#160 1967 United States Grand Prix

2021-09-13 00:00

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#1967, Fulvio Conti, Giulia Vergani,

#160 1967 United States Grand Prix

For the seventh time the Grand Prix of the United States is run on the 3.7 kilometre Watkins Glen circuit on Sunday the 1st of October 1967. With no s

For the seventh time the Grand Prix of the United States is run on the 3.7 kilometre Watkins Glen circuit on Sunday the 1st of October 1967. With no starting money but a prize money pool of over 100.000 dollars, paying 20.000 dollars first place and 2.803 dollars last place, all expenses for the round trip from Europe being paid by the organizers, the 1967 race has a first-class field. The result of the race, the penultimate of the Formula One World Championship, will perhaps determine the world champion of the 1967 season. Hulme, with 43 points in the overall standings, leads Brabham by 3 points. The New Zealander can clinch the title with a victory in the US Grand Prix, provided Brabham finishes below third place. If Hulme does not win, the decision will be postponed to the Mexican Grand Prix. The circuit (3.7 km long) will have to be driven 106 times, for a total of 399 km. On the track for Ferrari will be Chris Amon. The Brabham Racing Organization has their usual cars for Brabham and Hulme, nothing more than race preparation having been done since they left Italy. John Surtees has the Honda with which he won in Italy. Both front cantilever wishbones are much stronger after the buckling which happened in practice at Monza. The engine has been back to Japan to see if the injection unit could be sorted out to give better carburation on pick-up out of corners. Coopers has the two 1967 cars for Rindt and Ickx. The older of the two cars is fitted with a 36-valve Maserati engine, while the other car has the 36-valve engine but now fitted with 36 plugs. On the normal 24-plug engine the plugs are in pairs on the outside of the vee and on the 36-plug engine an extra plug for each cylinder is on the inside of the vee.


The extra distributor is on the enlarged metering unit plate at the back of the engine and is driven from the camshaft by the same toothed belt that drives the metering unit. The explanation for the extra plug is that the pistons are only firing on one side. A successful engine designer who examines the engine commented that if you need more than one plug per cylinder there is something very wrong with the design. The fuel pumps on both cars have been moved into the airstream on the front of the engine and are driven by the same belt that drives the front right distributor. Team Lotus has their three Lotus-Cosworths for Clark, Hill and the Mexican driver Moisés Solana. Except for bringing Clark’s car’s suspension mounting points back into line with the other two cars, nothing has been done to the chassis. On the engine side all three has been damaged at Monza and they were all rebuilt. There is the H16 B.R.M.s for Stewart, Spence and Irwin. The last named, although being worked on and run with the two works cars, enters officially as Parnell Racing. For Stewart there is the lighter 1151 car, while the other two are 8302 and 8303, all using normal I-H6 engines. Ferrari bring two cars for Amon, both with the latest 48-valve engines and the latest chassis, 0007, is numbered as the race car, with an old chassis, 003, for the spare. These 003 chassis is fitted with 0005 number for carnet purposes and is used as the training car. The Anglo-American Racers team happens originally to enter two cars but after the damage to both engines in the opening laps at Monza they decide to enter only Gurney in the lighter 104 chassis. The only major difference on the Eagle is a new ZE-type differential. McLaren has his McLaren-B.R.M. V12, the engine all welded up and rebuilt, and the McLaren team are very confident the car would go well.


The whole team is very happy and buoyant, no doubt the three Can-Am victories and the large prize money connected with this making some small contribution to the team atmosphere. Siffert is driving the Walker-Durlacher Copper-Maserati, while Bonnier has his own Cooper-Maserati. Ligier is driving his ex-Hulme Brabham-Repco, while the final car is for Beltoise, a Matra-Cosworth EVA Formula Two. This car is weighted with lead and has extra-large fuel tanks and is invited to get the American public used to a new name which should be here next year with a Formula One car. Practice is on Friday and Saturday afternoons for four hours each day. The times from the previous year, which are the target for this year, are Surtees fastest race lap of 1'09"67 (191.270 kph) and Brabham’s practice lap of 1'08"42 (194.843 kph). At this time of the year in upper New York State the weather can be warm summer or distinctly winter, and this year practice starts under the winter heading. A front stationary over the whole area closed airports with low cloud, mist and rain. This causes some of the last-minute arrivals from Europe to get stranded in New York City for the night and make long, roundabout journeys to the Glen. At 2:00 p.m. as practice starts the weather is still bad and visibility range from a quarter of a mile to 20 yards as the low clouds swirl over and pour off the hill on which the circuit is situated and into the valley and over Lake Seneca. McLaren and Amon are the first out and they feel their way round very slowly. Ligier, Bonnier, Siffert, Clark and Surtees all went out in the first hour and for some time Bonnier is quickest as he roared through the swirling mist, but Surtees complete the first hour with a time of 1'22"0.


During the second hour the rain stop but the mist persists and both Brabhams and the Gurney stays well away. Ickx comes out with the older Cooper, while the other with the 36-plug engine is found to have a had water leak at the front of the engine just behind the bulkhead. This entails half removing the engine to get at the leak and keep the car away from practice. B.R.M.s also keep away while the weather is at its worst and comes out as conditions improved during the third hour. Brabham appears as conditions improved but on his first lap a valve broke and damages the engine, so the car is wheeled away to have the spare, an old banger, fitted until the engine in transit from London arrives in the early hours of race day. Rindt, unable to drive his own car, puts his number on Ickx’s car and does a few laps’ practice, getting down to just under 1'00"0 before a rod broke, giving the Cooper mechanics another 22-hour engine change. Clark is trying both his own car and the one Solana was to use. In the latter he first goes under 1'10"0 as it feels better on the drying track than his own car. However, before the day finished Clark is the only driver to get down into the 1'06"0 bracket and Hill is the only driver to get down into the 1'07"0 bracket, proving once again the performance of the Lotus-Cosworth. Siffert stops with suspected transmission troubles but these proved to be only an unbalanced wheel. Solana does not get a drive on the first day, as is becoming the custom for the third Lotus driver. The Honda, which finishes up with a time of 1'08"65, is misfiring badly and come on to 12 cylinders only for short bursts. When the Japanese mechanics get the car back to the technical center they strip the complicated fuel injection system, clean it and reroute some of the pipes.

Saturday is fine with a few threatening clouds which never materialized. All except Lotus and Matra are out when practice started at mid-day. B.R.M. has some ultra-wide wheels to take a Goodyear GT tyre with little tread on the 12in of width that comes in contact with the road. These particular tyres are being used on the winning McLarens in the Group 7 racing and have 2 seconds, spacers in the mould to get the extra width. This causes two small shoulders round the centre of the tyre which need scrubbing off before the best adhesion is obtained. After several laps Stewart changes the fronts back to conventional tyres, then he changes the rears, and decides he preferred the handling of the normal tyres. Rindt has out the 36-plug Cooper but is not very happy as the brakes are playing up and he does not like this at all, so after some time bleeding and adjusting he hands the new car over to Ickx and goes out in the older car, which he throws around with his usual verve. Gurney is not very happy with his engine and when he is on the hack straight the whole of the engine tightened up when the scavenge pump broke. McLaren is not having a very happy day as the new limited slip differential is playing up. On one part of the circuit there are a series of bumps which make the rear wheels lift and as they do the differential momentarily freewheels, which, with the engine near peak revs; could be disastrous. After spending a lot of time in the garage McLaren rush out in the last few minutes of practice and is unable to lift off quickly enough to get the revs down when it bounced without being cured. Although nothing comes through the side of the engine, 12.000+ revs did not do it any good.


Clark leads the burst of speed in the last half of practice by going out and getting a time of 1'06"07, the first lap at over 125 mph and one full second faster than his nearest rival. Then with tanks full he put in a time for himself of 1'06"09. Solana is allowed out in the third Lotus now that Clark would not need it, and to everyone’s surprise, including his own, he gets down to 1'07"88, seventh fastest overall in only nine laps of practice, which either says a lot for his improvement since last year or that the Lotus is an easier car to drive than it looks. Brabham, Amon and Gurney; before his engine broke, all got under 1'07"0. Then Hill goes out for his final few laps and thoroughly shook everyone by getting down to Clark’s time, then getting a bit faster and finally clipping a half-second off the best time to give himself pole position and the 1.000-dollar prize with a time of 1'05"48 (203.501 kph). This concludes practice and four teams are working hard at their engines: Gurney and McLaren to see what damage had been done; Brabham removing the old engine and hoping the other would arrive in time; Surtees has a metering unit break in the last run, and this could have been the trouble all along, so the mechanics are to attempt to take off the metering unit from the spare engine and lit it. While this work is getting under way the largest crowd of campers ever to congregate at Watkins Glen start to barbecue their evening meals and the police are forced to close the gates as there is no more room to pitch tents. Race morning is fine, and a huge crowd and long traffic jams begin to develop. The Brabham engine has arrived and is fitted. Gurney replaces the scavenge pump, Honda manages to fit the injection unit from one engine to the other, and McLaren finds the engine to be runnable but changes the differential unit.

These four cars go out and use a portion of the track to see how the engines are running. After the usual preliminaries all the cars are ready for a warming-up lap and then they assemble on the dun-any grid for the 108-lap race. At 2:00 p.m. precisely the flag drops and the Lotuses of Hill and Clark shoot into the lead. As they complete the first lap Hill lead from Clark and Gurney. Then, still very close, Brabham, Anion, Hulme, McLaren, Stewart, Silica, Rindt, Surtees, Solana, Spence, Irwin, Ickx, Bonnier, with Ligier and Beltoise bringing up the rear. On the next lap Hill remain firmly in first place but Gurney has gotten by Clark and is going very well. On the second lap it is a repeat of the first, except that Surtees passes Rindt to gain one place. Lap 3 bring the first pit stop when Ickx pulls in with steam pouring from the breather, but after losing almost a lap the young Belgian is on his way. Solana completes his third lap and then vanishes for some 40 laps. The Lotus-Cosworth stops on the circuit with a dead engine. Two mechanics goes out to the car and prods at the electrics until it suddenly bursts into life. When Solana reappears on the lap chart the race is almost half run and Chapman pulls him in as he would have been disqualified for receiving attention outside the pit area. The leaders are pressing on at a hot pace. Gurney get by Clark on lap 2 and begin to push Hill. Anton is fifth once more, just behind Brabham. Hulme challenges the Ferrari and is soon by into fifth place; then next lap be is ahead of Brabham. It took Hulme three laps to establish his lead over Brabham and not before losing the place for one more lap. Then Amon get into his stride and found that with his extra horsepower he could get by up the hill. So, on the 10th lap Amon passes Brabham and fixes his ‘sights on Hulme. Gurney’s second place doesn’t last long for on the eighth lap Clark get by and then the two Lotus 495 are running in close company, with the rest hanging on. Surtees, whose 11th place on the grid is due to poor carburation, find things running much better. He moves forward lap by lap until by the 10th lap he was right on Brabham’s tail.


On the next lap he is past into sixth place, which he holds for only two laps before the engine started to cause trouble. A 45 seconds pit stop made no difference and two laps later he again stops at the pits, where it was discovered that a non-return valve was not working as it has a piece of rubber stuck under the valve. The rubber has obviously broken away from the inside of the fuel bags, and when removed Surtees re-joined some laps down and started charging through the field. McLaren’s is one of the cars passed by Surtees and it is obvious that the B.R.M. is not in full tune, but he is not going to lose much. Unfortunately, McLaren slides on oil just by the pits and ran over a low curb. The curb is not low enough, however, and catches the water pipe which runs under the length of the car, and McLaren subsequently lost four places. Three laps later, with no water left, McLaren retires, leaving 16 cars. Amon goes on pushing Hulme until on lap 16 he is up into fourth place behind Gurney. Gurney now seems to be having difficulties for he is unable to stop Amon passing him on the 21st lap, and after completing 24 laps he comes into the pits where it was found that the pin which holds the lower wishbone to the upright has broken and this has been causing bad bump steering. Hulme has lost 500revs and for many laps he has difficulty trying to hold his lap times. The situation at 1-8 laps has been: Hill and Clark nose to tail, then a 1-sec gap to Gurney and Amon, 4.5 seconds behind the leader comes Hulme who is 2 seconds ahead of Brabham. Then there comes a big gap of 20 seconds to a trio of Siffert, Stewart and Rindt, with Spence five more seconds down and Irwin and Bonnier about to be lapped. All the rest are more than a lap down. Stewart’s B.R.M. begins to lose its brakes and for some time it has been smoking badly. On the 25th lap he comes into the pits with grass and small bushes up the radiator inlet and stuck in the suspension, results of running off at the end of the straight and almost reaching the trees.


After a quick clean-out and a look at the brakes Stewart is out again, one from last. Amon has now closed on the two Lotus-Cosworths and the trio is running in a tight bunch until they lap Bonnier, who, after the two Lotuses has passed, chops back, very nearly putting Amon on the grass. This let the Lotuses open up a 4 seconds gap which the Ferrari driver is never able to get back. Ickx is still plodding on in last place, blowing steam most of the time, and after a lot of pits stops, he finally retires with burnt pistons. Earlier Rindt has gone out with the same trouble. Spence has his B.R.M. up to eighth place at one time but it is never over-quick and when Rindt retires from seventh place, Spence steps into this place. Then two laps later a rod brakes in the H16 engine and he retires too. Next to retire, with identical trouble, is Irwin in another H16 B.R.M. He cuts his engine and coasts on to the grass when he heard a very expensive noise from the back. Ligier, who has been in the tail of the field from the start, retires on lap 44 with a broken camshaft. Things begin to settle down now. Clark passes Hill as the clutch began to play up on the then leading Lotus; Amon, who is still trying desperately to catch the Lotuses, is baulked by Surtees who is four laps down but is once again going well and has passed Amon. Some laps later, the Honda’s engine begin to miss when the same exhaust pipe fractured, overheating the metering unit, and Amon is away again on his own. At last he begins to make an impression on Hill who is dropping back from Clark. On lap 65 Amon comes round the corner by the pits and found Hill trying to get into gear, and as the Ferrari sweeps by the Lotus driver found a cog and went off in pursuit. In fifth place Brabham is losing ground and having cornering difficulties, so eventually he comes into the pit to see what was wrong. The left rear tyre has a slow puncture and when this is changed the front left is also changed as this is badly worn due to having the extra load thrown on to it.

As Brabham regains the field so Stewart retires with a broken metering belt after having again almost reached the woods at the end of the long straight. Bonnier makes a pit stop when he finds 6the Cooper-Maserati handling badly, and it is found that the wheel centre is breaking up. As this is changed Beltoise goes by, so when Bonnier rejoins the race he is in last position. Hill manages to get the hang of his trouble and catches and passes Amon who, unbeknown to his team, is watching the oil pressure needle getting lower and lower each lap. On lap 84 Hill again get stuck out of gear and the Ferrari again goes by while Hill is struggling to get it engaged. This time he is so far behind it looked as if he would have to be Satisfied with third place. Surtees makes two pit stops to have water poured over the metering unit to cool this off. On the second occasion there is not enough power in the battery to re-start as the alternator has not been functioning properly. This looks like the last incident in an exciting race but it is not. Amon, 24 seconds behind Clark, suddenly goes missing. Two cars going by the pits give Ferrari thumbs-up signs but it was only after the race that they know Amon blown up the engine through lack of oil just 12 laps from the end. Now it is one healthy Lotus 49 followed by one sick Lotus 49 in first and second places. The last laps ticked by, then halfway round the 106th lap, the top link of the right-hand rear suspension of Clark’s car breaks at the inner weld and the wheel fell in at an extreme angle. Luckily, the next corner is a right-hander and going round it Clark looks back to examine the damage. By driving slowly round left-handers, he reaches the pits where Chapman and his team are anxiously looking at their watches. When the pits and the crowd saw what was wrong it became obvious that the first position was vulnerable.


Hill’s sick Lotus is 45 seconds behind when Clark begins those last two slow laps. He almost halves the gap in one lap and when Clark reaches the chequered flag the two Lotuses are only 6sec apart. Jim Clark, ahead of his teammate Hill, at the wheel of a Lotus-Ford, won the U.S. Automobile Grand Prix, the penultimate round of the Formula 1 World Championship, thus renewing at the Watkins GIen circuit the success won in the same event also in 1966. So, Lotus gets their one-two win which would have gone to Amon if he had kept going for, he would have had only 24 seconds to make up. Hulme is third one lap down, with Siffert fourth two laps down. Then four laps behind the winner is Brabham and the only other two running are Bonnier and Beltoise running in that order (Bonnier passes the Frenchman two laps from the end) seven laps down. The huge crowd bursts over the fences before the cars are in the pits, as in fact certain spectators dodge the law to get to the edge of the track to photograph during the race. This danger to ordinary members of the public is very real when they don’t realise the dangers, and it is hoped that some of the considerable profits made at the meeting will go back in the form of fences and banks. So we have to wait for the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday 22 October 1967, the last round of the World Championship, to know mathematically if it will be Hulme or Brabham who will win the world title. Hulme now has 47 points (5 more than the Australian), in the last race in Mexico he will only need a placing to become champion.


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