The 1965 French Grand Prix, officially known as the LI Grand Prix de France, was the fourth round of the 1965 FIA Formula One World Championship, held at the Charade Circuit on the 27th of June. On a circuit which, despite its relatively recent construction, had been compared with the Nürburgring, the F1 world would once again witness a masterful display from Championship leader Jim Clark.
Having replaced the Reims circuit as the alternate host of the French Grand Prix, the Charade circuit was virgin soil for Formula One. As ever, it was the Scottish racer Clark who found the best lap around the circuit, claiming pole by half a second. Jackie Stewart was an impressive second, while a huge accident for his team mate Graham Hill left the Englishman down in thirteenth.
From the start it immediately became clear that Clark was out to win, as he disappeared from sight in short order. Stewart was denied the chance of an early attack after falling foul of a quick starting Lorenzo Bandini, before claiming second on the second lap to charge after his countryman. Hill made a little progress off the line, before steadily picking off places throughout the rest of the race.
Clark, meanwhile, was in a class of his own, collecting fastest lap on his way to the flag to earn a seventh career Grand Chelem, extending his record. Stewart held on for a strong second, while Bandini fell to John Surtees and Dan Gurney before retiring after an accident. Denny Hulme put together a confident display to finish fourth ahead of Hill when Gurney retired, while the final point went to Jo Siffert.
After years of switching between Reims and Rouen-Les-Essarts as host of the French Grand Prix, the A.C.F. arranged to use a relatively new circuit built in central France. Constructed using a mix of public and purpose built roads in 1958, the Charade Circuit was to be found in the foothills of an extinct volcano. Having hosted Formula Two events in the past, the mountain circuit had already been compared to the Nürburgring due to its twisting nature and the rarity of straight line driving.
Leading the charge into France were Brabham-Climax, who were the only team to choose experience of the Charade over one of their regular runners. In truth, New Zealander Denny Hulme had signed a contract to see him race in several F1 races in 1965, and with Jack Brabham having never raced at the Charade, Hulme's F2 experience at the circuit meant it was the optimal for a switch. Dan Gurney was to race as usual, although he would have one of the updated 32 valve Climax engine.
Lotus-Climax also arrived with one of the updated Climax engines, having already run it to victory in Belgium with Jim Clark. The Scot would have a choice of using his new 1965 built Lotus 33, or use a heavily updated 25 which was essentially a 33 in all but name. Mike Spence would have an older edition of the Climax engine, bolted into the back of his usual 33 challenger.
Enzo Ferrari had long since resolved his issues with the Italian motorsports association, but with the huge changes in store for 1966 the Italian firm was reluctant to update their machinery. That meant that John Surtees would have his usual choice of V8 cars, while Lorenzo Bandini used the F12 once again. It was a similar situation at Cooper-Climax, where Bruce McLaren and Jochen Rindt used their usual cars without any updates.
For Honda the break between the Belgian and French Grand Prix had been enough for them to get a third car up and running and delivered to the circuit, becoming a spare for Richie Ginther. This was the reverse of BRM, with Graham Hill set to use the development car once again although his 1965 car was available. BRM had, however, given an update to Jackie Stewart's car, reupholstering the Scot's seat and adding a go-faster stripe, in tartan.
The rest of the field was made up of privateers, led by the RRC Walker Racing Team with Jo Bonnier and Jo Siffert running their usual cars. Reg Parnell Racing were also back, Innes Ireland being joined by Chris Amon as Mike Hailwood missed out due to his motorcycle commitments. Jo Schlesser would be the only Frenchman on the entry list, entered by Scuderia Centro Sud, while Bob Anderson was invited late in the day when Frank Gardner was unable to attend.
A second victory of the season had put Clark back into the lead of the Championship, and with a three point advantage over his nearest rival Hill. Another impressive display by Stewart left the youngster in the top three, seven points down on countryman Clark. Surtees dropped to fourth in the season of his title defence, while McLaren rounded out the top five.
The Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers had also been ramped up in Belgium, as BRM held on to their narrow one point lead. Lotus-Climax clawed their way back into second to challenge their British rivals, while Ferrari were a further six points back. The maiden point for Honda had put them in seventh, behind the privately entered Brabham-BRMs.
The full entry list for the 1965 French Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice and qualifying ran together as usual, with the first session on Friday lasting for two hours in order to allow the drivers to learn the circuit. A second session on Saturday afternoon was also held, almost cancelled by low clouds hanging over the circuit for most of the day. As for target times, the only reference any of the drivers had was the Formula Two record, although with Grand Prix cars being significantly faster that time was to be disregarded too.
Friday was a busy day for the mechanics, largely because of the problem with a vast circuit on a mountain-side without any access roads meaning it was difficult for cars to make it back to the pits if they had an issue.. This was exemplified by Jim Clark, as the Team Lotus racer suffered a suspension failure at the back of the circuit, and had to thumb a lift from John Surtees to get back. Fortunately for the Scot, his Lotus had only let him down after he had completed a series of quick laps.
He, however, was not the only one of the title contenders to struggle on Friday, although he was the only driver in the top five not to have competed at the Charade circuit. Graham Hill was the biggest casualty, his throttle getting stuck open as he approached one of the circuit's many corners, throwing his car into the face of the mountain. The car was damaged, the chassis broken, while Hill had sustained a jarred neck and a knock to his confidence that would last the whole of the weekend.
Saturday saw the circuit covered in low clouds for much of the day, meaning Denny Hulme looked set for pole after a 3:22.0 lap on Friday. Yet, the clouds drifted away just before the session was due to start, and soon the rumble of Grand Prix engines could be heard once again around the former Volcano. Hill's struggles continued throughout the day, a second spin of the weekend further knocking his confidence, while rookie team mate Jackie Stewart stole the show by besting Hulme's time early on.
Throughout Saturday it looked as if Stewart and Dan Gurney were in an exclusive battle for pole, as both wound their times slowly down to a 3:20.0. As the day warmed up they both broke the barrier, although they were soon joined by the two Ferraris, Lorenzo Bandini just eclipsing team mate John Surtees with the screaming F12 car. Then, just before the end of the session, Clark joined in the fun, getting down to a 3:20.0 after a couple of laps, before snatching pole with a 3:18.3, half a second quicker than nearest challenger Stewart.
The full qualifying results for the 1965 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
Another gloomy day in central France dawned, although the 3:00pm start for the Grand Prix meant there was plenty of time for the clouds to lift away. With no support races, and a fairly remote location, there was little pre-race entertainment, with the F1 cars allowed to complete a reconnaissance lap before lining up on the grid. Just before 3:00 they were fired up (apart from the two Reg Parnell Racing entries which required a push) and assembled on the grid proper for the start.
As ever, Jim Clark got an excellent start to dart straight into the lead of the race before the first corner, while Lorenzo Bandini, who started ahead of Surtees despite the two setting identical lap times, managed to slot into second. This, however, was not good for the rest of the field, as Bandini lacked the pace of Clark and so the Scot was able to escape up the road as a queue formed behind the Italian. Jackie Stewart was particularly irate, throwing the BRM around in the Ferrari's wake in his attempts to force his way past.
At the end of the opening lap it was Clark still leading Bandini, Stewart, Dan Gurney and Surtees, the American having go the jump on the Englishman at the start. Also up on their grid slots were Richie Ginther and Bruce McLaren, both of whom had elbowed their way past Denny Hulme on the opening lap. As the rest streamed past the pits, Chris Amon was seen to have a sizeable dent in the back of his car, caused by an over enthusiastic Jochen Rindt.
At some point during the second lap, Stewart managed to force his way past Bandini and get a second clear, although Clark was six seconds clear even at that early stage. Before the end of the third lap the Italian also succumbed to the pressure applied by Gurney and team mate Surtees, but Clark was still pulling clear in the older Lotus. The other Lotus was also going well, Mike Spence able to pick off a few members of the Bandini balkers to get into seventh behind Ginther.
With a natural pace advantage, Clark was able to ease off on his old Climax engine too, allowing the revs to drop well below the optimum power range but still pull ahead of Stewart. The younger Scot, for his part, was trying all he could to catch the former World Champion, and was managing to pull clear of Gurney and Surtees behind. Those two were really working hard to keep up the pace, and the strain would prove too much for Gurney's car when the engine began to misfire.
He, however, was not the only man in trouble as the race made its way through the opening phases, as the two Hondas disappeared in short order with identical ignition failures. The ill-fated Graham Hill, meanwhile, was racing around in the mid-pack without a clutch, while McLaren was losing time with a handling problem. Bandini was also struggling, with Spence and Hulme unceremoniously dumping the Italian out of the points paying positions before the race hit the quarter distance mark.
The problems continued for the rest of the non-Scottish runners during the second quarter of the race, with Gurney losing a heap of time to have his engine sorted out. He got out a lap down, set a new lap record, and then destroyed his engine, ending his day in a cloud of glorious smoke. Surtees was also in trouble, the Ferrari having to have a rectifier cut away which caused a larger issue with the alternator, meaning his engine was running very poorly for the rest of the race.
Spence, meanwhile, had a horrible moment over one of the many crests around the Charade Circuit, his engine cutting out and throwing the car into a high speed spin. Fortunately, the Englishman was able to get the car under control without suffering any damage, rejoining after getting his Climax to spark back into life. The incident put him back down in eighth, but his chances of fighting back were impeded by an intermittent series of cutouts for the rest of the race.
At half distance, and with so many casualties and sick machinery, it looked as if the race was run, with Clark still stretching out a second or two over Stewart every lap. Surtees still held third despite his engine problems, while Hulme was a relatively healthy fourth, although he was simply aiming on survival. Bandini was back into the points in fifth after the failures ahead, with Hill up to sixth leading fellow survivor Jo Siffert. Then came the wounded Spence and McLaren, while Bob Anderson completed the runners.
In truth, the second half of the race saw no on track action, although Clark suddenly wound his car up after lapping Hill to set a new lap record with a mesmerising time that would have given him pole. McLaren dropped out after being lapped by Clark, while Bandini had the only incident of note during the second half of the race. The Italian had hit an earth bank round the back of the circuit, and as he rounded the final corner, the left rear wheel came off and sent the F12 Ferrari into a spark shod slide down the start/finish straight.
With Bandini emerging shaken but unhurt, the race wound out the final few laps, with Clark duly crossing the line to earn an impressive seventh Grand Chelem. Stewart was half a minute back in second having refused to ease off the pace, while Surtees nursed the sick Ferrari home to third. Hulme claimed maiden points in fourth, despite losing his oil pressure during the final lap, with Hill fifth and Siffert surviving well for sixth.
The full results for the 1965 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
|5||10||Graham Hill||BRM||39||+1 lap||13||2|
|6||36||Jo Siffert||Brabham-BRM||39||+1 lap||14||1|
|7||8||Mike Spence||Lotus-Climax||39||+1 lap||10|
|Ret||24||Chris Amon||Lotus-BRM||20||Fuel injection||8|
- * Bandini and Anderson were classified as finishers as they were judged to have completed enough of the race distance
- Twentieth pole position for Jim Clark.
- Also the twenty-fifth pole position for Team Lotus as a constructor.
- Seventh Grand Chelem for Clark from sixteen wins.
- Fortieth fastest lap for Climax.
A third victory for Jim Clark saw the Scot extend his Championship lead once again, and put himself halfway to maximum points after only four races. With Graham Hill only securing fifth, Clark's lead now stood at ten points, more than a race win, and it seemed as if Hill's team mate was more of a threat. Young Jackie Stewart's second place had put him level on points with the former Champion, and momentum seemed to be favouring him as the only pretender to the all conquering Clark.
A third victory of the year for Lotus-Climax finally put them back on top of the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers standings, leaving France with a two point advantage. BRM had been forced to make way, although the nine point gap back to Ferrari meant they looked set for second even at this early stage. Cooper-Climax remained in fourth ahead of Brabham-Climax, with Honda still behind the privateer Brabham-BRM entries.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: FRENCH GP, 1965', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr135.html, (Accessed 20/07/2016)
- D.S.J., '51st Grand Prix de I'A.C.F.: Those Scots again', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/08/1965), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/august-1965/28/51st-grand-prix-de-iacf, (Accessed 21/07/2016)
- 'France 1965: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1965/france/engages.aspx, (Accessed 21/07/2016)
- 'France 1965: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1965/france/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 21/07/2016)
- 'France 1965: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1965/france/classement.aspx, (Accessed 21/07/2016)
|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)
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