Surtees' name does not appear. Enzo Ferrari's state of mind was, however, soothed in these days by the anniversary, on Thursday 30 June 1966, of the death of Dino Ferrari, which had occurred exactly ten years earlier. Enzo Ferrari had stopped wearing black ties a few years ago, but he continues to go to the cemetery every morning, right after passing by the barber shop on Via Canal Grande where he gets a shave before going to Maranello.

 

"When I go through the cemetery gate, before coming to the factory, and sit on my son's grave, I forget everything. Time no longer exists. It's good for me to realize that I'm nothing".
 

In his dark office, the three carnations in front of Dino's photograph remain lit all night. For some time now, however, Ferrari has stopped listening to the tape that Dino, unbeknownst to him, had recorded to leave him the sound of his own voice. The boy had also recorded himself reciting verses by Leopardi; Dino had done technical studies, but he did not disdain literature. Ferrari had listened to him for years, in the evenings, alone, but lately he could no longer find the courage to listen to his son's voice.

 

"I think that a pain like the one I suffer cannot be mitigated, even if I have tried in many ways to soothe it, to size it up to proportions that in time should allow me to look at my drama with a less crude soul".

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On Thursday 30th June 1966, Giuseppe Farina lost his life in a road accident during the afternoon, on the road from Modane to Chambéry, just over the Italian border. He had left Turin at 11:00 a.m., heading for Geneva where he was called to work as a representative of some large car manufacturers and to act as a technical consultant and, in part, as a stand-in for Yves Montand, for the film Grand Prix. Farina is alone in his Ford Cortina Lotus, a sports car capable of reaching high speeds. The ex-Italian driver crosses the border at the Mont Cenis pass, driving along state road No. 10, a mountain road with narrow bends. The accident took place at 3:15 p.m., in Aiguebelle, beyond St-Jeande-Maurienne, near the village of Argentine, a hamlet of Moutier. Witnesses reported being overtaken by his Lotus, which was roaring along the difficult route. He was betrayed by an S-curve. Farina made it through the first half, but in the counter bend the Lotus was seen to board and skid. After travelling some fifty metres, as the driver desperately tried to regain control, the car went over the side of the road. At that moment, the speed was still very high: the Lotus crashed into a telegraph pole, then rose three metres into the air, decapitated a large tree, and fell back onto the asphalt, performing three or four pirouettes.

 

Motorists who had witnessed the accident arrived, while a witness drove quickly to nearby Argentine and alerted the officers of the gendarmerie post. To the rescuers the car appeared to be a tangle of wreckage, while a few metres away they found the lifeless body of the driver, his head and face stained with blood. Giuseppe Farina was killed instantly by a fractured skull. The body was removed and taken to the mortuary in Argentine. It was possible to identify him from a dog tag he wore around his neck, a reminder of the days when he used to run. It was engraved with his blood group and his name: Giuseppe Farina. The gendarmes immediately recognised the former World Champion of motor racing, who was also famous outside Italy. Then, the official recognition: it happened through the documents, the driving licence, the passport, the car registration. The news arrived in Turin late in the evening. On the documents, the address of Turin was not indicated, but that of the Principality of Monaco - rue d'Ostende 9 - where Giuseppe Farina had moved his residence. Here the Argentinean gendarmes phoned: the announcement was received by the building's caretaker, who immediately phoned his wife in Turin.

 

"Madam, your husband has had an accident. I don't know how it happened, but you'd better get to him, he may need your help: he's in Argentine, near Moutier".

 

He did not have the courage to tell her the terrible truth. After the first words, Elsa Farina was seized by a tragic premonition, dropped the microphone and collapsed in tears. A friend was beside her and tried to comfort her. The caretaker had told her the tragic truth:

 

"Giuseppe Farina died in a car accident".

 

The woman alerted a friend of the family, who immediately went to the accommodation in Via Volta. Together they tried to calm the widow, who had collapsed. In the evening, the friend left for Modane: until the last moment, Mrs Elsa insisted on accompanying him, but she was not allowed to. As she wandered into the lodging enriched by the trophies won by Giuseppe in his long career as a runner, the widow could not hold back her tears. She had greeted her husband for the last time during the morning, at 11:00 a.m., when he had climbed into his fast car on his way to Geneva on business. She had repeated to him the customary words with which she greeted him, in the good old days, whenever he was about to take off in one of the fast cars:

 

"Be careful Nino".

 

In the afternoon the news spread through the city. Then, towards evening, the first telegrams from friends and acquaintances arrived in Via Volta 3. Giuseppe Farina was born in Turin and was already driving a small car at the age of nine.

 

"I believe in miracles. In 1950 I became World Champion because of a miracle. It happened at Monza and I was racing an Alfetta 159 for the title. After a tough fight with Fangio I was first, but a few laps from the end the engine started making those noises that when a driver hears them he takes the car to the pits and lights a cigarette. For him the race was over. But this time it was the world title and I started to pray. For ten laps of Monza I prayed, while the oil needle was at zero, and I won. The next day they wanted to try that car, but nobody could get it started".

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Reims returned to host the French Grand Prix for the first time since 1963 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first Grand Prix, although it was events at Le Mans in mid-June that dominated the buildup. Ford had finally completed their quest to defeat Ferrari at the World's greatest race, and the sheer scale of the victory for the American manufacturer had caused fallout in Maranello. John Surtees, witnessing the political games at hand decided to leave the team, starting a sudden series of changes within the Formula 1 world. The Englishman joined the factory Cooper-Maserati effort, and when Richie Ginther left, believing that the partnership of Surtees and Jochen Rindt would leave him without a drive, Chris Amon joined from McLaren. Cooper decided to run three cars for their three drivers, Ginther rejoining the Honda programme back in Japan, while Bruce McLaren only had one car race ready, so Amon was not replaced. For Ferrari, the exit of Surtees was followed by the arrival of sportscar ace Mike Parkes, who would use a longer-wheel base car to accommodate his longer legs. Away from the driver changes, and B.R.M. arrived with only one driver but three cars, with Jackie Stewart recovering from his shoulder break. Graham Hill was their only driver and was set to use their sole surviving Tasman Championship car, although the two H16 cars were delivered to France too. A third H16 engined car was to be found at Team Lotus, where Peter Arundell hoped to get a start for the first time in 1966, while World Champion Jim Clark continued to use his modified 1965 car.

 

All of the above left Brabham as one of the favourites for the French victory, as they quietly got on with completing a second Brabham-Repco chassis for Denny Hulme. Jack Brabham and Hulme now both had new for 1966 cars, and with the Repco engine running reliably throughout, they looked strong given the long straights at Reims. The final factory effort was to be found with Dan Gurney and his Anglo-American Racers effort, which fielded the beguiling Eagle-Climax once again. Into the privateer field, and Reg Parnell Racing led the way with Mike Spence and Paul Hawkins set to do battle with their mismatched Lotus 25s. Jo Bonnier was back with a customer Brabham-Climax, using a 2.75-liter FPF engine, while the R.R.C. Walker Racing Team had Jo Siffert to race their Cooper-Maserati. Bob Bondurant would do battle as usual, the inexperienced Guy Ligier would be looking to finish and be classified as the only Frenchman in the field, while Brit John Taylor was the final entry with a Brabham-B.R.M. The title battle after Belgium had seen victory for Surtees send him up to second in the World Championship standings, level on points with Stewart who had won in Monaco. Leading the way was Bandini after a second consecutive podium, just a point to the good, while Rindt sat in fourth. Hill rounded out the top five, with Ginther and Brabham joined the shortened scorers list. Victory for Surtees had sent Ferrari straight to the top of the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers, six clears of B.R.M. as the British firm failed to score. Cooper-Maserati were into third after Rindt's podium, while Brabham-Repco were on the board after owner Jack's first points score for the Australian engine manufacturer.

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Reims had traditionally held the French Grand Prix on a Saturday, with practice spread out across three evenings over the course of the week due to the high temperatures of a summer in the Champagne region. However, with a Formula Two race to run on Saturday, the Grand Prix was pushed back to Sunday, meaning the teams would get a break after three sessions through Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Target times for the pace setters would be a 2'16"8 recorded by Jack Brabham before the 1.5-liter era, a time that had put the Aussie on pole back in 1960. With Ferrari absent, and Brabham-Repco needing to get Denny Hulme's car prepared, the only team with 3-liter engines on Wednesday evening were the factory Cooper-Maserati, supported by two privateer efforts. 

 

And, although third driver Chris Amon had brake issues, the factory efforts of John Surtees and Jochen Rindt proved that 3-liters was the way forward, with the Englishman taking just a few laps to get under the circuit record, before ending the evening with a 2'10"7, with Rindt half a second behind. Wednesday had shown that the 2-liter cars were out of their depth, Graham Hill and Jim Clark only just in the top ten as the best of the modified 65 runners. Hill therefore spent most of Wednesday and Thursday trying out the BRM team's two H16 powered cars, while Team Lotus tried to get Peter Arundell out in their H16 powered chassis. The Englishman, however, would not make it out of the paddock on Wednesday after a drive shaft failure, and although he got out on the circuit on Thursday, by the time the H16 Lotus had cleared the pit straight it had burnt out the clutch.

 

Ferrari's arrival on Thursday, combined with solid running for Brabham in the Repco powered car and the continued pace of the Cooper-Maserati's made it a rather unusual look to the front end of the field. The 3-liter cars were ferociously fast down the straights, and it was Lorenzo Bandini, taking over from Surtees as team leader in the scarlet cars, who set the first sub-2'10"0 lap, although Mike Parkes was improving all the time. The Cooper-Maserati's were unable to match their straight line speed, so they opted to use a cunning strategy at the end of the day by using Rindt to provide a slipstream effect for Surtees to use down one straight, before the Englishman was released to latch onto the back of a charging Ferrari when they came cruising past.

 

The Cooper tactic worked to leave the ex-Ferrari racer at the top of the times on Thursday with a 2'08"4, leaving the field set to go to battle for pole on Friday. Out of the battle already were Hill and the H16 car, which was being troublesome with its gearbox, Arundell's H16 Lotus, which had a whole new problem with its drive shafts and Clark, who was out of action entirely after hitting a bird at high speed, damaging his left eye. The Scot was to be replaced by Pedro Rodríguez, after lengthy negotiations between the race organisers, Enzo Ferrari and Colin Chapman, although the Mexican would not beat the Scot's best time. Into the pole fight, and Ferrari decided that they did not need to use slipstreams to set could times, telling Bandini and Parkes to unleash everything they could. 

 

The two duly delivered, and it was the Italian who ultimately claimed pole with a 2'07"8 half a second quicker than Surtees would could not best his unaided time. Parkes set a strong time to grab third from Brabham late in the day for a maiden front row start in his first race, with Rindt completing the top five. Hill had almost joined the pole fight on an official basis for a time when the H16 finally showed its potential, with the Englishman forcing the growling B.R.M. round for a 2'09"2. The strain, however, was too much for the gearbox and so Hill was forced into the Tasman car, the Englishman having had to hold the gear lever in position to keep the car from jumping into neutral. The fans were also given a brief look into what the race would be like on Sunday too, as the top four drivers all came across the line together at one point, prompting many in the pits to jump away from the track side.

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Unlike practice qualifying, the race was held at 3:00 pm local time to keep with the tradition of racing in France, which meant that the high temperatures during the day would catch up with the field. Mechanics were soaking pumps and other mechanical parts in water before bolting them in place just before the start, while the drivers were huddled in the shade. Eventually they were herded to their cars and set for a warm-up lap, before lining up on the grid at the feet of Raymond Roche who had the French Tricolour at hand to signal the start. As Roche waved and sprinted off the side of the circuit, it was John Surtees who got the initial jump from the middle of the front row, surging ahead of the two Ferraris. His lead, however, was only by a nose, and when the engine coughed at the end of the pit area the Ferraris shot ahead, Lorenzo Bandini leaping into the lead. Debutante Mike Parkes was about to slot into the Italian's wake as the field went under the Dunlop Bridge and through the first corner, but a fast-starting Jack Brabham had beaten him to it. At the end of the opening lap and it was Bandini leading from Brabham, the Australian owner/driver tucking right into the slipstream of the Italian. Then came Parkes at the head of the rest of the field, with Chris Amon and Jochen Rindt in the other two Cooper-Maseratis run by Cooper harrasing the scarlet car ahead. Their teammate Surtees was in the middle of the group, down in thirteenth, although the fact that he was still going was better than the fate of Peter Arundell, who had to limp the H16 engined Lotus-B.R.M. into the pits.

 

By the end of the second lap Bandini and Brabham were, realistically, on their own, with Parkes far enough behind already to lose the slipstream effect. He was having to fend off the remaining Coopers, as Surtees was forced to stop at the end of the lap with a vapour lock issue, which was traced, after much mishap in the pits, to a faulty drive on the fuel pump. The Englishman's race was run, although he would get back out onto the circuit for a handful of laps, while Arundell got a few laps under his belt before his H16 Lotus finally destroyed its gearbox. Jo Siffert was the next casualty in the pits with a vapour lock issue, a worrying development for Cooper as he was also running a Cooper-Maserati car and had been stalking the two remaining factory efforts. Amon and Rindt, however, seemed to be fine as they continued to attack Parkes, who was managing to fend them off on his first Formula 1 start, with Graham Hill and Denny Hulme threatening the trio too. Out front, meanwhile, Bandini was steadily creating a gap back to Brabham, although the Italian needed to smash the lap record down to 2'12"0 to do so. Already the race was at a quarter distance, and Bandini held a slender gap of two seconds, although that equated to a good hundred yards across the start/finish line due to the high average speeds of Reims. Then came the battling quartet of Parkes, Amon, Hill and Rindt, with the latter trio all passing one another in the wake of the Ferrari. From time-to-time Hill would force his way up the inside of Parkes through Calvaire at the start of a lap, only for Parkes to expertly take the position back into the hairpin at Muizon.

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Yet, the quartet did not last, with the two Coopers finally hitting problems like their sister cars, although for Amon the issue was related to handling. The New Zealander was the first to fall with a loss hub nut, an easy problem to cure, but doing so meant he tumbled down the order and lost touch. As for Rindt, the Austrian was in the fray just long enough to overheat his engine and lose power, allowing Denny Hulme to come crusing past a few laps after he lost touch with Parkes and Hill. Soon the duel for third was broken up too, as Hill fell by the wayside with a camshaft failure leaving him with only one bank of four cylinders. That left the top six well-spaced out, with Bandini still dancing around out front to keep Brabham out of his tow, Parkes and Hulme a fair way back, Rindt nursing his overheating Cooper in fifth, and Pedro Rodríguez under no threat at all in sixth. The only action on circuit was a lowly battle between ex-Porsche colleagues Dan Gurney and Jo Bonnier, both of whom had under powered cars leaving them in positions which betrayed their skill levels. The race was a rather dull affair for the middle third, the only action being Bandini and Brabham, who were taking no prisoners when lapping other cars, despite the eighteen second gap between them. The Italian was driving as well as he ever had in the scarlet car, setting fastest lap on the 30th tour of the circuit, a 2'11"3, but on the run to Thillois, the final corner, on lap 32 the V12 engine suddenly lost revs. The Ferrari's throttle cable snapped and caused the engine to die before he reached the corner, meaning he would have to coast back to the pits for repairs.

 

Unfortunately, the run back from Thillois was up hill, so Bandini leapt out of the car, tore baler twine from a straw bale and tied the ends of the cable back together, leaving enough length for him to pull it from the cockpit. The hasty repair was enough for him to, almost literally, drag the Ferrari into the pits for a new cable, but the damage had already been done as Brabham flew past while the Italian was climbing out at the hairpin. The cable repair put Bandini out of the race until the closing stages, and as Brabham had a 40 second advantage over Parkes, the race was won. The Australian would ease off over the final laps to protect his engine, while Parkes was not being geed up by the Italian firm, who knew that his inexperience at Grand Prix level could cost them a guaranteed podium finish. Hulme was too far back to challenge for second, although the New Zealander would be happy with third as things stood, as a failure for Rodriguez in the closing laps reminded everyone that engine peril still loomed. Just two laps from the end Hulme failed to arrive back past the pits when the fuel pump failed to pick up the last couple of gallons in the fuel tank. The New Zealander fell two laps behind in the process but was able to crawl to the flag in third, as Brabham and Parkes swept across the line some ten seconds apart. Hulme's almost woes, however, were nothing compared to the fate of Bob Anderson, who lost his final drive gear on the run out of Thillios on the final lap. The Brit was in fourth place at the time, and as he coasted to the line, Rindt, Gurney and John Taylor all flew by to take the final points leaving Anderson a frustrating seventh. 

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A closing thunderstorm had also proved too little, too late for Cooper too, as the storm front caused temperatures to plummet, solving their vapour lock issues (where fuel would vaporise before it reached the engine, causing air bubbles to form) and getting Rindt, Amon and Guy Ligier back up to speed. Gurney was a shock fifth in his little underpowered Eagle, while Taylor had enjoyed a quiet race at the back of the field to earn maiden points finish. Yet, despite Anderson's anguish, the day was Brabham's, as the Australian became the first man to win a race in a car built by his own team. It was also the veteran Aussie's first win since the 1960 Portuguese Grand Prix, and the entire field were there to congratulate him for his efforts. And, without the much-disliked M.G.M. film crews dotted throughout the paddock, the atmosphere of the French Grand Prix of 1966 had been a delight. Jack Brabham, who had won his last World Championship race six years ago, when he won the title of best driver in Formula 1, returned to success and is now at the top of the world drivers' championship standings. On Saturday, in a Brabham-Honda, he had won the Formula 2 Grand Prix, then repeated his exploit in the French Grand Prix, with the Brabham-Repco of his own construction. The Australian was able to keep up with the pace imposed by Lorenzo Bandini with his three-liter Ferrari, and then, when the Italian's car had to stop for a long time on the thirty-second lap for a trivial failure (breakage of the accelerator pedal cable), he took the lead and held it for the remaining seventeen laps.

 

Brabham covered the distance of 398.484 kilometers in one hour 48'31"3 at an average speed of 220 km/h. In second place came Ferrari's driver-tester Mike Parkes, making his Formula 1 test debut. Parkes took the place of John Surtees, who was at the wheel of a Cooper-Maserati. John had to leave the race shortly after the start due to engine overheating. Third was another Brahham-Repco, driven by New Zealander Denny Hulme, fourth was Austrian Jochen Rindt in a Cooper-Maserati, two laps down, and fifth was American Dan Gurney in an American Eagle, three laps down. Unlucky the test of Bandini: the Italian was very good; his Ferrari was clearly faster than Brabham's in the straights. The victory seemed to be his when he was practically taken out of the race by the breaking of the accelerator cable. Lorenzo tried desperately to fix the problem, stopped his car at the edge of the track, got out, ran to a wire fence and tore a wire iron. He was able to make a makeshift repair and return to the pits. Unfortunately, it was too late, Bandini finished eleventh, eleven laps behind the winner. Among the other drivers vying for the world title, Graham Hill had to retire, while Jim Clark could not start because he was suffering from an eye injury (a bird hit him in the face on Thursday during practice: no danger of permanent injury, but the blood clot needs to dissolve, and it will take a few days).

 

In the meantime, the funeral of Giuseppe Farina, who died in an accident near Chambéry, took place on Saturday, July 2, 1966, starting from the headquarters of the Automobile Club of Turin. Not a huge crowd was present (due to the newspaper strike, the announcement of the precise time of the funeral was missing), but those present following the coffin were deeply sympathetic to Mrs. Elsa's grief, starting with former drivers Cagno, Salamano, Piodi and Valenzano. Before the funeral, they pay their last respects to the deceased also drivers and technicians of the car racing teams: Tadini, Villoresi Zanardi, Sportomo, the engineers Giacosa, Lampredi, Di Giuseppe and other exponents of Fiat. The widow receives telegrams and letters of condolences from the princes of Monaco, Grace and Ranieri, from the president of honor of Fiat, Professor Valletta, from the president, the lawyer Giovanni Agnelli, from authorities, and sportsmen. Even the former King of Belgium Leopold, with his wife Liliana De Réthy, who are in Turin, express their condolences to Mrs. Elsa. Tuesday July 5, 1966, Ferrari decides to suspend the sporting activity for the next few months. The decision - which will not fail to arouse controversy in international automotive circles - is motivated by strikes for the renewal of the national contract for metalworkers. Their consequences have been felt particularly in the special department that the company has allocated to racing. Here, in this regard, is the statement issued by Ferrari:

 

"As the union unrest that has been affecting work in the sports management department for seven months has continued, with recurring strikes that have not been triggered by a company dispute but by the national issue for the renewal of the metalworkers' collective contract; strikes that have been organized in such a way that their intensity and improvisation do not allow a minimum work program in this special department of Ferrari right in the middle of the racing season, the company is forced to suspend racing activities while waiting for the situation to normalize".

 

Giulia Pea

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