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#159 1967 Italian Grand Prix

2021-09-14 01:00

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#159 1967 Italian Grand Prix

On Sunday, September 10, 1967, all the drivers who are part of the small elite of Formula 1, the most exciting and spectacular form of the motorsport

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On Sunday, September 10, 1967, all the drivers who are part of the small elite of Formula 1, the most exciting and spectacular form of the motorsport world, will be together at Monza for the Italian and European Grand Prix. Everyone will be there: 30-year-old New Zealander Denny Hulme, who so far has produced wonders at the wheel of the Repco-Brabham, and who now leads the standings with 43 points; reigning World Champion Jack Brabham, whose nickname is “the old man” due to his forty years of age, but is still an excellent driver, as evidenced by his second place in the standings, with 34 points. And then the others: from British drivers such as Jack Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart and John Surtees, to Dan Gurney and Bruce McLaren, to the current season's revelation, young Belgian driver Jacky Ickx. There are also three Italian drivers: Ludovico Scarfiotti, Giancarlo Baghetti and Andrea De Adamich. Scarfiotti, who recently left Ferrari, will be at the wheel of the Eagle-Westlake, an American single-seater car, entrusted to him by colleague and friend Dan Gurney. This is the first time the driver from the Marche region will race in a car that hasn’t been built in Maranello. Baghetti will have the third official Lotus at his disposal and will thus benefit from the same assistance as Clark and Hill, while De Adamich will drive a Cooper-Maserati. The driver from Trieste is already known for his success in Touring Cars and Prototypes, but this will be his Grand Prix debut. According to official reports, it appears that Ferrari is intent on fielding only one car, entrusted to Chris Amon. The various negotiations to engage Scottish driver Jackie Stewart or the Belgian Jacky Ickx were not productive for various reasons. Many, however, are convinced that Enzo Ferrari will bring a second car onto the track at the last moment.

 

During the press conference held by Dr. Pietro Manci, director of the Automobile Club Milano and organizer of the race, on Wednesday, September 6, 1967, many names were mentioned. Jonathan William remains the most likely. In all, so far, there are twenty drivers registered for the Grand Prix. The competition is scheduled for Sunday, September 10, 1967, and will begin at 3:30 p.m. Practice takes place on Friday, September 8, 1967, from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and on Saturday, September 9, 1967, from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. There always seems to be plenty of time available for practice at Monza, with three hours on Friday afternoon and another three hours on Saturday. Most drivers do a preliminary lap in the first hour, then a lot of time is spent making various adjustments, and the middle of the afternoon is very quiet. It is also very hot, so there is a general air of anticipation until dusk, as practice goes on until late afternoon. A thousand people are expected to mobilize, including officials, a hundred or so race officials, and various service workers. Tradition brings the Italian Automobile Grand Prix of Italy back to Formula 1 fans every year during the month of September. The most important Italian motorsport event is in its usual setting at the Monza national racetrack. This year, the race comes at a cost of about 50.000.000 liras. The race, which on this occasion also carries the title of European Grand Prix, is valid for the Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship and is the ninth race of the season. This means that the best racers and racing cars of the moment will be present, showcasing the highest limits of technical evolution. The formulas, which are periodically changed, are nothing more than regulations designed to put the manufacturers on a theoretical level playing field. This season’s Formula 1, introduced in 1966, prescribes engines with a displacement of no more than 3.000 cc, and a minimum car weight (with water and oil but no fuel) of 500 kilograms.

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On this basis, this year’s cars have been built close to or even more than 400 horsepower, and with weights just slightly higher than the limit. These mechanical vehicles turn out to be so light that, with the driver on board and with a full tank of fuel, their weight comes to about 750 kilograms, which is little more than a Fiat 500 with a driver and two passengers. Propelled by such frightening power, they are extremely difficult to drive and require exceptional awareness from the drivers. This is why there are barely two dozen Formula 1 drivers worldwide. The Grand Prix is held on the 5.750-meter-long road course of the Lombardy autodrome, over a distance of 68 laps. The circuit requires speed and endurance from the engine but not too much skill from the driver, though driving at over 225 km/h is by no means easy. Monza is not like the Nurburgring, where a brilliant driver can compensate for a slow car. In the World Championship races held so far, Brabham has won five times, both with its manufacturer Jack Brabham (current title holder) and the no-longer-young New Zealander Denis Hulme; Lotus, also British-built, has won twice with Jim Clark; the American Eagle piloted by Dan Gurney has won once. In contrast, Ferrari, B.R.M., Honda and Cooper-Maserati have never won. All these cars will face each other at Monza, trying to make a statement rather than hoping to change the World Championship standings – the title is now practically decided in favor of one of the two Brabham men. Another reason for anticipation is the presence of three Italian drivers: 1966 winner Ludovico Scarfiotti, who will drive an Eagle after his divorce from Ferrari; Giancarlo Baghetti in the Lotus; and the promising young Andrea De Adamich in a Cooper-Maserati. Some like to see these pairings as a polemical response to Enzo Ferrari's decision not to have Italian drivers in his team, since none of them were believed to be up to the task after Bandini's death.

 

Enzo Ferrari feels that Scarfiotti is a good uphill racer but not a professional Grand Prix racer, and that providing a car for someone who cannot win is a wasted effort. Scarfiotti is quite eager to drive in the Italian Grand Prix, so Dan Gurney takes him as number two in the Anglo-American Racers Eagle team. Gurney has the latest and lightest Eagle, number 104, and Scarfiotti has number 103, both equipped with Weslake V12 engines, with more than 400 horsepower. Gurney's car has new lubricated rear hub carriers made of sheet steel, which are as strong and light as regular alloy ones. The next step, then, will be to manufacture titanium ones. Several other small components of Gurney's car have been improved, making it both lighter and stronger, such as improved rosette joints on the wishbones. Enzo Ferrari, as predicted, enters only one car in the Italian Grand Prix. It seems incredible, but the Modenese manufacturer firmly believes that Italy has no professional drivers after the death of Bandini, so Amon is the sole supporter of the Maranello team's fortunes. The team makes sure that the New Zealander has the best equipment possible: they provide him with a brand-new car and the reserve will have the 0005 used at the Nurburgring. The new car, the 0007, has a similar chassis, a mixture of monocoque and tubular construction, and the suspension follows the usual pattern, although it is lighter and cleaner. The most important part is the brand-new engine, still a 3-liter 12-cylinder, but with a completely new cylinder head arrangement with four valves per cylinder. It is coupled with the latest gearbox, which has already appeared at the Nurburgring. And so, the glorious Maranello marque competes with only one car, entrusted to Chris Amon. After attending practice, Enzo Ferrari is subjected to a line of questions from journalists about his decision to race only one car:

 

"Times have changed; today racing involves big interests, and therefore the era of gentlemen drivers is waning. Manufacturers need professional drivers who will devote themselves unreservedly to this activity, even better if they are good mechanics too and can cooperate with technicians in tuning the cars. In other words, drivers and test riders at the same time, as poor Lorenzo Bandini was. For example, I would love to have a man like the motorcyclist Giacomo Agostini next year in the Scuderia Ferrari".

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It’s practically certain that the world title will be awarded to one of the two Brabham drivers, so the race itself and the chase for a prestigious victory constitute the core of the event. The crowd of motorsport enthusiasts are also there to see the twenty strongest drivers of the moment (only Pedro Rodriguez, injured in August in Enna, is missing) and the fastest racing cars to ever appear on European circuits racing on the Lombardy track. Above all, the top race on the Italian calendar promises to be exciting from a technical standpoint. Despite Brabham's repeated victories (interrupted by two Lotus wins and one by Eagle) there is a certain performance balance among the cars of the various makes, meaning the outcome of each race is extremely uncertain. The Monza circuit, because of its characteristics, seems ideal in establishing a valid ranking of mechanic values. The Cooper team has been to Modena, where Maserati has been doing intensive development work on the 36-valve V12 engine, significantly modifying the combustion chamber, and the two 1967 official cars are both equipped with these newer engines. The F1-2-67, the low and flat car to be driven by Rindt, has an elongated nose with a front air spoiler that scrapes the ground, while the F1-1-67, the lightest and newest of the old Coopers, is driven by Ickx, since Pedro Rodriguez is still out of action after the Enna accident. Both cars use Hewland gearboxes and have rear brakes inside the struts. Brabham has an experimental bodywork that completely encloses the rear of the car; the objective isn’t to make it look neat and tidy, but to try and reduce drag. It also has an experimental fairing similar to that on Frank Costin's Protos, in which the Perspex windshield, which has a slit to look through, covers the driver's head.

 

As usual, Brabham drives the BT24-1 and Hulme the BT24-2, but there is also a new spare chassis, the BT24-3; their Repco V8 engines have a reputation for remarkable reliability. Team Lotus is full with three cars: Clark's 49/2, Hill's 49/3 and Baghetti's 49/1; the latter's participation is a local political move. All three Lotus 49s use massive disc brakes, as the heavily ventilated ones proved too effective at the Nurburgring, and have 400 hp Cosworth V8 engines by Ford. The B.R.M. team brings its four H16 cylinder cars, one of which came directly from a demonstration visit to Czechoslovakia, where it displayed the Owen Organization flag in conjunction with some engineering exchanges between parent company B.R.M. and Czechoslovakian engineers. The newest and lightest car (number 1151) is for Stewart, while the three previous cars (8301, 8302 and 8303) are shared between Spence and Irwin, with the latter racing under the Parnell flag. The three previous cars not in use serve as a reserve for Stewart. The Honda team proudly displays a brand-new car, built in six weeks at the Surtees factory in Slough. Surtees will use the latest V12 engine and a new gearbox in a completely new chassis that shows a strong Eric Broadley influence, especially in the suspension. Since this car only ran a few laps at Goodwood before leaving for Monza, not much is expected, to the point that Surtees has the previous car at his disposal, even though it would normally serve as a reserve. Bruce McLaren Racing brings the new car, which made a successful debut in Canada, with its B.R.M. V12 engine, but after encountering the dead battery problem it has replaced the alternator charging system. The entry list is completed by Ligier with its ex-factory Brabham-Repco V8, Bonnier with his Cooper-Maserati, Siffert with the Walker-Durlacher Cooper-Maserati, and De Adamich with Ligier's old Cooper-Maserati.

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When the teams begin to assemble at Monza, before the first practice session on Friday afternoon, there is a double-or-nothing atmosphere in the paddock, as the Italian Grand Prix closes the calendar of European World Championship races. Jim Clark, in the Lotus-Ford, reaches an average lap speed of 233.898 km/h (time 1'28"5) already during the first practice session held on Friday, September 8, 1967 and achieves the best overall performance and the highest speed ever at Monza. Amon, driving for Ferrari, takes the second-best result (1'29"4), followed by Hill in B.R.M. (1'29"7). Other eight racers run times below the official record (a 1'32"4 set by Scarfiotti in a Ferrari in 1966). These include Gurney (Eagle), Brabham (Brabham), Scarfiotti himself (Eagle), Hulme (Brabham), Stewart (B.R.M.), Rindt (Cooper-Maserati), Surtees (Honda) and McLaren (McLaren), demonstrating the enormous technical progress made by the manufacturers in just twelve months. Hulme is off to a good start, with laps below the old record time of 1'32"4, but not as fast as Parkes' (Ferrari) best time of 1967 (1'31"3). He then stops due to a cracked cylinder head gasket, so his practice ends and the engine is taken apart. Clark starts in the Lotus 49/2 but has gearbox problems right away, so he goes out in Baghetti's car while waiting for the mechanics to intervene. Unfortunately, the driving position is wrong and he cannot see properly beyond the windshield, preventing him from running very fast laps; however he laps well below any previous best time and approaches 1'30"0. Fiberglass deflectors are fitted to the air intakes on the new Ferrari. Amon goes out with the older car, while Surtees does only a few laps with the new Honda before the front stabilizer bar mounts begin to fail, so he goes back to the old car. Brabham tests his car with the rear fairing, but not the “bubble top” cockpit, and finds that the gearbox overheats, so it is discarded.

 

McLaren has trouble starting his B.R.M. engine, and when he finally does, he finds himself breathing harmful fumes from the engine crankcase. Stewart tests the new 16-cylinder B.R.M. and one of the earlier cars too, and Scarfiotti runs many laps in his Eagle, until he returns to the pits with steam coming out of the full fuel tank and showing signs of a Cooper cylinder liner seal failure. When the new Ferrari is set up, Chris Amon immediately takes it to the track and showcases the potential of this new engine, with laps under 1'30"0 and setting the pace with a 1'29"4. Clark's car, now equipped with a different gearbox, quickly comes out of the pits and sets a 1'28"5 without even pushing to the limit, especially under braking. Hence, it is clear that all official cars will have to go under 1'30"0 to be in contention, and the pole position on the grid will be under 1'28"0 or even 1'27"0. These lap times correspond to an average speed of over 233 km/h, so at this speed every tenth of a second represents a large gap between two cars. Brabham tests his “bubble top” cockpit cover and finds that he is four seconds a lap slower because he does not have good visibility under the trees around the Lesmo corner. The car’s extra speed on the straights is cancelled out by its slowness in the corners, so it is discarded. With the car in its normal form, Jack Brabham takes the slipstream behind Amon's new Ferrari and sets a lap in 1'29"3, a long way from Clark's time, but still second. Gurney is on track with them and doing well, as is Graham Hill. By the end of the afternoon five cars fall below the 1'30"0 mark, six below Parkes' fastest practice lap last year and eleven below the official lap record. These are encouraging results after a year of work and progress. Among them, the Ferrari, Lotus, Cooper and McLaren engines are new compared to 1967, while the Weslake engine turns exactly 12 months from its first public appearance. Practice ends with Team Eagle beginning a major work session, repairing Hulme's engine and installing a better one on Stewart's B.R.M.

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Amon causes turmoil in the Ferrari pit box because the new engine suddenly stops as he passes through the pits, but it is nothing more serious than a lack of gasoline. Baghetti does not get a chance to drive the spare Lotus 49, while Siffert's Cooper-Maserati does not make it in time as a camshaft breaks the day before practice while the engine is being tested. In the final practice sessions on Saturday, September 9, 1967, there’s a great struggle to gain the best positions on the starting grid for the race. A very large number of spectators arrive at the racetrack for the final round of official practice on the eve of the race. The drivers who will race in the Grand Prix are all big names in motor racing, including Jim Clark, Graham Hill, John Surtees and Jack Brabham (all at least one-time World Champions) do not spare themselves in their efforts to achieve ever higher average speeds on each practice lap. In the second afternoon of practice everyone begins to work hard and take advantage of each other's trails, and the signs are those of a fast race. Gurney shows up with a new engine on his Eagle, and the old one is fitted to Scarfiotti's car instead. Hulme's engine is whole again, while Stewart has a better engine on his B.R.M. The new Honda is reinforced, Siffert's Cooper-Maserati arrives on time, and Baghetti is ready to drive the Lotus 49/1. The weather does not bode well, so those who are ready on time at 3:30 PM set quick laps from the start. Here, many drivers manage to improve on the times obtained during Friday's practice. Among them are Jack Brabham, at the wheel of a car that bears his name, and New Zealander Bruce McLaren, also in his own vehicle. Both drivers overtake Chris Amon in the track's lap-performance rankings, and Brabham achieves the highest average speed of the day (1'28"8 at 233.108 km/h).

 

In addition, the time set on Friday by Amon himself is equaled by Gurney (driving the Eagle) and Hulme, the Brabham driver currently in the World Championship lead, with a good chance of remaining there. Stewart (B.R.M.), John Surtees (Honda) and Rind (Cooper-Maserati) also make progress. Later on, Rindt skids into the big corner after the grandstand straight due to the wet racetrack and his car smacks into a guardrail. Nothing serious, fortunately: the Cooper-Maserati is fixed and the reckless Austrian driver will be among the eighteen drivers racing. Of the Italians, Ludovico Scarfiotti is very satisfied with his Eagle, while Giancarlo Baghetti, driving one of the three official Lotuses, struggles to find a satisfactory rhythm. Andrea De Adamich, on the other hand, does not even take to the track. This is allegedly because of the lack of a financial agreement between British manufacturer Cooper (which had secured one of its cars for the young racer from Trieste) and the organizers. De Adamich's debut in Formula 1 is thus postponed. Chris Amon, at the wheel of the only Ferrari in the race, approaches (but does not reach) the time that had been exceeded only by Clark in the first practice session. However, the Ferrari technicians are quite confident. The 12-cylinder engine-equipped car prepared for Monza is showing a very satisfactory performance in these two days. The only concern is whether it will handle the distance, which is a problem for all manufacturers. Racing for two hours at an average of over 220 km/h (if the weather is good) means frightening wear and tear. This is also psycho-physical wear and tear for the drivers who reach, and sometimes cross, the limits of risk almost every Sunday. The first drops of rain begin to fall a little more than 30 minutes into practice and everyone takes cover, with the exception of Brabham and Scarfiotti. This is good, because storm clouds thicken and then a violent downpour, complete with hail, interrupts all activity.

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Torrential rain falls for almost an hour. When it stops, everyone wants to get to work, venturing into pit lane, but the track is too wet to try to set any more record times and the battles for grid positions end accordingly. When track conditions improve, practice comes back to life, obviously with more caution from the racers as they deal with the slippery asphalt. The session is extended by 30 minutes, until 7:00 PM, but it is to no avail and no one manages to get close to 1'30"0, as the track is still damp and slippery under the trees at Lesmo, and driving at top speed is unsafe. Clark does some comparative tests with Goodyear and Firestone tires, but they are inconclusive because of the constantly changing road conditions. Toward the end of the tests, Baghetti's Lotus 40 runs out of gas, and he waits a long time before the mechanics go to pick up the car. However, this allows Team Lotus to verify that the fuel system is working properly and that the last few liters are being collected from the tanks, so that an accurate consumption check can be made. Also, at the end of practice, a universal drive shaft breaks on the new Cooper-Maserati driven by Rindt, and the axle destroys a rear brake and a hub carrier, resulting in a lot of night work for the mechanics. The rain makes for an unusual starting grid: Gurney, Amon and Hill would still have plenty of give on the track, and Brabham and McLaren find themselves on the front row with lap times they could not repeat without the slipstream from a faster car. However, this means that there are five cars of different makes in the first two rows, with little in common except for the 3-liter engine displacement. The Cosworth engine has eight cylinders, four valves per cylinder, center intakes and side exhausts; the Repco has eight cylinders, two valves per cylinder, vertical intakes and center exhausts; the B.R.M. has 12 cylinders, two valves per cylinder, vertical intakes and side exhausts; the Ferrari has 12 cylinders, four valves per cylinder, side intakes and center exhausts; and the Weslake has 12 cylinders, four valves per cylinder, center intakes and side exhausts.

 

This shows healthy competition among engine designers. Also, in the third row is a B.R.M. with an H16 engine. The European Grand Prix and 38th Italian Grand Prix is held on Sunday, September 10, 1967 at 3:30 p.m. at the Monza racetrack. The day is hot and dry, with haze keeping out all sun’s power, and there are few free seats in the grandstands. Everyone prepares for a fast and furious race. The race takes place on 68 laps of the Monza track, a total of 391 kilometers. The circuit does not, of course, include the high-speed bowl with its two wide corners, nor does it include the junction of the Junior track. The track consists of two main straights and two shorter ones, with a series of more or less pronounced curves. As in the past, there are no side races: for reasonable safety reasons, the organizers ensure that the road surface is free of slippery oil and rubber residue. The Monza racetrack was established in 1922 and has been adapted several times to the increasing speed of racing cars and motorcycles. In its long history, the most compelling and spectacular events have always been the Grand Prix held each year in September, which almost always conclude and summarize the season's sporting activities. This is why the many days of preparation and then the Italian Grand Prix itself attract masses of fans: the spectacle, beyond what it can express in terms of technical progress, offers the suggestion of speed and risk. As the eighteen cars line up on the dummy grid a hundred yards from the starting line, tension is in the air, anticipating a memorable start. Amon, Gurney, Hulme, Stewart, Hill and Surtees grit their teeth as they think about the advantage of their rival, Clark, who starts on pole.

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With three minutes to go, panic spreads at Cooper when Rindt's battery fails to start the engine. Mechanics then rush to install a new one and succeed with only 30 seconds to spare. A race official prepares to wave the Italian flag, and on the dummy grid the drivers receive the 30-second signal. The normal procedure dictates that 10 or 15 seconds from the start, a race official must give the driver in pole position a signal to slowly advance the line-up to the real grid, with the cars on the front row holding position and controlling the situation; the entire line-up then stops on the real grid, the flag is raised for five seconds, and the start is given. But something goes wrong: no signal is given at the 25-second mark, and no one warns the drivers of any non-ordinary procedure for the start of the race. The drivers wonder if they should start directly from the dummy grid. At the expiration of 30 seconds an official very gently raises and lowers the green flag, which means the drivers should move forward and then start to begin the race; the marshal in charge (the starter) unfurls the Italian flag and Clark begins to let go of the clutch, aware that all around him all the engines are at full revs, ready for a fierce start. As the national flag drops, Jack Brabham starts from the dummy grid with smoking rear tires, pursued by McLaren, Gurney and everyone else. Clark is still watching the starter’s movements and is halfway to the starting line before joining the uncontrolled race, tires skating and looking left and right to see where the others are. By now Brabham is well over the starting line. Gurney swerves to the outside of the McLaren and Amon almost hits the rear of Clark's Lotus; in the confusion, the New Zealand driver pulls the clutch and the Ferrari engine revs rise to the maximum allowed, possibly causing the valves to bend.

 

The starter, clearly confused, weakly raises and lowers the Italian flag as the cars pass through the center of the grid. Whether the organizers made a mistake or not, the race has begun, and Brabham is in front. He is in the lead at Lesmo, but the World Champion is overtaken by Gurney's equally scorching but very steady start in his Eagle. Hill and Clark are soon behind them, while poor Amon notices that his engine does not go beyond 9.400 rpm, when it should be at 10.800 rpm. The drivers are driving at 241 km/h at the end of the opening lap, in the following order: Gurney (Eagle), Brabham (Brabham), Hill (Lotus), Clark (Lotus), McLaren (McLaren), Stewart (B.R.M.), Hulme (Brabham) and Amon (Ferrari). The race officials are speechless. Over the next lap, Clark overtakes Brabham and Hill, moving into second place. Shortly afterwards, Hill imitates the Scottish driver and takes third place. On the third lap, Clark also overtakes Gurney and, as he goes up the straight at the Parabolica, steers the Lotus from right to left to prevent Gurney from getting into his slipstream. However, the Weslake engine seems able to hold its own against the Cosworth engine: by lap four the gap is the same, but Hulme is now in fifth behind Brabham, with Stewart and the others far behind. At the end of lap five, Clark's Lotus begins to gain ground on its rivals, followed by Hill, Hulme, Brabham, Stewart, McLaren, Amon, Surtees, Scarfiotti, Rindt, Baghetti, and then Bonnier and Ligier closing the gap. Gurney's Eagle is seen returning to the pits leaving a trail of oil on the tarmac, with obvious engine problems. As the oil stains on the track are covered with sand, Eagle suffers another problem, this time on Scarfiotti's car, which pulls over with the engine completely out of action. The pump housing has broken, damaging the transmission gears.

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On lap six, Clark has a one-second lead over Hill, but Hulme gains ground on the second Lotus, pulling slightly away from Brabham. Then comes Stewart, who, however, pits on the next lap. So there are two distinct groups: Clark, Hill, Hulme and Brabham in front, and then McLaren, Amon, Surtees and Rindt. Except for Eagle and B.R.M. (Stewart has already made a pit stop), all Grand Prix makes are represented in the top eight positions. Baghetti, driving the third Lotus, follows a little further behind. Although the situation seems quite stable, not everything is well: Clark's car is behaving strangely, sustaining a slightly slower pace than the other three, and in the second group Amon's engine is still out of phase. The new Honda is running well on the straights and manages to pull away from the Ferrari, but in the corners the fuel injection gets muddy and acceleration suffers; Rindt crumples the nose spoiler under braking and is a victim of understeer at the wrong moments. Stewart loses a full lap in the pits after stopping to check for potential damage to the left-rear Goodyear after sliding his tail too far at Lesmo and hitting the guardrail. The tire is scored but not damaged, so the driver re-enters the race. Though pace is not as high as expected, it is still quite fast, with an average speed of just over 225 km/h. Hulme overtakes Hill on lap 9 and Clark on lap 10. Over the next lap Clark is in the lead again, but something is clearly wrong: on lap 12 he leans out of the cockpit to look at his right rear tire and notices that it is deflating. The Scottish driver therefore decides to return to the pits. Hulme, Brabham and Hill are alone in the lead at the end of lap 13. About twelve seconds from this group, Surtees keeps the Honda ahead of Amon's Ferrari, McLaren’s B.R.M. V12, and Rindt's Cooper-Maserati, but does not do so easily. The Ferrari pulls alongside the Japanese car often, much to the delight of the crowd, and sometimes manages to get ahead of it, sparking a real pandemonium, even though the two cars are only fighting for fourth place.

 

Clark stays relatively briefly in the pits to change the rear wheel, then returns to accelerate on the pit road as the leading trio, consisting of the two Brabhams and the Lotus, pass at full speed, now a full lap (and a few hundred meters) ahead of him. The quartet battling for fourth place is barely in sight when Clark re-enters the race, so the course of the race may seem unchanged, but Clark is now in fifteenth position. He is a lap and a bit more from the leaders, almost a lap from the second group, half a lap from Baghetti, Siffert, Irwin and Spence and almost in the sights of Ickx, Bonnier and Ligier. The latter two are on the verge of being lapped by the leaders. On lap 16, Brabham takes the lead, though Hulme is in front again on the next lap. On the next lap, as Ickx is lapped, Hill who takes the lead. With only 20 laps to go, there are five different leaders and nothing seems to be decided yet. Irwin retires Parnell's B.R.M. 8301 because of a broken metering unit drive, and Stewart is reported to have lost a piece of rear tire tread. The report turns out to be false and the driver quickly restarts, still in last place because of the previous stop. The leaders are lapping in about 1'30"0, but Clark is going much faster and gaining ground quickly, already coming in eleventh place after Irwin’s retirement and overtaking Bonnier, Ligier and Ickx. At the end of lap 21, the Scottish driver is behind the leading trio, by lap 22 he is between Hulme and Brabham, and by lap 24 he is ahead of Hulme and Hill. Hulme slips into his slipstream and the wily New Zealander overtakes Hill as well, moving back into the lead of the race. Brabham is in trouble and cannot keep up with his rivals because the accelerator pedal locks up for a few seconds, sending the engine out of revs and losing him his lead. At the end of lap 26, Clark sets a new lap record: with a track clear in front of him, he laps in 1'28"5 at an average speed of 233.898 km/h. Up to that point Hulme had held the fastest lap in 1'28"9, obtained at the end of the fifth lap, while Gurney was slowing the pace by spreading oil everywhere.

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Clark begins to pull away quickly from Hulme and Hill and catches up with Spence and Siffert, whom he then passes gaining two more positions. On lap 28 Hill regains the position over Hulme, as the Repco engine is having problems, while on lap 30 Hulme visibly slows down and returns to the pits with an overheated engine: the cooling system has stopped working due to a broken gasket. Brabham loses sight of Hill's Lotus, while Clark recovers to eighth. Further back, Surtees, Amon and McLaren fight fiercely for third place, and get gradually closer to Brabham as they duel. Hill finds himself leading alone, almost at the tail end of Clark's slipstream, with a lead of more than 10 seconds over Brabham, who now notices a drop in power due to unintentional over-revving. Clark is about to pass Baghetti in the Lotus; when he does, on lap 33, he is in seventh place, while Hulme retires. Halfway through the race, that is, at the end of lap thirty-four, the three Lotus 49s are in the correct numerical order as they pass the pits: Clark 20, Hill 22 and Baghetti 24. The only thing wrong - for Lotus - is that they are not in P1-2-3 in the race. Hill leads from Brabham by 17 seconds, while the still-compact quartet is nearly a minute behind, with Surtees leading by inches. Hill follows Clark and benefits from the team leader's slipstream, with the gap between them and Brabham continuing to increase by two seconds a lap. Baghetti, meanwhile, holds off the two Lotus champions for quite a while. The battle for third place is as fierce as ever, with Honda and Ferrari side by side, and McLaren and Cooper-Maserati just behind. At the back of the field, Stewart is not making much progress, although he is as fast as Brabham, managing to catch up and pass Ickx. But on lap 40 Stewart's car emits a large cloud of oil and smoke from the back of the engine, forcing the driver to end his race in this way. On the next lap, two connecting rods of the McLaren's V12 B.R.M. engine break, and the car stops in the Lesmo area.

 

Amon also re-enters the Ferrari garage thinking he might have a problem with a rear suspension, but the mechanics detect no malfunction, and the driver can resume the race after losing exactly one lap. Baghetti, sixth for now, also gets stuck with a mechanical failure. The quartet fighting for third place suddenly breaks up and Surtees is left alone, because Rindt can keep up with the Honda but not get past it. On lap 50, Clark is still pulling Hill and the gap between them and Brabham is 55 seconds. Surtees is in third place, about 15 seconds behind Brabham, and is about to close the gap since he is no longer bothered by Amon's Ferrari. On lap 51, Siffert is accelerating into the second Lesmo corner when the left rear tire of his Cooper-Maserati suddenly gives way, causing him to spin against the guardrail, breaking the wheel and crumpling the exhaust manifolds. The Swiss driver just barely avoids Ickx's car, whom he has just lapped. Meanwhile, Baghetti's Cosworth V8 engine crackles and stops, with a broken camshaft, so the Italian driver pits to retire at the end of lap 51, causing Lotus and Keith Duckworth to raise their first fears about the tightness of the other two engines. Clark shows no signs of letting up, and by lap 53 takes fourth place, with Honda and Brabham in sight. The crowd begins to notice that Clark is catching up on the leaders: after passing Rindt he is fourth, very close to Surtees and Brabham, who are just 200 meters from one another. Graham Hill's victory is not in doubt, however, as he has over a minute lead on the runner-up, Brabham. Graham Hill has almost a lap lead over Brabham and Surtees, and after Clark overtakes Rindt, Hill laps the Cooper-Maserati. He has a comfortable and unassailable lead, although it is rather overshadowed by the second, third and fourth cars, which are just ahead of him on the road.

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Surtees' Honda catches up to Jack Brabham's Brabham slowly but surely, and then very quickly to Jim Clark's Lotus. Amon has to make another stop to check his left rear shock absorber for damage, dropping him to the back of the field, behind Ickx. On lap 59, Clark has the Honda in his sight; behind him, poor Graham Hill's engine stops working properly and Brabham goes on to lead the race, though he has to complete another lap before he actually overtakes the stalled Lotus that has returned to the pits. The Cosworth V8 is in such a bad shape that it's not even worth trying to figure out what's broken. Clark holds the Lotus flag high and easily overtakes the Honda in second, but Surtees takes advantage of the Lotus' slipstream to get even closer to Brabham, whom Clark is about to pass. By the time the Lotus 49/3 engine explodes, the positions in the standings see Brabham in the lead, followed by Surtees, Clark and Hill. The Scottish driver leads the race with almost a full lap advantage over the other three; the latter must make up the same lap by taking advantage of the leader's pit stop in order to get first position. At the end of the 60th lap, Brabham takes the first position, but Clark is closing in quickly. As the two disappear toward the Curva Grande, Clark and Lotus fans stand up to cheer for Lotus, which takes the lead having recovered an entire lap on Brabham. Losing first position due to a puncture, stopping to change a tire, then fighting his way back into the lead, surely also aided by his teammate's bad luck: it is one of those typical feats that propel Jim Clark into the category of great drivers with Nuvolari, Fangio and Moss. But it is not over yet, and Lotus must continue to hope while waiting for one more stroke of luck, despite the two broken Cosworth V8 engines in the pits. With Brabham in sight, Surtees gives it his all, and it's good to see him fighting right until the end: the British driver has been dragging a bad chassis that does not do justice to his abilities for so many races now.

 

After 60 laps, the three leading cars are one behind the other because, though Jim Clark's Lotus has taken the lead, Jack Brabham cleverly inserts his car into the slipstream and is sucked into it. On the 65th lap Clark manages to pull away from Jack Brabham, giving Surtees a chance to move into second. As the three cars finish the sixty-fifth lap, the scoreboard indicates that the distance between the first and third cars is 3.2 seconds. At the end of the next lap, the distance is 3.3 seconds, and a stalemate seems to have been reached, with Clark in the lead. But at the beginning of the last lap, the overall gap is only 2.8 seconds and Clark's Lotus is in obvious trouble. The three cars enter the Curva Grande at 265 km/h one behind the other, and suddenly Clark's engine dies, causing the car to skid sideways. Surtees and Brabham dodge the Lotus, showing their quick reflexes. At such speed, most drivers would have failed to react in time and crashed. Surtees takes the lead with half a lap to go. The level of fuel in the Lotus' tank has dried up and Jim Clark is now forced to trudge into third, as the two strongest drivers of the Grand Prix are behind one another down the back straight at over 289 km/h as they head into the last corner of this momentous race. The Scot loses ground and the grandstand crowd is on its feet, waiting to see the three drivers reappear for the last time. Surtees is in the lead, but he knows that Brabham could overtake him in the right-hand corner. His first instinct is to keep to the right and hug the inside of the corner, forcing Brabham to pass on the outside, without having enough excess power to make the pass. What makes things even more interesting is that a trail of concrete dust has been put in along the curve to absorb the oil lost by Hill's car. Any trajectory that employs the inside of the curve necessarily involves passing over this dust, and not braking enough or braking excessively will mean sliding off the track.

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Surtees drives well past the left as he comes onto the straight, so Brabham has only two options: either follow the Honda into the corner and to the finish line with little hope of overtaking it, or pass on the right under braking and hope to take the first position and hold it as he enters the corner. The two drivers arrive at the braking point side by side: Brabham decides to pass on the right but does not brake enough, so the concrete dust causes his car to slide to the outside of the corner. Luck is on Surtees' side, who dives to the inside of the Parabolica turn and takes the lead as he enters the final straight. Brabham is still behind him, and as the two race toward the finish line the Australian pulls out of the Honda's slipstream and nearly pulls alongside. The checkered flag is waved, marking victory for Surtees, who beats Brabham by 0.2 seconds. The Englishman also gets the circuit's new average speed record: 226.119 km/h. The crowd goes wild and pours onto the track. A few tens of seconds later Clark crosses the finish line in third, with the fuel tank seemingly empty with five kilometers to go. Rindt is fourth, Spence fifth, Ickx sixth and Amon seventh. The crowd overwhelms John Surtees, idol of the Italian sporting world (even though he drives a Japanese car), but the most acclaimed is Jim Clark. John Surtees, who fought unsparingly until the last meter and certainly was not unworthy of the victory, also receives great ovations. Lorenzo Bandini's widow hands him the trophy named after the great champion who died four months earlier. Honda's Japanese mechanics go crazy with happiness. When the tumult and shouting dies down, after nearly two hours, Lotus mechanics fill the tanks of Clark's car and discover that there are still 11 liters left. The issue was not a miscalculation of gasoline, but the pumps that had failed to collect the last 11 liters. The fuel system worked down to the last liter of gasoline on Baghetti's car, while on Clark's car, with an identical fuel system, the pumps ran dry with 11 liters still in the tanks.

 

The scores for the world title after the 9 races are as follows: Hulme (Brabham) is in the lead with 43 points, then Brabham (Brabham) with 40 points, followed by Clark (Lotus) with 23 points, Amon (Ferrari) with 20 points, and Surtees (Honda) with 17 points. If motor racing always had a logical conclusion and fully respected the values in the field, the finishing order for the 38th Italian Grand Prix should have been: Clark first, Graham Hill second, and Surtees in third. This, of course, is an academic reasoning. Firstly, because what counts in any individual or collective competitive race is the result; secondly, because, if one reasons with ifs and buts, it would seem that the real winner, John Surtees, stole the result, which is not the truth at all. The inscrutable events of fate favored the English driver at the last moment on the same track he had previously won at (in 1964, at the wheel of Ferrari), and we must not forget that his was a beautiful race. He drove a car that was probably less efficient than others, namely the Japanese Honda, to the point that Surtees' name had been almost universally forgotten in the pre-race predictions. John Surtees fought from the first to the last kilometer without surrendering, and his final race was a masterpiece of tactics: he literally surprised Jack Brabham, managing first to hook him, then to overtake him right at the exit of the last corner, which the Australian World Champion racer tackled with excessive boldness, fearfully brushed the outside edge of the track. It was the first victory won in 1967 by Surtees and the Honda, a very powerful Formula One car but significantly heavier than the British, Italian and American single-seaters. It seems that Surtees convinced the Japanese engineers to adopt a new chassis designed by the driver himself for this occasion, and evidently things went better than in the past. After all, covering almost 400 kilometers at an average speed of over 226 km/h is in itself a very telling achievement, especially considering that this dizzying pace of racing caused an inexorable selection of the cars: eighteen started, but only seven were classified.

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Anyone who witnessed this exciting Grand Prix is sure to have been astounded by Jim Clark's feat. Leading from lap 3 to lap 13, he received his first blow from bad luck by keeping a sagging right rear tire. He was in the pits for almost a minute and a half stopped to have his tire replaced, then off again, in 10th position. So much for victory. But instead, lap after lap, tenaciously, proving once again what stuff the great Scottish champion is made of, he was nibbling seconds and seconds from everyone, breaking the new lap record at an average speed of almost 234 km/h, climbing up one position after another, seventh, fifth, fourth and, after the unexpected failure of Hill's Lotus, leaping to first place! Truly an unforgettable spectacle. But fate wanted to have fun: first against Clark, then in Clark's favor, and once again against him. On the last lap, the gasoline in the Lotus' tank ran low, the fuel pump did not work for the most part, and so Surtees and Brabham reached him, overtook him, and went on to race alone at the finish line. Without this last twist, after the many bestowed by the Monza race, it would have been a legendary triumph for Clark. Graham Hill hasn't had a good thing going for a couple of seasons; at the end of 1966 he left B.R.M. due to a rivalry with the burgeoning Stewart, and preferred being Jim Clark’s wingman, whom all drivers recognize as the strongest, rather than suffer the young teammate’s complex. Things did not go too well behind the wheel of Lotus, and his big chance came at Monza the moment the tire blew out on Clark's car.

 

And from that moment on Hill puts on a display of old authority and remains in command of the race almost uninterruptedly, until his engine failure (at that instant his lead over Brabham is over a minute, and there are just over sixty kilometers to go). Not even Clark, with his great sprint, could have caught up to him without this nasty blow of bad luck. Chris Amon, the only Ferrari driver in this race, isn’t too lucky either. He stops a first time, fighting bravely with Surtees for fourth place, experiencing some rear suspension trouble, then again for the same reason. After the race, the Maranello team’s technicians assure that the engine also did not perform at its best. Quite a bitter season for Ferrari: after such a promising start, the team lost its best man in Lorenzo Bandini, the only man capable of standing on par with the great aces of the British school. The success of British driver John Surtees in the Italian Grand Prix unexpectedly brought the name Honda back to the headlines. The Japanese brand had become one of the largest manufacturers of automobiles (and especially motorcycles) in just a few years. The factory already has a worldwide reputation in the two-wheel field: just under ten million Honda motorcycles have been sold since 1948, when Soichiro Honda, the son of a Hamamatsu blacksmith, set up a small workshop with a couple of dozen workers. Since then, he has sold just under ten million of them.

 

A few years later, believing that the best publicity for motorcycle sales would come from sporting victories, Honda began building racing machines and beating famous Italian and British motorcycles on the circuits. By 1966, 300,000 Honda motorcycles were sold in the United States alone. The transition to the automobile business is more recent. Honda's first touring cars appeared in 1962: small machines equipped with 360 cc and 500 cc engines, very fast and sold at very low prices.  Firm in his convictions, Soichiro Honda sets out to take on the great European specialists in auto racing as well, and the factory's competition department, Honda Research and Development, with nearly a thousand technicians and specialists, sets out to develop the design of a Formula 1 single-seater. The car is ready in 1964: its first appearances, with American test driver Bucknum, are not brilliant, but the Japanese are tenacious, and the following year Honda wins the Mexican Grand Prix with Ginther. In 1966 the racing formula changes and Honda has to revise all its plans. The new car isn’t good and that year the Japanese team continues to disappoint: the engine is very powerful, but the car is very heavy and cannot keep up with the pace of the Lotus, Ferrari, and Brabham. Instead, here is the surprise at Monza, where the Honda does not miss a beat and is in a fight for the big win with Clark's Lotus and Jack Brabham's Brabham in the final laps. Honda is also helped by a handful of good fortune, but at the finish line, the Japanese car is first, just barely ahead of Brabham. Whether favored by good fortune or not, Honda's name is in the headlines.

 

Federica Dondo

 

Translated by Livia Alegi


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