The 1963 World Championship for Formula 1 drivers and cars took place in East London, South Africa, its last seasonal episode. The world title is virtually awarded to Jim Clark and for this reason, in this respect, the South African race has no practical value. On the other hand, it has an importance on the technician, for the possibility that Ferrari can beat the British brands: a feat that this season is only once, on the Nurburgring circuit. The events that characterize the various tests of the World Championship during the 1963 season are known: an initial superiority, without reservations, of the Clark Lotus binomial; then a progressive comeback of John Surtees and Ferrari who after some uncertain joke had arrived at the decisive event that took place in Monza.
Now, in South Africa, it is not so much a matter of establishing a matter of overall superiority of one or the other driver, of one or the other car (the verdict is already there, and can leave no doubt)as to have some indication of march with the balance of power with which you start the next march, the wonderful next spring, the championship 1964. The new Ferrari Ferrari first gear, Saturday 14 December 1963 in Johannesburg, Surtees won with some ease; in recent days, during the tests for the South African Grand Prix the English driver himself, in excellent shape, he set the best times with his Ferrari on the lap of the East London circuit where the race is held today.
If Surtees could win against the teams Lotus, B.R.M. and Brabham, the technical balance would be restored, and above all it would create interesting conditions for the upcoming season. John Surtees (who is joined by Lorenzo Bandini), Clark on Lotus, Graham Hill on BRM Brabham and Gurney on Brabham, will still be the protagonists. In theory, Clark should have no interest in battling for a victory that would simply mean prestige. But it is not in the temperament of the Scottish new World Champion to be content with a role of compression. The fight, therefore, will be, and lively, right between Clark and Surtees. The East London circuit, very busy and relatively slow, measures 3920 meters. II Grand Prix is held on 85 laps, equal to 333.200 kilometers.
With the high cost of transporting drivers, cars and mechanics in anticipation of the trip to South Africa, the RAC of South Africa invites two cars for each of the main teams, and a large number of local drivers. Team Lotus brings two Type 25s for Clark and Taylor. The Scotsman will drive the same car used during the championship, while Taylor’s car is new, and is the same used at the Earls Court Exhibition. In the recent Rand Grand Prix the sun had been so hot that fuel was evaporating in the Lucas pressure pump. To prevent this from happening in East London, the fuel pump of both cars is moved in front of the radiator, so that the freshest air moves on it.
Ferrari came to South Africa for the first time with three cars, which will be made available to Surtees and Bandini, including two monocoques with V6 engine, while the third training car is an old car with tubular chassis and V6 engine. The car of Surtees mounts a long screen in perspex, while that of Bandini has a shorter screen and more vertical. On all cars the steering joints have been strongly widened and then sealed with polyethylene covers, to avoid that the sand and heat can affect the steering maneuverability. The problems that had been experienced in Mexico were more or less solved with a series of minor changes to the chassis and suspensions.
The BRM deploys the cars they used last year in East London. With the development constantly proceeding on the new car, B.R.M. sends only three mechanics and the two drivers. Jack Brabham brings two cars to South Africa, one for himself and one for Dan Gurney. Neither has changed since the last race. The Cooper team also remains unchanged, with McLaren and Maggs driving the usual cars. The only difference between them is that Maggs' car is equipped with the flat crank engine, while McLaren has the normal engine. The only entry of a European private driver is granted to Jo Bonnier, who will race aboard the Cooper-Climax RRC Walker team. The Swedish driver is at his last championship event with this car, since next year he will drive the new Brabham-B.R.M.
The local drivers, who will take part in the South African Grand Prix, will race with different cars and engines. The only factor in common will be the use of Dunlop tires. Enrie Pieterse will race with a Lotus with 4-cylinder Climax engine. Paddy Driver will have a Lotus-B.R.M. with V8 engine, equipped with Weber carburetors and Colotti gearbox. Doug Serrurier entered with two cars and two different numbers, but in reality he only had one car, his LDS-Alfa. This car is fitted with a 1.497 cc Giulietta engine, with two double-body Weber carburetors. The gearbox is a five-speed Hewland. Peter de Klerk will race with an Alfa Special car, equipped with a Giulietta engine and a five-speed Porsche gearbox. John Love brings to East London his Cooper-Climax 4 cylinder 1961, with AEC transistor ignition.
Sam Tingle uses an LDS-Alfa (The LDS is a team founded by Louis Douglas Serrurier; this will participate in some of the South African Grand Prix editions in the second half of the sixties. Already in December 1961 Serrurier had debuted his car, called MK1 and based on the design of Cooper, in some Grand Prix not valid for the World Championship held in his country. The car and motorized Alfa Romeo. The official debut took place in 1962, the year in which the car, driving the same Serrurier, left the race after starting fourteenth. For many seasons the same car will be engaged alone in the South African Grand Prix) similar to that of Serrurier.
Brausch Niemann will drive a Lotus-Ford Junior 1.500 with Hewland five-speed gearbox. Small curiosity: at the weighing this will need 140 pounds of lead to bring it to the minimum weight required for regulation. David Prophet has a Brabham-Ford Junior with a 1,500 cc Ford Cosworth engine and a five-speed Hewland gearbox. The last of the local drivers is Trevor Blokdyk, who will drive an old Cooper-Maserati.
This should be the complete enrolment group; however, Carel Godin de Beaufort, who is kindly refused the request for financial registration for an application, still presents himself, and following some other people he is allowed to replace Mike Hailwood, because Lola will not arrive, but will have to qualify with a follow-up time of less than 1'37"0 like all the other drivers. The organizers seem to be certain that the Dutch driver will not qualify, since his best time in 1962, with the same car, was only 1'39"3.
The first training, which took place on Boxing Day, Friday, December 26, 1963 at 1:30 p.m., in a warm afternoon with a cool breeze from the Indian Ocean, enjoyed the participation of all competitors. The first to take to the track are Trevor Taylor, Bruce McLaren and Jim Clark. The goals, which were set for them in relation to the results of 1962, are 1'31"0, the fastest lap in the race, and 1'28"9, the fastest lap in practice, both scored by Jim Clark. Both Lotus quickly returned to the pits with gearbox selection problems that were resolved thanks to the intervention of the mechanics, although Jim Clark will still have difficulty entering the third gear during the session. Surtees starts shooting in 1'32"9, immediately followed by Graham Hill.
The two monocoque Ferraris do not behave very well, so Lorenzo Bandini decides to use the spare car, Surtees tries to solve the problem. Jim Clark gets on track with both Lotus, and scores a time of 1'31"8. After the first series of tests, the work done in the pits by the mechanics begins to solve the problems encountered by the drivers. Graham Hill’s BRM changes gearbox ratios, as does Surtees' Ferrari. of the work done by South African mechanics are very amateur; for example:
The car of Richie Ginther suffers from a slight split in the radiator, which makes welding necessary at the end of training. John Surtees is the first driver to exceed the limit of 1'30"0, scoring a time of 1'29"8, although the driveability of Ferrari is not yet excellent. A number of private subscribers qualified in the first practice, but Carel Godin de Beaufort, Patty Driver and David Prophet could not get below the limit of 1'37"0, as requested by the organizers. The tests conclude with Surtees time as a reference, followed by Brabham and Gurney.Graham Hill’s B.R.M. requires the use of a lot of oil, which indicates an internal rupture, so the engine needs to be replaced.
The next session is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 27, 1963; at this session all the competitors are not cool even if the atmosphere is faster. Bonnier, Love, Tingle and Blokdyk are the four missing. The first step on track is Jim Clark, with the gears now correctly. Within five minutes the Scottish driver resumed the pace, and in about twenty laps he completed most of the distance with a rhythm of 1'28"9, the same time marked during the practice sessions of the 1963 South African Grand Prix. During the lap Jim Clark thinks that being the fastest lap, the shift of the gearbox breaks as he approaches the third gear and the car is brought to the pits.
Clark ended the session early, both drivers of the Brabham team ran very fast laps, in 1'29"0 and 1'29"1 while for Jack Brabham and Dan Gurney respectively. Neither Cooper is going very fast, but showing no signs of failure. The Scuderia Ferrari mechanics are trying to change the car’s set-up on Friday, but John Surtees is no better at scoring a time than the one he scored during the Prophet’s tests starts from the pits but stops after only 200 meters with a valve bent, so his mechanic removes the head of the engine to the pits and replaces the valve; de Beaufort manages to fall below the limit of 1'37"0 required by the organizers to qualify, thanks to a time of 1'36"6.
The Dutch driver also qualified, leaving Prophet still out after the second test. The final training takes place after six and a half hours of break, when the sun and temperature are high and a strong wind blows from the sea. The probability of an increase in the time limit is very high. However, running very hard and countersteering in several corners, Graham Hill improved his time by o.1 seconds, while his teammate, Richie Ginther, managed to lower his limit by another 0.8 seconds. David Prophet, after several attempts, managed to score a time of 1'35"5, which allowed him to qualify for the Grand Prix.
However, the British driver is the victim of an unpleasant accident when along the straight a steering arm breaks causing the exit of the road. Fortunately, the driver remains unharmed but the car turns into a wreck, with the front almost completely detached. Jim Clark did not improve the time he scored in the morning but was finally satisfied with the car’s behavior, and was able to use the elusive third gear shift. The Ferrari team is not happy yet. The bottom engine torque is so bland that both drivers lose a lot of time coming out of the corners. Rehearsals conclude at 16:00 with Clark, Brabham and Gurney starting from the front row.
Most cars just need preparation for the race. The only cars in which the mechanics were called to carry out repairs are the Cooper-Climax of Bruce McLaren, which were replaced during the night, which has a Porsche of Beaufort, which has a valve folded inside the engine head. But unlike the rest of the competitors, without the help of the mechanics, it is the same Dutch driver to change the engine, subsequently taking the car on the road. Which is why you’ll be fined by a cop in the city of East London.
Sunday, December 28, 1963 in East London, South Africa, the day is hot and windy, to the point that sometimes some gusts cause almost a storm. Before the Grand Prix, the organizers hold a race party with two motorcycle races and two car races, but these end at lunchtime, while Formula 1 cars begin to warm up in the paddock. Surtees' Ferrari has an electrical failure that causes panic for the whole team, so for almost two hours the mechanics try to charge the battery. All the components are changed, the wiring examined and, while the cars themselves are transported on the grid, the electric charge returns to the highest level and the voltage in the Ferrari team is loosened.
The cars line up on a false grid, and thirty seconds from the start the engines will start. At 3:00 p.m. the driver lowered the flag, starting the tenth South African Grand Prix. After the Brabham of Dan Gurney manages to start better and conquer the first place by exploiting the long straight, it is Clark to lead the group at the end of the first lap, followed by Surtees and the two Brabham. Trevor Taylor is fifth, followed by Bandini, McLaren, Ginther and Graham Hill, who in turn precede Maggs, Bonnier and Love, more detached. To close the group are Pieterse, Tingle, Serrurier, Prophet, Nieman, Blokdyk, de Klerk and de Beaufort. The order of the classification, at the end of the second lap, remains the same. Nieman returns to the pits with the gearbox jammed, which fortunately is freed by his mechanics.
The lead remained unchanged for the next two laps, with Clark managing to create a huge advantage over Surtees and the two Brabhams, trying to pass Ferrari. On the third lap Sam Tingle retires with the transmission shaft broken, and on the fourth lap, with a cloud of smoke pouring from the rear car, the South African driver Enrie Pieterse brings his Lotus-Climax to the pits to retreat with a hole in the box that covers the camshafts, caused by a nut that has been sheared and flew forcefully outside, through the lid. The situation on the fifth lap is always the same, as for the first positions, despite the Brabham starting to become threatening against the Ferrari of Surtees, while Bandini, sixth, exaggerates in a corner, letting pass McLaren, Ginther and Graham Hill.
Trevor Taylor, fifth, during the climb fails to engage the lower gear, he spins and, before starting again, drops to tenth position behind Maggs who also has problems with the gearbox. Brabham’s efforts to overtake Ferrari caused some malfunction to the engine, which dropped by 700 rev/minute, slowing it considerably. On lap seven, Surtees was overtaken by Gurney, but five laps later the Ferrari driver regained third place. In the eighth and ninth place Maggs and Bandini compete with each other; on the fifth and sixth lap Bandini is in the lead, then Maggs overtakes the Ferrari that is also overtaken by Taylor, who is intent on recovering ground as a result of the spin of which he was a victim. During the ninth lap Trevor Taylor passes Maggs, and Bandini approaches the tail of Maggs' car. The next lap Bandini managed to pass Maggs and even if the South African driver tried to recover the position, he would not be able to regain the ninth position.
At the end of the tenth lap Jim Clark was eleven seconds ahead of Gurney, and turns in 1'30"8. When Brabham began to slow down, Graham Hill began to gain ground against the Australian driver, with McLaren and Ginther just behind. On lap 15, Graham Hill passed Brabham and Ginther passed McLaren. Three laps later the American driver, aboard his B.R.M., takes fifth place, behind Graham Hill, while Brabham backs. Taylor then overtook Brabham and the positions stabilized for the next ten laps. The British driver David Prophet takes a few steps ahead, overtaking Blokdyk and de Klerk, getting in the middle of the race in the fifteenth position. Nieman’s problems continue even after he unlocks the gearbox, and on lap 17 he is back in the pits with a loose exhaust.
In the middle of the race, Clark has an unassailable lead. During lap 43, Surtees, who was still third, suddenly returned to the pits to retire after the engine exploded and emitted a cloud of smoke in the fast downhill corner. And on lap 44 of Ginther’s B.R.M. engine, a transmission shaft breaks. Again, the driver is forced to retire. Three laps later Trevor Taylor goes back into the pits and exposes his mechanics to the feeling of having problems with the gear shift selector; here it turns out that a locking bolt on the selector mechanism has loosened, and when tightened Taylor returns to the race, after losing three positions. During the forty-ninth lap, from the pits you can see the Brabham-Ford of the Prophet approaching on the grass, since the pressure of the oil - which was falling - disappears completely.
Nieman, who is last after making his first pit stop, returns to the pits on lap 50 to refuel. However, when you press the start button the engine does not turn on and the battery must be changed before resuming the race. The South African driver came back with nineteen laps behind Jim Clark. Peter de Klerk, penultimate, retired during lap 54 with a broken gearbox. Meanwhile Trevor Taylor passes Love and takes ninth place. For the next fifteen laps the positions remain unchanged. While Maggs returned to the pits due to a foot problem, Serrurier also returned because his car’s radiator lost slightly, and Blokdyk refueled. Fortunately their respective pit stops are short, and do not affect their positions.
The race enters its final phase. During the seventieth lap Jack Brabham is the victim of a spin in which he smashes the fuel tank, so he is forced to return to the pits with gasoline flowing everywhere, and retire. The only other variation of the positions before the checkered flag concerns Blokdyk, who passes Serrurier three laps from the end, winning the eleventh place. Two hours, 10 minutes and 36.9 seconds after the start of the Grand Prix the checkered flag ended the race, with Clark winning by a 1.7 lead over Dan Gurney, and a lap ahead of Graham Hill, third at the finish line. Jim Clark triumphantly finished the 1963 season and the World Championship, winning the South African Grand Prix and reconfirming himself as the most deserving of that title of World Champion he had already won in September at Monza.
Among other things, the great Lotus driver has scored, with today, seven victories out of ten Grand Prix valid for the 1963 title: an exploit that no one before him had managed to achieve. Even on the East London circuit, in front of 100.000 spectators, Clark had practically no rivals. As his temperament dictates, he left like a fury, and it took only a few kilometers to get rid of the company of Surtees (on Ferrari), Brabham (on Brabham) and the outgoing World Champion Graham Hill (on B.R.M.). Considering that no one could have taken away his world title, whatever his performance in the South African Grand Prix, if the Scotsman had avoided committing himself there would have been nothing to object to. And instead, demonstrating the pride of the authentic champion, Clark has not spared himself nor his formidable Lotus.