The 1965 South African Grand Prix, officially known as the XI South African Grand Prix, was the opening round of the 1965 FIA Formula One World Championship, held at the Prince George Circuit in East London on the 1st of January. The season opener for 1965 would be remembered as the debut of future World Champion Jackie Stewart, although it was his countryman Jim Clark that ultimately stole the show.
The Team Lotus racer had been defeated in Mexico just five weeks previously, an engine failure on the final lap ruining his title hopes. Yet, amid the New Years celebrations across the world, the Scot bounced back with a stunning pole position. He would line up alongside defending Champion John Surtees on the front row of the grid.
A strong start for Clark saw him catapult himself into the lead, although he was almost overshadowed by team mate Mike Spence as he launched himself into second. The pair duly began to pull away together, the two Lotuses quickly escaping the clutches of third placed Surtees. Dan Gurney, Graham Hill and Bruce McLaren were also running well just behind Surtees, although the actual on track action was few and far between.
Clark's pace proved too much for his less experienced team mate, with Spence spinning on lap 43 to put himself right in the sights of Surtees. The Champion began to wind up the pressure on the second Lotus over the following laps, and a second spin on lap 60 put Spence down in fourth behind Hill. Clark, meanwhile, continued to pound on up front, and despite a brief scare when the officials waved the chequered flag a lap early, the Scot duly collected a record sixth Grand Chelem.
Debutante Stewart would end his maiden Grand Prix in sixth, becoming one of the few drivers to score on their F1 debut.
A huge entry list was submitted for the first round of the 1965 Championship, with the organisers opting to stage the first round of the season rather than the final race of 1964. This meant that the Prince George Circuit, sat on the east coast of South Africa along the edge of the Indian Ocean, would host the season opener of the 1st of January rather than on Christmas Day, which would have restricted the likely number of runners. The race would follow the same format as had been used over previous seasons, with 85 laps scheduled for the first day of 1965.
None of the teams had had time to build, test or otherwise run their 1965 equipment before the season opener, although with a new three litre formula set to be launched for 1966, most of these designs would be updates to current cars. The only major changes would be in the driver ranks, although for World Champions Ferrari there would be no changes, as 1964 Drivers Champion John Surtees partnered Lorenzo Bandini once again. Likewise, Team Lotus arrived in East London with an unchanged line-up, as Jim Clark and Mike Spence went to battle with their two 33s.
The first of the major seat changes had come at BRM, where Richie Ginther had left the team to sign for the expanded Honda effort (although the Japanese firm would miss the season opener). In his place came Formula 3 winner Jackie Stewart, a promising young Scottish talent who slotted in alongside the experienced Graham Hill. The Scot, managed by Ken Tyrrell, had had the opportunity to race in F1 during 1964 but had refused, meaning South Africa 1965 would be his debut.
Brabham-Climax, in contrast, had not signed up any new drivers for their cars, as the impressive Dan Gurney partnered team owner Jack Brabham for a third consecutive season. They, however, signed a contract with Goodyear as a tyre supplier, although Brabham himself still thought that the Dunlop tyres were better. Last of the manufacturer entrants were Cooper-Climax, who had replaced the disappointing Phil Hill with Austrian youngster Jochen Rindt, who would be number two to Bruce McLaren.
Into the privateer field and leading the charge were the RRC Walker Racing Team, who had signed up Jo Siffert for the new season to partner the veteran Jo Bonnier. Both Walker and Siffert had sold equipment off to the new John Willment Automobiles team, which would run two Aussies in Frank Gardner and Paul Hawkins, the former using an ex-Walker Brabham with an ex-Siffert BRM engine. Reg Parnell Racing had only one car available in South Africa, signing up Tony Maggs for a blast around his home circuit, while Bob Anderson completed the invitational privateers with his DW Racing Enterprises entered Brabham-Climax.
Then came the hoard of local racers from both South Africa and Rhodesia, all with either ex-F1 or otherwise Formula 2 equipment at their disposal. The most recognisable names among them were Peter de Klerk and John Love, both of whom had raced in F1 before, with Love having been a Cooper factory driver in the BSCC. Their inclusion swelled the entry list to 33, and a preliminary qualifying session was need to cull the numbers down before the weekend began.
South Africa had also, rather intriguingly, produced a few F1 homologated chassis over the years, mostly using the Alfa Romeo Giulietta engine as a power source. LDS had been seen a few times when F1 came to battle in the Southern tip of the African continent, while "Special" modified Alfa Romeo chassis were also a familiar sight. One particularly interesting sight would also be the new Realpha RE1 designed and built by Ray Reed in Rhodesia, although the racer would be killed in a testing accident before the weekend began.
The full entry list for the 1965 South African Grand Prix is outlined below:
After a preliminary qualifying session to reduce the entry list, which saw Dave Charlton, Jackie Pretorius and Clive Puzey all fail to set a time under 1:37.0, joining the four withdrawals already announced. The sixteen invited entries would qualify automatically for the race, meaning the rest of the nine privateers would have to fight for four further spots. Three practice sessions were held over the course of the South African Grand Prix meeting running over Wednesday and Thursday, with the circuit record standing at 1:28.9 having been set in 1963 by Jim Clark.
Strong winds off the Indian Ocean, amid a bright and hot afternoon on Wednesday saw practice/qualifying kick off for the first race of the season, rookie Jackie Stewart roaring onto the circuit first. He was soon joined by the class of the paddock on the circuit, with Dan Gurney, John Surtees and Jim Clark all getting out in the Scot's wake. Team mate Graham Hill was also an early runner, although he stopped after a few laps to have his Goodyear tyres changed for Dunlops.
After a slow start during the first hour, the times suddenly collapsed when Clark managed to set a time under 1:30.0, a time equalled by Surtees. The two then became engaged in a tough fight for pole, the Scot landing the first blow before the Englishman responded a few moments later. When Surtees disappear to try out the freshly arrived F12 car he was some three tenths off of Clark, although the Scot would dip into the 1:27.0s before the end of the day.
At the end of the day, Clark was on provisional pole with Surtees a second back, with the next session scheduled for 6:00 am on Thursday. Cooler temperatures, and lighter breezes, meant that times were expected to improve, and it was the Scot who managed to get the jump on everyone else, setting consistent times in the 1:27.0s within a few laps. Although Surtees improved he could not breach the 1:28.0 barrier, while Clark thrashed out a strong lap to claim pole with a 1:27.2.
An interesting afternoon session would sort the rest of the grid, with Jack Brabham getting third in the Dunlop shod Brabham, as opposed to team mate Gurney with the Goodyears down in ninth. Best of the home contingent would be the automatically qualified Tony Maggs up in thirteenth, while Peter de Klerk led the qualifiers in seventeenth. Rhodesians John Love and Sam Tingle would also get the chance to start the race, with Brit David Prophet, based in South Africa, also getting onto the starting grid.
The full qualifying results for the 1965 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:
|18||Peter de Klerk|
A whole new year dawned in South Africa for raceday on Friday, although there was little drinking and celebration in the pits, that could wait until after the season opener. A warm, but crucially cooler day in East London meant that the circuit was in near enough perfect shape for the race, set to start at 2:30 pm. After a morning of club level support races, the Grand Prix cars were put on the dummy grid before being released to do a warm up lap just before the start.
An excellent start by Jim Clark saw the Scot streak into the lead of the race, a full car length to the good within the first 100 yards. His closest challenger proved to be team mate Mike Spence, who managed to mirror the Scot's start from fourth and lead into second, tucking in neatly to follow his World Champion team mate through the first corner. John Surtees got beaten off the line by Jack Brabham too, before being beaten into turn three by another fast starter in the form of Bruce McLaren.
Across the line to complete the opening lap and it was Clark leading from Spence, a couple of car lengths behind, before a small gap back to Brabham in third. McLaren was still in fourth, fending off Surtees and Graham Hill, who both had attempts at passing. Jo Bonnier then came across the line with Lorenzo Bandini, debutante Jackie Stewart, Bob Anderson, Tony Maggs, Jochen Rindt and an annoyed Dan Gurney all in his wake, before Frank Gardner led the rest of the field throughout.
The following laps saw both Clark and Spence pull further and further ahead, just as Surtees elbowed his way past the Antipodeans with identical moves into turn three. Yet, by the time the scarlet Ferrari was clear of the traffic ahead, the back of Spence's second placed Lotus was too far ahead for him to close in short order. As all this was going on, Maggs managed to force his way past Anderson while Gurney came in with an electrical problem, soon followed by the recently passed Anderson.
With Clark and Spence pulling ever further clear of Surtees, who was not, in contrast, able to pull clear of Brabham, McLaren and Hill, Bandini managed to take Bonnier, just moments before the Swede had a tank strap break, putting him into the pits twice. Three laps of lost time put the Swede back in eighteenth, where he proceeded to become the only real source of entertainment as he climbed back up the order. Sam Tingle, meanwhile, had to stop when his oil pressure dropped, only for the problem to be traced to a faulty gague.
For the following 30 laps the race became a rather tame affair in the top ten, Clark and Spence inching away every lap, while Surtees and co. were in a tense stalemate. The action was to be found in the pits, where Rindt was forced in with a broken transistor wire, which was repaired only to fail a few laps later at the back of the circuit. There was also action in the Brabham-Climax garage, where Gurney's car, after three quarters of an hour of tinkering, suddenly burst into life and was sent back out, only to crawl to a halt after a few laps when the mystery issue resurfaced.
Yet, as half distance approached, and Rhodesian racer John Love cruised to a halt at Cocobana Corner and parked alongside Rindt, the race suddenly sprung into life. The debuting Stewart was the source of the reignition, when he forced his way past Bandini moments before the Italian disappeared into the pits with an electrical fault. He was back out after a couple of laps but was now completely out of the running, just as Bonnier retired with a gearbox issue.
McLaren then began to tumble, the New Zealander's pace dropping drastically once Hill managed to squeeze past to fall 20 seconds off the back of the third placed group. Spence, meanwhile was in the middle of a 22 second gap between Clark and Surtees when he lost the backend of his car through Beacon Bend. The spin threw the Englishman right into the sights of Surtees, although a three second margin was still enough to keep the Ferrari at bay for a time.
A few laps later, after Anderson spun in the exact same place as Spence before stopping in the pits, Brabham's engine developed a misfire that needed a stop and a new battery to cure. His dramas, however, were just a brief note in pitlane action, with Maggs stopping to have a brake adjustment, while Tingle stopped again for fuel. Then came South Africa based David Prophet whose rear end was coated in oil, most of which had been dumped at Beacon Bend, but some how managed to escape a seized engine and make it back to the pits.
That oil would ultimately prove decisive, for on lap 60, with two World Champions bearing down on him, Spence spun for a second time having caught the edge of the oil spill on the apex of the corner. Surtees and Hill were jsut behind, although both had time to take avoiding action and so blasted past the spinning Lotus on either side. Other than a service for Gardner, and a flurry of passes by Brabham that concluded with an expert pass on Paul Hawkins, Spence's spin was the last major on-track drama of the race.
There was almost an embarrassing moment for the officials at the end of the race, when Clark, with a thirty second lead, was shown the chequered flag a lap early, before the officials could withdraw it. No one else was shown the flag, and so there were fears that the Scot would be robbed by the fault of the officials. Fortunately, the Scot had continued on at pace, although the size of his lead meant he was unlikely to be caught by simply easing off, meaning he completed an impressive win when the flag fluttered for a second time.
Surtees and Hill flashed across the line thirty seconds later to complete an all British podium, while a disappointed Spence came home a further twenty seconds back. McLaren came home fifth, the first of those to have been lapped by winner Clark, while Stewart had mixed bravery with survival to claim a maiden points finish on his debut. Of the home contingent, Peter de Klerk claimed the honour of being the best placed local, taking tenth, with Maggs in eleventh and Tingle down in thirteenth.
The full results for the 1965 South African Grand Prix are outlined below:
- Debut for Scottish racer Jackie Stewart.
- Fourteenth career win for Jim Clark, putting him a clear second on the all time winners list.
- Sixth Grand Chelem for the Scot to put him top of that all time list.
Victory for Jim Clark at the season opening race meant that the Scot led the Championship from the get go, with the scale of his victory already making him favourite for the title. Defending Champion John Surtees was the Scot's closest challenger for Ferrari, while Graham Hill would leave South Africa in third. The rest of the points were split between Mike Spence, Bruce McLaren and the impressive debutante Jackie Stewart.
Unsurprisingly, it was Clark's Lotus-Climax outfit that led the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers, with Spence's fourth place denying points to their rivals. Ferrari were in second after Surtees' second, while BRM left in third with their partnership of experience and youth. Rounding out the scorers at the opening round were Cooper-Climax thanks to McLaren's fifth place.
Images and Videos:
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: SOUTH AFRICAN GP, 1965', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr132.html, (Accessed 16/07/2016)
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 2.37 2.38 2.39 2.40 2.41 2.42 2.43 2.44 2.45 2.46 2.47 2.48 2.49 2.50 2.51 2.52 2.53 2.54 2.55 2.56 2.57 2.58 2.59 2.60 2.61 2.62 2.63 2.64 2.65 2.66 2.67 2.68 2.69 2.70 M.S.J., '11th South African Grand Prix: Clark wins first 1965 World Championship race', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/02/1965), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/february-1965/28/11th-south-african , (Accessed 18/07/2016)
- ↑ 'South Africa 1965: Entrant', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1965/afrique-du-sud/engages.aspx, (Accessed 17/07/2016)
- ↑ 'South Africa 1965: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1965/afrique-du-sud/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 17/07/2016)
- ↑ 'South Africa 1964: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1965/afrique-du-sud/classement.aspx, (Accessed 17/07/2016)
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