#119 1963 United States Grand Prix

2021-09-14 00:00

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#1963, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Livia Alegi, Carlo Poddighe,

#119 1963 United States Grand Prix

On Thursday, 12 September, 1963, the International Motor Show opens in Frankfurt. Unlike similar events held in Europe, this one has the prerogative o

On Thursday, 12 September, 1963, the International Motor Show opens in Frankfurt. Unlike similar events held in Europe, this one has the prerogative of being held every two years; this is an advantage, at least from the point of view of public appeal. Manufacturers present the latest innovations but there is no talk of price reductions. It makes no sense to discuss the superiority of one show over another: the assumptions and purposes that suggest its existence are identical, and so are the technical and economically stimulating function. The fact is that the Frankfurt show, while being as international as the others, also glorifies the German automobile industry. The latter is the second in the world (after the United States) in terms of production volume and is, perhaps, the most conspicuous expression of the economic prosperity of the Federal Republic. In the previous year, West German automobile factories built nearly 2.352.000 vehicles (slightly less than France and Italy combined), exporting more than 1.100.000 units. The official figures show a further rise in the first half of 1963: 1.341.000 units produced (13.7% more than in the same period in 1962) and 643,000 exported (plus 18.3%). In West Germany, including West Berlin, 7.067.000 cars were on the road at the beginning of 1963. Of these, around 6.300.000 were tourism cars, with a density of one car every eight inhabitants.


Just like in Paris, London, and Turin, the Frankfurt Motor Show constitutes a major event, both for the public and for manufacturers. The agreements in place among the European economic bodies are leading the automobile industry toward new perspectives and new demands. Competition is becoming more and more lively each year as we approach a regime of classical economic liberalism on a supranational scale. The public, as a result, knows that it can choose from a production that is now practically global. There is great anticipation for the official launch of the NSU with the Wankel rotary engine, which revolutionizes the traditional technique of the piston system. This new car, currently only available in the sports spider version, has allegedly already begun production, and will be sold at a price of 8500 marks (about 1.320.000 lire). There are nine Italian manufactures at the show: Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Fiat, Innocenti, Iso-Rivolta, Lancia, Maserati and Siata. In the industrial vehicle sector, where there is unparalleled competition because of the mighty local specialized industry in Germany, Fiat, Lancia and Om are also present. There are three brand new cars: the Lancia Flavia 1800, the Flaminia 2S00 (and the Fulvia, which now appears in Germany for the first time), and the Alfa Romeo Giulia sprint G.T.  Fiat will exhibit its current production in a large 600-square-meter booth.


It has exported its cars directly from Mirafiori and distributed them through the extensive sales organization of Deutsche Fiat or in special editions by Beckar. This company owns a large plant in Heilbronn for the assembly of Fiat vehicles, along with a rational spare parts workshop that satisfies the needs of the entire German territory. The 1500 and 1600 convertible models - as well as the 1500 Lunga, one of Europe's most affordable mid-size cars - are completely new models. Fiat holds a press conference on the evening of Thursday, 12 September, 1963 in a large hotel, attended by many journalists, both from Germany and other countries. On this occasion, grand officer Piero Bonelli, president of Deutsche-Fiat and director of the Fiat Commercial Division, said that the Italian manufacturer faces great competition in Germany from factories with German and American capital. He also said that the Italian manufacturer was taking this challenge on well with a varied production, new models (including the 1500L), and with further strengthening of its sales and service organization. Dr. Gino Pestelli, the Fiat press-service director, was also present. The position of Italian manufacturers on the German market is very solid: in the last two years alone, almost 68.000 Italian vehicles were exported to Germany, a figure exceeded only by France. There’s no mention of lowering prices. The competitive battle between the big manufacturers in the automobile market seems to be looking for its strengths in other places: increasingly up-to-date models and essentially an improved sales and service organization.


The United States Grand Prix will be held on Sunday, 6 October, 1963 at the Watkins Glen circuit and will be the eighth round of the Formula One World Championship. This year's edition won’t count towards the World Championship, since Jim Clark and Lotus have already been crowned World Champions in the Italian Grand Prix on 8 September, 1963, for the drivers' and constructors' titles, respectively. The race, therefore, counts only for itself. Attendance is the best to date, as all teams, except Scirocco, are present. B.R.M. brings two old cars for Graham Hill and Richie Ginther. Cooper has the same cars that raced in Monza, with the removable radius arm mounts still present, although not used on this occasion. Bruce McLaren's car has a flat crankshaft engine, while Maggs' has a normal engine with an experimental dome over the intake ports. The two Brabhams are the same as those seen earlier: Jack Brabham's car features a flat crankshaft engine while Dan Gurney's car has the normal Coventry-Climax V8. Lotus enters three cars for Jim Clark, Trevor Taylor and Pedro Rodriguez. Taylor is assigned the last car, with a Hewland gearbox and engine equipped with a flat crankshaft. Clark, instead, drives the oldest car, which he has driven all season. Pedro Rodriguez will drive the car with a stock carburetor. Contrary to all rumors, Scuderia Ferrari shows up with a full team. The Maranello team brings a monocoque for John Surtees and a regular car for Lorenzo Bandini, as well as a training car. ATS enters two cars for Phil Hill and Giancarlo Baghetti; the latter is the same one used in Monza.


Phil Hill's car has been modified, with the gearbox now behind the axle. This was done by rotating the entire gearbox axle unit and putting a spacer between the engine and the axle itself to hold the system without moving the engine back. Both cars have a short radius arm from the upper linkage to the chassis, halfway to the engine. This radius arm is about half as long as the one positioned at the bottom and is similar to the one used in Monza. Reg Parnell entered three cars: a Lola-Climax for Masten Gregory and two Lotus-B.R.M.s for Roger Ward and Hap Sharp. Ward, a two-time winner at Indianapolis, makes his debut in a Formula 1 car. He raced a Midget car in the first U.S. Grand Prix in Sebring, but didn’t really count as it was just a gimmick. BRP enters two cars, but the team shows up with only one car. Jim Hall will drive a Lotus-B.R.M., while Innes Ireland will not be racing since he is still in the hospital after last week's accident in Seattle. The private entries that make up the rest of the entries consist of the three regulars, Walker's Cooper-Climax for Jo Bonnier, de Beaufort's Porsche and Jo Siffert's Lotus-B.R.M. This race’s newcomer is Peter Broeker, a Canadian driving a Stebro Mk IV. The Stebro has an FJ chassis with a regular 1.500cc Weber Ford twin-cylinder engine developing about 110 horsepower, with a Hewland gearbox. The chassis is of the multi-tubular type; the car is very low and the driver sits in a reclined position. The suspension has a broad-based double wishbone at the front, while at the rear there is a lower wishbone with an upper link and a radial arm.

The small cast wheels are held by four pins, but because there is no hole in the middle of the wheel, Dunlop tires cannot balance them out. This year’s good entries have guaranteed more pre-race publicity on newspapers, radio and TV than in previous years. Though some information has been inaccurate, such as, Scottish World Champion, red-haired Jimmy Clark..., this doesn’t change the fact that Formula 1 racing is catching on everywhere. The Club in charge of the circuit has been working to improve it every year, and by 1963 a technical building has been built. All the teams can work here instead of having to haul cars into garages after each test. The warehouse is bright both day and night, and the mechanics of the sixteen cars make good use of it. During testing, it is much easier and faster to check the car to change gears, stop oil leaks, and perform other work that would be more complicated outdoors or in the pits. Friday, 4 October, 1963, it is very cold in Watkins Glen, U.S.A. and the local stores are selling warm coats to the arriving teams. Practice begins, as scheduled, at 1:10 p.m., after a few drivers run a lap of the track following Bruce McLaren, who has a camera attached to his car for publicity purposes. This seems a bit silly after the disappointment suffered at the Nürburgring, and when Graham Hill repeats it the following day, it becomes obvious that the drivers forget quickly. Lorenzo Bandini is the first to hit the track, with Roger Ward, Jack Brabham and Jim Clark following. ATS is not off to a good start, as an oil cap jumps out of the return flow pump, sprinkling oil on the circuit. The target is last year's lap record, 1'15"0, almost a second faster than the practice time.


Graham Hill is very quick, right from the start, then returns to the pits with his teammate, while both B.R.M. drivers get out of the car to change gear ratios. After changing gears for this 3,701-kilometer circuit, Tony Maggs and Bruce McLaren soon run under 1'20"0. The Lotus team seems to have the right ratios from the start, and in the first hour Clark equals his previous lap record. Gurney is off to a good start, soon dropping to the 1'15"5 mark. After this fast lap, the mechanics discover that there is water in the oil and the car is taken back to the technical building to make repairs. John Surtees, in the Ferrari monocoque, soon drops to just 0.2 seconds off Dan Gurney's time. In the first hour, everyone does several laps, except Hap Sharp in the Lotus-B.R.M. His car has a gearbox problem caused by the clutch not retreat properly. Care Godin de Beaufort completes a single warm-up lap before his Porsche’s crankshaft breaks, and quickly makes a call to New York to have the spare part sent immediately. Pedro Rodriguez, driving the third Lotus, has some problems: he cannot disengage the clutch properly and thus cannot engage first gear from a standing start. Once the Mexican's car is fixed, he drops to a 1'20"0 time. Trevor Taylor, who now seems to have recovered from the accident, sets a 1'16"1 time before the camshaft breaks, though it fortunately does not cause too much damage. The BRP car driven by Jim Hall has ignition problems for a few laps, due to the Bendix pump needing to be replaced. Jo Siffert's Lotus-B.R.M. goes very well, coming in at 1'18"4, but the engine then begins to have some problems. The part needs to be changed and so the car is moved in order to mount the spare.

While driving, Roger Ward's wires come loose from the transistor box, but the U.S. driver is able to put them back and returns to the pits. Ward's times, meanwhile, improve steadily and drop to the 1'19"2 mark. Then, a tooth of the main pressure oil pump breaks and, before the U.S. driver realizes the loss of oil pressure, the engine stalls. Graham Hill, Jim Clark and John Surtees are very competitive and break last year's record halfway through practice, dropping to 1'13"4, 1'13"5 and 1'13"7. While pushing hard, Graham Hill's B.R.M. goes off circuit and into the area where grass and trees are present, though he luckily does not hit anything hard. Upon returning to the pits, the mechanics begin to modify the single-seater to avoid any further inconveniences. Meanwhile, Jo Bonnier's car is taken away to change a wheel bearing which broke during the practice session, before practice ends. Private driver Peter Broeker, driving a Stebro Mk IV, retires very early due to oil leaks from the engine. ATS, on the other hand, starts running quite well: Phil Hill sets a 1'17"1 time, staying consistently on this pace. This is encouraging, as previous times have not come close to those of the faster cars. As practice draws to a close, B.R.M., Lotus and Ferrari each send their best driver to run a final test. The result of these last-minute laps is that Graham Hill sets the fastest lap, with a time of 1'13"4; Jim Clark is 0.1 seconds away and Surtees is 0.1 seconds behind. In the garage, work begins immediately to prepare the cars for the next five-hour practice session, which begins at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, 5 October, 1963. The Lotus mechanics have repaired Trevor Taylor's engine using the camshaft from one of the Parnell team's engines and an assortment of valves, which needed to be changed in size to be compatible.


Jim Clark's gearbox was not working properly and was subsequently changed. It is difficult to understand what is wrong with the ATS, as the mechanics worked on parts in both cars. The experimental direct-injection engine was recklessly fitted to Phil Hill's car so that it would be ready for the next day. The second session is held on a drier and warmer day than the previous, and Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Peter Broeker, Jim Hall, Pedro Rodriguez and Phil Hill join the track as soon as it opens. Jim Clark starts pushing hard right from the start, but it is Graham Hill in the 1962 car who is the first to set a time of 1'14"0. After just a few laps, someone notices that Peter Broeker is unintentionally spreading a layer of oil along the circuit, especially on the section of the track in front of the pits. Several drivers complain, and Broeker is asked not to go out again until the oil leak problem is solved by Jo Bonnier, GPDA President, and the Race Director. Many drivers begin to think that the organizers should not have accepted his entry because the car is not competitive and the driver is not up to their standards. The amount of spilled oil forces practice to be halted for half an hour, while street sweepers and concrete are used to deal with the 500 meters affected. Practice resumes once the officials and official cars are no longer on track. After a few laps of fast driving, the mounting part of the lower right swing arm breaks off of John Surtees' car. The British driver slows down but still goes off in the area just over the edge of the hill. Lorenzo Bandini, in the second Ferrari, arrives in this part of the track and, seeing his teammate in trouble, gets close to him to ask what is wrong. Jack Brabham and Richie Ginther also arrive in the area at that moment and find two cars side by side in the narrow road ahead of them.

The B.R.M. somehow gets through, but Jack Brabham locks up and ends up in the tall grass, fortunately not hitting anything. The damaged Ferrari is taken away and, soon after, the test car is brought out of the pits with a new nose and John Surtees' number stamped on the sides. Dan Gurney's car is losing oil from part of its engine, and the team decides to replace it with a spare engine they have. Brabham’s engine problems this year seem to indicate poor preparation on Coventry-Climax’s side. The fuel-injected ATS engine is also losing a lot of oil, and Phil Hill warns the mechanics that they have no power in the top end, which is a disappointment following the previous day’s performance with the carbureted engine. Trevor Taylor's Lotus is unable to move forward with testing after a tab washer in the gearbox area broke. Following a lack of proper oil pressure, Bruce McLaren's Cooper ends testing early, while a gearbox bearing breaks in Tony Maggs' car just before the end of testing. An extra half hour has been added to practice due to the oil stop, meaning this session ends at 3:30 p.m. As the cars pull away from the pits, Trevor Taylor's Lotus has some kind of problem and a fire starts in the intake ducts and V-zone of the engine.


Fortunately, the flames are extinguished before the fire can spread, with the fire extinguishers leaving white powder sprinkled all over the car. At the end of practice, a policeman with an Alsatian dog checks all the workers, allowing the dog to jump and growl at anyone close to him, but keeping him just far enough that his fangs do not touch anyone. Though the regulations ban dogs from entering racetracks, it is obvious the police can do as they please in the United States, as they do in most countries. There’s a lot of work to do before the race and the mechanics start working hard just a few minutes after practice ends. B.R.M. promised Reg Parnell that they would lend him their spare engine in case they didn't need it, and since Richie Ginther and Graham Hill's cars are running well, Roger Ward is ready to take part in his first Formula One Grand Prix. Graham Hill's time in the first free practice is still the fastest, thus achieving pole position with an average speed of 112.81 mph, a truly fantastic speed on such a narrow and bumpy circuit. The sun sets over the circuit and fires and lamps are lit, as thousands of campers prepare to face the night; the smell of hundreds of barbecues wafts over the area surrounding the circuit.

On Sunday, 6 October, 1963, the weather is clear and dry. Everything seems perfect for the approaching race start at 2:00 p.m., while the temperature rises. As the pre-race parades are held and national flags fly, the cars line up on the starting grid. John Surtees is in the practice car, and so he positions himself on the grid according to the time set in that car. ATS, instead, mounts the same carburetor-equipped engine in Phil Hill's car. At one minute to 2:00 p.m., the cars start from the dummy grid and slowly approach the starter. This is used to avoid any problems at the start, should any car be unable to start properly. All the cars manage to move except Jim Clark's, whose Climax engine seems to show no signs of life. Tex Hopkins, the starter, drops the flag anyway, and Graham Hill emerges from the front row of the grid without Jim Clark to contend for the top spot under braking in turn one. Arriving at the first hill after the start, the two B.R.M.s of Graham Hill and Richie Ginther can already be seen ahead, followed by John Surtees and Dan Gurney. Once the dust settles, Giancarlo Baghetti's slow driving becomes noticeable. His ATS manages to complete half a lap before stalling due to a malfunctioning oil pump. The end of the first lap sees Graham Hill and Richie Ginther leading the pack and already beginning to pull away. Behind them are John Surtees, Dan Gurney, Tony Maggs, Masten Gregory, Jack Brabham, Trevor Taylor, Lorenzo Bandini, Bruce McLaren, Pedro Rodriguez, Jo Bonnier, Phil Hill, Jo Siffert, Jim Hall, Rodger Ward, Care Godin de Beaufort, and Peter Broeker.


As the last car passes in front of the pits, completing its first lap, Jim Clark's Lotus finally gets going. The pressurized fuel pump appears to be working, but the engine's failure to start has caused Clark to drain the battery in a continued attempt to start it. While the other competitors have started the race, a new battery has been fitted to the Scottish driver's car. The problem seems to solve itself, and Clark manages to start the engine by raising its revs. Meanwhile, three groups begin to form among the rest of the drivers. The first group of five consists of Graham Hill, Richie Ginther, John Surtees, Dan Gurney and Jack Brabham, the latter in fifth position after passing Tony Maggs on lap three. The second group consists of Maggs, with Rodriguez and McLaren just behind, but making a comeback after starting at the back of the grid. The third group consists of Trevor Taylor, Lorenzo Bandini and Jo Bonnier. At the front of the race, Graham Hill's B.R.M. has to keep an eye out for John Surtees’ return, who in the meantime overtakes Richie Ginther and rises to second place. On lap seven, the British driver's Ferrari also overtakes Graham Hill and tries to distance his rivals. As the race leader changes, third and fourth place see a reversal of positions too: Dan Gurney overtakes Richie Ginther and moves closer to Graham Hill. On lap 10, Gurney takes second place and begins to bother John Surtees' Ferrari. At the back of the pack, Phil Hill's second ATS is forced to retire on lap four, once again due to mechanical problems related to the oil pump.


Two laps later Hap Sharp, in 15th place up until that moment, also retires due to a broken valve. The top five cars still remain close to each other. Graham Hill stays behind Dan Gurney for seven laps, then moves back into second place, one lap before Jack Brabham overtakes Richie Ginther for fourth place; for the next nine laps, the pack holds these positions as the drivers thread each other down the straight. On lap 15, Masten Gregory brings the Lola-Climax into the pits due to an overheating engine and low oil pressure: the car is brought into the pits, declaring its retirement. Jim Clark begins to pass the cars who had lapped him, and on lap 15 he recovers 14th position. The Lotus, however, is still not doing well, and although the Scottish driver sets some very fast laps, others are slower, probably due to the fuel pump not working at full capacity. In the second group, Pedro Rodriguez and Bruce McLaren exchange positions while Tony Maggs remains a few meters behind. The third group, on the other hand, sees a continuous change of positions, until Trevor Taylor retires on lap 25 due to a transistor box failure. The other two, Jo Bonnier and Lorenzo Bandini, remain in close company in ninth and tenth place. The leaders have reached the 30 lap mark when Phil Hill approaches John Surtees again and moves into first place for two laps. John Surtees regains the lead in the following lap. Graham Hill makes another overtake two laps later, but on the next lap the British driver's Ferrari takes the lead again, with Graham Hill in his slipstream as the fantastic duel continues.


Pedro Rodriguez is in sixth place and comfortably leading the second group, until the camshaft stops turning which causes disastrous results for the engine, forcing him to retire on lap 36. Jim Clark's progress meanwhile has moved him up to eleventh place. Peter Broeker, who is driving very slowly, is told about an oil leak: the mechanics in the pits indicate the problem with a sign, asking the Canadian driver to return to the pits. However, Broeker doesn’t see his mechanics’ indications and continues to drive slowly until the end of the race. On lap 40, Jim Clark follows Jo Bonnier and Lorenzo Bandini closely, and passes both of them at the same time on lap 43. Meanwhile, Dan Gurney retires due to lack of fuel and a broken chassis. Thanks to this retirement, Jim Clark now finds himself in seventh place. As Jim Clark leaps forward and gains three places, Rodger Ward stops on the starting line with a stuck gearbox; the U.S. driver manages to restart but something does not work properly, forcing him to retire on lap 45. Tony Maggs, who is right behind Bruce McLaren, overtakes his teammate when the New Zealand driver's car begins to slow down because of a fuel problem. But even his fifth-place finish is short-lived, because on lap 45 he stops due to an engine failure. In the meantime, Graham Hill’s anti-roll bar of his rear suspension breaks, causing his car's handling to worsen. It takes the British driver a few minutes to figure out what is wrong, taking him out of Ferrari's slipstream and losing ground lap after lap.


The B.R.M. now suffers from severe understeer, and Graham Hill has to use the accelerator to keep from losing grip at the rear. Jo Siffert retires on lap 56, after having covered just over half the distance up to this point, due to a broken gearbox. Care Godin de Beaufort, on the other hand, drives in his usual steady late-race style, which leads him to gain a position with each retirement. Bruce McLaren pits twice over several laps to try to correct the misfire (due to lack of fuel) but is then forced to retire, having failed to get any improvement. During lap 76 Jo Bonnier, who is sixth, pits with a broken shock absorber. Mechanics disassemble the spring and damaged parts in a relatively short time and manage to get him out on track again. While Jo Bonnier is in the pits, Jim Hall is forced to stop on lap 76 due to a malfunctioning gearbox. With thirty laps to go John Surtees suddenly comes into the pits: the engine of his Ferrari has power problems. Graham Hill thus takes the lead, while John Surtees' car is retired during lap 82. The remaining laps go by quickly, and after 2 hours, 19 minutes, and 22.1 seconds from when the starter’s flag marked the beginning of the race, Graham Hill completes the scheduled one hundred and ten laps and crosses the finish line. He wins the U.S. Grand Prix, with an average speed of 176.879 mph. Behind Hill, with the same number of laps, is his teammate Richie Ginther, who is second at just 0.034 seconds’ distance, leading B.R.M. to a one-two finish that would’ve been difficult to predict before the race.


Jim Clark follows, with a lap to spare, having led a magnificent race after a difficult start. In fourth place, one lap behind Clark, is Jack Brabham, who finished the race with a car which suffered from many bursts and hits. Lorenzo Bandini follows, having completed one hundred and six of the one hundred and ten laps to finish in fifth place; de Beaufort and Broeker are in sixth and seventh place, respectively. Jo Bonnier, eighth, is the last of the drivers to finish the race. John Surtees, Jim Hall and Bruce McLaren, are classified as finishers despite having completed only 74 laps. The race has held the general public’s interest until the end, and Graham Hill receives a standing ovation from the spectators. It appears that heavy financial pressure was put on the organization authorizing the U.S. Grand Prix date to move the race elsewhere in 1965. Unless the Club that is trying to get the race knows something about this type of racing, the poorly run 1959 and 1960 Grand Prix could easily be repeated. The Watkins Glen organization ran the U.S. Grand Prix for three years without any drama and in a very friendly manner. Most drivers, mechanics and the press will be sorry to see such a move. It is very rare to find a race commentator who knows Formula 1, and it is even rarer to find one who cannot be criticized in some way. The reason for this phenomenon is that Stirling Moss performed fact-based commentary of the cars and drivers. European organizers could improve their English commentaries by asking Stirling Moss to do so.


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