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#141 1965 Mexican Grand Prix

2022-05-06 00:00

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#141 1965 Mexican Grand Prix

This year’s Mexican Grand Prix contrasts drastically from last year in so far as in the last race for 1964 the Championship was not decided, while far

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This year’s Mexican Grand Prix contrasts drastically from last year in so far as in the last race for 1964 the Championship was not decided, while far 1965 the Championship had been clinched back in August at the German Grand Prix. Of the three drivers whose fortunes were in the balance until the last lap drama 12 months ago, the champion was unable to return this year as he was still suffering from his Mosport accident. The 5-kilometre circuit, situated in a multi-purpose sports park, calls for considerable driving skill due to the variety of corners and the changing cambers. It also highlights the mechanical skill of the pit staff, as the over-7.000ft altitude of the vast plain on which Mexico City is built produces mixture and heating problems found at no other Grand Prix circuit. The entrants are basically as at Watkins Glen, with the substitution of Bondurant by Scarfiotti as the third Ferrari driver. Lotus has three cars for Clark, Spence and Solana (the local Mexican champion). Clark’s car is fitted with a 32-valve Climax V8 rebuilt from the engine which broke at Watkins Glen, and flown out to Mexico. Spence has a 90 crank engine with the high exhaust, while Solana is to drive a 33 with a flat crank engine. Ferraris are again using all flat-12 engines; two freshly tuned ones have been flown in from Modena, arriving on the Thursday afternoon, for Bandini’s car. Scarfiotti is the other team entry from Ferrari, while Rodriguez is officially entered by North American Racing Team, and has a blue and white stripe painted down the centre of his car. While the Ferrari mechanics are unpacking and fitting Bandini’s engine, Firestone technicians are removing the Dunlop tyres from the wheels of Rodriguez’ car and fitting their own tyres. For dry weather they fit 7.00/12.50-13 rear and 6.00/10.50-13 front, Super Sport Indy tyres; these are almost like the slicks used in drag racing, with tiny deep slits let in. The wet tyres are the same size and called Super Sport GP. These have a much more pronounced tread pattern to disperse the water.
 
The front tyres have about 1.5in wider tread and look even squatter than the 13in Dunlops when they came out. Next year Firestone, Goodyear and Dunlop will be on the starting line of all Championship Grands Prix. B.R.M. has their usual three cars for Hill and Stewart, which, except for the weak mixture cams, are unaltered. Brabham has two cars for himself and Gurney. The latter is not using a 32-valve Climax due to the unreliability of this engine in the Brabham all through the year, and the mechanics are hoping not to have to make an engine change on the night before the race. The two Coopers for McLaren and Rindt are unaltered and the New Zealander is driving his last race for Coopers as next year he will run his own cars. The Honda team are taking this last race of the present Formula much more seriously than some of the other teams. Bucknum and Ginther are out for special early morning practice sessions from 6:00 to 9:00 o’clock each morning, on the three days before official practice starts. As this is their first appearance at the Mexican circuit they have many mixture problems to work out, plus the fact that their complicated fuel injection is giving trouble. However, on the Thursday morning, with a damp track, Ginther is timed unofficially at 1'58"0, which is faster than the record, although not so fast as last year’s fastest practice time of 1'57"24. The two ears being used are a normal car as run at Monza and Watkins Glen for Ginther, While Bucknum is in the longer car with built-in torque absorbers in the hubs. Walker has his two ears for Bonnier and Siffert. This is the last race in which Walker ran two cars, as next year he will be running a Cooper-Maserati for Siffert. Unlike some of the other cars in this race, which will now be so-much scrap metal, the two dark blue Brabhams are becoming film stars, having been bought by Warner Bros. for Steve McQueen to drive in a multi-million pound epic which is planned. The Parnell team have both their cars in identical trim to Watkins Glen for Ireland and Attwood.

 

All cars and drivers are out at the circuit for Friday’s 4-hour practice session, starting at 1300hrs, and sharp on time Randini leads off on a dry track in bright sunshine with a cool breeze. Hill’s B.R.M. is sounding very rough and after only a few laps he is in having the mixture altered. Stewart is feeling slightly under the weather and his car is feeling flat. Clark is running his 32-valve engine quietly for some laps to bed it in properly. While the two Lotus team drivers are not hurrying in the first hour, Solana is out to show his countrymen that his dismal display at Watkins Glen is because he is homesick, and after an hour’s practice he is the fastest Lotus and fourth overall. The first car to get under 2min is Gurney’s, followed by Ginther and Hill, whose mixture problem is quickly rectified. Rodriguez is unable to say whether he thinks that the Firestone tyres are better or not, and before he has time to really evaluate them he loses a rear wheel and crashes, without injury although the car is quite badly damaged. Bandini’s Ferrari has its exhaust megaphones changed to shorter ones and on the subsequent laps he slides up the slight banking on the turn before the pits and hits the safety rail hard, breaking the flange on the front wheel, but not causing any other damage. Coopers are in after only a short run to change ratios, while Attwood has his B.R.M. engine break before he has completed three laps. A dog which makes its appearance here every year trotted across the track in front of Bandini who is doing a few laps in Scarfiotti’s car. Honda’s are clocking some very good times and, as has now become practice, their drivers swap cars for a few laps, and again they both prove faster in the opposite cars. The consistency of their times in the 1'57"0 or 1'58"0 bracket and the fact that all other drivers are referring to being blown off down the straights indicate that the team are more than somewhat prepare for this race. Clark is beginning to go very fast and is under 1'57"0 when his engine blows up in a cloud of smoke at the end of the straight.

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Contrary to expectation, neither he nor Chapman are the least bit sorry that the 32-valve engine is blown up as now they can fit an old nail (a 90° V8 used last at Clermont Ferrand when the 32-valve failed there) which would not cause the anxiety that the more modern engine does. Just after Clark’s car blows up Brabham goes past the pits spluttering, and stops down the straight to be pushed back to the pits with empty fuel tanks. B.R.M. are not too happy for Hill’s Car is down on power and Stewart has blown his engine up in a big way. Clark goes out in Spence’s car and records a faster time than in his own car with the latest engine. His time is only two-hundredths of a second slower than Gurneys fastest lap. Rindt stops with a broken petrol pipe, having set a time of half a second faster than McLaren. Practice finishes on time, with a lot of work to be done in the pits. Saturday is again bright and sunny, and the two snow-covered peaks of Ixtlacihuatl and Popocatepetl are clearly visible in the distance. Rodriguez’s car is still in pieces and the damage is proving more difficult than at first anticipated. Clark, Stewart and Attwood all have new engines, the Team Lotus No 1 car reverting back to look as it did, more than a year ago with the high centre exhausts. Right on time again, with no filming or such distractions, Clark sets oft to bed-in his engine; followed by Stewart, Spence and Hill. Spence is very soon into the swing and is down to 1'58"0. very quickly. however, with an increase in air temperature over the previous day it is doubtful if many cars would go faster unless it becomes cooler just before the end of practice at 5:00 p.m.. Again the Hondas are sounding very good and are consistently lapping at 1'58"0. Hill is complaining even more that there is no power in his car, while both Brabharns are lapping at under 2min. A small drama is developing at the other end of the pits. The two Parnell drivers and the two Cooper drivers have failed to turn up at the beginning of practice.

 

Tim Parnell and John Cooper get more and more worried as time goes on, and when they are an hour late it is decided they must be inside Mexican jail. Parnell is requiring Attwood’s car to be run as soon as possible as it has a new engine and might need tuning, so after waiting over an hour he gets Bondurant, who is without his Ferrari drive, to take the car out for a few laps. At 2:30 p.m. the four drivers appear, having started late and then get lost on the way; hot words fly and Parnell sacks Ireland on the spot, although it isn’t his fault, and gives his car to Bondurant to race, while the other three drivers are left in no uncertainty as to the requirements of a driver. Honda once again swap cars, and once again they are quicker out of their own cars. Rodriguez is unable to take out his own car and uses Scarfiotti’s for a number of laps. Once Coopers gets going they start having more troubles. The gear ratios are again changed, and a lot of work is being done to try and stop water pumping itself out of the overflow due to pressurisation of the cooling system. Just when they are getting sorted out McLaren is missing; he has the left front ball joints break and as the upright turns under braking, the caliper bridge-pipe is pulled off and the car, with hardly any brakes, steered itself into a guard rail, slightly buckling the wishbones. As practice nears its conclusion there is the expected burst of activity. Clark, in particular, seems set on wresting pole position away from Gurney, and with only minutes to go he succeeds with a time of 1'56"17, a speed of 155.331kph, once again proving that he is the rightful World Champion. Stewart is also trying for a quick lap, even though he is running a temperature of 103f and feeling groggy. As the B.R.M. comes round the slightly banked last turn something suddenly gives on the left front suspension. Closer examination discovers that the bracket on the monocoque which holds the lower link has partly pulled away, and as this would be a major repair job it is decided to use the spare car with the engine from the damaged car.

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Race day is fine and sunny and after two saloon car races in the morning, the serious business of the day begins. Rodriguez’ car is not ready so he takes over Scarfiotti’s car, which means only 17 starters and a re-shuffle on the grid. Hondas have switched numbers on their cars, putting Ginther on the second row of the grid. Stewart’s car is in fact the training car, with his practice engine fitted. Before the start the drivers are supposed to parade, in single file behind a pace car; in the Renault R8 1100s which each have been supplied with. Instead of waiting for the procession to start, most of them rush off for a Renault GP round the circuit. In tight bunches, taking short cuts, driving in the opposite direction and doing hand-brake turns, the procession turns into a gymkhana. One driver only behaves in the gentlemanly manner the organiser’s are expecting, and this is Jim Clark, who tries to comply with the laid-down plan. After a warming-up lap the race starts on time. From the drop of the flag it is Ginther all the way. With the extra power he has he sweeps past Clark and Gurney and is in the lead by the first corner. Halfway round the lap and he is already 50 yards in the lead from Stewart, who has made a very good start. At the end of lap one, Ginther leads from Stewart, Spence, Gurney; Hill and Rodriguez. Then a short gap and McLaren comes with Siffert, Clark (who makes a bad start and whose engine is not pulling properly), Rinds, Bonnier, Bucknum and Solana. Bringing up the rear are the two Parnell cars of Attwood and Bondurant. As the field sweeps off into the second lap Brabham comes into the pits with a rocker box gasket leaking. It takes six minutes to fix this, but he makes another pit stop on his third lap. as his oil pressure is surging due to the amount he loses on lap 1. Meanwhile Ginther is still pulling away and at the end of lap 2 his lead is 100 yards from Spence who hads passed Stewart and is pulling away from the next four, Stewart, Gurney, Banditti and Hill. McLaren drops two places on lap 2, when he is passed by Siffert and Clark. The other Cooper is passed by three cars on the second lap, these being Bonnier, Bucknum and Solana. Attwood and Bondurant are keeping close formation at the rear.

 

In the next few laps Ginther pulls away from Spence, and the Lotus away from the next group. Hill passes Bandini on the fourth lap, and Stewart, Gurney and Hill then pull away fighting hard for third place. On the seventh lap Hill passes Gurney and on the next lap they both pass Stewart, whose clutch is beginning to slip. Bandini, once he loses the two BRMs and the Brabham, chop back and is challenged straight away by Rodriguez, Siffert and Clark. Siffert passes the Mexican on lap 5 only to be passed by both Rodriguez and Clark on the next lap. McLaren and Bonnier are dicing for 11th place and on lap 6 the Cooper drops back and is passed on the next lap by Bucknum, who closes right up on Bonnier’s tail. McLaren now finds himself just ahead of Rindt and they holds the team formation for some laps. On the eighth lap Clark’s engine stiffens up and there is a funny ticking noise coming from it, so he stops near the hairpin and retires. Ginther is still holding a lead of 4.2sec over Spence who, in turn, is 5sec, ahead of Hill and Gurney. By the 11th lap Stewart has dropped away from his team mate and the Brabham driver; the latter makes two efforts to pass Hill in the hairpin and on the third attempt he is through, so on lap 12 Gurney is third and setting out in a very determined way after Spence. Hill holds fourth with Stewart fifth, about 3sec behind, and 7sec behind the B.R.M.s the two Ferraris are having a dingdong battle for sixth place. Bandini holds Rodriguez off for some laps but on the 54th lap the Mexican gets past, to the delight of the patriotic crowd. Over the course of the next 12 laps they change positions several times, keeping very close together. Siffert is lying eighth and keeping the two Ferraris in sight. Behind him is his team mate, Bonnier, also holding his position. Bucknum and Solana are mixing it and the more powerful Honda gets past the Lotus on lap 9, but Solana is getting into his stride and five laps later the Lotus re-passes the Honda and the Mexican goes after Bonnier, eventually passing him on lap 18. As Clark retires, Bondurant passes Attwood for three laps before being re-taken and pushes back into the last but one position: The last place is still held by Brabham, who is several laps down.

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The Cooper pair switch places on the 14th lap. They continue in convoy for some time until McLaren’s gear selectors brake and he retires on lap 25 just as he is passed by Attwood. Stewart’s slipping clutch is becoming noticeable and Rodriguez catches and passes the BRM on the 28th lap, only to be re-pass two laps later when the clutch grips again. On lap 29 Bondurant retires from last but one place when a bolt on the lower right-hand rear upright brakes and the car slews off the track. The halfway mark is approaching and still Ginther is well in the lead, with Gurney making no impression on him. Then drama hits the Ferrari team. Bandini gets sideways on and rips the nose of his car off against the rubber tyres which mark the corners. He goes to the pits on lap 33, where by chance there is a spare nose-shell with his number on it, sitting waiting for just this moment. While he is in the pits in came Rodriguez with a badly running engine. The Mexican’s trouble is that the rectifier is faulty and the battery has gone flat. Quickly a new battery is fitted and Rodriguez is out again behind Bandini in last but one position. Siffert catches the sickening BRM and on lap 34 he passes Stewart into fourth place. Stewart’s clutch has by now nearly had it. On lap 35 Bucknum and Solana pass him, and on this lap he pulls into the pits and after a brief examination he retires. Pressure at the front now becomes tremendous for Gurney is pulling out everything he knows and Ginther is equalling his times, so the gap of about 7sec at the halfway stage has only crept down to 4sec in 20 laps. Rindt’s Cooper suddenly cuts as he goes past the pits and he parks the car just beyond. The ignition has cut when the electrics fails.

 

A short while later, on lap 43, Bonnier slows, letting Attwood and Bandini pass, and on the next lap he retires when the bracket of the lower front suspension link brakes away from the chassis. Solana is still catching Siffert and on lap 49, following a time of 1'57"6, he passes into fifth place. Things now look all set for the finish. However, the 1965 Mexican GP still has a sting in its tail. On lap 55 Moises Solana’s race comes to an end when the transistor box on his Lotus packs up suddenly, and he retires from a certain fifth place. Next lap Hill feels the engine beat slow slightly. and then the engine goes bang, wrecking it internally. The speeds of the leading two cars are creeping up every lap, as Gurney closes on Ginther and the Honda driver does all he can to keep the gap open. With both drivers lapping faster than in practice the lap record falls several times, finally settling on Gurney with a time of 1'55"84, a speed of 155.440kph. The final laps ticks away and the Honda crosses the finish line 2.89sec, ahead of Gurney’s Brabham. In third place comes Spence, 1min 00.15sec behind Ginther, and on the same lap just behind him comes Siffert in a time of 2hr 10'26"52. One lap down comes Bucknum and Attwood, in fifth and sixth places, while the last two cars running are the two Ferraris. Rodriguez passes Bandini on the last lap when the Italian car slows right down through lack of coolant in the engine. The Mexican Grand Prix raises several interesting points. It is the last event in this Formula; it is won by Honda getting their first Championship win; it is won by Ginther getting his first Championship win; Goodyear tyres are first and second (the Dunlop monopoly is broken at last); the latest Climax engine isn’t any good-it is almost as if the Coventry firm has retired already.

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The victory of Richie Ginther's Honda in the Mexican Grand Prix, the last round of the 1965 World Championship and the final race of the Formula 1500 without a supercharger (next year the new regulations will come into force, which foresee either 3000 cc non-supercharged engines or 1500 cc engines with a supercharger) did not get the prominence it deserved, probably because interest in Grand Prix racing had suddenly waned after Jim Clark had won the title several races ahead of time. And yet it was, for the Japanese car, a sensational, totally unexpected victory. It is since the summer of 1964 that Honda has been competing in the very difficult field of Formula 1. with results that were at first unremarkable, then gradually more positive but never entirely convincing. The Honda all outperformed the English and Italian 8 and 12-cylinders, but the Japanese engineers could not use it properly (take it to the wheels, in racing parlance). Ginther himself said at Monza, during practice for the Italian Grand Prix:

 

"When we solve this problem, you will see good things".

 

Honda managed to solve the problem more quickly than expected and had the great satisfaction of triumphing on Sunday in Mexico City, in a tremendous race that saw only eight cars finish out of the seventeen started: the two Hondas did not complain of any problems, and their affirmation was completed by Buchnum's fifth place. What is more, Ginther practically always remained in the lead, even when Clark, Graham Hill, Stewart were still in the race. He lacked automotive experience, having started out building touring and racing motorbikes (he had long since achieved great success in this field), and the engineers know very well how long and strewn with thorns the road is when one wants to attempt grand prix car design. Last year's test driver Ron Buchnum was joined this season by Richie Ginther, a racer of great experience and sensitivity, who contributed a great deal to the final tuning of the original Japanese single-seater, the most interesting feature of which is the 12-cylinder V-engine, mounted on the back as on other European Formula 1 cars, but arranged transversally. Apparently, this engine had power to spare, an unqualified victory, which definitely put Honda among the top Formula 1 machines.

 

Incidentally, of the ten Grands Prix valid for the 1965 World Championship, six were won by Lotus (again with Jim Clark), three by B.R.M. (twice with Graham Hill, once with Jackie Stewart), one by Honda. The season - and the technical cycle of Formula 1 - thus ended with a surprise, which in a way opens up new prospects for the future. As has been said, the new Formula 1 that will come into force on 1 January 1966 is much more demanding: it will practically allow the construction of engines with twice the power of the current ones, which will entail major problems of utilisation (not to mention the driving technique, which will be completely different), so much so that it is thought that the four-wheel drive scheme, an almost unexplored construction solution, will have to be adopted. Some manufacturers will also find it difficult in the first year to prepare - or have prepared - the new engines (which will probably all be 3-litres without a supercharger): for example Lotus and Brabham, since Coventry-Climax will no longer be doing so, and the project for a Ford Formula 1 engine is still a long way off. B.R.M., on the other hand, is providing for itself, as is Ferrari (the Italian marque, in this respect, should be better off than its rivals, simply developing its famous 12 Vs) and certainly Honda; Cooper has instead signed an agreement with Maserati. But it will probably take at least a season before all manufacturers are ready.

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Ferrari will participate in next year's Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship, the most exciting event in motorsport, with a new single-seater equipped with a 12-cylinder 3000 cc V-cylinder engine. John Surtees and Mike Parkes will take turns at the wheel. For the Sport-Prototype competitions the Maranello team will prepare a four-litre capacity model, entrusted, depending on the circumstances, to Bandini, Scarfiotti, Vaccarella, Biscaldi, Casoni and Guichet. This was the main news announced on Saturday 11 December 1965 in Modena by Enzo Ferrari during the traditional end-of-year meeting with collaborators, friends and journalists. Among them Franco Lini receives the Dino Ferrari award. The Modenese manufacturer shows its new single-seater (as is well known, Formula 1 from 1966 onwards will welcome 3000 cc cars with non-supercharged or 1500 cc engines equipped with a compressor) in the courtyard of its factory. It had been finished a few minutes earlier by technicians and mechanics. The engine and drive are rear-mounted, the gearbox is 5-speed, disc brakes; the wheelbase remains unchanged from previous Formula 1 cars (2.40 metres), but the dimensions are slightly increased. The weight is around 500 kilos. The power should be around 360-370 hp, the speed around 310 km/h. Ferrari's first driver will remain, therefore, John Surtees. The former World Champion is on the road to recovery after his serious accident in Canada a few months ago. His contract with the Maranello team expires at the end of 1966, so he will be able to be used for at least a year.

 

Mike Parkes, an English engineer who works as a test driver at Maranello and is at the same time a skilled driver of Prototype cars, will flank Surtees and the Italian driver who is in the best form at the moment. It could be Bandini like Scarflotti or Vaccarella. With regard to the Dino, Ferrari points out that the engine drawings are already at Fiat; they are now waiting for the Turin-based company to build 500 examples of the gran turismo so that they can derive the engine for the Formula 2 single-seater (the international regulations stipulate that Formula 2 cars, from 1967 onwards, derive their powerplant, with a maximum of six cylinders, from a gran turismo). It was clear that Fiat would have to build the 500 examples by 1966 to enable Ferrari to participate in the championship. The Modenese manufacturer, for its part, decided to produce a version of the Dino destined for the Sport category, with a two-litre rear engine. That of the Dino-Fiat, with a smaller displacement, will be located at the front, with a double overhead camshaft. Talking about Sefac's plans for 1966, Enzo Ferrari confirms that production will consist of the 330 GT, 275 GT berlinetta and spider, 500 Superfast and 250 Le Mans models. An absolute novelty will also be presented at the Geneva Motor Show in March. Having exhausted the sporting chapter, it is worth mentioning a noble initiative of Ferrari in the field of professional education: on Sunday he will inaugurate an institute named in memory of his son, engineer Alfredo Ferrari. The building, a modern brick and glass construction with ten classrooms and a 1.000 square metre workshop, stands a few hundred metres from the factory. It will house a hundred or so specialised motor and drawing students.

 

Giulia Noto

 

Translated by Rosita Raso

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