The 1962 French Grand Prix was the fourth round of the 1962 FIA Formula One World Championship, held at the purpose built Rouen-Les-Essarts circuit in northern France. Officially known as the XLVIII Grand Prix de l'A.C.F., the fourth round of 1962 provided the first visit to Rouen since the 1957 French Grand Prix and resulted in the only win for Porsche as a chassis constructor.
Jim Clark had carried his form from Belgium with him into France, with the Team Lotus racer snatching pole position as a strike in Italy meant Ferrari could not take part. At the start, the Scot lost the lead to rival Graham Hill, with the two remaining in the lead for much of the race, until Hill was hit by a back marker. Clark then led for three laps before succumbing to suspension damage, handing the lead back to Hill until he dropped out with a misfire with a handful of laps to go. Other big names among the leaders, such as Bruce McLaren and Jack Brabham had also dropped down the order due to mechanical issues early on.
With Hill out, it was a shock for many to see American racer Dan Gurney sweep home to victory for the first time in his career, in a Porsche that had only seen success in 1000 km races. John Surtees had looked likely to snatch the victory away in the closing stages, but the ever reliable Lola-Climax developed a rare issue and dropped away, leaving Gurney to end the race a lap clear of Tony Maggs. The podium would be completed by Richie Ginther, while McLaren recovered to take fourth ahead of Surtees and Carel Godin de Beaufort.
Almost a month had passed before the World Championship contenders gathered once again, although many had been in France for over a week after attending the III Reims Grand Prix on the previous weekend. The only teams not to attend the earlier race were Ferrari and Porsche, although both were included on the entry list for the World Championship race. Porsche did indeed arrive in Rouen before practice, two freshly rebuilt 804s dragged gleaming out of their trucks on Thursday evening, but there was to be no sign of scarlet. Italy had been hit by strikes throughout the early summer, and when Phil Hill arrived without his race gear it was confirmed that the Italian manufacturer would be absent.
Elsewhere, the smaller British constructors had been busy, and none more so than Team Lotus. Taking the decision to write off Trevor Taylor's shattered Lotus 24, the British outfit had been busy building a pair of new 25s as a replacement, with a trio now set to go racing under their own colours. Team leader Jim Clark and a recovered Taylor would race with Climax engines, while Peter Arundell was called up to drive the third car, using a BRM engine instead. Beyond their own factory concerns, Lotus had also been busy rectifying the issues with the 24s that had arisen in Spa, with the handful of private entries all receiving new suspension components ahead of the Rouen race.
Cooper-Climax arrived at Rouen after taking victory in Reims, with both Bruce McLaren and Tony Maggs running new T60s once again. BRM were also happy with the earlier run in France, Graham Hill happy with his rebuilt engine while Richie Ginther was still beaming after his podium finish at Spa. Lola-Climax were back with two machines, Roy Salvadori returning to partner the ever impressive John Surtees after a good run earlier in the week, while several privateers arrived with older equipment, including Ian Burgess in an experimental Cooper T59.
Graham Hill brought a two point lead in the Championship with him to France, and with nearest rival Phil Hill unable to race, that looked set to be expanded around the French cobbles. They were the only two drivers in double figures for the season, with Clark and McLaren having nine points apiece courtesy of their wins in Belgium Monaco respectively. Taylor completed the top five ahead of Surtees before a trio of Ferrari drivers led by Lorenzo Bandini. Carel Godin de Beaufort sat at the foot of the table with a single point, last of thirteen drivers to have scored after the first third of the Championship.
First to third in the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers were covered by just two points ahead of the French Grand Prix, with BRM leading the charge with sixteen points. Team Lotus were next with engine partners Climax, while Ferrari sat in third on fourteen points, having started the season as favourites based on 1961 form. Cooper were next as the only other manufacturer in double figures for the season, while Lola found themselves ahead of Porsche at the end of the six scoring teams.
The full entry list for the 1962 French Grand Prix is outlined below:
- * After Ferrari withdrew, entry numbers #4 and #6 were reallocated to Colin Davis and Carlo Abate respectively. However, neither of the replacement drivers arrived in France.
Practice and qualifying were, as usual, rolled into one over Friday and Saturday, with sessions held in the early morning to avoid the intense summer heat. With Formula One not having run in Rouen since 1957, no one knew what to expect from the 1.5 litre cars, although the stunning pace of the Team Lotus and BRM machines earlier in the season suggested that Juan Manuel Fangio's qualifying record of 2:21.5 would surely tumble.
There were to be no shocks in qualifying, although the pace was something to be held in awe. A stunning series of laps from Clark over the two days saw him steadily raise the pace, with the Scot ultimately laying claim to pole with a 2:14.8, some seven seconds under Fangio's record five years earlier. He would share the front row with Graham Hill, the Englishman completing a classy display to take second, just two tenths off of Clark's pace, while Bruce McLaren completed the first row as the only man with a time within a second of the Scot. Jack Brabham seemed to be happy once again with his Lotus 24, sharing the second row with an impressive John Surtees in the lead Lola.
Leading the Porsche challenge would be Dan Gurney, starting a confident sixth, while there was an interesting result immediately behind him. The two UDT Laystall Racing Team Lotus 24s were identical in almost every way bar the engines, and it had often been the Climax built unit in Innes Ireland's car that claimed the inter-team honours. Yet, around the cobbles of northern France, it was the BRM engine of Masten Gregory that soundest sweetest, besting Ireland by just two tenths of a second. The rest of the field would be led by Jo Bonnier, as fourteen of the seventeen qualifiers set times better than Fangio's long standing best.
The organisers maintained little hope of Ferrari turning up, with two other drivers offered a chance to practice in their place. Yet, neither Colin Davis or Carlo Abate arrived to fill the empty slots, while Ian Burgess' experimental Cooper also failed to materialise. Peter Arundell did arrive with the third Team Lotus machine, although he never left the garage as the factory team opted to use the third 25 for spares.
The full qualifying results for the 1962 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
|17||38||Carel Godin de Beaufort||Porsche||2:26.5||+11.7s|
|18||Carel Godin de Beaufort|
Another dry, warm day in France greeted the field on Sunday, with a Formula Junior race run in the early afternoon with no major issues. Start time was scheduled for 3:30 in the afternoon, and with no issues for the leading drivers ahead of the race, all of the cars were ready to go. The main question on everyone's lips was whether the amazing display of Spa could be reproduced by Jim Clark, with the Scot going from pole for the second time in three races.
Just a few moments before the flag dropped, Richie Ginther started waving furiously to indicate he had a problem, although the race would not be delayed. Fortunately, the purpose built start/finish straight was very wide, and so the six cars behind Ginther were able to stream by without any issue as, up ahead, his team mate made a perfect getaway to slingshot into the lead. Clark had not been too sluggish of the line to run second, but Hill had a rather distinct lead by the time the field reached the hairpin. Immediately following Clark was Bruce McLaren while John Surtees, after a sublime start, had got the Lola-Climax ahead of Jack Brabham off the line. Before the end of the lap, the Lola would be running in third, having taken McLaren in the long sweeping run back to the pits.
Just before the leaders came charging round to complete the first lap, Ginther was able to flash back into the race, his car having been dragged over to its pit box a few yards away. Moments later and Hill roared past with Clark now behind Surtees, a supreme run through Scierie enough to see the Lola move past the Lotus. Surtees, however, was not done yet, and by the time the field was making its way through the hairpin, the Lola was right behind Hill's BRM, challenging for the race lead. Those two were pulling away from Clark before too long, with the Lotus lead driver left to battle with Cooper's leading light McLaren, before Innes Ireland flashed past the cameras ahead of Brabham.
The next few laps saw the battle at the front begin to shift, with Clark and McLaren beginning to make ground on the leading duo. The first casualties of the race were also being reported, with Ireland dragging his Lotus in to retire with a puncture, while Jo Siffert ended his race with a clutch failure. Brabham, meanwhile, was now running in fifth and trying to keep with the leaders, but was under a fair amount of pressure from Dan Gurney, who was keeping his Porsche 804 out of trouble in the early stages. The American would soon inherit fifth place, for McLaren up ahead spun of the circuit after trying to change into fourth in the run back to the pits.
That also promoted Brabham into fourth as McLaren rejoined in sixth, but Brabham's joy would be short lived for a suspension failure on lap ten, pushing Gurney up the order. McLaren then disappeared into the pits for checks, returning a few laps down as Hill pulled out a slight lead over Surtees, with a fair distance behind to Clark. Gurney was still a healthy fourth position in the mean time, and before long, the leaders were lapping Hill's team mate Ginther whose car was running healthily despite its earlier issues.
When Surtees vanished into the pits on lap thirteen, dropping to eighth on his return, the race looked won, for Hill began to stretch his lead lap after lap, disappearing from Clark at a rate of two seconds a lap. Clark, however, was beginning to fight back as the laps continued to be ticked off, with Gurney slowly tumbling away from the pair of them. The American's day was also made easier when Masten Gregory fell away with an ignition problem, leaving Gurney to be hunted down by team mate Jo Bonnier as the race ran ever closer to the halfway mark.
Surtees was back up to racing speed, and was climbing back into the points with a series of clean manoeuvres, leaving him running in fifth a fair way behind the two Porsches. His team mate Roy Salvadori had just been into the pits reporting an ignition problem, before dropping out with a lack of oil pressure a lap later, with Bonnier swinging in with a temperamental gearbox. With little the Porsche engineers could do, Bonnier was sent back out and told to nurse the car to the flag as best he could. Maurice Trintignant and Trevor Taylor would also make visits to the pits to report mechanical issues, with almost everyone bar the leading trio running with one issue or another.
McLaren and Ginther were now steadily making headway as the cars began to suffer, McLaren briefly battling with team mate Maggs on his way back into the top ten after a stop in the pits. Hill, meanwhile, was continuing to pull away from Clark, a steady rhythm to his driving keeping him a second or so faster than the Scot on every lap, at least it did until the Englishman came across Jackie Lewis. Sweeping into the hairpin, Hill moved by the slower Cooper-Climax before braking heavily into the hairpin. The older Cooper, however, was unable to match the BRM's stopping power, and so Lewis smacked straight into the back of the race leader, breaking his radiator and forcing him out of the race. Hill was pushed onto the grass on the outside of the hairpin, but before he could get his BRM back into the fray, Clark came sweeping gracefully through to take the lead, leaving Hill to launch away from the scene of the accident in pursuit.
Hill's pursuit was ferocious, charging after Clark as he gathered his car under him once again, with Gurney still running trouble free ahead of Surtees, with Maggs and Ginther completing the point scorers as things stood. Yet, a few laps later, there was to be even more drama at the front, for Hill flashed past the pits in the lead with twenty laps still to go with Gurney a fair distance back. The fate of Clark was revealed a few moments later, as he dragged his 25 into the pits to retire, his suspension having failed around the back of the circuit. With Gurney seeming to be content with second, Hill could afford to ease of his pace with Clark's car quickly taken apart so that team mate Taylor could have some body work replaced, Peter Arundell's car having already been shipped back to England.
Ten laps later there was to be one final twist, for Hill failed to appear at the end of lap 42 as Gurney flashed past the pits to claim the lead. The Englishman was to be found up by the hairpin, working on the back of his car to repair a damaged fuel injector, with a slow crawl back to pits resulting from his repairs. Gurney was now clear at the front of the field, still a lap ahead of the rest, as Surtees began to nurse his car to the finish in second, as Clark took over the signalling duties for team mate Taylor.
Surtees' struggles were, however, beginning to tell, and soon the Brit had to sacrifice a podium finish with a visit to the pits, with Maggs and Ginther flashing past. He returned to the race in fourth, but a quick battle with McLaren ended with the New Zealander claiming the position well before the final lap. That left Gurney in charge from Maggs and Ginther, with McLaren ahead of Surtees, now under no threat from behind as Carel Godin de Beaufort continued to quietly lap in sixth. A few laps later it was all over with Gurney taking a maiden victory for both himself and Porsche, while Maggs claimed his first podium finish in second ahead of an increasingly quick Ginther.
There was, however, a nasty accident just after the flag dropped, as Trintignant and Taylor came together at over 130 mph, the second time in as many races for the latter. Braking after the flag, Trintignant had had Taylor slam into the back of his car, sending both a long way down the start/finish straight, ripping the rear end of the former's car. Although both drivers were unhurt, both walking away unaided, the same could not be said of their cars, as both Taylor's 25 and Trintignant's 24 would be written off before the day's end.
The full results for the 1962 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
|2||24||Tony Maggs||Cooper-Climax||53||+1 lap||11||6|
|3||10||Richie Ginther||BRM||52||+2 laps||10||4|
|4||22||Bruce McLaren||Cooper-Climax||51||+3 laps||3||3|
|5||18||John Surtees||Lola-Climax||51||+3 laps||5||2|
|6||38||Carel Godin de Beaufort||Porsche||51||+3 laps||17||1|
|7||28||Maurice Trintignant||Lotus-Climax||50||+4 laps||13|
|8||14||Trevor Taylor||Lotus-Climax||48||+6 laps||12|
|9*||8||Graham Hill||BRM||44||Fuel injector||2|
|Ret||20||Roy Salvadori||Lola-Climax||21||Oil pressure||14|
- * Hill and Bonnier were still classified as finishers despite retiring before the final lap.
- Maiden victory for Dan Gurney.
- First and only win as both a constructor and engine builder for Porsche.
- Also the only win for a German constructor until the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix.
- Tony Maggs claimed his first podium finish.
- 50th podium finish for a Climax engine.
- Last race not to feature a British driver on the podium until the 1967 German Grand Prix.
Pictures after the race revealed that Phil Hill had congratulated Dun Gurney's efforts warmly, for the American's win, combined with failures for the major title contenders, meant the title battle remained decidedly open. Graham Hill still led by two points from Phil Hill, although the four points for Bruce McLaren meant he was now in double figures and content in third. Gurney, for his part, was now into the top five, level on nine points with Clark but behind due to a ninth place finish for the Scot earlier in the year. Richie Ginther was also happy to be on the board for the first time in 1962, while Carel Godin de Beaufort was off the foot of the scorers board, jumping ahead of Jack Brabham.
Although Phil Hill had remained in the Drivers' scramble, the weekend in France had hampered Ferrari's challenge in the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers, with the Italian firm slipping to fourth. BRM remained out in front, Ginther's podium enough to stretch their lead to three points, while Tony Maggs put Cooper-Climax into second after a strong weekend. Lotus-Climax dropped to third as a result, two behind the old rivals Cooper, with Ferrari now six points off the lead. Victory for Gurney meant Porsche broke into double figures for the season, with Lola-Climax dropping to the foot of the table despite John Surtees' consistent points finishes.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: FRENCH GP, 1962', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr106.html, (Accessed 28/05/2016)
- 'France 1962: Race Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1962/france/engages.aspx, (Accessed 28/05/2016)
- 'France 1962: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1962/france/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 28/05/2016)
- kohli79, 'Formula1 1962 - France Race Review Rouen *Castrolfilm* Part 2', youtube.com, (YouTube, 23/01/2011), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxtAZvv0WgQ, (Accessed 28/05/2016)
- 'France 1962: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1962/france/classement.aspx, (Accessed 28/05/2016)
|V T E||French Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Reims (1950–1951, 1953–1954, 1956, 1958–1961, 1963, 1966)
Rouen-Les-Essarts (1952, 1957, 1962, 1964, 1968)
Charade Circuit (1965, 1969–1970, 1972)
Bugatti Circuit (1967)
Circuit Paul Ricard (1971, 1973, 1975–1976, 1978, 1980, 1982–1983, 1985–1990, 2018–2019)
Dijon-Prenois (1974, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1984)
Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours (1991–2008)
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