The XXI Grand Prix de Belgique, otherwise known as the 1962 Belgian Grand Prix, was the third round of the 1962 FIA Formula One World Championship, held on the 17th of June 1962. Held on the legendary Spa Francorchamps road course, the race witnessed a scary accident between Willy Mairesse and Trevor Taylor which saw the former's car catch fire when it landed upside down. Fortunately both drivers were unhurt, for Mairesse had been thrown from his car just moments before it burst into flame.
With Mairesse and Taylor escaping unharmed, the race would instead be remembered for the coming of age of a future double World Champion. Having missed out on pole position to Graham Hill, Scottish racer Jim Clark duelled with the Englishman and three other drivers for the first half of the race for the lead. It took some time for the Scot to pull away, however, with team mate Taylor putting together a ferocious defence from Mairesse, Hill and Bruce McLaren to allow Clark to escape.
Clark was over ten seconds clear when Mairesse and Taylor came together through Blanchimont, the two having battled since the start of the race at average lap speeds north of 130 mph. Graham Hill was running just behind when Taylor and Mairesse flew off the road at over 100 mph, and was able to drag his limping BRM home for a well earned second place. Third place went to his name sake Phil Hill, the American having had to duel with team mate Ricardo Rodríguez for the entire race, the two charging across the line just a tenth of a second apart.
Like many other races in the earliest decades of Formula One, the organisers of the Belgian Grand Prix had the option to invite teams to the race, and so sixteen drivers were offered automatic places on the grid, with the rest of those willing to go to Belgium left to qualify. Yet, not everyone whom submitted an entry was able to attend the race, with the Owen Racing Organisation originally planning to take four BRMs to the race, only for Gerry Ashmore to fail to arrive. His place on the list ultimately went to John Campbell-Jones, but the Brit was likely to be among the also rans for he would be equipped with an old Lotus 18.
Elsewhere, Porsche were torn between attending the race or not, with only one car planned to be sent to Spa, Jo Bonnier listed as their driver. Dan Gurney therefore had to find his own entertainment for the weekend, securing a drive with Wolfgang Seidel, whom had loaned the Lotus-BRM being run as a test car by Team Lotus. Ferrari, in contrast, would send a quartet of gleaming 156s to the Ardens, with Phil Hill joined by Willy Mairesse, Lorenzo Bandini and Ricardo Rodríguez.
Team Lotus arrived with their two usual drivers of Jim Clark and Trevor Taylor, although Clark remained the only one of the two with the 25 chassis and would use an updated Climax FWMV for the weekend. Other Lotuses would be in the hands of Maurice Trintignant, whose car had been fully rebuilt after its Monaco smash, while Jack Brabham fielded his now familiar Lotus 24. UDT Laystall Racing Team were also running with Lotuses once again, and it was hoped would be able to reveal whether the BRM V8 was stronger than the Climax V8, for their two cars were split: Innes Ireland running a 24 with a Climax, while Masten Gregory ran with a BRM powered 24. They had done so in Monaco too, but engines could only do so much on the tight streets, while in the forests of the Ardens, a V8 could sing.
Indeed, it would be a BRM engined runner whom was singing ahead of the Belgian race, for Graham Hill arrived in Spa at the top of the Championship, level on points with name sake Phil Hill after the first two rounds. Bruce McLaren was next after his Monaco victory, ahead of the only Team Lotus driver to have scored in the form of Trevor Taylor. Ten drivers had so far scored in 1962, and many hoped to add their names to the board around the forests.
Victory for McLaren had also put his team, Cooper-Climax, at the top of the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers, with the honours allowing them to complete work on a second T60 for Tony Maggs. BRM and Ferrari were level on ten points, just one behind the early leaders, while Team Lotus found themselves down in fourth after Clark's dramas. Lola-Climax, only sending one car into Belgium, and Porsche rounded out the scorers.
The full entry list for the 1962 Belgian Grand Prix is outlined below:
- * The #4 entry was initially given to Jackie Lewis, before his withdrawal. It was subsequently handed to Gerry Ashmore as a fourth entrant for the Owen Racing Organisation, before he too was withdrawn.
Qualifying and practice would, as ever, roll into one during the build up to the Belgian Grand Prix, the cars first hitting the circuit on Friday evening. With the evening warm and dry, many drivers were targeting a sub-four minute lap given that Phil Hill had managed a 3:59.3 lap to take pole the year before. The mad rush on that warm June evening was not required, however, as the good weather carried over onto Saturday afternoon, where the times tumbled around the Ardens.
It was 1961 pole sitter Phil Hill whom hit the circuit first on Friday, with Jim Clark and Bruce McLaren also out as the pits opened. Yet, with problems affecting many of the expected front runners on Friday, including the impressive Graham Hill who required a brake bleed after just a handful of laps, Willy Mairesse was the man to start the quick times rolling. That led to a fight within Ferrari, for all four wanted to be the first to break the four minute barrier before the end of the day, a feat ultimately achieved by Phil Hill with a 3.59.8. Yet, that was almost instantly beaten by Trevor Taylor, with the Brit claiming a 3:59.3 second lap late on Friday to end the day fastest.
Saturday saw Jack Brabham join the action, having just arrived with his Lotus 24, while Clark would sit out the session as his Climax engine had expired on Friday before he could challenge team mate Taylor. Rival Graham Hill, meanwhile, would be quick to begin pounding round on Saturday afternoon, with the Brit almost instantly besting Taylor's time from Friday, before setting a 3:57.0, a time he judged to be good enough for pole. The rest continued on, with Taylor and McLaren inching ever closer to Hill's time, but they would not best it before the session's end.
Elsewhere, Innes Ireland and Masten Gregory had swapped cars overnight, with Gregory besting his time in the BRM with Ireland's Climax powered car. Ireland, however, was unable to beat his times from Friday with the Climax engine, and once the pair swapped back once again, the Brit was able to break the 4:00.0 barrier to claim fifth. That meant six cars were already quicker than the fastest race lap from 1961, while problems for big names such as Clark, Surtees and Brabham meant they found themselves way down the order. All three did manage to get running in on Saturday, Clark being given Taylor's car in the final minutes of the day to set a time over four minutes as the Scot tried to avoid putting stress on his team mate's machinery. Yet, even that seemed to go wrong for Clark, as the Lotus managed to lock itself in two different gears as he made his way back to the pits at the end of the session.
Absent from qualifying were Jo Bonnier, Tony Marsh and Heinz Schiller all three failing to arrive, while Dan Gurney refused to take part in the race, stating that the Lotus 24 being run by Wolfgang Seidel was too dangerous to drive.
The full qualifying results for the 1962 Belgian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|13||7||Carel Godin de Beaufort||Porsche||4:07.7||+10.7s|
- * After just a few laps, Gurney declared the Lotus-BRM undrivable and refused to drive the car any further.
|Carel Godin de Beaufort|
Another day under the sun greeted the field on race day, with no threat of rain in the skies over the Ardens, although a sudden shower could never be ruled out. Minor modifications were being made to the cars, many receiving expanded fuel tanks for the long runs at full throttle, with Team Lotus fitting a brand new fuel tank into Trevor Taylor's car in just half an hour. They had also been busy replacing Jim Clark's engine, with all nineteen engines running sweetly as the 30 second signal was shown at the front of the grid.
A huge roar signalled the start of the 1962 Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, with all nineteen cars getting away smoothly and evenly. Or so it was for the front row, as Clark was immediately off to a flyer, splitting Tony Maggs and Richie Ginther ahead of him, before taking Ricardo Rodríguez and Phil Hill before the cars made their way past Eau Rouge. Innes Ireland would also fall on the Scot's charge to the front, as Graham Hill led the field through the first lap, re-passing Bruce McLaren after the New Zealander had snuck through at Malmedy.
Willy Mairesse had had a good start too, and was running in fourth behind Hill, McLaren and Taylor, as the cars came to the La Source hairpin, where he found the inside line taken by a seriously shifting Clark. The top five came across the line to start lap two nose-to-tail, and it was Clark who many were paying attention to as he lined up a move on team mate Taylor through the long run up the hill once again. Behind them came a battle for sixth involving Ireland, Phil Hill and Rodriguez before a further battle behind involving John Surtees, Jack Brabham, Tony Maggs, Masten Gregory and Ginther.
With a severe lack of cameras around the circuit, most of the on track action was reported through a telephone system, with details difficult to obtain, although all confirmed that a five way epic was developing. As the leaders steamed into La Source for a second time, it was Taylor leading from McLaren and Mairesse, with Graham Hill almost opting to slip into the pits, as Clark stalked him from behind. The quintet would continue on, however, and had already dropped Ireland and his Ferrari flankers by a fair margin by the start of the third lap.
The lead continued to swap down every straight over the following laps, although at the end of lap three the order was unchanged from the previous charge through by the leaders. The next time through it was Mairesse whom had pushed through to the lead, the Belgian crowd responding to the lead of the scarlet Ferrari with a huge cheer for Mairesse was one of their own. In the excitement of the lead battle many other events were being overlooked, with Ireland appearing behind both Phil Hill and Rodriguez a few seconds later, while Surtees led his group even further back.
Over the next few laps, the lead battle could almost be described as a duel between Mairesse and Taylor, for they were taking turns to lead across the line, while McLaren and Graham Hill swapped countless times for third. The only man not playing among the tight group was Clark, who was content to sit in their wake for the early stages, not pushing his brand new engine at all as the others scrapped on ahead. At an average lap speed of 130 mph, no one could doubt that the leading quintet were some of the most talented drivers in the field, often seperated by inches through some of the most feared corners of the era.
On lap eight, there was a distinct flash of green and gold at the front of the leading pack, as Taylor led from Clark in the Team Lotus cars, the Scot having taken Mairesse, McLaren and Hill one after another in the space of a single lap. By the time the cars made their way through La Source on lap nine Clark was leading from Taylor, although the battle was far from done as Mairesse, McLaren and Hill still roared on in the wake of the two Lotuses. As they continued to pound round the circuit almost as one, Mairesse nearly attempting to run side by side with Taylor through Eau Rouge before thinking better of it, the first retirements were confirmed, as Giancarlo Baghetti called time on his limping Ferrari.
Elsewhere, Ireland was in strife, having stopped earlier in the race to report a strange handling issue. A quick inspection revealled nothing of note, but a lap later Ireland had slithered to a stop once again, stating the problem was worse. More thorough probing revealed that a rear wishbone was failing with no sign of impact damage, causing some concern among his fellow Lotus 24 competitors. A few laps later the decision to call in and withdraw the sister car of Masten Gregory was made on safety grounds by the UDT Laystall Racing Team, while Brabham eased off his pace to such a degree that a struggling Maurice Trintignant was slowly drawing him in outside the top ten.
As others hit problems, Team Lotus tried to exploit the situation at the front of the field, with Clark gaining a few yards of space on team mate Taylor, who was valiantly trying to hold off Mairesse and co. and allow the Scot to escape. Clark's car was now singing around Spa, the Scot already setting times faster than Hill had managed in qualifying, although the quintet still remained together, albeit with ten seconds now covering them. The pace was still frantic among the leaders, however, with the average speed of 131 mph by lap fifteen meaning that all five were running quicker than the best lap from 1961. It was on that tour that Clark set the fastest lap, setting a stunning time of 3:55.6 seconds, some four seconds off of Brabham's lap record of 1960 but with only two thirds of the engine capacity that the old Cooper had had.
The battle still remained tense as half distance flashed by, with Taylor still putting together an excellent defence from Mairesse and co. although Clark still had trouble pulling clear. Graham Hill's BRM, meanwhile, had not sounded healthy for some time and it was still a miracle that the Brit was still running, let alone at the pace of the leading group as he battled with Taylor, Mairesse and McLaren. Further down, Rodriguez and Phil Hill were having a private, and well mannered duel for sixth, while Maggs and Ginther, both with over twenty seconds of empty track around them, completed the runners still on the lead lap. John Campbell-Jones also continued to run on at the back of the field, but the Brit was constantly in and out of the pits meaning he was, by far and away, the slowest driver in the field.
As the twenty lap mark approached it seemed as if Clark had finally broken clear, running some ten seconds ahead of Taylor and pulling away at a rate of two seconds a lap. The Scot's team mate was still doing all that he could to deny Mairesse, with the two exchanging punch and counter-punch at every opportunity as Clark slipped ever further ahead. Graham Hill and McLaren were still a threat for the podium too, although they were in a private duel as well, until the New Zealander had to retire after losing all of the oil pressure in the Cooper. That left Hill to sit and watch as "inexperience and exuberance" did battle ahead for second place, Clark now running in clear air ahead with ten laps to go.
Mairesse and Taylor were throwing their cars at each other at over 130 mph, narrowly avoiding making contact several times as they continued to battle away. Contact seemed inevitable, and on lap 26, as the cars came charging through Blanchimont, Mairesse gave Taylor the slightest nudge, throwing both into huge slides. Running at over 100 mph, and mere millimetres from the grass at the edge of the circuit, both cars were sent flying into the narrow strip of land before the edge of the forest. Taylor slammed into a telegraph pole with enough force to bring the solid lump of wood to the ground, while he himself was thrown from the car and landed, miraculously, unharmed. Mairesse, meanwhile, was ejected from his car as it hit the lip of a ditch near the edge of the circuit, and as he landed relatively safely some distance away, his car slammed onto the ground an immediately burst into flames. Both received medical attention almost instantly, with Mairesse having treatment for minor burns and countless cuts from his landing.
The mood was some what subdued by the accident, and it was only after Surtees slowed to a crawl by the Team Lotus pits a few minutes later that news that Taylor and Mairesse were alive and, relatively well that raised the mood, with Surtees quickly blasting back into the race. Yet, the race it self was now done, and a few laps later, Clark swept home to claim a memorable maiden triumph, although the victory would never change his opinion of the Spa circuit. Graham Hill spluttered over the line to take a well earned second in his limping BRM, while Phil Hill came screaming out of La Source with Rodriguez glued to his rear, flashing past the pits just a tenth of a second ahead to claim a sixteenth, and ultimately final, podium.
The full results for the 1962 Belgian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|5||5||John Surtees||Lola-Climax||31||+1 lap||11||2|
|6||15||Jack Brabham||Lotus-Climax||30||+2 laps||15||1|
|7||7||Carel Godin de Beaufort||Porsche||30||+2 laps||13|
|8||18||Maurice Trintignant||Lotus-Climax||30||+2 laps||16|
|9||19||Lucien Bianchi||Lotus-Climax||29||+3 laps||18|
|10||22||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Climax||29||+3 laps||17|
|Ret||25||Bruce McLaren||Cooper-Climax||19||Oil pressure||2|
|11||4||John Campbell-Jones||Lotus-Climax||16||+16 laps||19|
- This was the first time that the race organisers in Belgium had issued odd numbers to drivers.
- First Grand Prix start for Jo Siffert.
- First pole position for Graham Hill.
- Jim Clark's maiden World Championship victory.
- Also the 20th win for engine manufacturer Climax.
- Final podium for Phil Hill (sixteen in total).
Victory for Jim Clark meant he leapt into the top three of the Championship, level on points with Monaco winner Bruce McLaren. Up ahead, however, the title fight was still being fought between the two Hills, with Graham now two points clear of Phil. With Clark, Ricardo Rodríguez and Jack Brabham now on the board, thirteen drivers had now scored points in 1962, with Carel Godin de Beaufort at the foot of the scorers.
The title battle in the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers was also looking intreguing as the Championship passed the one third mark. BRM were back at the summit, a point clear of Lotus-Climax whom had jumped back up to second. Ferrari left Belgium still in third, having seen Cooper-Climax fall to fourth, with just five points separating the leading four. Lola-Climax and Porsche were the only other scorers.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: BELGIAN GP, 1962', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr105.html, (Accessed 27/05/2016)
- 'XXI Belgian Grand Prix', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 14/07/1962), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/july-1962/14/xxi-belgian-grand-prix , (Accessed 27/05/2016)
- 'Belgium 1962: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1962/belgique/engages.aspx, (Accessed 27/05/2016)
- 'Belgium 1962: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1962/belgique/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 27/05/2016)
- 'Belgium 1962: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1962/belgique/classement.aspx, (Accessed 28/05/2016)
|V T E||Belgian Grand Prix|
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