The 1964 French Grand Prix, officially recognised as the L Grand Prix de l'A.C.F., was the fourth round of the 1964 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at Rouen-Les-Essarts on the 28th of June 1964. An exciting 57 lap battle around the French circuit would be remembered for an excellent display of determined fuelled driving by Graham Hill, although the Englishman would fall shy of victory.
It was a return to form in qualifying for Jim Clark, the Scot finally managing to defeat Dan Gurney who had dominated the previous two races. He would line up on pole with the New Yorker sharing the front row, and it would be the Scot that blasted into the lead off the line, leaving Gurney to fight with John Surtees. As they roared away, Bruce McLaren dropped out of contention early on after a first lap spin.
Clark was able to sprint away during the opening laps, while Gurney was prevented from challenging for the lead by Surtees, until the Ferrari suffered an oil pipe failure. Graham Hill was also a victim of Surtees' failure, spinning on the oil while running in fourth, having already overturned a lowly sixth place grid slot. The BRM lead driver would have to battle up from the middle of the pack, as Gurney began to hunt down the race leader.
As Hill picked his way through the order to get back into fourth by half distance, Gurney was slowly drawing in the Scot although the green-gold Lotus 25 remained tantalisingly out of reach. That was, until the Climax engine in the back of Clark's car failed in a cloud of smoke, handing the lead to Gurney. His only challenger would be team mate Jack Brabham, who would soon fail to keep the charging Hill at bay a few laps later.
Once clear of the Australian team owner, Hill went charging after Gurney, but his challenge never materialised meaning the New Yorker could claim the first win for Brabham-Climax. Hill and Brabham finished less than a second apart, the Aussie preventing the Englishman from running at full pace, while Peter Arundell, Richie Ginther and McLaren rounded out the scorers.
Having gone back to Reims for the 1963 French Grand Prix, the Fiftieth French Grand Prix would be held in Rouen-Les-Essarts, a fitting venue considering that the first ever officially recognised motor race in 1894 had been a race from Paris to Rouen. A motor racing festival had been arranged by the A.C.F. to honour the day, with a series of historic races ahead of the feature race of the weekend. The circuit had also been redressed for the occasion, with fresh tarmac everywhere apart from the cobbles at Nouveau Monde and La Scierie.
It was a significant day in motor racing history, and all of the major Formula One teams arrived in France hoping to taste glory on what was expected to be a memorable weekend. Leading the way were Team Lotus, who brought their usual challengers Jim Clark and Peter Arundell to Rouen armed with a choice of updated 25s or the new Lotus 33. They would also provide a small amount of support for the ex-factory cars being run by Reg Parnell Racing.
BRM came to Rouen with their trio of cars from Spa, with Graham Hill allowed to chose between the newer chassis or his regular charger. They would also support privateer Maurice Trintignant, the only Frenchman in the field for France's big party, a change due to the absence of Scuderia Centro Sud. They would also be responsible for the engines in the back of the BRP-BRMs and Jo Siffert's Brabham.
It would be business as usual for Cooper-Climax, with Phil Hill and Bruce McLaren having partnered eachother at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Brabham-Climax too would arrive in Rouen without any fresh concerns, Dan Gurney and Jack Brabham set to race as usual after the latter had just missed out on a podium in the great race. They would also be analysing privateers Siffert and Bob Anderson, as those two continued to race BT11s with different engines.
Ferrari would also feature with an updated pair of cars for John Surtees and Lorenzo Bandini, the manufacturer now throwing its full weight behind F1 after a clean sweep of the podium at Le Mans. The updates mainly focused on enlarging the fuel filters and moving them into fresh air in an attempt to cure their vapour lock issues from Spa. With Honda absent again, all of the major runners were set to do battle in France for the Grand Prix' Golden Jubilee year.
Round four of the season would open with defending World Champion Clark at the top of the standings, seven points clear of Graham Hill in second. Richie Ginther sat in third after another strong start to his season, while Peter Arundell continued to hang on in the top four despite it being his debut season. John Surtees and Bruce McLaren arrived in Rouen tied on six points, as twelve different drivers saw their names on the board after the first third of the season.
Clark's two victories and consistent scoring for Arundell meant that Lotus-Climax topped the standings for the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers, maintaining a seven point lead over BRM. With a further seven point chasm back to Cooper-Climax, the title fight already looked like a two horse race, with the Lotus and the BRM chassis looking superior to the rest. Ferrari looked set to battle with Cooper and Brabham for third, while Team Lotus-BRM appeared at the foot of the table thanks to the efforts of privateer entrant Reg Parnell.
The full entry list for the 1964 French Grand Prix is outlined below:
As usual for the French Grand Prix, practice/qualifying began on Thursday afternoon, with an additional session on Friday. Both sessions were held in warm, sunny conditions, and the top drivers would be hoping to use the upgraded tarmac, and their updated cars to hunt down the circuit record. That honour was held by Jim Clark, the Scot having taken pole in 1962 with a 2:14.8, and there was little doubt that the record would fall.
Thursday was to be dominated by the two drivers whom had shared pole exclusively between themselves since the start of the season. Both Clark and Dan Gurney got onto the circuit early, and were also the first of the drivers to get under the circuit record time. Before long the two were engaged in a session long duel for pole, the pair going faster and faster throughout the day as both held pole for a lap, only to see their rival snatch it away when they roared past the pits.
Their enticing duel pushed both cars to the verge of a sub-2:10.0 time, with Gurney having to settle with a 2:10.1 at the end of the day. Clark, meanwhile, was swapping between his Lotus 25 and the new 33 in his search for a pole time, and in the dying minutes of the session strapped himself into his usual 25. A stunning lap saw the Scot find half a second over his American rival to earn provisional pole at the end of the day, with team mate Peter Arundell also putting in an impressive time to be the only other man within two seconds of the green-gold Lotus.
Their strong running was in stark contrast to their competitors, who only really managed to get serious running in late on Thursday, while Ferrari only arrived on Friday morning. BRM were in disarray throughout Thursday, Richie Ginther damaging the front of his car early on, while Graham Hill spent almost the entire session in the pits having parts changed. Mike Hailwood did not set a time as he was away in the Netherlands for the Dutch Motorcycle Grand Prix, with Peter Revson taking over his car when the American's own entry with Reg Parnell Racing refused to run.
Once Ferrari did get running, they would regret having not run on Thursday, with John Surtees managing to get within a second of Gurney by the end of the session. He, however, could not match their times due to a general lack of improvement throughout the field, while Hailwood arrived, beat Revson, and then jetted off back to Zandvoort to compete in the motorcycle race on Saturday. Other than Surtees, and a better day of running for BRM, there were no major changes to the order from Thursday, meaning Clark, Gurney and the scarlet powered Surtees would share the front row.
The full qualifying results for the 1964 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Revson was unable to start as his car was handed to Hailwood for the race.
After two days of festivities, the Grand Prix was scheduled to start at 3:15 pm on Sunday afternoon, with the entire field allowed to do a series of warm up laps as the cars had not run since Friday. Conditions were warm and dry, although there would be a threat of rain as clouds swept across the circuit just before the field formed on the dummy grid. There was some frantic work on Jim Clark's pole sitting car when an oil leak was discovered, but he would be one of the seventeen starters that crawled onto the grid proper to start the 50th French Grand Prix.
Despite the last minute dramas, it was Clark who leapt into the lead of the race at the start, charging down to the hairpin unchallenged as the two BRMs tumbled down the order. Dan Gurney and John Surtees were the only ones to keep the Scot within touching distance through the opening lap, as the rest of the field got caught behind Peter Arundell. There was also drama in the mid-pack, where Bruce McLaren spun having drifted through the second hairpin on full opposite lock.
By the end of the opening lap Clark and Gurney were clear of Surtees, who was now heading a group featuring Jack Brabham, Phil Hill, a recovering Graham Hill and Arundell. They were giving each other a lot to think about on the run to the first hairpin, just ahead of Lorenzo Bandini who headed the rest of the runners. Surtees' car then began to lose pace at a fair rate, fluid appearing to drop from the underside of the car, with the Englishman starting lap three in the middle of the pack he had led at the start of the previous lap.
As Clark and Gurney danced away at the front of the field, Surtees' problems began to affect the rest, with Graham Hill spinning on the oil that the Ferrari had dumped at the first hairpin on lap three. After a three lap repair to an oil line, Surtees was able to return, only for the damage already imparted to the engine caused it to expire after a short while. Hill, meanwhile, was battling back after his spin, taking an unhappy Jo Siffert and a tired Mike Hailwood as he rose through the order.
Clark really began to push his car to the limit in an attempt to shake Gurney, the Scot using his incredible skill on the brakes through the drop to the Nouveau Monde to pull a few inches further ahead. With Brabham and co slipping behind the New Yorker at an increasing rate, Clark and Gurney looked set to battle for victory on their own, with the pace quickly dropping below the 2:13.0 mark. As Clark began to inch away, his team mate Arundell elbowed his way past Phil Hill, only to receive a whack from the Cooper-Climax a lap later as the American struggled with locking rear brakes.
At the fifteen lap mark Clark's hard worked looked to have pair off, as he finally managed to pull far enough away for Gurney to lose the slipstream effect from the Lotus. That left the American, who was almost half a minute clear of team mate Brabham, to simply hope that the Scot's car failed him having opted for a steady rhythm rather than chase Clark beyond the limit. As their battle ended, Hill caught the back of the factory field just moments after McLaren had danced past Ginther to hunt down his team mate Phil Hill in fifth.
Dramas elsewhere saw Trevor Taylor, who had been having a good battle with team mate Innes Ireland in the BRPs, go straight on at the top hairpin and destroy his radiator, the Englishman having to limp back to the pits to retire. Chris Amon, meanwhile, had his engine cut out just as he came charging up to the pits, fortunate in some sense as he could simply coast into the Reg Parnell Racing box for repairs. As they mended a broken wire in the ignition system, Graham Hill claimed McLaren, Ginther and name sake Phil Hill in short order as he hunted down a podium.
As Bandini, Ireland and Hailwood battled away at the lower end of the top ten, Clark pulled even further clear at the front, the Scot setting a new lap record on lap 22 at 2:12.7. He would catch the battle moments later, losing a small amount of time as he put them a lap down, just as team mate Arundell fell to the charging Graham Hill. Yet, it seemed both Lotus drivers were inspired in Rouen, with Arundell pushing on to harass his fellow countryman as the BRM hunted down Brabham for third.
Suddenly, on lap 29, the race was thrown into the balance, just as Gurney slung his car up the inside of the Bandini-Ireland-Hailwood battle at Nouveau Monde, just escaping an accident as the scarlet car of Bandini pulled over to give the Brabham-Climax space. As the New Yorker blasted away from the hairpin having just avoided a potential accident, the Climax in the back of Clark's car decided to run on seven, rather than eight, cylinders. The Scot immediately bailed for the pits, but with nothing to be done, Colin Chapman sent the car out again expecting to see Clark back in the pits a lap later.
Clark did complete another lap, but the ruined piston meant he was out when he pulled back into the pitlane, leaving Gurney with a huge advantage over team mate Brabham. Hill, however, was catching the Australian team owner hand over fist, with Arundell dancing his car around in his wake, forcing the BRM racer to the edge of his talents. They pair were kicking up dust at almost every turn as they closed in on Brabham, just as Phil Hill stopped with handling problems.
Ireland now crashed out during his ongoing battle with Bandini and Hailwood, the Englishman slamming into the earth bank on the outside of the sweeping turn one having slid wide. A few laps later, with Ireland arriving back in the pits to explain his accident, Hill and Arundell caught Brabham, and on lap 37 the former managed to elbow his way past. What developed was an exciting tussle between Brabham and Hill as the Aussie darted down the inside of the Englishman into the Sciere bend at the end of that lap.
Brabham and Hill were all over the circuit, often running onto the grass to try to find a way past the other while also having to keep an eye on Arundell behind. That was, until the inexperienced Englishman decided to drop back, the sole surviving Team Lotus runner getting a face full of dust and small stones every time Hill and Brabham dropped a wheel off the circuit. Regardless, the furious battle for second continued on without him, with Brabham smashing Clark's earlier lap record on lap 44 with a 2:11.4.
The final laps saw Hill finally hold second from Brabham, although the double World Champion would frequently get his nose up the inside of the Englishman into the hairpins to keep them both on their toes. Gurney, meanwhile, was cruising to the finish, and as he came to the pits on lap 57, duly won for the second time in Rouen. His minute lead over Brabham when Clark had retired was down to under 25 seconds at the end, although it was Hill who came dancing out of the final corner to claim second, with Brabham less than a second back. Arundell cruised home for another solid points score more than a minute ahead of Ginther, while McLaren ended the day with a point after his excellent recovery run.
The full results for the 1964 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
|6||12||Bruce McLaren||Cooper-Climax||56||+1 lap||7||1|
|7||14||Phil Hill||Cooper-Climax||56||+1 lap||10|
|8||36||Mike Hailwood||Lotus-BRM||56||+1 lap||13|
|9||26||Lorenzo Bandini||Ferrari||55||+2 laps||8|
|10||34||Chris Amon||Lotus-BRM||53||+4 laps||14|
|11||28||Maurice Trintignant||BRM||52||+5 laps||16|
|12||32||Bob Anderson||Brabham-Climax||50||+7 laps||15|
- Twentieth pole position for Team Lotus.
- Maiden victory for Brabham-Climax in a World Championship Grand Prix.
- Second career win for Dan Gurney.
With Jim Clark failing to score for the first time in twelve races, Graham Hill closed the gap at the top of the World Championship to just a single point. Richie Ginther was now nine points back from his team mate, and level on points with Peter Arundell, while victory for Dan Gurney put the New Yorker into the top five. There were no new scorers after the French race, with Mike Hailwood and Bob Anderson completing the scorers list.
Lotus-Climax saw their lead cut in half as a result of the Hill charge, BRM closing the gap to just four points with four races gone. Brabham-Climax had also made ground with Gurney's victory, leaping into third and into double figures for the season. Cooper-Climax and Ferrari were displaced as a result, while Lotus-BRM remained at the bottom of the standings.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: FRENCH GP, 1964', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr125.html, (Accessed 27/06/2016)
- D.S.J., '50th FRENCH GRAND PRIX A Well-Deserved Win', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/08/1964), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/august-1964/27/50th-french-grad-prix and http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/august-1964/68/french-grand-prix, (Accessed 27/06/2016)
- 'France 1964: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1964/france/engages.aspx, (Accessed 27/06/2016)
- 'France 1964: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1964/france/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 26/06/2016)
- 'France 1964: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1964/france/classement.aspx, (Accessed 26/06/2016)
|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)
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