The 1963 Mexican Grand Prix, officially recognised as the II Gran Premio de Mexico, was the penultimate round of the 1963 FIA Formula One World Championship held at the Magdalena Mixhuca circuit in Mexico City. The race would be remembered as the first Mexican Grand Prix to be staged as part of the World Championship, and as the only race until the 2014 Australian Grand Prix to feature a car with #13 as its race number.
With Mexican Moisés Solana breaking the motor racing tradition and using "unlucky" thirteen as his number, pole went to Jim Clark for the sixth time in 1963, a new record for the Championship. It proved to be the Scot's weekend, with the Team Lotus driver untroubled throughout the race, while Jack Brabham thrilled the fans by climbing up from tenth.
Solana ended up in eleventh despite his race ending prematurely with an engine failure, while Brabham completed a stunning performance to claim second in the closing stages. His last victims were Richie Ginther and Graham Hill in the BRMs, while Jo Bonnier and Dan Gurney completed the points. Home hero Pedro Rodríguez, brother of Ricardo Rodríguez whom had died in the non-Championship I Gran Premio de Mexico the year before, saw his race ruined with a suspension failure.
Yet, no one could touch the green-gold Lotus at the front of the field, as Clark claimed fastest lap on his way to a sixth victory of the season. That feat earned him a third Grand Chelem of the season and ensured that the Scot would end the season with a maximum score of 54 points. The honours kept on coming, for that sixth win saw the Scot equal Juan Manuel Fangio's record of six wins in a season.
The World Championship came to Mexico City for the first time in 1963, a little over a year since the unfortunate events of the I Mexican Grand Prix, a non-Championship race in 1962. Staged in Mexico City around a 600 acre sports centre, the Magdalena Mixhuca circuit was built after Ricardo Rodríguez burst onto the Grand Prix scene at the 1961 Italian Grand Prix. The FIA refused to allow the venue to host a World Championship race in 1962, although most of the major outfits sent teams to the first race. Rodriguez went as the face of the race, only to die in practice while driving for the RRC Walker Racing Team when a suspension failure threw the car into the barrier at the difficult Peraltada corner.
Although the Mexican fans had lost their first hero, a new one was being cast at Team Lotus, with Pedro Rodríguez, the brother of the fallen Ricardo, making his debut a couple of weeks earlier in the United States. He was part of a three car effort from the new Champions, with lead driver Jim Clark, and regular racer Trevor Taylor also in action. Pedro would use the oldest car of the three once again, although the carburetor on the Mexican's machine would have less problems with the high altitude venue than the fuel injectors in the newer cars.
Ferrari had been busy in the three week break between the Mexican and United States Grand Prix, having had a new "monocoque" chassis for Lorenzo Bandini flown over the Atlantic. In contrast, the BRM team, winners at Watkins Glen had their older cars on show although both were fitted with new engines. Cooper-Climax were in a similar position to their compatriots.
Completing the constructor field were Brabham-Climax, whom had the exact same cars from the Glen, although Jack Brabham had a slightly modified engine. ATS were also in attendance having dragged their cars down to the Mexican capital, although their engines had been sent to Italy to be rebuilt and so it was a race to see if they would get there before practice opened. Reg Parnell Racing had one of their Lola-Climaxes too, Masten Gregory at the wheel, while also equipping a recovered Chris Amon in a Lotus-BRM.
A number of the familiar privateers would also attend the Mexican Grand Prix, with Jo Siffert headlining the list. RRC Walker had their familiar Cooper T66 for Jo Bonnier, while Scuderia Centro Sud arrived with a new car with #13 stuck to the side. Adding to the shock of having broken racing tradition by using #13 as a race number was that they had signed Moisés Solana to drive for them, an unknown racer from Mexico. Time would tell whether he would live up to Grand Prix standard, while another debutante was to found in the form of American racer Frank Dochnal.
With Clark already declared as Champion, all of the Championship focus was on the battle for second with eighteen points left to fight for. Richie Ginther led the way, six points clear of John Surtees and now ex-Champion Graham Hill who were level on 22. They looked set for a three way fight for the position, although Bruce McLaren and Dan Gurney remained outside contenders, even though they were some way back.
Like their driver, Team Lotus arrived in Mexico City as the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers Champions in 1963, although there was little to fight for behind. BRM's victory in the US meant they had all but sewn up second place, meaning it was a battle for third between Ferrari, Cooper and Brabham. The Italian outfit led the charge on 24 with Cooper three behind, while Brabham sat on 18 although all three seemed to have had similar pace throughout the season.
The full entry list for the 1963 Mexican Grand Prix is shown below:
With the ATS cars ready to race once their engines arrived, the entire field was set to go in time for the first practice/qualifying session on Friday afternoon. The second session was held on Saturday afternoon, although the conditions in which the two were conducted could not have been more alien. Friday had been bathed in sunshine and the track was warm and dry, whereas Saturday saw constant rain throughout most of the session, although the end of the session saw the track begin to dry out.
The earliest runs on Friday revealed two things, both unsurprising but significant nonetheless. The first was the natural talent of Jim Clark, with the Scot quickly getting down into the 2:05.0 range after only a few laps, with most a few seconds back. Yet, both he and team mate Trevor Taylor were soon back in, with both complaining of low revs, a problem reported throughout the field. This was due to the lower levels of oxygen in the air, for Mexico City stood at 7,400 ft above sea level, which meant that the cars naturally ran rich, with more fuel than air going into the engine.
With many of the fuel injected teams having to change internal parts, the runners with carburetors only had to adjust the jets through which the fuel flowed in order to adjust the mixture. That meant that a lot of early running was being done by the privateers, although there would be intermittent appearances from the major entrants as they experimented with fuel mixtures. It also caused some confusion, with debutante Frank Dochnal incurring the wrath of compatriot Dan Gurney for not using his mirrors when he pulled across the Brabham-Climax to pull into the pits.
Most of the top runners were back in the flow of things before the halfway point, with Clark immediately breaking the circuit record with a perfectly tuned Climax. He ended the day with a 1:58.8, almost two seconds quicker than John Surtees and Graham Hill in second and third respectively. Best of the Mexican duo was Moisés Solana in eleventh, five seconds off the pace in the top end of the privateer field, while Pedro Rodríguez suffered a timing belt failure which damaged the carburetor, forcing him out of the session as Lotus tried to salvage a repaired unit from elsewhere.
With Saturday a washout bar a brief flurry (without improvement) at the end, the times from Friday set the grid up for Sunday. Dochnal was out entirely from the weekend, having crashed at the Peraltada on Friday and damaged his Cooper-Climax beyond his capabilities to repair. Other strugglers included the returning Chris Amon, the New Zealander lacking a little confidence after his Monza crash, as well as Giancarlo Baghetti whose ATS was hampered with numerous problems.
The full qualifying results for the 1963 Mexican Grand Prix are outlined below:
|18||12||Carel Godin de Beaufort||Porsche||2:14.1||+15.3s|
|Carel Godin de Beaufort||______________|
It was a dull grey day over Mexico City on Sunday, although there was little threat of rain for the race which was scheduled to start at 2:30 pm. Overnight, there had been a lot of work to get the troublesome cars race ready, although Frank Dochnal was officially withdrawn due to the damage caused be his accident. All of the drivers were then allowed to complete a warm up lap before being assembled on the grid for the start with no issues reported.
When the flag dropped it was the green-gold Lotus of Jim Clark that leapt into the lead of the race, the Scot sprinting clear of John Surtees. The Englishman had to fend off the advances of a fast starting Dan Gurney, while Graham Hill got swarmed after his car jumped out of gear as he tried to pull away. The eruption of cheers from the crowd, however, were for Pedro Rodríguez, who performed the role of home hero to perfection by leaping up from twentieth to tenth on the opening lap.
As Jo Siffert came into the pits for repairs at the start of lap two, the Swiss privateer having spun and damaged his fuel pump when Rodriguez went charging past, Clark led from Surtees and Gurney. Yet, the order was about to change, with Gurney surging past Surtees into Ese del Lago, while Richie Ginther took Bruce McLaren for fourth. Next time through, Jack Brabham put McLaren further down the order before challenging Ginther, while Giancarlo Baghetti came in to have his carburetor tuned.
Baghetti soon disappeared into the paddock to retire, the organisers calling an end to his race once the car had been wheeled back to the pits, while Clark and Gurney pulled away from Surtees. It was not long before the Team Lotus driver dropped Gurney too, while Brabham, Ginther and McLaren came across the line together in an exciting scrap. Hill was now in seventh in a private duel with Lorenzo Bandini for the position, while Rodriguez was up to ninth, although Jo Bonnier and Tony Maggs remained a threat to the Mexican, while Moisés Solana and Masten Gregory enjoyed their own battle just behind.
Mechanical issues were beginning to arise as the ten lap mark passed, Maggs the first out with an engine failure before being joined by Chris Amon with a gearbox issue. Baghetti was soon refused the chance to return to the race, while Siffert was running at the back having had his fuel pump bodged back together. Bonnier also met strife, suffering a puncture on his left rear to drop down to sixteenth.
Back with the leaders and Surtees was struggling, the Ferrari coming through the Peraltada with smoke pouring off the left front wheel as the car dragged itself wide. The Englishman was able to drive round the problem to a certain extent, but he was losing even more time to Clark and Surtees, while Brabham was able to pounce on the scarlet car with relative ease on lap fifteen. A further four laps passed before Surtees stopped to have his tyre pressures lowered, which he had suggested to chief Ferrari mechanic before the start, only for the car to stall in the pits. After being push started and released back into the race having lost a lot of time, the scarlet car was disqualified, although it was later revealed that the front suspension was collapsing so it was unlikely he would have finished.
Clark, meanwhile, was continuing on at a startling pace, the only man to consistently set times under two minutes. The runners were spreading out, with Gurney almost half a minute back and Brabham a further thirteen seconds away. Next up came two battling pairs, Ginther and McLaren duelling for fourth while Hill and Bandini continued to swap for sixth. Rodriguez was a strong eighth after Gregory retired, only for the Mexican to come in with a structural failure on his Lotus 25, which was the car raced by Clark throughout 1962.
At the halfway point, McLaren dropped out with a broken camshaft, a few moments after Hill and Bandini had swept past as the New Zealander began to suffer. Siffert was struggling at the back of the field, his Lotus-BRM spinning through the "Micky Mouse" run through the back of the circuit. This was in stark contrast to Solana in the #13 car, with the Mexican now in a healthy seventh place and untroubled.
Next to suffer an issue was Gurney, who saw his fuel pressure drop enough to cause his Brabham-Climax to misfire. It was not long before the sick Brabham was passed by the healthy one, with team owner Jack sweeping past into second on lap thirty-four. Ginther was next to catch and pass the Californian, while Hill and Bandini were also beginning to close, although the scarlet car suddenly dropped onto five cylinders and so was out, leaving only a dozen cars in the race.
Bonnier, meanwhile, was picking his way up the order, taking Jim Hall, Hap Sharp and Solana in short order, the latter move putting the Swede into the points. Phil Hill became the latest retirement as Bonnier surged, the American suffering a suspension failure through the "Micky Mouse" section, while Gurney stopped with fuel over his feet. In his attempts to solve his fuel flow issue, the Californian had activated the reserve fuel tank only to find that it had not been fitted. This allowed fuel to flow from the main tank through the unblocked hole where the reserve pipe would have been, meaning fuel flowed into the cockpit, with Gurney having to stop to have the issue fixed.
Siffert finally claimed a position in the race after his first lap driver, the Swiss racer dancing past the old Porsche of Carel Godin de Beaufort, while there was dismay among the home crowd as Solana came into the pits from seventh. Smoke and oil were pouring out of the back of the BRM with ten laps to go, and two laps later the Mexican was forced out of the race, just as Gurney had come into his sights. It would have been a debut point for the rookie, although attention was quickly back on the circuit as Graham Hill spun all on his own through Peraltada.
With that the race was done, with Clark sweeping across the line to claim a sixth win of the season a few minutes later. The Scot had led every lap and taken fastest lap, meaning it was also his third Grand Chelem of the season, meaning he equalled two records with one race and was up to maximum points for the year. Brabham and Ginther completed the podium as the only other drivers on the lead lap, while Hill, Bonnier and the limping Gurney rounded out the scorers.
The full results for the 1963 Mexican Grand Prix are outlined below:
|4||1||Graham Hill||BRM||64||+1 lap||3||3|
|5||11||Jo Bonnier||Cooper-Climax||62||+3 laps||8||2|
|6||6||Dan Gurney||Brabham-Climax||62||+3 laps||4||1|
|7||22||Hap Sharp||Lotus-BRM||61||+4 laps||16|
|8||16||Jim Hall||Lotus-BRM||61||+4 laps||15|
|9||14||Jo Siffert||Lotus-BRM||59||+6 laps||9|
|10||12||Carel Godin de Beaufort||Porsche||58||+7 laps||18|
- * Surtees was disqualified for a push start.
- First race to feature a driver using #13: Moisés Solana.
- Sixth win of the season for Jim Clark.
- Lotus-Climax became the first constructor to earn maximum points in the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers.
With six wins, and only six results counting for each driver in 1963, Jim Clark earned maximum points for the season, although he had been declared Champion weeks earlier. The battle for second, however, was becoming even more intense, with Richie Ginther still holding onto the position ahead of the visit to South Africa. It was now a three way fight to be runner-up, Graham Hill and John Surtees able to take the position with victory at the final round.
Team Lotus also earned maximum points courtesy of Clark's triumph, a first for any constructor since the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers had been set up in 1958. BRM, meanwhile, were declared as runner-up, while Ferrari and Brabham-Climax were tied on 24 points for third, the Italian firm ahead courtesy of Surtees' victory in Germany. Cooper-Climax were only a point further back in fifth ahead of the final race.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: MEXICAN GP, 1963', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr120.html, (Accessed 12/06/2016)
- M.J.T., '11 Gran Premio de Mexico: An easy win for Clark', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/12/1963), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/december-1963/26/11-gran-premio-de-mexico, (Accessed 13/06/2016)
- 'Mexico 1963: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1963/mexique/engages.aspx, (Accessed 12/06/2016)
- 'Mexico 1963: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1963/mexique/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 12/06/2016)
- 'Mexico 1963: Results', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1963/mexique/classement.aspx, (Accessed 13/06/2016)
|V T E||Mexican Grand Prix / Mexico City Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez (1963-1970, 1986-1992, 2015-present)|
|Races (Mexican GP)||1963 • 1964 • 1965 • 1966 • 1967 • 1968 • 1969 • 1970 • 1971–1985 • 1986 • 1987 • 1988 • 1989 • 1990 • 1991 • 1992 • 1993–2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 2018 • 2019|
|Races (Mexico City GP)|
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