The 1964 United States Grand Prix, otherwise known as the 7th Grand Prix of the United States, was the ninth and penultimate round of the 1964 FIA Formula One World Championship. Held at Watkins Glen on the 4th of October, the battle in North America would be remembered for seeing defending Champion Jim Clark retire from the race twice as he fought to stay in the title fight.
The Scot arrived in New York State in second place in the Championship, and having been denied points in the previous three rounds, looked to start his weekend perfectly with pole. Clark was indeed able to secure the top spot on the grid with a stunning lap, but was beaten off the line by John Surtees and team mate Mike Spence, with the former's Ferrari painted blue and white over a licensing dispute.
An intense battle in the opening laps saw Clark fall behind Championship leader Graham Hill for a time, before Clark used Hill's move on Spence to get back into second. Soon the Scot managed to elbow his way past Surtees and blast away into the lead, leaving the blue/white Ferrari to battle with Hill and Dan Gurney, who had taken Spence during Clark's surge.
Only mechanical issues could have denied Clark victory, and on lap 40 a misfire destroyed his race, prompting Team Lotus to drag Spence in and put Clark in his car. The Scot, who now could not score, but could deny his rivals points, duly rose up the order as Hill pulled clear of Surtees and Gurney, before the latter retired with an engine failure. Clark's day was ended for a second time when Spence's engine failed him in the closing stages, as Hill swept home to extend his Championship lead from Surtees, while Jo Siffert survived the best to earn a maiden podium.
The United States Grand Prix was fast becoming a popular fixture on the calendar since it had found a permanent home at Watkins Glen in 1961, and the organisers were keen to see that trend continue. At a fair amount of expense, the entire track surface had been replaced with new tarmac, designed to produce more grip for the tyres and improve lap times. So confident were the organisers that a lap at an average speed of 120 mph (or 1:08.9 in time) could be achieved that they bought 120 bottles of champagne as a prize for the first driver to do so.
In order to get the times down to the supposed 120 mph mark, the entry list was made up of invitations to the twenty best Formula One drivers in the World, with all of the major teams out in force. Leading the way were BRM, with Graham Hill in the newest car and Richie Ginther getting a new engine, while a third car was entered for A. J. Foyt to use, although the American racer withdrew before the start of the weekend. Brabham-Climax, in contrast, would race as they were in Italy, with Dan Gurney still using the chassis he had started the season in.
Elsewhere, Team Lotus had an expanded effort, adding veteran racer Walt Hansgen to their roster, with he and Mike Spence using new Lotus 33 chassis. Defending World Champion and title combatant Jim Clark was forced to revert to an older Lotus 25, the very chassis that had cost him the title in the 1962 South African Grand Prix. In truth, the Scot believed that the older car would suit the Glen better than the newer car, although given his recent run of retirements, a return to a car that had already cost him one title may not have been a profitable move.
Cooper-Climax arrived with their usual pair of T73s ready to do battle, both featuring rebuilt engines and a vast amount of spares for the North American double header. Bruce McLaren led their charge with a returning Phil Hill now his number two, the team having reconciled with the ex-Champion in time for his home race. BRP-BRM were also among the invites, fielding two freshly rebuilt Mk2 chassis for Trevor Taylor and Innes Ireland.
A fair amount of attention ahead of the US Grand Prix of 1964 would also be placed on new Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers leaders Ferrari, who arrived with a new F12 engine for Lorenzo Bandini. This brand new car was to make its Grand Prix bow at the Glen, joining a brace of V8 cars for John Surtees, although none of the Ferrari cars would be painted their usual scarlet. Instead, the cars were entered under the North American Racing Team banner and painted blue and white, the racing colours of the USA, after a dispute between Enzo Ferrari and the Automobile Club d'Italia over licensing of the Ferrari 250LM.
Last of the manufacturer cars on the entry list would be the V12 Honda of Ronnie Bucknum, featuring an updated nose and revised brakes, hoping that he could at least last the distance at his home race. Then came a rather brief privateer field, with Reg Parnell Racing bringing their two ex-factory Lotuses to do battle with the RRC Walker Racing Team. The latter had their familiar ex-factory Brabham for Jo Bonnier to use, while also providing cars for Hap Sharp and popular Swiss racer Jo Siffert.
Victory for Surtees in Italy meant that the title fight became a three-way scrap, as Graham Hill and Clark had failed to score once again. The BRM racer still led the way with a two point gap over Clark, although the nine point bonus for Surtees meant he was only two points behind Clark. Ginther had also closed the gap in fourth, although he was still twelve points away from the leaders with eighteen left to fight for, while Bandini arrived in fifth.
With dropped scores coming into effect, it was the Italian firm Ferrari who left Monza in the lead of the Championship, now one point ahead of BRM. Lotus-Climax were just one point further back having failed to score at all, as three of the four Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers Champions went to battle over the final two rounds. Brabham-Climax and Cooper-Climax were now too far back to challenge for the title, now seeming set for a battle for fourth.
The full entry list for the 1964 United States Grand Prix is outlined below:
Both Friday and Saturday in New York State would see the Glen hold the combined practice/qualifying session for Formula One, with both days seeing almost perfect conditions. Friday was cool, cloudy and windy while Saturday was warm, sunny with a slight breeze, allowing times to inch closer to the organisers' target time of 1:08.9. Away from hypothetical times, most of the top drivers would be aiming to best Graham Hill's pole time from 1963 at 1:13.4.
The Glen was busy from the moment that the first session on Friday began, with Jim Clark slithering onto the circuit before anyone else. Moments later he was joined by team mate Mike Spence, the screaming F12 of Lorenzo Bandini and Hap Sharp, with John Surtees just seconds later. The entire field was soon out on circuit as the wind began to blow a fair bit stronger, with most drivers settling for a series of runs around the 1:20.0 mark.
Only when Dan Gurney came out did the times begin to plummet, with the New Yorker the first man to get a consistent run under 1:20.0. Graham Hill was next to improve, getting down to 1:14.6, while Bandini danced the F12 Ferrari around for a 1:15.6. Surtees then began to set the pace, swapping between his V8 cars, just as Bandini suffered this first problems with the new F12.
By the end of Friday the entire field was content, with Surtees on provisional pole, with Hill, Clark and Gurney all in close attendance. The warmer temperatures on Saturday, however, proved the catalyst for times to dip under Hill's circuit record, although by the end of the day they were still some way short of the organisers' target of 1:08.9. A large crowd had also gathered for Saturday to see the top four fight for pole, with the three title contenders doing battle with home hero Gurney for the honours.
Immediately, Clark dipped under the 1:13.0 mark, consistently shaving a few hundredths of a second each time he went round. He would ultimately grab pole with a 1:12.65, although after a stunning time in Spence's Lotus 33, Colin Chapman decided to swap him to the latter's car, although time constraints prevented him from getting in any serious running. Surtees, Gurney and Hill, meanwhile, all managed to get sub-1:13.0s times and get within a quarter of a second of the Scot, although none of them could match his incredible time.
The full qualifying results for the 1964 United States Grand Prix are outlined below:
|WD||24||A. J. Foyt||BRM||Withdrawn|
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
- T Indicates a driver using their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
The huge crowd around the Glen swelled overnight to over 65,000 people by the time the circuit opened on Sunday morning for a brief support programme. In between the support races both Honda and Cooper-Climax were allowed to complete a few shakedown runs after overnight repairs, largely due to the fact they were both fielding American drivers. A warm and sunny afternoon followed as the field was wheeled onto the dummy grid, before all nineteen starters pulled smoothly onto the proper grid just a few moments before the 2:00pm start time.
As starter Tex Hopkins completed his familiar flurry with the flag, the US Grand Prix of 1964 roared into life, pole sitter Jim Clark getting the best launch. Yet, before the field made the run up the hill through turns two and three saw him overhauled by John Surtees and team mate Mike Spence, who got a stunning start. Graham Hill held onto fourth in the meantime, Dan Gurney getting a poor start and so slipping behind team mate Jack Brabham and Innes Ireland.
The top four soon began to build a gap behind as the field completed the second lap, with the four opting to run together rather than challenge each other. The only change among them was a move completed by Hill early on the second lap, charging past Clark with relative ease down the Chute. Behind them, however, the race was anything but a stalemate, with Gurney completing a series of stunning moves to get into fifth, partially making up for his poor start.
The lower reaches of the field were also seeing some excitement, with Walt Hansgen elbowing his way past Richie Ginther and Trevor Taylor through the final corner. The American in the third factory Lotus then claimed Phil Hill's fifteenth position, just moments before the ex-Champion's ignition system failed. He joined Ireland on the sidelines as an early retirement, the Englishman having had the gear lever come away from the gearbox just as he changed down for the first corner.
These incidents went unseen, however, as Graham Hill challenged and passed Spence for second, meaning he could go after Surtees. That was, until Clark finally got into his stride, pulling off an incredible move around the outside of turn four to pass the pair of them on lap five. The Scot immediately began to hunt down Surtees and pull clear of Hill, while Spence came under attack from Gurney a couple of laps later.
Within six laps, the green-gold Lotus was slithering along in the wake of Surtees' blue/white Ferrari, and a brief exchange saw the Scot come away with the lead through the final corner. He was quick to escape the Ferrari's grip too, leaving Surtees to run with a small gap back to Hill, who was now under attack from Gurney once he cleared Spence. With Spence himself falling back, Surtees, Hill and Gurney entered a truel for second, while Bruce McLaren held onto sixth after Jack Brabham retired.
As Clark danced away in the lead, and a stalemate emerged for second, attention fell on the battle for seventh as Lorenzo Bandini led Jo Bonnier, Chris Amon and Jo Siffert in a nose-to-tail scrap. All four had turns in leading the battle before slipping down, while Mike Hailwood slowly drew them in after taking Ronnie Bucknum. Indeed, the Honda had made an impressive start to run comfortably in the top ten, but the new nose design was causing it to overheat, and so the American racer duly fell down the order as the race wore on.
By this stage numerous mechanical problems were being reported, the first man to suffer being McLaren when his Climax engine decided to run on seven cylinders. He stopped to have the spark plugs changed which seemingly cured the issue for a time, until the engine dropped down to six cylinders on lap 27 and could not be cured. As the Cooper team began to pack up, Hap Sharp made another visit to the pits with a gear selection issue, while Bonnier was forced out when a stub axle cracked and caused his car to handle poorly.
At the 40 lap mark it looked as if the race was won, with Clark building an increasingly daunting lead to the battle behind, which had seen a lot of changes when the leaders came to lap Hansgen. Surtees, Gurney and Hill had all got caught behind the American for some time as he refused to let them pass, meaning they had to fight amongst themselves until they could get by. The time loss seemed certain to have cost them all the chance to fight for victory, with Hansgen receiving a few choice words and gestures once they managed to get by.
Yet, it was not over, as on lap 44 Clark failed to arrive on the start/finish straight on time. In fact, the Scot almost failed to appear at all, with Surtees, Hill and Gurney all flashing past the pits before the Scot crawled into his pit box with a fuel injection problem. Knowing that the Scot could not afford to lose anymore points to defend his crown, the mechanics swarmed around the car to try and solve the issue, with Clark sent out two laps later, only to come back in with the same issue.
The lead fight suddenly ramped up with the news that Clark was out, Hill managing to squeeze up the inside of Surtees several times to lead across the line, only for the more powerful Ferrari to ease past down the back straight. Some way back should have come Spence in fourth, but Colin Chapman decided to call the rookie in and put him in Clark's car and vice-versa, although the Englishman would retire within five laps. For Clark, the swap meant he could not score any points, but it did give him the opportunity to steal points away from his title rivals.
With Clark on a mission to make up time and take his title rivals, more mechanical problems were reported throughout the field. Chris Amon was among them, and had a scary moment when his engine seized at the top of the hill, at full speed, meaning he did well to control the subsequent spin without hitting the wall. The Honda was also in trouble, Bucknum deciding that he was down on cylinders, while the other 12 cylinder car of Bandini retired with a particularly smokey "flat battery".
The race was now well into its second half and Bandini's retirement saw the action settle down. Clark was providing the main source of entertainment, hustling Spence's Lotus round the circuit at record pace, while Hill methodically pulled a few tenths out of Surtees on each lap. The Englishman was still fending off Gurney at the time, although both got caught behind Ginther, Hill's team mate as he made it as difficult to get past without going to the lengths of Hansgen.
A few laps later, Hill's lead suddenly leaped up over twenty seconds, as Surtees and Gurney got baulked for a third time, although for the latter this was only brief. The American's car suddenly lost oil pressure as he came up to the back of the slower car with Surtees, and when the Brabham engineers discovered that the oil was coated over the back of the engine rather than in it, the New Yorker was out. As for Surtees, the Englishman had to put his car onto the grass, which tipped him into a spin, when the car ahead decided to move across and into his path.
These dramas left Clark running in a de facto third place, still a lap back on his title rivals but still travelling at a thunderous rate. On lap 81 the Scot set a new lap record at 1:12.7, just a few hundredths shy of his pole time, and on lap 100 was beginning to get into position to unlap himself. Yet, his day was once again over when the fuel pump failed on the reserve tank, meaning he would ultimately run out of fuel a few laps before the end.
The final laps saw the pace ease across the board once Clark ground to a halt without any fuel to burn, with Hill cruising home to a second victory of the season to extend his Championship lead. Surtees was around thirty seconds back at the line, the Englishman now well in the title fight as the Championship headed to Mexico for the finale. Siffert rounded the final bend to claim a maiden podium, the Swiss racer one of the few survivors after a relatively quiet day, before Hailwood caused some late race drama.
The English motorcyclist was in fourth as he rounded the final corner in the closing stages, but as he did so his engine dumped all of its oil on the apex, leaving him to coast to the pits. The marshals had briefly signalled to the drivers that the oil was there, but these indications were withdrawn once Hill had completed the race. That decision almost caused a punch up, as Ireland and Bandini were seen sprinting to the corner to dump some dirt on the oil so no accidents could occur, before shouting at the inaction of the marshals.
The full results for the 1964 United States Grand Prix are outlined below:
|3||22||Jo Siffert||Brabham-BRM||109||+1 Lap||12||4|
|4||4||Richie Ginther||BRM||107||+3 Laps||13||3|
|5||17||Walt Hansgen||Lotus-Climax||107||+3 Laps||17||2|
|6||12||Trevor Taylor||BRP-BRM||106||+4 Laps||15||1|
|7*||2||Mike Spence||Lotus-Climax||54||Fuel system||6|
|8†||14||Mike Hailwood||Lotus-BRM||101||Oil pipe||16|
|NC‡||23||Hap Sharp||Brabham-BRM||65||+45 Laps||18|
|Ret*||1||Jim Clark||Lotus-Climax||44||Fuel injection||1|
|Ret||16||Jo Bonnier||Brabham-Climax||37||Rear axle||9|
|WD||24||A. J. Foyt||BRM|
- * Clark and Spence shared their cars, to cover a combined distance of 102 laps for car #2 and 54 laps for car #1.
- † Hailwood was still classified as a finisher despite failing to complete the final lap.
- ‡ Sharp was not classified as a finisher as he had not completed enough of the race distance.
- Final Grand Prix to see drivers share a car.
- Eighth win for Graham Hill.
- Jo Siffert earned his first podium.
- The 140th podium for Ferrari.
- Final race and only points scoring for Walt Hansgen.
A second victory of the season for Graham Hill put him five points clear with a round to go as the F1 circus headed to Mexico for the season finale. A fifth podium of the season meant that John Surtees was up to second, now with a serious chance of earning a first World Championship with dropped scores coming into play. Poor Jim Clark was now nine points away from Hill, needing to win the season finale to keep his title hopes alive. Richie Ginther remained in fourth ahead of Lorenzo Bandini as the scorers list now featured 21 names.
It was status quo for Ferrari and BRM at the top of the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers standings, with a point still the difference between the two. Lotus-Climax were still third, and had an outside chance of reclaiming their crown, although the seven point gap to leaders Ferrari reduced that likelihood. Brabham-Climax now looked set for fourth, building a five point gap over Cooper-Climax before the privateer charge, headed by the R.R.C. Walker Racing Team, and Jo Siffert's Brabham-BRMs.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: UNITED STATES GP, 1964', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr130.html, (Accessed 14/07/2016)
- M.S.J., 'GRAND PRIX OF UNITED STATES', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/11/2016), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/november-1964/30/grand-prix-united-states, (Accessed 15/07/2016)
- 'USA 1964: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1964/etats-unis/engages.aspx, (Accessed 15/07/2016)
- 'USA 1964: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1964/etats-unis/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 15/07/2016)
- 'USA 1964: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1964/etats-unis/classement.aspx, (Accessed 15/07/2016)
|V T E||United States Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Sebring (1959), Riverside (1960), Watkins Glen (1961–1980), Phoenix (1989–1991), Indianapolis (2000–2007), Austin (2012–present)|
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|See also||Miami Grand Prix • United States Grand Prix West • Indianapolis 500 • Detroit Grand Prix • Caesars Palace Grand Prix • Dallas Grand Prix • Questor Grand Prix|
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