#120 1963 Mexican Grand Prix

2021-09-13 00:00

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#1963, Fulvio Conti, Maria Macrì,

#120 1963 Mexican Grand Prix

With the approval of the FIA, the Formula 1 race on the Mexico City circuit on 27 October 1963 is part of the World Championship calendar. The previou

With the approval of the FIA, the Formula 1 race on the Mexico City circuit on 27 October 1963 is part of the World Championship calendar. The previous Grand Prix, which took place on Sunday, October 6, 1963, involved Formula 1 drivers in the United States, at the Watkins Glen circuit, for the eighth World Motor Race. A race that was unlucky for Surtees on his Ferrari, because he was forced to retire, while Clark started with a lap of delay and finally managed to finish third. Good test of Bandini while unlucky it was Brabham who faced an accident, fortunately without consequences. Graham Hill, driving a B.R.M., won this race, valid for the world championship conductors, held on the distance of one hundred and ten laps of the circuit, equal to 406 kilometers. The result confirmed the prediction of the event, based on the performance of the English conductor in the official tests. Fifty thousand spectators attended the race, which was attended by twenty-one cars, many of which, however, did not withstand the pace of the race imposed by Surtees, Hill and Ginther in the first half of the American competition.  Second was Richie Ginther and third came Jim Clark, whose car, at the time of the start, had to be brought back to the pit after for a quarter of an hour the mechanics had worked to solve a sudden ignition failure. Driving boldly, the World Champion managed to reduce the disadvantage lap by lap, and lowered the lap record to an average of 178.825 km/h. Meanwhile, in the lead, Surtees had gone over to Graham Hill and overtook him during the sixth lap, thus maintaining the first position ahead of Graham Hill himself, at Ginther and Brabham. On the 65th lap, Clark was in fifth place. Ten cars have been forced to abandon due to mechanical failures or because they went off the track.


Jim Clark continued to squeeze his car, despite already being practically 1963 world champion.Almost three quarters of the race was the elimination of Surtees whose Ferrari stopped because of a lubrication irregularity. The disappearance of Ferrari gave the green light to Graham Hill, and the race ended without history. Jack Brabham, who ended the race in fourth position, was the protagonist of a frightening and spectacular accident: in the final stage his Brabham special went off the track at a bend, did two successive heads-tails and miraculously put back in gear, without therefore serious consequences. It is in this context that the Mexican Grand Prix takes place, the ninth race of the World Championship. The circuit is located in a sports arena of 600 acres that includes 48 football fields, 55 baseball fields, 100 basketball courts, four Olympic swimming pools, countless changing rooms, children’s playgrounds and the 5-kilometer racing track. The area where the track is built is perfectly flat, like all of Mexico City, this area being a dried-up lake bed. The land belonged to an Indian tribe and when it was confiscated from the Indians it was promised that on their sacred cemetery no kind of structure would be built. So behind the graves is a walled area where you can still see the gravestones. Among the impressive things about this circuit you can appreciate the pits. Without a doubt, they are the best in the world for Grands Prix. Each box is 30 feet long by 15 feet wide: at one end there is a box counter with a lockable door; at the other end sturdy wire mesh doors, which can be locked. At the base of a wall there is a long workbench with electrical outlets: at the entrance there is a line of compressed air and a water tap.


In a pit you can work on three cars at once, not being overcrowded. Since the machine has a pit for each, the mechanics have plenty of room to arrange all their equipment. The doors at the back open into a large paddock where cars can be pushed and in which private cars or members of the public are not allowed, as far as they are willing to pay. The 5 km circuit consists, from the starting line, of a straight with a treacherous right turn followed by a left turn, a short straight, another left-right, then a straight up to a hairpin bend. From the hairpin bend a succession of four slow curves to the left and right leads to a short straight and to the slightly elevated 180° curve before the pits. The section from the hairpin bend through the slow curve became known during the race as the Mickey Mouse section. Another outstanding feature of this circuit is the barometric pressure. Mexico City is located at 7,400 feet above sea level and the normal reading of the barometer of 29.90 inches at sea level drops to 23.09 at this height. The main problem that the teams had to face was the control of the mixture.The previous year when all the entries were on the carburetors it was quite simple to change the castings to get a correct mixture. For the 1963 Grand Prix, however, most cars used fuel injection and to weaken the mixture enough it’s necessary to reshape the dosing cam. In addition to cars, the altitude - and therefore the rarefaction of the air - has its effect on drivers and mechanics; every effort makes the heart beat hard and leaves the breath short. Locals explain that it takes four or seven days to adapt, but at that point most of the participants will return home. In Mexico City there is a surprising news: the Cooper team provides two cars for McLaren and Maggs.


The fuel problem that McLaren suffered at Watkins Glen was due to the almost seized fuel pressure pump, so this was replaced. Team Lotus has three cars. Clark will have the car he drove all season, Taylor has the latest model still with the Hewland gearbox, while Pedro Rodriguez will have to drive the model with the carburetor. Scuderia Ferrari brings four cars to Mexico, three of which were shipped to Watkins Glen, namely a monocoque and two older cars, and a brand new monocoque flown directly from Modena. The new car is for Bandini and externally there is no change from the first monocoque, although minor changes have been made to the geometry of both the front and rear suspension. Surtees decided to drive the older monocoque, and the two cars preceding that remain available for practice or use if necessary. The two victorious B.R.M. at Watkins Glen are ready again for Hill and Ginther. The engines have been changed, but other than that, the cars are the same. Jack Brabham has his two cars, one for himself and one for Gurney. Jack’s car has a crank engine while Gurney’s has a normal one. The mechanics couldn’t figure out what problem slowed Gurney down at Watkins Glen, but they welded the front swinging arm support that had broken in the US Grand Prix. Reg Parnell has three cars, a Lola-Climax for Masten Gregory, a Lotus-B.R.M. for the young Chris Amon, who had almost fully recovered from the Monza accident seven weeks earlier, and a third car, a Lotus-B.R.M., for Hap Sharp. The ATS brought the two cars that had already raced at Watkins Glen, one with the gearbox hanging behind, for Phil Hill , and the other with the inboard gearbox for Baghetti.


The two engines had been sent back to Italy and returned to the team on the eve of the Mexican Grand Prix, making it necessary for a night session before the practice for the whole team. The installation of the engine is made more difficult by the fact that a tremendous tropical thunderstorm interrupts the use of the electrical system of the circuit structures, and the whole work must be done with torches and headlights. These are the main teams that will compete in the Mexican Grand Prix, while the rest of the registered competitors are all with private cars or teams. The BRP team has a Lotus-B.R.M. for Hall. Rob Walker has his Cooper-Climax for Bonnier; the crank engine used at Watkins Glen has been replaced by a normal engine, as the timing gears on the latter are not fully reusable. Siffert has his Lotus-B.R.M., on which the damaged suspension gears have been replaced and the gearbox has been rebuilt. De Beaufort has his old but reliable Porsche. The Scuderia Centro-Sud will have to dispose of the red B.R.M., complete with the escort, exchanges and English mechanic of the B.R.M. The car is destined for Moises Solana , a local Mexican driver who, although almost unknown outside Mexico, is still a good driver. The last of the 22 members is an American, Frank Dochnal. The latter will participate in the competition with an old 4-cylinder Cooper-Climax, which had been Maggs' car before driving a car with a V8 engine. Before the start of the tests, the mechanics of the B.R.M. The team are installing new measuring cams on all the private cars that use their engines. The practice began Friday, October 25, 1963, at 1:00 p.m., with all competitors ready to take to the track. 


The first to try on the Track of Mexico City is Jim Clark who, as record holder on the lap, 1'59"7, scored in 1963, has a goal to aim for. The only difference in the circuit is that the elevated curve before the finish line is flattened and smooth, but this will not affect the timing much. Clark is followed by Bonnier, McLaren, Bandini and Taylor. While the latter complete their first lap and the other drivers exit the pits, officials slow down the cars because it is reported that a dog is inside the track. Clearing the circuit, Clark recovers immediately and in a few laps marks a time of 2'00"5. Then he goes back to the pits complaining of not being able to get the maximum rpm/ motor.Taylor follows him, but his car can’t get past 9.400 laps, even with low gears. One after the other the cars return to the pits with similar problems and in each box continue the work of weakening the mixture. Brabham overtakes the old Cooper of Dochnal in front of the pits, waving and telling the American to use his mirrors; one lap after the Cooper is the victim of a spin and the car damages the rear suspension, on the opposite side of the circuit, where it remains until the end of the rehearsal. While working on Clark’s car, the Scottish driver takes to the track with Taylor’s car to make some practice laps, which is not noticed by the timekeepers. The ATS team is in trouble: Phil Hill’s car is not going very well, the Weber fuel jets change, mounted on the engine, improve this aspect, but when the American driver accelerates the hot oil jumps on his shoulder from the vent. After a few laps, Phil Hill’s car was moved to the back box to be repaired, and shortly after, it followed that of Baghetti, who had oil circulation problems.

Both the B.R.M. seem competitive, given that the drivers score times of about 2'02"0, although Graham Hill complains that his car is empty, but this resolves to some extent when it turns out that two wires on the Lucas ignition system are crossed. Later, with a properly balanced mixture, Hill lowered his limit to 2'00"0. Graham Hill does not feel very well, due to a sinusitis caused by the sea water of the waterfalls of the charming seaside resort of Acapulco. Rodriguez only makes a few laps when the distribution chain of his Climax engine breaks, causing a lot of damage. Unfortunately, Team Lotus doesn’t have a spare carburettor engine, then the mechanics start to disassemble the engine to see if this can be repaired using components borrowed from the engines used in the US Grand Prix by other teams, not used for this race. When he gets his Lotus back, Trevor Taylor completes a few more laps than his teammate, but soon returns to the pits to change the gear ratios. On the car of the BRP team there is a curious problem of water loss from the chassis, which is readily welded during the tests.Both Brabhams are competitive, and in particular Dan Gurney seems to be more comfortable than Jack Brabham. The Cooper team works long to find the right engine carburetor, but McLaren can only score a time of 2'02"0. The Ferrari team is not very happy, because it has difficulty getting the right mixture, and it takes a long time before Surtees can score a time under 2 minutes. Clark’s car was again driven out of the pits in the middle of the tests, and the Scottish driver proceeded to make very fast laps, culminating in a time of 1 '58' '8, at an average speed of 151.51 km/h.


Chris Amon is unable to pick up the pace quickly enough, while Gregory complains that the oil pressure on his Lola’s engine is still rising, as had already happened to Watkins Glen. After a careful examination by his mechanics we find the lack of an oil pipe on the tank, which had been adjusted after the accident on the Monza circuit, so the mechanics are working to reassemble it in view of the race. An hour after the end of the practice a light rain began to fall, and most of the cars were removed from the pits to be prepared for the four-hour training session, which took place on Saturday, November 2, 1963. At 5:00 p.mTherefore, the track is cleared and the first test session is finished. During the night there is great excitement in the garages of the circuit of Mexico City. Lotus mechanics manage to get a piece of the Renolds bicycle chain from a shop in town, and start rebuilding the damaged engine. They replace the four exhaust valves, but when the team tries to start the engine, because the timing is at 180, the latter does not start. Ferrari replaced Surtees' engine overnight, as the fuel pump was not working properly. Frank Dochnal tries to repair his 4-cylinder Cooper-Climax, but does more damage than could easily be repaired with a hammer and a welding machine. Dochnal blamed the Goodyear tires for the accident, saying they had no grip because of the rain that was beginning to fall on the circuit. The ATS team works all night again, taking both cars apart. So, the mechanics find out that in the few laps that Phil Hill managed to make, the bearings have begun to break.


The same problem is found on the car of Giancarlo Baghetti. After the Italian Grand Prix, two extra recovery pumps were installed, because the excess oil in the cup - which was lowered by 8 millimeters - made the engine lose power. Since this change was made, there have been significant problems with bearings and oil pressure pumps. During the night the two additional pumps are removed, in the hope that the cars can continue the tests regularly. During the first session on the Cooper of Maggs the clutch housing had broken; a problem not new this year. Therefore, during the night a welded spare part is mounted, transported by the team in each race field for such emergencies. As the time for the start of training increases, the intensity of the rain increases and, except for two breaks of a quarter of an hour and a half an hour before the end, it will rain throughout the afternoon. In the fifteen minutes after the opening of the track no driver moves, then Solana comes out of the pits and a lap later he is joined by Phil Hill and Giancarlo Baghetti. The pace is slow, as in some parts of the track there are large and deep pools of water. Ginther is out half an hour after the start of practice and improves constantly, starting from the first lap in which he scores a time of 2'30"0, up to the limit of 2'20"0. When the rain is reduced in intensity, Chris Amon, Graham Hill and John Surtees take to the track. After only two laps, Graham Hill’s car suddenly slows down in front of the pits, and returns at the end of the lap indicating the presence of dogs inside the track.


This problem will occur several times during practice, bringing many worries to the drivers. While the rain falls profusely, Solana, thanks to the large number of laps he completes, is the fastest at the end of the first hour of tests. Several times, while struggling, he is signaled to enter the pits, but the Mexican driver ignores all the signals of his mechanics. The ATS sounds a bit sharper than in the first tests, but Phil Hill is still having trouble with the gearbox. When the American driver climbs the gear, the transition from the third to the second can be made only after shaking the lever a lot.  With the calm of the rain, Jim Clark makes a brief appearance and in a few laps is four seconds faster than anyone else, thanks to a time of 2'10"6. His teammate, Trevor Taylor, made some practice laps, dropping to 2'18"0, when a shot in the first gear, that the British driver uses to face the hairpin, pushes him to have to go back to the pits, to discover that a cog in the gear of the first gear has broken, and that there is no spare component. Both Hall on the BRP Lotus-Climax and Gurney on the Brabham are in the pits for gearbox problems, and emerge almost at the end of practice. The Rodriguez engine is started but the oil pressure does not rise on the pressure gauge, so the engine is removed and the transmission of the oil pump is found to be broken. This engine, which is a long-running Climax compared to Clark and Taylor, should run 1.000 laps less on the short-stroke units, compared to the other two Team Lotus cars. Unfortunately Rodriguez never believed this indication, and thinking he was deliberately slowed down, until his retirement during the previous Grand Prix, held in the United States, at the Watkins Glen circuit, the Mexican driver has constantly exaggerated the use of the maximum power of his engine, undoubtedly causing the current problems in Mexico.

Towards the end of the tests some parts of the track begin to dry, so that in the last few minutes there is a general exodus of the drivers from the pits, to make the most of the time left. They are absent from this group Jim Clark, who has the same problem that had found Graham Hill the previous day, the two Cooper drivers, who can not continue until the end of practice and Maggs, who after a few does not show up at the finish, due to the breakdown of the transmission of the oil pump, which involves some hours of night work for the mechanics. The fastest in this second free practice lap was Jack Brabham, the only driver to improve the time of the previous day, thanks to a time trial of 2'03"6. Sunday, November 3, 1963 the sky above Mexico City is cloudy, but it does not rain. During the morning the gearbox on Jim Clark’s car was dismantled and rebuilt, to prevent him from jumping from the second gear. Taylor will not use the first gear, due to the loss of the tooth in the gear. The repair of the Lotus of Rodriguez is completed at 4:00 am. Maggs borrows Walker’s flat crank engine, although this has been used throughout the US Grand Prix weekend. Ferrari heats one of the test cars, setting aside the #23; then, however, the leakage of water drawn from the monocoque is healed and the older car is taken away, to leave room for the new one. The cars are brought to the starting line, while the drivers take a ride in Ford cars, granted by the organizers in the form of courtesy. Returning to the pits, all the drivers shake hands with the President of Mexico, and then most of them make a warm-up lap with their car. Fortunately the rain, which was scheduled for today, does not occur in a copious way on the circuit of Mexico City.


On the starting line John Surtees asks to lower the tyre pressure to his mechanics but Foghieri opposes, and the English driver gives up the request because he has no time to discuss with the technical director of Ferrari. The flag was lowered at 2:30 p.m. starting the second Mexican Grand Prix, the first for the World Championship. Clark immediately leaps into the lead, while behind him on the B.R.M. of Graham Hill he skips a march, and the British driver loses precious time reinserting the first. At the end of the first lap Jim Clark leads the group, followed by Surtees, Gurney, McLaren, Ginther, Brabham, Bandini, Hill, Gurney and Rodriguez. The latter goes from 20th place on the grid to tenth place, but in order to do so you can glimpse in front of Siffert, he turns and bypasses the rough grass, which takes away the command to the petrol pump. This inconvenience forced the Mexican driver to make a pit stop at the end of his first lap. From the second lap, the gap between Clark and the rest of the group began to widen. Gurney moved into second place, with Surtees slipping to third. In the meantime Ginther passes McLaren and wins the fourth place, while the group that follows the first five starts to open. On the third lap the top three positions remain unchanged while Brabham overtakes McLaren and takes the fifth position, and two laps later also overtakes Ginther, for the fourth position. On the third lap Baghetti returns to the pits with the engine that has ignition problems, and after some adjustments made by the mechanics back on track. However, whatever the problem in the carburetors, the mechanics can not solve it and the Italian driver is forced to return to the pits after the eighth lap.


The car is pushed into the paddock, then reappears shortly after to make a lap on the track. Baghetti made a couple of laps, then returned to the pits during the eleventh lap. In this case, the organizers urged the driver and the team to withdraw, also because - in their opinion - it should not have returned to the track, after the car had been pushed into the paddock. Meanwhile the leading positions begin to settle. Clark manages to create a reasonable advantage over Gurney, who is far ahead of Surtees. He follows Jack Brabham, who precedes Ginther and McLaren. Behind this group, in seventh position, Graham Hill is followed by Lorenzo Bandini, and after a short gap Rodriguez, Bonnier and Maggs reach the finish line. Gregory and Solana are closing. The latter overtook Gregory during the fourth lap, but was revised to the next lap. For several laps the advantage remained constant but during the eighth lap Maggs returned to the pits and withdrew, as the bearings borrowed give way for fatigue. On lap nine Chris Amon went back to the pits and retired with the fourth tip of the course change in the middle of the straight. After the first two laps Graham Hill passes Bandini, but the Ferrari driver does not miss the B.R.M. and on lap 12 the English driver passes and starts to create a considerable distance on the British car. During the twelfth lap Bonnier slowly returned to the pits due to a puncture to the left rear tire, which brought him down from tenth to sixteenth place, just behind Phil Hill. Surtees, third, does not seem very happy with the behavior of his car, because in the long and fast curve that precedes the pits the single-seater understeers to the point that blue smoke is produced by his front left tire for almost 200 meters, towards the end of the curve.


With this type of maneuver the Ferrari driver cannot stop Brabham, who passes him on lap 15. Four laps later Surtees went back to the pits to lower the rear tyre pressure; after the operation was completed, the British driver discovered that the starter did not work. Then, while the car is being pushed, officials intervene and refuse to let the Ferrari driver out of the box area, and after several attempts to reboot the car is brought into the paddock. The reason for the bad maneuverability of the car is due to the front suspension that was slowly collapsing, with the risk that the driver may lose control of the car and run into an accident. On the same lap as Surtees leaves the scene, Trevor Taylor retires due to a broken cam and the bearings mis performing their work. During the twenty-third lap Masten Gregory, who from a few laps is ninth, returns to the pits with a rear arm dangling towards the ground.  The bolt that fastens it to the frame has broken, and cannot be replaced. Then, during the twenty-sixth lap, Graham Hill got closer to Lorenzo Bandini and managed to overtake him. In the lead Clark is still keeping the tremendous pace with which he had started, constantly turning in 1'59"0. At the end of lap 26 the Scottish driver had a 25-second lead over Gurney, who in turn enjoyed a 13-second lead over Brabham. Then, one minute behind Clark, followed by Ginther and McLaren, and four seconds behind Graham Hill and Lorenzo Bandini. Eighth in the course of lap 26 is Rodriguez, who goes back to the pits with the smoke coming out of the back of his car. The reason for this is that the top connection and the shock mount have detached from the monocoque, allowing the entire car to make turns at a particular angle.


This is the oldest monocoque present within the starting group; nevertheless, it is the first time a failure of this type has occurred on these cars. Halfway through the race McLaren began to slow down, so both Graham Hill and Lorenzo Bandini managed to overtake him. At the end of the thirtieth lap the Cooper of the New Zealand driver returns to the pits with a broken camshaft. The group of participants is now reduced to thirteen cars. Last is Siffert, who lost a lot of time in the early stages, preceded by de Beaufort. Siffert loses further time turning at the last bend of the Mickey Mouse section, but keeps the engine running and starts again immediately. Phil Hill is tenth, and in this phase of the race he seems to be very aggressive. Sharp and Hall are in eighth and ninth place, and in particular the latter seems a bit offensive on some occasions. Solana is in seventh place, and he drives very consistently. The first six places remain unchanged in the following laps: Graham Hill uses all the width of the road, which he can have, to stay in front of Bandini, and at the same time he has to keep the gear lever in place, otherwise he jumps out of gear. As Gurney begins to have the usual fuel pressure problems he drops from 60 to 40 pounds, and as he begins to have uneven operation Braham slowly gains on him. During the 34th lap the Australian went into second place. Two laps after the Ferrari engine mounted on the car of Lorenzo Bandini suddenly switched to five cylinders, repeating exactly the same problem that had found the engine mounted on the single-seater of Surtees at Watkins Glen. The Italian driver returned to the pits and retired at the end of the thirty-sixth lap. Bonnier, who was slowly catching up after the pit stop, overtook Hall on lap 33, and then did the same with Sharp on lap 38 and Solana on lap 42, placing sixth. On the same lap Ginther managed to recover Gurney’s Brabham and went into third place, despite the American B.R.M.driver, like his teammate, having to hold the lever to prevent him from jumping the gear.


Phil Hill, who in the process of losing positions, fails to show up at the finish line at the end of his 41st lap because, in the section of the circuit called jokingly Mickey Mouse, a mounting of the lower rear oscillating arm detaches from the chassis, creating the precondition for withdrawal. On lap 45, Gurney went back to the pits with his feet flooded with gasoline. To try to stop the engine failing to start, the American pilot had turned on the spare fuel tank, but since no secondary tank was installed the fuel came out of the main tanks and fell right over his feet. Having turned off the tap, Dan is unable to turn off the flow of gasoline from the tank, so he is forced to enter the pits to do this. Siffert’s progress at the back of the pack led him to de Beaufort, which he passed on lap 48. During the fifty-sixth lap Solana’s engine breaks down, and the Senor Dei comes almost a blow when his B.R.M. slowly passes in front of the pits with oil and smoke coming out of the rear of the car. During the next lap the Mexican driver enters the pits with broken spikes and retires, amid the disappointment of the Solana family who wanted to see the young man continue to the final finish line. Towards the end of the race, Bonnier reached Gurney and passed him, gaining the fifth place. Graham Hill was spun during lap 59, just after the hairpin, and lost sixteen seconds, allowing Jim Clark to approach to pass him. When Clark takes the checkered flag, only three cars manage to finish the race at full laps. Brabham is second, at a distance of 1'41"1, with Ginther closing with about thirteen seconds behind the Australian driver. Fourth is Graham Hill, rounded. The race is won by the Scottish driver at an average speed of 150.125 km/h. Jim Clark also achieved the fastest lap in 1'58"1, at an average speed of 152.413 km/h. A satisfying race, even if not exciting, but which produced a series of technical difficulties not found in any other Grand Prix.


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