There is great anticipation for the nineteenth British Grand Prix, the fourth of the nine races scheduled for the twentieth edition of the Formula One World Drivers' Championship and International Constructors' Cup for the 1966 season. The British Grand Prix, to be held on Saturday 16 July 1966, after free practice and qualifying on Thursday 14 and Friday 15 July 1966, was held for the second time at Brands Hatch, a circuit that had alternated with Silverstone since its debut as a Formula 1 circuit in 1964. The 3.703-kilometre-long circuit, which hosts races of various types, has already caused twenty fatal accidents among drivers since October 1949, the last of which less than two weeks before the British Grand Prix, on 3 July 1966, claimed the life of Englishman Stuart Duncan.
The big news of this Grand Prix is Ferrari's resounding absence: the Italian team's first absence of the season. The Maranello team has already missed races since the birth of the World Championship: the first ever at Silverstone, in 1950, all editions of the Indy 500 except the 1952 one, the 1959 British Grand Prix held at Aintree, due to the metalworkers' strike, the 1960 United States Grand Prix at Riverside for economic reasons, the 1961 United States Grand Prix at Watkin Glens as a sign of mourning for the death of German driver Wolfgang von Trips and fourteen spectators less than a month earlier, on 10 September 1961, during the Italian Grand Prix at Monza; then the 1962 French Grand Prix in Rouen, due to another metalworkers' strike, and the last two races of the same season. And finally the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen and the South African Grand Prix at East London, where Ferrari had decided to withdraw because it had already lost the world championship. This absence, the third caused by the continuing national strikes (after Aintree 1959 and Rouen 1962), is particularly important for Ferrari because it does not concern a single competition, as in previous cases, but, as announced by Scuderia Ferrari itself on Tuesday 5 July 1966, could lead to even longer inactivity. In fact, the communiqué issued by Ferrari said:
"The state of union unrest, which has been jeopardising work in the sports management department for seven months, has continued with recurring strikes, which do not stem from a company dispute but from the national issue of the renewal of the metalworkers' collective agreement. These strikes are so intense and sudden that they do not allow a minimum work programme in this special sector of Ferrari at the very centre of the racing season, and the company is forced to suspend racing activities until the situation returns to normal".
Ferrari withdrew at a time when, despite a few hiccups, it was in good racing form and found itself leading the Constructors' Championship, a good nine points ahead of Brabham-Repco, and second in the Drivers' Championship with Lorenzo Baldini, just two points behind championship leader Jack Brabham, on 12 points. Looking at the standings, skipping a few races would allow Ferrari to move a few points closer to the Brabham team and, due to Bandini's consequent absence, would give the current world championship leader Jack Brabham a further advantage. Even if the absence at the British Grand Prix were to be the only one of the season, Brabham would certainly come out on top. With this classification, these predictions and a gloomy sky, the British Grand Prix gets underway. Despite the absence of Scuderia Ferrari, there are many entries including the return of Jackie Stewart's #15 single-seater, after his accident at Spa-Francorchamps on 12 June 1966, and the absence of Jim Clark's #10 at Reims. Also of note was the first presence in Formula 1 of British driver Chris Irwin, coming from Formula 3.
Of the participants in the race, however, not everyone seems to be ready: Team Lotus, for example, is in an extremely difficult state as it only has one car ready for practice. The second, in fact, is being prepared at Cheshunt. With the H16 B.R.M. engine and gearbox back at Bourne for the necessary modifications, the Lotus 43 is initially unusable, but Colin Chapman resolves the situation by contacting Coventry Climax to continue using the 2-litre V8 Climax engine. Team Lotus also built another Type 33 chassis, named R14: this was given to Jim Clark, while Peter Arundell was supposed to use the R11. But, at the last moment, new problems with the second 2-litre Climax engine left the R11 without propulsion and Arundell without a car. Luckily, however, the B.R.M. team found a spare that Team Lotus immediately set about installing. The B.R.M. team, which designs and builds its own engines and gearboxes, has no better luck than Lotus because at Reims it had had problems with the gearbox and transmission of the H16 unit. This required some rethinking; in fact, the British team now has to rely on its Tasman 2-litre cars.
Moreover, with Jackie Stewart's car destroyed at Spa, there was only one model left available, as the others were sold. Thus, the B.R.M. team had to retrieve the last car from the Far East, where it had been brought for exhibition, and prepare it for Jackie Stewart, while Graham Hill kept the one he had already used at Reims. The situation changes considerably if we look at the Brabham team, because Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme can use the two cars that had run very well at Reims. In addition, Hulme's new car has a better exhaust system thanks to the group of pipes coming from each bank of cylinders. In addition to this, Brabham Racingis also rewriting its car with a 4-cylinder Coventry-Climax engine for Chris Irwin. As for the Cooper team, on the other hand, it was decided to take part in the Grand Prix with only two cars: one for Jochen Rindt and one for John Surtees, thus leaving Chris Amon without a car. Also in this case, as for Brabham, the two drivers had at their disposal the same car they had driven at Reims: the one of Jochen Rindt with the duct on the nose to let air arrive to the driver's feet, and the one of Surtees without air ducts.
The rest of the entries include, as always, the private owners: the usual Bob Anderson with his bright green 4-cylinder Brabham-Climax, Jo Siffert with the Cooper-Maserati of the Walker team, Guy Ligier with the Cooper Maserati, Dan Gurney with the 4-cylinder Eagle-Climax, Bob Bondurant with the 2-litre B. R.M. V8 of the Bernard White ex Chamaco-Collect team, Mike Spence with the Lotus B.R.M. V8 of Tim Parnell's team and John Taylor with the Brabham-B.R.M. V8 belonging to David Bridges. Bruce McLaren also returned to competition with his white McLaren equipped with a new Serenissima engine, as the McLaren-Ford V8 unit was not yet ready. Rounding out the entry list are two new 3-litre special single-seaters built by private companies: the first by Shannon Racing Cars, with a one-off chassis with a machining cladding powered by a 3-litre engine made up of components from the 1954 Coventry-Climax 2 1/2-litre V8 Godiva engine, mated to a Colotti gearbox driven by Trevor Taylor, and the second by J. A. Pearce Engineering in collaboration with Chris Lawrence, consisting of a 1965 Cooper chassis stretched very neatly in the engine compartment to take the V12 engine from the ex-Coombes GTO white Ferrari mated to a Hewland gearbox, with new driveshafts and half-shafts and new alloy wheels.
The start of practice is set for Thursday 14 July 1966 at 10:30 a.m., in dry but windy weather, practice continuing until 1:00 p.m. In the afternoon there is another hour of practice between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., which allows modifications to be made on some parts that may have caused problems in the morning practice and any modifications to be tried before the end of the day. Missing from early practice are Peter Arundell's Lotus, still undergoing modifications; Bruce McLaren, who is waiting for an engine from Italy; Trevor Taylor's Shannon Climax and Bob Bondurant's B.R.M.. Jim Clark, on the other hand, arrives late at the circuit, as shortly before he has an eye examination to check that his vision is optimal. During these early tests, Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme work in complete agreement and team spirit. This allows them to set an identical time of 1'34"8, with which they beat the existing record that Jim Clark had set in 1965 at the Brands Hatch circuit: 1'35"4. In the afternoon Bob Bondurant joined the practice session, while Bob Anderson did not complete the lap due to a leak from the oil filter fitted to his Climax engine. Jo Bonnier drives a Brabham equipped with a V8 engine whose exhaust pipes are painted red to make it look like a Ferrari. The engine, however, explodes almost at the start of practice.
Once again the Brabham-Repco V8s are unchallenged, and Denny Hulme even manages to find time to show the trajectories to be executed on the track to Chris Irwin, the Formula 3 driver who is the author of a very clean and tidy drive. In the meantime, Jack Brabham improves his morning time, reducing it to 1'34"5, at an average of 162 km/h: which is remarkable for a circuit with no serious straights and numerous slow corners. Denny Hulme, on the other hand, is a little slower than in the morning, but still the second fastest. Jim Clark and Graham Hill are equally competitive in their 1965 cars, just as they had been in the 1964 British Grand Prix, when they drove similar models with 1.5-litre engines. The Cooper-Maseratis do not seem particularly at ease at Brands Hatch, and the same can be said for Jackie Stewart, who runs numerous laps but without looking very fast. Practice continued on Friday 15 July 1966 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., again under cloudy skies but with a dry track. Once again, the Brabham team does not perceive excessive concern, as Jack Brabham is happy to wear out some tyres at will and Denny Hulme turns out to be the best of the morning with a relatively slow time of 1'35"6.
The morning's revelation driver was Dan Gurney, who managed to test his Eagle regularly, contrary to what he had done at Spa and Reims, when he was unable to test enough because the low-powered 2.7-litre Climax engine forced him to lose time on the fast straights, prompting the American driver to try and make up speed in the corners. At Brands Hatch Dan Gurney's car was in splendid form, and the American driver managed to set a time of 1'35"8, which put him firmly on the front row of the grid. The Shannon-Climax was finally ready to take part in these tests and Trevor Taylor took to the track, while Peter Arundell was forced to qualify in the hastily converted Lotus R11, and Jo Bonnier appeared in another fake Ferrari, this time a 1 litre Brabham-Climax V8, the same model he drove for the Rob Walker team during the 1965 season. At the end of practice, the times of the drivers present at Brands Hatch can be summarised as follows: Thursday morning, the fastest were Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme with a time of 1'34"8, followed by Graham Hill with a time of 1'36"3 and Jim Clark and Dan Gurney with a time of 1'36"6; while in the afternoon the fastest was Jack Brabham with a time of 1'34"5, followed by teammate Denny Hulme with a time of 1'35"6 and Graham Hill with a time of 1'36"0.
Friday morning's best time was set by Denny Hulme with a time of 1'35"6, followed by Dan Gurney's 1'35"8 and Jim Clark's 1'36"1. After Friday morning, the drivers still have one hour of non-timed, unofficial practice available at the end of the day. These tests were held this time on a wet track and gave Graham Hill a chance to try the Goodyear tyres in the wet and Jackie Stewart a chance to get used to driving in poor conditions again. On the afternoon of Saturday 16 July 1966, due to the continuing rain at Brands Hatch, it is decided to extend the number of warm-up laps before the start of the British Grand Prix. The twenty single-seaters are brought onto the main straight, within which Ferrari also appears to be present, as the Lotus B.R.M. V8 of the Parnell team is painted red instead of its usual dark green colour. This car will be driven by Mike Spence, who will wear a white helmet painted with a circle of red dashes to make it look like Mike Parkes', replacing his classic yellow helmet. Jo Bonnier will also be back in his Brabham, partly painted red. On the starting grid the drivers prepare to run the eighty laps of the British Grand Prix.
On the front row will start Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme and Dan Gurney on Goodyear tyres; on the second row will be Graham Hill on Goodyear tyres, used for the first time, and Jim Clark on Firestone tyres in his Lotus. The third row was followed by John Surtees, Jochen Rindt and Jackie Stewart on Dunlop tyres; in the fourth row Mike Spence and Bon Anderson; in the fifth row Jo Siffert, Chris Irwin and Bruce McLaren; in the sixth Bob Bondurant and Jo Bonnier; in the seventh John and Trevor Taylor together with Guy Ligier, and finally Chris Lawrence and Peter Arundell. At the lowering of the starter's flag, Jack Brabham leapt into the lead followed by Dan Gurney, while Denny Hulme was squeezed into the corner; John Surtees and Graham Hill collided unintentionally and on the British driver's B.R.M. a suspension bent. However, both drivers continue the race. Bob Anderson, who started late at the starting signal, lost a lap to the rest of the group, while Trevor Taylor was forced to retire due to a malfunction of his car's Climax engine. In the meantime, the remaining eighteen drivers continued their race as normal.
Jack Brabham proves to be very competitive right from the start: the Repco V8 engine works perfectly, the Brabham chassis performs to perfection and the Australian driver has fun going through the corners with wonderful precision, leaving everyone behind him. After the mistakes made during the opening lap, Denny Hulme is unable to go at his usual pace. The rain doesn't intensify, but the track is still wet and terribly slippery, leading to numerous mistakes by the drivers. All this while Jochen Rindt, having overtaken Dan Gurney, continues to lap at relentless speed. The situation stabilised with Jack Brabham leading the race, followed by Jochen Rindt, then Dan Gurney and John Surtees, followed by the eagerly awaited duel involving Jim Clark and Graham Hill, and finally followed by Jackie Stewart, Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Jo Siffert. Dan Gurney's race was interrupted on lap seven due to engine problems just as the track began to dry out and more grip on his tyres would have allowed him to set his fastest lap. A spin involving Jochen Rindt caused the Austrian driver to lose contact with Jack Brabham; at the same time, John Surtees closed the gap on him, while Jackie Stewart progressively caught up with Jim Clark and Graham Hill and placed himself between them.
In just ten laps Bob Bondurant, Peter Arundell, Chris Lawrence and Jo Bonnier are lapped, with the latter even being lapped by the group consisting of Mike Spence, Bruce McLaren, Guy Ligier and Chris Irwin. The two Cooper team drivers, Jochen Rindt and John Surtees, although they can still see Jack Brabham ahead of them, have no hope of catching up with him. Meanwhile, Jackie Stewart complains of engine problems and, after a pit-stop to try and correct the fault, is forced to retire on lap 17. Shortly afterwards John Surtees overtakes Jochen Rindt and takes second position, but as the track dries out the two Coopers seem unable to manage the race pace in the best way. It goes on with Jack Brabham gaining more and more advantage, the two Coopers of Surtees and Rindt holding on for second and third, while Graham Hill and Jim Clark continue their personal battle for fourth place. Meanwhile, Denny Hulme finally seems to be competitive again, and quickly closing in on the drivers ahead of him. As the Coopers lose ground on the dry track, having still fitted wet tyres, Graham Hill and Jim Clark benefit from the situation and spur each other on, catching up with Surtees and Rindt.
Denny Hulme followed a short distance behind as the pack caught up with the two Coopers. Graham Hill overtakes Jochen Rindt, with Jim Clark following him, gets to the inside of John Surtees at South Bank Corner and finds himself firmly in second place. After thirty laps the race leader, Jack Brabham, continued undisturbed with a twenty-three second lead over Graham Hill's 2-litre B.R.M.. On lap 31, Jim Clark and Denny Hulme passed John Surtees. Behind, all competitors have already been lapped. Peter Arundell is far behind due to a malfunction in his car's gearbox, and Jo Siffert makes a pit stop to investigate the overheating that forced him to run at the back of the pack, allowing those behind him to gain positions. Denny Hulme continued to press the duo of Graham Hill and Jim Clark, who seemed to have no intention of giving the New Zealand driver an easy second place. On lap 37, Hulme managed to pass Jim Clark, and two laps later he took second place, passing Graham Hill as well. Halfway through the race, Jack Brabham continued comfortably alone at the front of the race, with Denny Hulme busy catching up with his team-mate.
Graham Hill followed in third place, with Jim Clark close behind, while John Surtees and Jochen Rindt battled for fifth place. Bruce McLaren followed in seventh place, ahead of Chris Irwin, John Taylor, Guy Ligier, Bob Bondurant and Chris Lawrence. On lap 45 Jim Clark's brake pedal stopped working properly; the Scottish driver returned to the pits and discovered that the problem was due to the reservoir, which had run out of fluid. After having it refilled by his mechanics, Jim Clark returned to the track but lost a lap to the leaders. The race now seems to be over with Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme very confident of an extraordinary result, and Graham Hill who seems to have no intention of giving them any trouble. John Surtees, on the other hand, appears to be very unhappy aboard his Cooper, whose handling seems to be failing as time goes on. The problem worsens to the point that during the fifty-fifth lap John Surtees is the victim of a spin: the British driver tries to fight for a few more laps but is then forced to retire at the end of the sixty-seventh lap.
Jim Clark, on the other hand, began to go very fast again and made up the lap he had lost on Jochen Rindt, overtaking the Austrian driver five laps from the end of the race to take fourth place. In the final laps Graham Hill noticed that the oil pressure dropped as he drove through the corners and was forced to slow down considerably. Although the British driver is called upon to be more careful, third place seems to be available, provided the engine does not break down. This problem forces the Brabham drivers - Jack Brabham himself and Denny Hulme - to lap Graham Hill, as they finish the race ten seconds apart. At the end of the scheduled eighty laps, Jack Brabham wins the British Grand Prix. The Australian driver also dominated this race, and became the first in motorsport history to lead both the drivers' and unofficial constructors' standings. The Brabham-Repco that Jack Brabham drove to victory for the second time, after his triumph at Reims, was of his own design. Completing this triumph was the second place of New Zealander Denny Hulme, also in a Brabham, who preceded all the most famous champions: third place went to Graham Hill's B.R.M., fourth to Jim Clark's Lotus, then Jochen Rindt's Cooper-Maserati and Bruce McLaren's McLaren-Serenissima. Only the absence of the Ferraris slightly detracts from the performance of the Australian driver and constructor
Noemi Di Benedetto